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Game Tengoku CruisinMix (PC) artwork

Game Tengoku CruisinMix (PC) review

"Only for non-Saturn owning fans of the arcade game... and eggplant lovers."

Game Tengoku CruisinMix Special is the most Japanese game I've played in a long time. (I mean, it starts with the title.) It's a top-down shooter which was originally released in arcades... as a parody of arcade shooters (so meta). Shooter stories don't matter, but this one is too awesome and too Japanese not to mention: per the OVA companion video which came packaged with the Sega Saturn port, a half-naked dude walks into an arcade at closing time, and the female employee is saved by a little girl who absconds with her into an actual arcade game.

Game Tengoku was apparently big deal in its day and I gather that's a huge part of the draw of this reissue, but thereís no nostalgia here for me, because I missed it the first time 'round. So if you're a fan and you don't feel the love from me, that's probably why. God knows I love shooters, and the wage-battle-inside-arcade-machines gimmick is undeniably a fun one. But is it enough to elevate this experience from simply passable?

The gimmick, such as it is, begins with your ship doing fighting it out in an arcade. Youíll start the first level off flying over and between cabinets before ultimately entering one (like foreplay, then). Challenges from Tetris puzzle pieces to pinball flippers and bells abound -- it's all admittedly awesome.

The coolness is offset to some degree by the presentation; the graphics are somewhat washed out and lacking in detail. While they are better, they do bring to mind for me an early effort at 3D shooting in Ginga Fukei Densetsu: Sapphire for the Turbografx-CD, released some years earlier. But on this more powerful hardware, the lack of a graphical detail and polish even for its time, is a bit disappointing.

For someone not enamoured of Game Tengoku's very real kitsch appeal, someone not sitting down to play with a boatload of nostalgia at their back, this will just feel like a decent, if slightly easy vertical shoot-em-up with unremarkable production values and weird quirks involving collecting eggplants for points to the tune of an annoying voice yelling out triumphantly each time you do. (Is it triumph? Who can be sure.)

Another issue -- and I admit that I donít know whether or not the arcade and Saturn originals were similarly plagued -- is the horrendously distracting slowdown. When thereís a lot of action on the screen, expect things to grind to a halt, making the game very difficult to play. And it's not the kind of slowdown that helps with your dodging, because it's not consistent; itís the herky jerky variety which doesnít help anyone. (You can't blame my PC set up for this -- my rig ran the newest Tomb Raider trilogy without issue, so it should be able to run a simple 2D 90s shooter.)

All in all, Game Tengoku CruisinMix Special is a fun shooter with a cool gimmick that feels a bit... sparse, and is sadly plagued with slowdown, especially in the later levels. Unless youíre a diehard fan, Iíd give it a miss. And even if you are, hold on to your Saturn copy, because Iím certain (I'm really not, but I'm hopeful!) that it plays smoother than this version. This port holds value only for the true aficionados -- and I'm sure such a thing exists -- who need their Game Tengoku fix and canít get it anywhere else.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 23, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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