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Sengoku (SNES) artwork

Sengoku (SNES) review


"During the age of the Neo-Geo arcade and home video games, SNK was quite fond of cranking out shooters and brawlers of all shapes and sizes. Whether they were putting mollusk heads on generic thugs in Mutation Nation or creating a new Contra in Metal Slug, one thing seemed clear ó whether you liked or disliked the games, you WOULD notice them. "



During the age of the Neo-Geo arcade and home video games, SNK was quite fond of cranking out shooters and brawlers of all shapes and sizes. Whether they were putting mollusk heads on generic thugs in Mutation Nation or creating a new Contra in Metal Slug, one thing seemed clear -- whether you liked or disliked the games, you WOULD notice them.

One of these brawlers was a 1991 experience in mystical tomfoolery named Sengoku. The appeal of this game was that your character would often be teleported from his world to a surreal kingdom in the sky (and back again) to continue the fight against evil there. That was a wonderful innovation, as it really gave the impression of two worlds colliding -- with your hero having to destroy the forces of evil both on his world and in the domain of the evil leader.

It was good that Sengoku had that innovation, though, as it was a somewhat flawed game. Due to the battle system, to call this game a quarter-muncher for most players would be an understatement. Since weapons were temporary power-ups, your character had to make it through a good portion of the gameís six levels empty-handed. Unfortunately, many of your foes tended to carry large swords or other weapons, giving them a greater range of attack than you. Even more unfortunately, some of those enemies were quite quick on the draw, reducing your pathetically short life meter quickly and efficiently.

Still, Sengoku was an enjoyable game. Sure, it was quite a frustrating game at times, but still enjoyable. Regardless of how cheap it could get, the combination of modern arcade brawling and Eastern mythology was intriguing and set it apart from the pack.

Fast-forward two years, now. Data East gets the rights to put Sengoku on the Super Nintendo. However, like many games of the Era of Nintendo Dominance, Sengoku (or Sengoku Denshou as it is known in Japan) was never ported to America.

Unfortunately, in this case (unlike such much-desired games as Star Ocean, Bahamut Lagoon and Dragon Quest 6), it was a blessing that this game never made it to your local K-Martís display case -- not a curse. Because, to phrase it as simply as possible, Data East got it wrong. They got it wrong in so many ways that it boggles my mind to conceive how something so simple could be blundered so badly.

First off, letís explore the actual gameplay of the SNES Sengoku. For the most part, your character will be fighting with his bare hands. Pick up a power-up and youíll have yourself a sword or the ability to fire magical bolts, just like in the SNK version. Occasionally, youíll get the power of a familiar which you can change into in order to get different powers. Similar to SNK with the exception that in that version you hit a button to transform -- here itís automatic.

While you donít take damage and lose lives at the speed you do in the arcade game, this game still is quite challenging, even in ďeasyĒ mode. Some of the enemies, including the basic and extremely common small ninja opponent, are quite skilled at getting punches in before you can react. Others, like the knife-wielders, seem to have a definite speed advantage over you and are very skilled in combat. It really seems like there is no middle ground as far as the enemies go. Either they are slow and easy to pummel, as the barbarians, samurais and large ninjas tend to be, or they are so skilled that it is a definite likelihood that theyíll get a hit in before being vanquished, as the small ninjas and knife-wielders are.

But a few cheap hits from common enemies is not the biggest problem that this game has. After playing for a few minutes, itís blatantly obvious that much of what made the original so innovative has been stripped away, leaving you with nothing more than a substandard clone of Final Fight or Streets of Rage.

A big flaw is in the pure lack of opponents over this versionís five levels (one less than SNKís original). On the first screen, you initially be confronted by a pair of small ninjas and a large barbarian. Get used to those two enemies because various colors of them, as well as samurai warriors, compose the majority of your fighting. Later on, youíll be confronted by speedy knife-wielders and a couple of other enemies, but for the most part, youíll just be seeing the same couple of opponents over and over again.

Now, my memory has been proven to be faulty at times, but I can remember fighting a couple of fun mini-boss battles in the first game. These seem to have disappeared for the SNES version. You simply have five levels of generic beat-em-up action with a boss at the end.

The bosses are generally cool in appearance, but the encounters pale in comparison to the arcade. In that version, they would taunt you before the battle and cry out in shock after being vanquished. Here, the battle simply starts when they appear and ends when they die with no fanfare whatsoever. It doesnít help matters that they generally follow simple patterns and typically are much easier than the levels themselves.

You donít even get the between-level cutscenes where the evil leader commands his next subordinate to finish the job the previous boss failed. You do still warp from the physical world to the cloud world quite frequently, but unlike the arcade game, there is no sense of doing anything exciting. Here, it just feels like more of the same.

The graphics are decent, but most of the levels tend to all look the same after a while (the fifth levelís assault on the leaderís floating castle is the exception). The music and sound effects arenít bad, but also have nothing special about them to recommend them. To be perfectly honest, very little of the personality that the original arcade version had found its way into the SNES version. And thatís definitely not a good thing. You see, while the arcade Sengoku had its flaws, the unique vibe that it possessed made it well worth a gamerís time. In the translation to the SNES, that vibe has almost completely disappeared, leaving a generic brawler that is far more flawed than the average game in this genre.

For example, you canít count on life boosts before a tough area in this game. Remember how in Final Fight, there would usually be a big hunk of meat right before a boss, so youíd go into the battle with full health? You might lose four lives beating the boss, anyway, but you had that feeling that you were going into the battle on equal footing. Well, nothing like that exists here. Every once in a while, defeated foes drop a green orb, which will restore a bit of life. However, those orbs restore so little life that one punch by a weak enemy is enough to negate any positive effect you receive.

Also, the play control is nothing to write home about. Your character can seem downright sluggish when compared to a couple of the more nimble enemies. The hit detection is also a bit off at times. I noticed that several times, it would look like my character was in position to grab and throw an enemy, but the game wouldn't allow me to pull it off -- resulting in me getting pummeled because I was essentially standing directly in front of said foe.

And there are many other examples of how this game is flawed, many of which have already been touched on. The lack of variety in enemies, the sheer repetition in backgrounds, the way enemies tend to range from pathetically easy to annoyingly cheap -- all of these things and more combine to create a game that is pretty unpleasant to play. While Sengoku Denshou may not be pure garbage, there are plenty of brawlers that will provide a far more enjoyable time. Unless youíre looking for a mundane and frustrating experience, my advice would be to pass up this game.

Rating: 3/10

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (February 04, 2004)

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

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