The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Genji Tsushin Agedama (PC Engine - NEC - 1991)

Occasionally, a title comes along from seeming obscurity to deliver a surprising amount of fun and enjoyment. You probably wouldn't expect a release derived from an anime series to offer anything out of the ordinary. However, in this case, you'd be mistaken, as this offers some unexpected elements that make an unexpectedly positive impression. This highly-polished game delivers a decidely-different mix of platform-action and shoot-'em-up that creates a title that brings a unique look and mechanic to the genres, exemplifying some of the best elements of each. Surrounded by superb titles, it would be easy to overlook a game like this, but that would represent a huge mistake.

Its basic structure has you in command of the main character, who jumps and leaps around the screen, attempting to avoid oncoming attacks from a range of foes. This seems relatively simple until you start playing and notice the constraints. You're locked into an auto-scrolling game, where you don't have the oppotunity to go backwards, so if ypu miss something, such as a power-up, you won't have the chance to turn around and pick these up.. However, you can use a roll move to get out the way of some attacks, which makes things much easier after you've mastered that skill. You'll find a variety of different shooting aids, with numerous heart indicators and things that allow you to regenerate health extremely quickly, if you find yourself running low. You have to keep all this in mind while you traverse the landscape, which is filled with large gaps and tricky jumps.

Falling off the path into a gap doesn't immediately punish you by going back to the beginning, but does cost you a heart or two, so you need to avoid this, if possible. Sucessfully jumping and shooting at the same time requires some skill with reflexes and some minor memorization, but the game is well-thought out making the transitions and simultaenous acts manageable after some practive. However, you do have some other interesting capabilities that can help you along the path.

You're given an abundance of firepower that you can use to fight any enemies in your way, which come in the form of bullets. However, its' not that simple. You can choose two distinct approaches, though their level off effectiness vaires. Using the rapid-fire is somewhat effective, you can manage to plow through its levels and muddle your way through the normal, but this can be frustrating when you reach a boss and have to endure a long grinding stretch, making incremental progress before they're finally beaten This is probably the methos most players will use initially, but that wouldn't be doing Genji Tsushin Agedama justice.

A superior strategy involves learning its elaborate system of increasingly effective. power-ups. This slows things down as your character has to rely on standard-speed shots. These offer a slower pace. but the twist here is that they can be powered-up by holding down the fire-button and charging them up. This is a key difference that allows you to unleash a variety of powerful attacks including wind-drawn waves and powerful mechanics that allow you to sweep away anything in their way. The level of your charge is indicated at the top of the screen and these mark five different levels. They increase in power the longer you hold down the fire button, however, you're vulnerable to attack while charging so you have to be careful. Holding out long enough to reach the top level brings about a huge attack, so it;s worthwhile. During the normal stages, mastering the timing and succession of shots is relatively easy, but things get trickier later on when you face off against boss characters. At these points, you'll have to space defensive jumps with charging time in order to be most effective. It's not always as simple as it sounds, since the various power-ups can sometimes miss their target if you're not careful.

Progression is helped along by several factors which should help immensely. As stated earlier, you're not punished for minor mistakes like falling into a gap, and there are numerous power-ups and hearts on each level, that gives you plenty of room while you're learning the basics or trying to get to the next area. Another huge assist comes about three-quarters of the way through each round where you'll encounter a nurse chracter that will replenish most of your energy and hearts just before you reach the end-level bosses. This means you basically only have to survive to that point regardless if you've botched the first section. Another key element is the generous continues which are fairly common and let you get deep into game with little struggle. A clean, easy-to-follow stucture and approach makes for an accessible game from a technical standpoint, but the vibrant presentation maintains a strong appeal throughout.

Using a sharply-defined, immediately appealing main character goes a long way in keeping the game's entertainment-level high. Crisply animated,smoothly responsive and occasionally humorous, the lead you through a variery of levels without hesitation. Encountering enemies id a fairly challening task until you get the flow of things in mind, then its only a matter of spacing and timing, which becomes intuitive after a few rounds. Jumping over gaps, rolling out of the way to avoid oncoming shots or shooting opponents before they attack is fairly straigthtforward, realtively simple and surprisingly enjoyable.

This makes Genji Tsushin Agedama accessible and enjoyable, neither excessively difficult or frustrating. It's actually a little bit on the 'easy' side of things, on balance but the surperb visuals are bright and colorful. Levels come in a variety of forms ranging from sea to desert and everything's simple look makes it easy to get hooked. Enemy designs display a consistent approach that shows off the anime-influence unabashedly, with somewhat surreal, exaggerated and humourous characters, including wacky bosses making for an enjoyable visual approach that's consistently rendered throughout. An appropriately upbeat soundtrack and decent sound effects complete the presentation, making for a title that looks & soiuds as good as it plays.

An intruiging mix of shooting and platforming, Geni Tsushin Agedama demands and creates adherence to the best elements of both styles. Moving between them seamlessly allows some interesting skills and styles to emerge. Players familar with these types of game, should have little trouble maitaining the balancing act..Some of the latet stages offer a little bit more in the way of challenge, but the game's pacing is superb, allowing you a chance to increasew proficiency at a good rate throughout. The main effect of all this is a little off-beat while remaining faithful to its forebears. The biggest problem is that its length isn't as long is it could have been, and enemy posotion and AI becomes predictable after a few rounds. However, these minor glitches are easy to over-look when the majority of it elements are engaging and interesting. Mixing two different styles successfully, it's somewhat unique gameplay, smooth controls and creatively winsome visuals merit an enthusiastic recommendation.

- Michael Palisano