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Kiaidan 00 (Turbografx-CD) artwork

Kiaidan 00 (Turbografx-CD) review

"Blow off the rear end of a war cruiser to reveal a tentacled skull. After you've sent gouts of fire into its mouth, the skull transforms into a trident-wielding, humanoid robot. Each boss has no shortage of attacks; this Poseidon wannabe can freeze you in place, send icy waves rippling across the ground, summon a meteor storm, or simply stab you in your big blue face."

Kikoeru ka, Kiaidan
Ano sakebi ga?
Mieru no ka, Kiaidan
Ore no hikari da?

The game may be in Japanese, but it's not hard to follow this fantastic shooter's cheesy awesome story. Kiaidan 00 -- the epic tale of a giant robot and its hot-blooded young pilot against the wicked Magnificent Twelve! Kiaidan is Alfa System's boldest game, and it's still one of their best.

The time and place is... TOKYO 20XX

A shades-sporting, bearded old man named "DOCTOR GIGAIGAR" holds the world hostage. Twelve dark generals serve this ambitious tyrant, each the master of their own mechanical beast. One general pilots a robot protected by a ring of asteroids; another controls a giant Bouncing Orb of Doom. Cringe as a shadowy dragon burns Tokyo to the ground! Gasp as the evil doctor's twelve apostles assemble en masse! "Special Commander" Joe Dogbone, in his customized Megabuster GZ mech (outfitted with a stylish but useless cape) serves as Doctor GiGaiGar's right-hand man. All in all, it's fourteen nefarious villains against one single hero's lightning-spurting robot.

After shooter classics like Sylphia and Sapphire, it would take a great game to live up to the title of "undiscovered Turbo gem". A game with thrills. A game with suspense. A game with comedy! Kiaidan 00 has all of those things. I know this because those very words scroll across the screen (in giant letters) during the animated introduction.

THRILLS! As young pilot Takeshi takes to the controls of the giant robot Kiaidan.

SUSPENSE! As unkempt Takeshi's suave rival, Joe Dogbone, sinisterly taunts our hero!

COMEDY! As hen-pecked Takeshi winces at the harsh words of love interest Arisa!

If you're going to say something stupid, you may as well say it REALLY LOUDLY. That's the charm of Kiaidan's pre-game trailer. With a gleam in his prescription glasses, the noble scientist calls forth his creation of light and goodness: "Kiaidan... LAUNCH!" and then the game doesn't start, because we still need to hear the Full Vocal introduction song! Takeshi's solemn face stares into the distance, and a soulful melody echoes through the entire cosmos.

Oh Kiaidan, do you hear it?
That far-off battle cry
Oh Kiaidan, do you see it?
My soul's inner light

Perhaps he is staring into the darkness that inhabits the hearts of evildoers... evildoers that he will vanquish with his soul's inner light.

After the most masturbatory assortment of front-end cinematics ever conceived, the Kiaidan robot zooms into sunny Tokyo to meet evil head-on. In this world, evil takes the totally boring form of a row of Gradius-style battlepods drifting onto the screen in slow single file. You kill them. Another row lazily flies onto the screen. You kill them, too.


But then the spear-hurling purple demons arrive, and the action quickly spirals out of control! Dodge their spears, or shoot them down for bonus points. Just when you're getting used to those guys, the boomerang-hurling demons arrive, and you've got to switch gears... because now their projectiles aren't so easily avoided. Fortunately, there's a neat trick: when one of these purple fiends tosses a boomerang, you can shoot it right back into his face. Continual forward fire is your friend.

...until the giant battleships with human faces show up behind you and start shoving missiles up your iron butt. Fortunately, the Kiaidan comes fully equipped -- at all times -- with five different weapons, which can be toggled on the fly a la Thunder Force. My personal favorite is the ball and chain; the Kiaidan robot actually swings a giant steel ball in a smoothly-rotating circle, SKULL-SMASHING nearby paratroopers (although you can just puncture their parachutes with bullets and send them crashing to the ground below).

Once the game kicks in, it kicks HARD and doesn't stop until your thumbs are sore and your fingers numb. As you blaze through burning Tokyo, the Earth Defense Force flies to your aid... but they're quickly blown apart by mechanical bats' screeching sonar and a giant helicopter's chaser missiles. The Earth Defense Force was always pretty useless in those old robot shows. In Deathmaster's lair, rocks fall from the ceiling, but watch out below -- enemy soldiers are surfing on the lava! Gladitorial roman centurions (riding atop mechanical skulls) try to capture you in their nets -- slaughter them immediately before they stab you a bajillion times. One level even features a giant snow witch who summons ethereal wolves when she's not busy conjuring blizzards or looking sexy. You never, and I mean never, know what you're going to see next.

The music isn't quite as creative, but it has its moments. I love the ice level's solemn chimes (a stark contrast to the generally peppy tunes), but I love the intricate action even more. The level begins with you soaring above the snowy forest, strafing mechanical war mammoths. There are even baby robot war mammoths to murder! If you don't destroy them immediately, they'll fire war missiles vertically up into the air. Combined with the cyclopean shadows' horizontal lightning bolts, it's a veritable grid of destruction. Metallic snow spiders crawl through the sky; blast them apart or they'll snare you faster than you can say "I'm a mechanical boy." While you're busy dodging the electrified webs, bioroids on hoverpads fire lasers, swing swords, and hurl axes. You can knock out the hoverpad and send its rider plummeting, but he may knife you as he falls. Alternately, you can focus your fire and destroy the rider -- but then the abandoned hoverpad recklessly blazes through the air! That can be pretty dangerous, especially if you let it divert your attention from the bolo-flinging knights.

When the screen gets too busy, it's time to break out the truly heavy firepower. Each of the five weapons has a superpower ability -- charge up and release a giant lightning burst, wipe the screen with fire, or launch your rocket-propelled fist for a face-crunching KIAI SMASH. (I know it's called the Kiai Smash because Takeshi yells its name out loud.) You'll need these superpowers when you face the Magnificent Twelve, because they're a heck of a lot tougher than Lords of Thunder's dark six.

As you fight each of the fourteen bosses, you see your innocent face in one corner and your opponent's malevolent mug in the other. It's a great way to connect to the battle -- listen to every diabolical laugh and watch every pained grimace! When a pilot is close to death, their portrait turns red, as though the cockpit is on fire. If the burning face isn't clear enough, you can also see your opponent's life bar (which unfortunately starts out a LOT bigger than yours). Several of the bosses undergo multiple transformations before they're finally eliminated; blow off the rear end of a war cruiser to reveal a tentacled skull. After you've sent gouts of fire into its mouth, the skull transforms into a trident-wielding, humanoid robot. Each boss has no shortage of attacks; this Poseidon wannabe can freeze you in place, send icy waves rippling across the ground, summon a meteor storm, or simply fork you in your big blue face. If it sounds cool, that's because it is cool.

When you beat a boss (which is no simple task, even on the easiest difficulty), the game shows a quick gratuitous cinema of whichever superpower you used to slaughter it. Takeshi also screams that weapon's name really loudly, like this: "GRAVITY STOOOOORRRMMM!"

Boost the game up to difficulty level 3 for a blast of manic intensity -- before Gunbird, there was Kiaidan! Some enemies spray streams of glowing bullets, and others explode into clouds of orange shrapnel when they die. The game keeps a tally of bullets so that it never overloads to the point of flicker or slowdown, and the maximum limit is HIGH. It's smooth, it's crazy, and it's awesome.

When you run out of vitality (and you will... often), the game cuts to a scene of the Kiaidan robot slumped lifeless across some rocks. Your hero grimaces in one corner while that particular level's nefarious villain laughs in the other. Your love interest wails in despair: "Open your eyes!" Show some grit -- press continue and scream "I'LL NEVER GIVE UP!" With that triumphant declaration, the Kiaidan's eyes light up in mechanical determination!

Kiaidan 00 is a challenging game, but it's never unfair. I lost to the wicked Dr. GiGaiGar a dozen times, but I kept replaying the level because I knew I could win. Maybe I needed to use the fully-controllable ball and chain. Maybe I needed to hover behind him and let loose with my supercharged afterburner. Or maybe, just maybe, the trick to winning is to not be tricky. That's the genius of Kiaidan: it forces you to think, but you'll never feel a lull in the action. Because there isn't one. Even when you finally beat the game, Arisa congratulates you and tells you to play again, because there's something "extra" if you win on a tougher difficulty.

Don't let Arisa down! Show Joe Dogbone and the Magnificent Twelve your soul's inner light.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (April 30, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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