|Title: Sengoku (2nd Review)
Rom Player: MAME
Reviewer: Chance Johson
Synopsis: I remember when I was young (Which was only about eight years ago, but hell. That makes me an old geezer in Gamer years.) Our school would force us to go on a yearly trip to the local skating rink. Those of us who didn't know how to skate and didn't want to learn had one other option; Waste a few hundred bucks on any of the three arcade machines the tiny place kept. Which was how I met Sengoku.
It was a bland-looking machine compared to the others, which is probably what drew my attention. Well, that and the fact that the line was about fifty people shorter. So I decided what the hell. I shouldered my way past everyone else, cut in line, and threw my quarters in before anyone could complain. From that moment on I knew gaming bliss. And my parentsí bank account knew devastation as I managed to pump probably a hundred dollars into the thing every time I walked by it.
Sengoku is an unassuming little beat'em up. It has a story (Something about an evil warlord from 400 years ago returning to claim vengeance on the world - or something along those lines.) but that isn't important. What's important is the game itself.
Gameplay is the only reason I stop from giving this game a perfect ten. While the controls are very good and normally responsive, there's a little problem with collecting the powerups you WILL need to beat this game. You see, when you defeat an enemy, they randomly leave behind a glowing orb that is any one of several different colors; Behold the powerup. However, these powerups promptly float so high into the air you have to jump to grab them. Which is the problem.
In what was a probably attempt to keep your character on the ground instead of making a jump-kick massacre out of this game, ala Double Dragon, your character jumps very slowly. And very unresponsively. While I applaud SNK for trying to bring a sense of needed skill into this game, they didn't think very far ahead when they made the powerups float. You're either too busy with the hordes of enemies to grab the powerup, too far away to grab the powerup, or you jump and miss. Very, very annoying. Other than this, the controls are good.
Graphics are very very good. Your character is smooth and his animations are flawless. The backgrounds are lush and detailed, when you can find a moment to pay any attention to them that is. The enemies, while mostly the same sprites with different color patterns, still manage to vary enough level to level to keep things interesting. And in a lot of cases, the enemies interact with the background, rushing in from the background into the play area with an impressive flourish.
The music and sounds are very good. The music, which ranges from traditional sounding japanese music to a more upbeat rhythm in the city levels, is nicely done. Just loud enough to make it audible, yet not so loud that it becomes annoying. The sounds only suffer a little from repetition. Hearing your character yell "Ha!" during a punch gets old quick, but it's easy to ignore, so I didn't take off for it. The music swells when minibosses and bosses enter, which is important. When you hear the music change, get ready to hit the transform button.
Originality is where this game shines. SNK took the traditional beat'em up and made something so original I haven't seen copied in any game since.
One, the powerups. They come in five flavors. Green, which I never could figure out the purpose of. But grab 'em anyway, they look important. Red, which equips your character for a short time with what we called a samurai sword when I was little. Light blue, which equips your character with two samurai swords, and purple, which gives your character the ultimate in bad-ass-ocity: The BFS (Big Friggin' Sword.) The fifth color, gold, are the rarest and allow you to throw powerful energy blasts with your punches and kicks. Keep in mind however all these powerups expire after a short while, and some disappear quicker than others.
And then there are the transformations. During your fights, you will occasionally defeat an opponent holding a spirit captive. There are three of these spirits I've seen. One, and the first you gain, is a wolf in a set of doggy armor. The second is a very large samurai. And third is an unarmed ninja who is very quick and agile. There are also two nonplayables that make appearances, one of whom is the mystic old man. When you find him, he will give you a slightly less powerful version of the gold sphere powerup. And the fifth is a pretty blonde who just thanks you and is off on her merry way. My main problem with the system is the game keeps going while you're in the transformation selection screen, meaning if you take more than a nanosecond to select your new character, you will get killed.
(And on a comedic side note, stick your friend playing the second player. Then make fun of the Village People reject he gets stuck playing as. A cowboy in a purple vest with no shirt... Right...)
I would have liked this game a little more if SNK hadn't increased the difficulty in later levels the cheap way. In order to gobble your quarters down that much faster, your lifeline is static at 6 hit points. The common enemies later in the game can take away three or possibly even four (It's been awhile, so forgive me if the numbers are off too much.) of those with a good solid hit.
This is a game I urge everyone who likes this genre to play. And even if you don't, play it anyways. It's lots of fun and definitely worth the small fortune you'll shell out playing it. It's a game I haven't forgotten in eight years of not playing it, and with the way my mind is now, that is saying a lot.
Best Cheats: I know of no cheats, but here are a few tips:
1) If you see a purple powerup orb, GO FOR IT. The BFS is godlike.
2) When fighting enemies your size who have swords, you can even the odds by punching right when they swing. You will catch their sword and break it in half!
3) Make sure you're actually moving in the direction you want to go before you jump. If you jump and then try to move, you won't go anywhere.
Game Play: 8
Overall Rating: 10
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