With the solid foundation of the Final Fantasy series, Square gained so much hype and mind share that people forgot they were a company that also made terrible games. Akara Senki Raijin (1988) takes care of that by reminding us exactly how abysmal a game Square is capable of producing. To sum it up in a sentence, Akara Senki Raijin is a poor man's Guardian Legend. Released earlier in 1988, Irem's masterpiece showed how to successfully blend Gradius shooter action with The Legend of Zelda adventure. Square, obviously hoping to copy this, attempted to make a mixture of walking and shooting segments. What they forgot was to make the game playable and fun.
Controls and Mechanics
Upon starting the game, the player sees a mechanized unit on a sort of launch pad. By facing upward and pressing ''Select'' the mech turns into a flying vehicle, and the shooter segment begins. Enemies swoop down and fire at the ship while the player attempts to destroy them with the inexhaustible but weak primary weapon and the (barely) more powerful but limited secondary weapon. Pressing ''Select'' again queues the ship to land and reform to a mech at the next launch pad. Upon landing the player may switch direction, press ''Select'' to take off, and proceed in a new path. Getting through stages is accomplished by gathering a set of icons which clear paths and break down barriers. Most icons are just lying about, but some must be obtained by clearing a screen of enemies.
The mech is adequately fast and decently controllable, but hit detection and damage dealt is out of control. Enemies latch on and suck unrealistic amounts of energy. No Zelda-like recoil mechanism exists to help the player avoid repeated damage, and the mech is too slow to move out of harm's way before much damage is scored. Moving the aircraft out of the way of enemies and their shots proves an arduous task as the aircraft is both too large and too slow. Adding to the frustration are the slow and ineffective shots from the aircraft. Bumping into walls as the aircraft absorbs irritating amounts of energy as well.
Available to the player is a menu system which allows alternation between different secondary weapons and shielding. Most equipment is bought in stores, which can be called after picking up a special item. ''Money'' is gathered by killing enemies; the player's score serves as currency.
The menu systems are awkward and poorly thought out. The button assignments are quite confusing: sometimes the ''A'' button confirms and sometimes the ''B'' button, depending on the context. Just as awkward, navigation within a menu is done with either the directional pad or the ''Select'' button, once again depending on context.
Akara Senki Raijin is challenging, all right, but in an irritating way that makes the player want to give up in the first thirty seconds of the game. The objectives are unclear and unmarked, the ship is almost uncontrollable, and enemies deal too much damage.
The backgrounds are uniformly colored and bland; in other words, standard fare for NES titles. One gets the impression of repeating landscapes in the first few seconds of the game as identical brown and gray scenery scrolls by. The enemy ships are dull and nondescript as well; they just look like quickly thrown together sprites. About the only interesting thing to look at is the hero, which looks more like a big red couch from some horrible 70s parlor than a mechanized unit. In flight, the hero looks like a red, squashed B-10 bomber, or Santa Claus' sleigh. It's hard to tell.
Square is famous for their excellent music, but Akara Senki Raijin disappoints here, too. While not overly horrid, the game's music is short and average. Adding to the irritation is the fact that the game only has two songs: the intro music and the ''game'' music, which sounds remarkably like the intro music.
Likewise with sound effects, Square disappoints yet again. The main gun emits a shrill sound when fired, which quickly becomes intolerable. The secondary weapon is much more tolerable but is still uninteresting as the sound is just a dull thud, a sound which is also used when the player takes damage. About the only other sound effects heard in the game are a tune when the aircraft picks up a power up and the sound heard while navigating menus, which is stolen from Final Fantasy.
It's hard to have a good time in a confusing and uncontrollable game. Akara Senki Raijin manages to sneak in a few good moments, though. I felt accomplished when I finally figured out how to beat the first stage. This feeling quickly subsided, however, when I realized I had to beat another stage just like it but probably more difficult. Shopping is likely the most interesting aspect of the game, although most of the stuff bought is worthless.
Out of all the decent Famicom Disk System games that never made it outside of Japan, Akara Senki Raijin can remain forgotten. Ten seconds in this game and one can see why Square teetered on bankruptcy in the late 1980s. Akara Senki Raijin serves as an excellent example how implementation is just as important as an idea. Combining shooter with adventure is a good idea, but only with good planning and programming. Akara Senki Raijin gives the impression of a very quickly thrown together game, which it most likely is.
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Akara Senki Raijin review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!