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Legend of Hero Tonma (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Legend of Hero Tonma (TurboGrafx-16) review


"It seemed I was challenged virtually every step of the way in the fifth level's cavern and the sixth stage's castle exterior, assaulted by fireball-spewing statues and an infinite number of knights, bats and other baddies on a non-stop basis. For the earlier stages, it seemed like I'd cruise through a few easy waves of enemies, briefly struggle to get through one tricky part and then realize I already was at the boss fight."



If there is one thing I’m used to when I play a video game, it’s the moral support given to me by the inept friends of my hero. You know the drill -- “Go, Overdrive.....we believe in you!. You are our only hope!” There’s something heartwarming about receiving that sort of pep talk from a group of people that likely just got done charging me top dollar for any service they could provide. I love being considered a worthy candidate to save their miserable little lives from the apocalypse, but not quite good enough for them to turn their backs while I give myself a five-finger discount at the local armory.

With that said, the cynic in me loved Legend of Hero Tonma. Maybe there weren’t any inns or shops around for my character to pillage, but at least his one source of communication had little faith he’d succeed in toppling the forces of evil and rescuing a princess!

Before the first couple of stages in this 1991 Irem arcade-to-Turbografx-16 port, words appeared on the screen. No ordinary pep talk, this message essentially let me know I should turn back now, as I had no chance of success. Even after I’d blazed through a couple of levels, I was only worthy of reluctant compliments, as I was told I was doing good so far, but the enemies would be getting tougher. It wasn’t until I’d nearly beaten the game that the mysterious messages gave me the credit I’d earned. Strangely, they seemed to tell me I’d beaten the game when I still had two or so stages to go, but premature praise is better than none, I guess.

I really have no idea why this mysterious speaker doubted me. Legend of Hero Tonma is not a tough game and was easily beaten in an hour or three. None of the seven stages are particularly long and any tricky spots located in them are neutralized by the unlimited continues graciously doled out by the TG-16.

At first glance, though, Legend of Hero Tonma appears to be of the same vein as Ghosts and Goblins and other brutally difficult platformers of yesteryear. Before each level begins, a map is displayed, allowing the player to get a vague clue as to what kind of terrain they can expect. While these stages are short, they aren’t lacking in action, with Tonma (assuming that is the character’s name) being swarmed by enemies nearly every step of the way. In an attempt to make things even more challenging, Irem decided to not allow Tonma to absorb any damage. One hit from anything hostile spells the end of a life.

However, it didn’t take me long to find out my hero had a few advantages over the seemingly-hapless Arthur of Ghosts and Goblins fame. First, he’s much more nimble, able to fluidly leap high into the air to avoid enemies and their assorted attacks. Second, much like Mario, he has the power to jump on enemies. While this attack can’t even kill the weakest of foes, it does stun virtually every enemy and can be used to propel Tonma to heights he can’t reach solely on his own jumping ability. Third, and perhaps most importantly, he’s better equipped to mow down enemies than Arthur ever was.

At the onset of the game, Tonma can shoot a fast-moving attack directly in front of him, which is quite similar to an enhanced version of Arthur’s standard spear. However, by collecting a few of the readily-available power-ups, he’ll soon be firing a slew of those projectiles, as well as a fireball or two and a couple of other assorted attacks. And he’ll be doing all of this while likely being surrounded by a shield capable of blocking a good number of enemy attacks before disappearing. While the loss of a life will remove all of Tonma’s weapons besides that initial shot (which suddenly will seem a lot more feeble at this point), as I said, power-ups are easy to snare, so it shouldn’t take too long to make him a fierce warrior again.

While most of the game's levels contain a few tricky areas, where enemies and their attacks proved difficult to dodge, I didn't really find any but the final two full stages (the seventh and final "level" is merely a boss fight) to be particularly rough. It seemed I was challenged virtually every step of the way in the fifth level's cavern and the sixth stage's castle exterior, assaulted by fireball-spewing statues and an infinite number of knights, bats and other baddies on a non-stop basis. For the earlier stages, it seemed like I'd cruise through a few easy waves of enemies, briefly struggle to get through one tricky part and then realize I already was at the boss fight. Since the levels tended to be well-drawn, with hordes of enemies that did a fine job of toeing the line between "cartoonishly cool" and "too cute", I would have liked to see them go on a bit longer and have a few more rough spots.

Those bosses did partially make up for the general shortness of the levels, as they were fun battles that offered a variety of challenges. To defeat the enormous skeleton at the end of the first level, not only did I have to take full advantage of Tonma's jumping abilities, but also had to react quickly enough to dodge the homing attacks it emitted from its massive sword. After that, I noticed a handful of the following bosses reminded me of ones in Irem's many shoot-em-ups (look at the tree demon at the end of the third level and tell me that thing wasn't inspired by foes in R-Type's evil Bydo Empire).

In fact, considering the amount of ammo Tonma can fill the air with at any time, I started to get the distinct impression that Legend of Hero Tonma was designed to be sort of a "shooter-without-a-spaceship" kind of game. Think about it -- the hero only can take one hit and will gradually build up a weak weapon to one capable of cutting through any foe in an instant....only to lose all that progress upon the loss of a life. The problem is, unlike Irem's classic shooters, this game is very short and quite easy to bully through in one sitting. Legend of Hero Tonma might have an enjoyably quirky atmosphere, but doesn't have enough substance for me to consider it worth going through any trouble or expense to play.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 12, 2006)

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

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