Mi­nor­ity Re­port: Game Gear

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Nick takes a deep dive into the im­port world of Sega’s por­ta­ble su­per­star

In the mid-nineties, Sega seemed in­tent on re­fo­cus­ing the Game

Gear’s soft­ware line-up to ap­peal to kids, ac­quir­ing the rights to pro­duce games based on a num­ber of pop­u­lar anime li­cences – Yu Yu Hakusho, Magic Knight Rayearth, Saint Tail, Do­rae­mon and more. Kishin Douji Zenki was part of this li­cens­ing drive, and while you might not have heard of it, its pop­u­lar­ity in mid-nineties Ja­pan was un­ques­tion­able – the orig­i­nal 12-vol­ume manga spawned a 51-episode TV anime adap­ta­tion, plus a short straight-to-video an­i­mated film and five videogames.

The team as­sem­bled for this adap­ta­tion was quite a tal­ented one. Pro­ducer Kat­suhiro Hasegawa was a Sega vet­eran whose pre­vi­ous work in­cluded The GG Shi­nobi and Deep Duck Trou­ble. Direc­tor Hisayoshi Yoshida had worked on Sonic 3,

Sonic & Knuck­les and Le­gend Of Il­lu­sion, and his plan­ning part­ner Tadashi Ihoroi had ex­pe­ri­ence on the 8-bit Sonic games Sonic Chaos and Sonic Triple Trou­ble. Given their ex­pe­ri­ence, you won’t be sur­prised to find that they put to­gether a plat­form game to rep­re­sent Zenki.

The game starts off with the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter Zenki in his ‘de­mon god’ form, fight­ing in a short boss bat­tle. This sin­gle-screen en­counter gives both Zenki and his op­po­nent life bars, and Zenki is able to se­lect from four dif­fer­ent at­tack moves – a fire­ball, a light­ning spark, a dash and a tor­nado at­tack – by press­ing the start but­ton. Af­ter you win, you’ll head off to the map to se­lect one of the main ac­tion stages, but these boss en­coun­ters are fre­quent through­out the game.

In the main plat­form stages, you play as ei­ther a small ver­sion of

Zenki, or his shrine maiden friend Chi­aki. Zenki can at­tack en­e­mies by curl­ing into a ball, ei­ther when jump­ing or by per­form­ing a for­ward roll from a crouch­ing po­si­tion, while Chi­aki can use her mag­i­cal pow­ers to shoot small flames or find sin­gleuse spell tags to sum­mon light­ning, wind or fire. These unique skills grant dif­fer­ent paths through the stages, too – only Chi­aki can de­feat cer­tain bar­rier en­e­mies, while only Zenki is ca­pa­ble of break­ing blocks from above or be­low.

What’s nice about the plat­form stages is that they’re not just graph­i­cally at­trac­tive, but var­ied and in­ter­est­ing to play. Each has unique gim­micks – de­struc­tible floors, mov­ing bars to hang from, and even al­ter­na­tive ex­its lead­ing to new stages. Some stages are the usual left-to-right af­fairs, while oth­ers see you mov­ing mostly ver­ti­cally.

The game’s pre­sen­ta­tion is top notch, too. The graph­ics are good for the Game Gear, and plenty of story cutscenes add to the at­mos­phere. The sound­track by Saori Kobayashi is also good con­sid­er­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of the sys­tem’s au­dio hard­ware. It’s not the most in­ven­tive of games, and if you’re a Game Gear fan you prob­a­bly have a few good plat­form­ers al­ready. How­ever, it’s an ex­clu­sive game for the sys­tem and a high qual­ity one at that – not some­thing you’ll come across too eas­ily on the Game Gear, so it’s worth the £15-£25 it sells for.

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