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Tenchi Muyou! Game-Hen (SNES) artwork

Tenchi Muyou! Game-Hen (SNES) review

"I find myself admitting that the anime that this game is based upon entertained me, being rather brainless fun that made me laugh from time to time. So when I spied a Snes game, I thought I might as well give it a go; it couldn't hurt to try and seeing as I am a huge fan of turn based strategies anyway, a genre this game happily falls into, my resolve was strengthened. "

I find myself admitting that the anime that this game is based upon entertained me, being rather brainless fun that made me laugh from time to time. So when I spied a Snes game, I thought I might as well give it a go; it couldn't hurt to try and seeing as I am a huge fan of turn based strategies anyway, a genre this game happily falls into, my resolve was strengthened.

However, aside from the pre-set feeling of familiarity I had, I must admit to finding myself torn; anime-to-game converts are notorious in their collective awfulness. Unabashed, and with a quite real sense of ominous forbidding, I dove in, leaving a neatly arranged will in my wake.

For those unaware of the series or its plot, it revolves around a schoolboy named Tenchi. In keeping with true anime fashion, he becomes an unlikely hero when various visitors, who, once more in keeping with the tradition, belonging to the young and female persuasion, appear from nowhere and take up residence with him and his family. The majority of these will be present in the game, alongside Tenchi himself.

The game itself is based around the first Tenchi series, in which it stays loyal to the characters that make up the cast. However, if you think of it in terms of the later made, and more wide-spread, Tenchi Universe, the story might take place before Kiyone's arrival. Things start off with the assembled cast lounging around the house before being unexpectedly assaulted by the random monsters that always seem to crop up like the evil cannon fodder they are. This all leads to Sasami [read: the obligitory pre-teen, cute one] being kidnapped by a mysterious green haired girl called Mizuki. From here, the plot unfolds into a light-hearted affair that always manages to stay true to the series itself. Old familiars from either series will appear, including Ryoko, Aeyka, Mihoshi, Washu, Ryu-ohki to name but a few, a nice familiar cast for existing fans, and a quick-to-like new one for those who experience their first slice of Tenchi here. If the story suffers from anything, it is from being very much on the simple side, but then again, this does echo the show.

It's not all an carbon copy though, in fact, the game could have really benefited from mooching from the show's soundtrack. The music never grabbed me and I found as the game went on, my urge to play a stereo over the top of it to be almost overwhelming. The problem here is that the music is very much on the repetitive side. Not only will you hear the same tracks non-stop throughout the game, but they are repetitive in themselves, to the point of sounding like short scores that have been stuck on a continuous loop. However, the sound effects themselves fare a little better; explosions and cosmetic noises are pretty clear, and even the voice actors for the respective characters do some lines, which come across very well - a surprising addition, seeing as Snes games with clear voice effects can probably be counted off one hand.

The controls seek to follow the overall effect in being very simplistic, and happily succeed. Because you only really hold control over your cast whilst in battle, it's just a case of placing people where you want them, and unleashing an attack when needed. There is no equipping to worry about, nor is there any stock of consumable items to use. It's as simple as move and act.

This is done via the tried and tested sub menus system: selecting to move will highlight the section of the gridded battlemap you reside on, the highlighted section being that which you can move your character along. Acting is just as simple; after selecting your action, the applicable area will be highlighted. If a target appears within it, you select it by scrolling your highlighted square over it, if multiple targets appear, you select the one you wish to act against, sans a multi-hit attack, which is selected the same as a single target strike; it really is that simple. Outside of battle, it's just a case of selecting your next destination by clicking on the map location you want to move to.

As well as a lack of equips and items, the game is also void of MP, in its place, you will use Kiai, which builds up naturally after each turn; for the bigger attacks, you must stockpile this force, helping some of the characters can utilise a 'morph' skill. Whilst morphed, they can unleash even deadlier attacks, but to be able to do this, your Kiai must be fully charged, and you will remain morphed until you do not have enough Kiai left to sustain your form. On full Kiai, you can unleash your most devastating attacks, but must rely on slightly less effective moves as it winds down. Hardly groundbreaking, but it's a nice break from the norm.

The graphics in game are pretty impressive. Everything is clearly animated, and everyone is easily recognisable. For instance, Mihoshi has been captured perfectly, right down to crying her little eyes out when the need arises. A lot of work has been put into the main party, and it often shows, whislt on the other hand, the opposing forces may suffer from pallet swapping from time to time, but do still look the part; it all just fits from the Tenchi universe so well. If I had any gripe, it would be the battlemaps sometimes seem a little lacking, doing very little to disguise the fact that they are all basically a 25-30 square grid.

Tenchi, however, is a mind numbingly linear experience, seeing as you really only hold control during battles. When you are not fighting, you have very simplistic choices of where to go next; you do have some choice, granted, but a very limited one. Because of this, the plot seems to be force fed to you, and any decision you do make feels cosmetic rather then having any real value or weight. Every now and then, where you do chose to go does have some little effect, and by bypassing certain areas, or by what order you chose to tackle said locations, you could find yourself missing or gaining extra party members, or catching an extra bit of dialogue. Not a big deal really, and after the first chapter or so, it's back to linearsville, but it goes someway into making you think your choices might matter, until you know enough about the game to realise they do not.

A bigger problem still is how darn repetitive the game becomes. Besides a few battles, everything follows the same suit of merrily destroying everything on the grid, there is never really any sense of strategy coming into play. Even on boss fights, the most strategic choice you often have to make is what order to pummel them in. Because of this, all the battles all have a sense of 'same fight-different monster' to them.

Also, because of the way you move about the map, you will find yourself redoing some areas again and again and again -- and then, as a change of pace; again. Soon, you will have certain levels imprinted on you brain, and will have to resist the urge to try and wash them out with industrial strength cleaning fluid; keeping in mind that this would go against the manufacturers recommended use, and I will not be held accountable if this is the course of action you choose.

You'll also find that this is a short game; I discovered it on a day when all my plans had fallen through, and all but completed it in one long sitting; but as most people have this fabled thing called a 'life', you can easily finish this game within a week. It does hold some replay value, you can collect up to 12 party members, and can only use 4 per battle, so trying out new team mates will always be a reason to go back. There are also battles that can be missed due to how you proceed early on, that you can try and catch the second time round.

Overall, Tenchi turns out to be a colourful and enjoyable extension of the anime, and I found myself quite liking the game for many of the same reasons I enjoyed the show. It sticks to the feel of the series faithfully, and how often can you say that about a games spawned from a program? Ryoko argues with Aeyka like she should, Mihoshi is a blonde bubblehead who misses the odd attack, only to look embarrassed and close to tears about it, and so on. It's just like it was torn from the series, and I cannot give the programmers enough credit for this.

Its simplicity is both a plus and a minus. Although it makes the game so easy to get into, you really can just stroll though with minimum effort. The story is interesting enough to keep you going, whilst certainly being nothing mind-blowing, still, I found myself happily playing for a good chunk of time. It's that simplicity and familiarity that pulls you in. You might very well already know the cast, after all, so half the battle is won, and even if you know nothing of the series, you cannot deny that the cast have a depth to them, a pre-existing personality.

I was playing with the idea of knocking down the score, just because there are indeed better TBS's out there, but a well made license is a rare thing indeed. Besides, watching Mihoshi bawl her eyes out and proclaim to be hungry mid battle is worth a point just for the little giggle it gave me.

It's the softy in me, really. I do so hate to see a cute girl cry.

bside's avatar
Community review by bside (November 20, 2005)

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