Friday, December 4, 2009

Shanghai III: Dragon's Eye

Activision / Home Data / ASK KODANSHA

Opinions I'd garnered on Shanghai III were few (two, to be exact) but differed to a wild degree. "BEST OF THE PCE SHANGHAI GAMES!" yelled one man; "DISGRACE TO THE SERIES!" warned another. But being indifferent to the game of Shanghai to begin with and an all-around goofball in general, I didn't really care about any of that "good or bad" or "integrity of the series" stuff. I was just intrigued by the idea of playing another ASK KODANSHA product, as the company had endeared itself to me somewhat with its likably wacky HuCard RPG, Necros.

Well, Shanghai III didn't need the aid of my pro-KODANSHA bias to impress me right away; its many available options accomplished that on their own. Lots of different board layouts and four interesting tile sets can be experienced as soon as you start up a basic game.

The variety in setups doesn't extend to the backgrounds, but you can uncover some silly anime-chick images in "Tournament" mode.

There are also some "conflict" modes to check out.

And while the free-for-all "Battle" game is pretty much a mess, "Dragon's Eye" is kinda cool and challenging and adds an overwhelmingly exciting man vs. dragon element to the mix.

Very exciting stuff.

Whichever mode you choose, you'll have some great music to listen to (as you've probably come to expect from the series if you're a veteran of it). KODANSHA put a lot of effort into the sound effects as well, as most clearly evidenced by the growls and roars and drawing of blades that accompany Fantasy World tile-set play. But it's surprising, and not just a little disappointing, that such care wasn't devoted to the game's art. Tile design work was shoddy, and due to apparent lack of perspective consideration, it can be difficult at times to discern which pieces are actually in play and what images adorn their faces. But I got used to the bad graphics and was able to forget about them for the most part, focusing instead on more interesting matters (such as slaying that dragon).

HuCard Shanghai is the good, honest working man's episode, as it allows the player to jump right into the fray with great chip tunes to enjoy and not a whole lot of extra stuff to be concerned about. Shanghai II comes off as the series's most polished entry. But thanks to its many play options, Shanghai III ended up being the one I put the most time into--and got the most enjoyment out of.

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