"Yes, hero-boyís steed of choice as he enters the fray is a cloud. Now, if I was a mythological Chinese hero, Iíd prefer riding into battle on one of those cool-looking dragons those nutty folks are always worshipping or whatever, but to each his own, I guess. "
Serendipity is a pretty wacky thing. There I was, sitting in my pad and looking for a nice Turbografx-16 shooter to review, so I could proudly look people in the eye and yell, ďI can achieve stuff too, you bastards!!!Ē into each and every one of their smug little faces.
The search wasnít going well. Since I rock so hard Iím illegal in 18 states (legislation pending in six others), I figured Iíd play Rock On. After about five minutes of that, I decided the gameís name was a horrible prank some jerk came up with to lure us hard-rockiní dudes to an early grave. Fortunately, I was able to extract myself from that situation and continue my hunt.
I thought Iíd hit the jackpot with the psychotically tripped-out Paranoia, but, alas, my TG-16 emulator crashed upon reaching the first boss. Thatís the thing about technology....sometimes, it really sucks and weíd all be better off just trying to remember how to rub two sticks together to start a fire instead of having to deal with stupid electronic gizmos not doing what they should.
Now, ordinarily, after facing this much adversity in ONE SINGLE DAY, my reaction would be to turn my computer off, pour myself a stiff drink and stare at the walls with a sulky expression on my face. However, a little voice in my head told me that my perseverance would be rewarded. I was a bit skeptical, since that belief has gotten me in trouble more than once (restraining orders arenít cool). Thankfully, the voice FINALLY led me down the right path and I found Gokuraku Chuka Taisen.
Donít get me wrong, this Taito shooter isnít some 10/10 masterpiece or anything remotely close to that. To be honest, itís a pretty average game that hadnít impressed me one bit when Iíd sampled one of its eight-bit incarnations. But I still consider finding this game to be quite the serendipitous moment, as the TG-16 had the processing power to make its quirky nature truly shine forth.
Gokuraku Chuka Taisen has more than its share of zany foes and bosses, from a nicotine-addicted Buddha to a ghost ship that explodes, revealing what seems to be a rocket-propelled pre-teen girl. As a matter of fact, pretty much everything about this game has sort of a deliriously weird vibe.
The game opens with a short, overwhelmingly vague cinematic scene showing a princess of some sort s-l-o-w-l-y walking towards a group of people. Suddenly, the princess is surrounded by a blue orb and whisked away! Her subjects are SHOCKED!! I am REALLY CONFUSED!!!
Fortunately, I didnít have to spend much time pondering what I had just seen. I was instantly given control of an enterprising young princess-saving chap who was determined to hop on his cloud and ride through six stages, killing whatever fools dared stand in his path.
Yes, hero-boyís steed of choice as he enters the fray is a cloud. Now, if I was a mythological Chinese hero, Iíd prefer riding into battle on one of those cool-looking dragons those nutty folks are always worshipping or whatever, but to each his own, I guess. Anyway, players initially only have one weak pellet gun in their arsenal, but can pick up some good stuff by killing minibosses. Each level has one or two encounters with tougher-than-the-norm foes with a love for forcefeeding the hero lightning bolts. Kill them and a door appears. By going through this portal, the hero can pick up a GOOD weapon to make advancing through tricky areas a bit easier. From fiery snakes that circle around the screen to multi-directional bullets to a pair of little angels that circle around him, the princess-saving chap will be far more prepared for upcoming challenges after a trip or two to these places.
Another neat thing our hero can do is turn around to bring the hurt to foes coming up on him from behind by pushing one of the controllerís buttons. And this isnít just a nifty, but unnecessary, option. Gokuraku Chuka Taisen is fond of changing the direction its screen scrolls, forcing players to react accordingly AND many bosses have no problems with bouncing all over the screen, forcing the hero to constantly be on his toes, not only in changing the direction heís firing in, but also to be prepared to dodge his opponent as it meanders around the screen.
Still, the only boss in Gokuraku Chuka Taisen I found particularly challenging was the final one. The actual levels were much more challenging....but not in a good way. Diminutive as he may be, our hero proves to be a large target for enemy bullets as he flies around on his cloud. Controlling a bulky hero became quite the humbling experience as I progressed through the game, going through caverns (while changing my flight direction constantly) and being besieged by hordes of monsters unleashing their ammo in my general direction. I suffered more than my fair share of deaths simply because my character was too bulky to evade all the enemy-related hazards coming his way.
With the exception of the foes, the levels simply werenít that interesting, either. While a couple stages had nicely-decorated backgrounds, they all played out a bit too similarly for my tastes, as cloud-dude slowly flew around in various directions until getting taken to the boss fight. For the most part, I felt I was playing the same level over and over again with a different background, as there simply were few differences to separate the gameplay in one from the other five.
Still, just because Gokuraku Chuka Taisen isnít a particularly great game doesnít mean itís without value. Quirky enemies and simple gameplay make this one something that can be fun to sit down with on a rainy day. While it definitely shouldnít be considered one of the greatest retro shooters out there, this game proved better than many Iíve played during my years of being a compulsive gaming addict.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 13, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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