Welcome to -- RETRO GAME DAISUKI ! -- a blog about the wonderful world of Japanese retro video games (ARCADE / PC-88 / X68K / MEGA DRIVE / SATURN / PlayStation / PC-ENGINE). Re-live the strangest games from the 80's and 90's. Retro games were our youth!
Author : HERZOG
-- Playing video games since the 80's ! --
Still trying to translate all the posts from my old blog. Please see this post for more info.
Also, please excuse any grammar and any other related errors you may find on this blog, as English is not my first language.
■VA EXTREMELY REAL ACTION ! SHINRA BANSHO is a 「SPACE HARRIER」type 3D shooting・action game developed by TELENET JAPAN. It was the first and only title that the company developed exclusively for the PC-88VA.
● Title: 神羅万象 -超能力者達の塔- ● Genre: Shooting ● Release Date: 1987.11.14 ● Developer: TELENET JAPAN ● Publisher: TELENET JAPAN ● Media: 5" 2HD Floppy Disk x2 ● System Specific: PC-88VA Series
The story of SHINRA BANSHO takes place in the year 3009 -- New civilizations have come and gone ever since the apocalypse was brought by the Third World War. Now humanity finds itself worshipping a new 「GOD OF ALL CREATION」.
In order to protect the people of the world, the new god left behind a relic stupa containing some of its divine power. The guardian of this power was the goddess 「SOLARIS」who ordered the construction of a massive, impenetrable tower and placed the stupa on its topmost floor.
However, after a century passed by, the people's faith in god decayed and the giant tower eventually became corrupted by the forces of evil. Now, a mysterious figure known as 「THE DEVIL」 controls the tower and has taken SOLARIS hostage.
Left with no other choice, SOLARIS activated the tower's S.O.S. signal which has been referred in old legends as 「The Beacon of Light」. This is a massive ray of light that emanates from the tower and which can be seen from anywhere in the world.
Legend says that whoever is able to reach this holy light will be granted the power of god...
For the most part SHINRA BANSHO plays exactly like SPACE HARRIER. The only difference comes in the way of the supportive ESP abilities of the playable characters.
Of course you could always choose to play as ZANKUMARU who lacks any ESP power for the truest-possible HARRIER experience.
Unlike the bright and colorful scenery of the FANTASY ZONE, the stages in SHINRA BANSHO all look like the different layers of Makai, which is fine considering it is a demonic-themed game, after all.
The problem with this, however, is that the stage design doesn't feel very inspired, thus it can be easy to become bored of the game's overall grim look.
It also doesn't help that the stages drag on for far too long. So even if their layouts aren't that bad, watching the same basic background and obstacles repeat over and over for nearly 10 minutes just gets unavoidably tiresome.
This is all too bad because tech-wise the game is pretty solid. The smooth screen scrolling and the big character sprites were beyond anything you could see on any other PC system at that point in time, with the only exception being that of the brand new and prohibitively expensive X68000.
It's worth mentioning that both the PC-88VA and the X68K came out in 1987, and SHINRA BANSHO was released only a couple of months after the X8K version of SPACE HARRIER.
Unfortunately for NEC, the PC-88VA turned out to be a pretty bad idea, but it's clear that this game was released specifically to counter the X68K which by then was just starting to gain momentum on the video game software front.
Least we forget, this is a TELENET production, so you can be sure there's bound to be some rather questionable design choices that just aren't nowhere near as great in practice as the programmers probably envisioned them.
This time around the 「could do without」 award goes to the 2D stage boss encounters, which are just so incredibly awkward and so not fun to play, that you can't help but wonder what the programmers were thinking while they were implementing them.
Really, almost everything about these segments feels broken in one way or another - Starting by how the enemy starts attacking you before the screen even becomes completely visible. Then there's the ridiculously-off collision detection, the way it's never made clear if your attacks are actually damaging the enemy, and so forth.
Fortunately, a couple of things like being able to save beforehand, and the simplistic and repetitive boss patterns, help immensely in preventing these unnecessary segments from ruining the entire game.
So while these boss fights might be broken and are seriously not fun to play, period. At the very least they're easy enough so you won't get stuck in them for long.
These are the 5 psychic warriors that heeded the call of the goddess SOLARIS. Each character has their own motivation for wanting to reach the relic stupa as well as their own ESP ability.
ZANKUMARU : A fearless warrior who carries a legendary katana endowed with psychic power. He has weak shot power and lacks any ESP ability which makes him by far the most difficult character to clear the game with.
AMAKUSA : A powerful mystic warriror who's only interested in satisfying his own curiosity. He has a semi-auto rapid shot and his unique ESP ability allows him to become invincible for a limited period of time.
GARCIA : A bad-ass army commando with a vulcan cannon for an arm. He has a slow but powerful 4-WAY shot and his ESP power works in a similar fashion than a traditional screen bomb attack.
BISHAMON :A Buddhist monk whose heightened state of meditation has granted him ESP-like abilities. His special power is an ultra rapid fire shot that flows uninterruptedly.
MAHLER :A dark wizard with an insatiable lust for power. He has the strongest shot power of all the playable characters and can shapeshift into a bat to evade enemy attacks.
The way TELENET implemented the multiple playable characters in SHINRA BANSHO is very interesting. Definitely a step up from what was seen previously in FINAL ZONE.
While the characters themselves all play more of less the same, really, some of them are clearly more powerful than others. Thus they are used as a sort of alternative difficulty setting.
So, for example, playing as MAHLER, who's the strongest character, basically translates as playing the game on EASY mode. While in turn playing as ZANKUMARU, who's the weakest character, translates as playing on HARD mode.
It goes without saying that you will need to clear the game with ZANKUMARU to get the true ending. He's the main hero of the story and the only one interested in restoring the tower to its former glory.
Overall, SHINRA BANSHO was a very decent effort from TELENET. The storyline is surprisingly interesting and playable characters are all pretty cool to use, specially GARCIA who's my favorite character (just picture the awesomeness of crossing CONTRA X COBRA X SPACE HARRIER).
As previously mentioned, I think the main problem with the game is that it drags on for far too long. I mean, even if you skip the cutscenes, it still takes more than hour to clear the campaign, which is too demanding for a shooting game of this type that just doesn't have enough gameplay diversity to keep things interesting for such an extended period of time.
The game would have been perfect if the programmers had stuck with the standard length of most arcade shooters. However, the stages in SHINRA BANSHO easily triple in length the ones in SPACE HARRIER. And so the game crosses a point where it all just starts getting boring.