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Hana Taaka Daka!? (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Hana Taaka Daka!? (TurboGrafx-16) review

"Submitted on a Sunday because this is the sort of game that's best on a dull weekend day when you just can't think of anything to do."

Hana Taaka Daka?I is a shooter, which means it's not necessary to understand the plot or the character's motivations in order to enjoy the action. Your only job in this Japanese import is to control some sort of animal which shoots its way through six horizontally-scrolling stages. When you blast a foe, it turns into a small critter that plummets off the screen. I take that to mean you're either purging your adversaries of some mystic curse, or perhaps simply killing shape-shifting demons. Upon beating a level boss, you gain a puzzle piece that is then placed on a grid. Bonus levels in each stage also hide additional pieces. Once you beat the game, you're treated to a series of slides and any optional pieces you didn't acquire will lead to partially obscured pictures.

If you're like me, a lot of the game's trappings will mean nothing to you. I have no idea what sort of being I was controlling in this game, why it was blasting critters, or who all it is interacting with in those post-game slides. I do know, however, that the game is a competent--if not particularly great--shooter that possesses a few interesting ideas. At the very least, it provides a different experience than the one I'm used to seeing in games of this sort.

Though the game for the most part scrolls horizontally, stages tend to occupy a vertical space that doesn't fit on a single screen. A lot of games with such a mechanic wind up merely using it to provide the player with more room to maneuver. Here, the increased dimensions are occasionally implemented in more creative ways, such as when you're fighting the penultimate level's boss, a boat-riding octopus. In some ways, that confrontation is simple. Your foe attacks by flinging easy-to-dispatch birds in your direction. However, waterfalls regularly appear on-screen and will damage (or kill) you unless you dive underwater to avoid them. You must maneuver around the screen, dipping below the boss to avoid waterfalls, while also dodging homing birds as you pop back above the waterline and mount a fresh assault.

The larger chambers also mean you have to pay close attention if you want to find every one of the aforementioned bonus areas. By shooting random characters in the various stages, I found two of the six bonus chambers, which leads me to believe that if I wanted to find every last one, I would have to explore each stage thoroughly. However, the bonus areas are quite dull. They last until you shoot the right object and release a puzzle piece, which prevented me from even bothering to seek them out. The only reward is that you get to see more of the slide show at the game's conclusion. I can't really hold that against the game's design on the one hand, but it did impact my personal experience. I prefer something like what the Parodius series offers: more than just whimsical takes on genre standards. Even without getting all of the references in those titles, I understood enough to feel like I was in on the joke, so to speak.

With Hana Taaka Daka?I, any joke went over my head. The final boss was a large human in an animal costume. His face was detailed enough to give me the impression he was supposed to represent someone, but I have no clue who that might be. Were the main characters from an anime, a children's cartoon or original inventions of the programmers? Other than the "press a button and stuff goes boom" part of the process, I didn't really understand anything that was happening.

I can easily forgive that sort of dynamic when I'm playing an elite game, but Hana Taaka Daka doesn't qualify. The innovations that might have saved it run along the lines of "give with one hand, take with the other". You have a bit of a life meter in this game, meaning you can absorb a hit before dying, and it's possible to snag a power-up that will allow additional blunders. There is a trade-off, though, since your size increases according to the number of hits you can sustain. If you're near death, your character will be tiny; if your life meter is maxed, your unwieldy form makes it hell to get through the congested areas you must often navigate.

As you fly, you can bring along small birds that function about like options from the Gradius series. You can also obtain bombs and shields, and fire charged shots. That's great for clearing out enemies when the stages get cluttered, but since a charge shot is mapped to the same button as your standard one, there's no rapid-fire option; you have to press the button each time you want to fire a projectile.

One thing that's also worth mentioning is the presence of some rare enemies that are capable of swallowing your character, an attack that proves fatal regardless of your current health. You can survive such appearances when you know the enemies are coming, by firing like crazy and pressing quickly in the opposite direction on the directional pad. That way, you can fight the suction long enough to destroy the fiends. Such moments are surprisingly tense, given the game's cartoonish and whimsical vibe overall.

None of the issues I had with Hana Taaka Daka were enough to make me wish desperately that I were playing a different game, but they did prevent it from being anything more than decent but largely forgettable. There are some really neat moments along the way, such as a boss fight with a grizzled boxer who sweats both perspiration and blood, but my gaming backlog is way too large for me to be able to justify spending much time with a generally average game I can only vaguely comprehend.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 28, 2014)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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