Saturday, October 24, 2009

Genpei Toumaden


Well, Genpei Toumaden is quite an abomination, but it could've been a quality action game. The project had a lot of potential; a lot of good ideas went into it. The fact that the designers bothered to come up with three different play modes (the huge-sprite-flaunting BIG Mode, which Samurai Ghost fans are already acquainted with; a sidescrolling distant-view mode; and an overhead-view one) signifies some ambition on their part and gives the game the foundation for Blaster Master-style variety. Also, multiple gateways leading to new areas can be found in most of the distant-view and overhead-view stages, meaning you can take different paths to the end and explore dozens of boards in all. Sadly, there's something terribly wrong with each play mode.

You would think that BIG Mode would be cool since it's utilized for the entirety of Samurai Ghost, a pretty badass game. Unfortunately, in GT, there just isn't much to do in these stages; hardly any effort was made to incorporate clever obstacles or hazards. You smack a few frogs or tigers or flaming arrows with your blade, and then it's boss time. And speaking of the bosses, you face the same two clowns over and over again. Decent parallax backs the lackluster action, but most of the scenery is too simplistic for the visuals to be considered impressive on the whole.

The distant-view sidescrolling stages actually had the most potential. As day turns to night (which happens in BIG Mode, too), you'll see plenty of interesting concepts at work. For example, mystical ferrymen occasionally paddle across the sky, reluctantly granting you a lift if you want one but dropping anvils on your noggin if you keep to the turf. Most of the enemies look awful, but there are some cool ones to fight, including a number of extremely large dragons. But good platforming is where this game should've made its mark, as the level design is truly excellent, with many cleverly placed platforms and objects to utilize or maneuver around.

Unfortunately, the controls and collision detection are absolutely horrid. Just how shitty is the gameplay? Consider this: you'll need to leap onto many platforms that drift on horizontal planes, in typical platformer fashion; but once you complete a jump, your samurai guy will stand stationary as the platform moves out from under his feet. Instead of riding the platform like any normal video game character, he'll remain in one spot and promptly fall into a penalty zone.

Yes, the makers of GT apparently thought it'd be cute to include overhead-view penalty zones as forms of punishment for plummeting into pits or dying. These are mazelike areas with graphic and gameplay deficiencies similar to those that plague the sideview segments. You'll end up seeing the penalty stages many, many times thanks to the poor controls. And once you make your escape from one, you'll probably be forced to replay a number of the proper stages to get back to where you were.

While you're making your way through those stages, you'd better keep an eye out for three items (a jewel, a mirror, and a sword) that are necessary for beating the game. Killing a trio of giant serpents will net you the blade, and the jewel sits right out in the open, ripe for the taking (if you can make a few well-timed leaps).

Smash up the statues to the right of the hero in the screen below to reveal the warp spot that'll transport you to the area containing the elusive mirror.

Should you arrive at the final boss's lair without those three objects, you can forget about winning.

If you lack common sense, as I apparently do, and insist on battling to the end, you'll find that revisiting old boards and dealing constantly with terrible controls end up making the game not only tedious but also torturous, despite all the nice concepts it has going for it.

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