Sunday, October 25, 2009

Samurai Ghost (Genpei Toumaden Kannoni)


Typically inspired by mention of China Warrior, we Turbo fans love to share our thoughts on games that feature big, goofy, clumsy characters. Kitsch classic Sword of Sodan is immediately credited as the pack's most amusing disaster, and then discussion turns towards the genuinely positive, which is usually when Samurai Ghost is alluded to. I expected SG to be clunky, of course, but I also counted on it being Sodan-ish enough to endear itself to me despite inadequate hack-and-slash gameplay. To my surprise, SG actually has so much more to offer than delight steeped in kitsch. It isn't something to laugh at after all.

I knew about the huge sprites coming in, and the game certainly didn't disappoint in that regard, but I didn't anticipate gorgeous, parallax-heavy backgrounds. These are some extremely impressive chip graphics.

The music is also good stuff, and it seems immensely appropriate for the bizarre events that unfold. In fact, the "samurai in a demon world" theme is very cool in general. And I expected the level design to be rather flat (a la most of Sodan), but there are some tricky platforming segments and environmental hazards to contend with, so there's definitely more to the stage action than charging and hacking.

The enemies are quite interesting in design, and many of them utilize nifty defense tactics and evasive maneuvers.

The bosses in particular require thought and pattern recognition on the player's part. And just to add to the general coolness, one of them kills himself after suffering defeat at your hands. (So devoted to his cause is this great warrior that he sometimes comes back during the boss gauntlet at the end of the game--and he kills himself after that fight as well!)

That's a lot of good, but there's some bad too, and the "bad" is pretty significant. While it certainly plays better than its awful predecessor, Genpei Toumaden, SG still doesn't control very well, so you can get stuck in some awkward situations: enemies (often along with spikes or lava or poisonous terrain/objects) may drain your vitality in mere moments as you bounce/blunder about in a spot that the clunky controls landed you in. While the stages themselves are well designed, the controls don't provide you with the means to succeed without a struggle.

I forgive SG for its gameplay woes, but the frustration factor might turn others off from it. I still say give it a chance. Enjoy the fine graphics if nothing else.

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