Friday, 15 April 2016

Kaze Kiri: Ninja Action (TurboGrafx-CD)

Developer:Naxat Soft|Release Date:1994|Systems:PC Engine Super CD-ROM²

This week on Super Adventures, a game called Kaze Kiri: Ninja Action that came out in Japan and nowhere else.

I'm not sure I've played a Naxat Soft game before so I've no idea what to expect. Maybe it'll be an incredibly slick showcase for what the humble PC Engine can do in the hands of experts, maybe it'll be an unplayable piece of crap, I can't even guess. It's a Super CD-ROM² game so it has the potential to be at least as good as Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, but I won't be getting my hopes up.

One thing I know for sure is that I hate how long it takes to get to the title screen. First you have to wait through a flickering five second movie countdown and then another ten for the title to form. C'mon game, I've got ninjas to kill or maybe play as!



That's a great sunset. It only uses 27 colours, but they chose the right ones.

The intro begins with a samurai escorting a woman being carried in two guys in a tiny norimono.

She seems happy enough though. I'd say she was bouncing up and down to the soundtrack, but this is more of a 'evil ninjas are going to attack at any moment' kind of tune.

Suddenly an evil ninja attacks, nailing the samurai with a slow motion tomato along the way.

I wish I could call this an animated intro, but that'd be overselling it I think. It's made of static images with bursts of animation.

Any hint of a melody has disappeared now, and the 'music' sounds like someone hammering their fists against a wooden door with increasing desperation.

Oh no they've captured her! I've still no idea who she actually is though. This is a CD game so there's no text on screen for me to translate, but there's no voices either! Only these bloody drums.

Okay, I just checked Wikipedia it calls her both Shizuhime and Princess Shizu (because hime means 'princess'), so I could be rescuing royalty here! If she expects me to carry that box all the way home though she can forget it.

Turns out that the tomato attack was non-lethal, so the samurai and the box carriers are able to return to their boss and kneel in silence for a bit. Suddenly the heroic ninja Kaze Kiri jumps down to presumably take the job of saving her. The drumming gets more monotonous

So I guess that's the villain's fortress then. Seems that I'm going to be pulling Super House of Dead Ninjas here (i.e. breaking into his house and killing all of his ninjas, one floor at a time).

That's a genuine anime hero man, that is. Not one of those knock-off anime heroes that appeared in some Western games at the time. I'm not sure about the matching plasters on his cheeks though; Ryu Hazuki was pushing it with just one.

I believe the term for this is 'limited animation'. You don't need to see his sword moving, just pretend he hit them between frames!

That wasn't a bad intro though for a 16-bit game. Plus it's entirely skippable!


STAGE 0.

 
The drumming's finally stopped! In fact the music's disappeared entirely, so now it's just me and the wind. And the harmless flaming arrows.

Right, I've reached gameplay now and this is really reminding me Karateka for some reason. I dunno, maybe it's just the flat ground and the wall in the background (and the kidnapped princess). The controls are very different though, plus the guy in Karateka has a neck.

Wow, you don't really get much room to see who you're running into in this. Also the controls are a bit weird, as I have to hold diagonally forward to run. Otherwise he stomps forward like a man wading through the fallen corpses of his enemies. Can't complain about that animation though; who am I to say that ninja swords don't glow green when they're hitting people?

Speaking of my blade, did you see how Kaze threw a kunai throwing knife at the end? That was me pressing the sword button one last time after the ninjas were dead. Seems that the attack I use depends on how close the enemies are. Throwing kunais burns through my 'Kaze' bar, so I can't spam them forever, but it recharges quickly.

When I'm really close the sword button makes me throw people! Would've been nice to have separate buttons for all these moves, but the PC Engine controller's only got 'II' 'I' 'SELECT' and 'RUN' on it so they did what they could.

I've learned something else here as well: those assholes can block my attacks! My kunai just bounced right off the guy in brown. But I can't block the shurikens they throw at me! I might be able to hit it out of the air though.


STAGE 1.


The next stage was more of the same, a quick sprint to the right, except this time there was a staircase at the end! Took me few tries but I made it down eventually.

Oh, there was one other difference: this level has music! Here, have a link to the song on YouTube: Kaze Kiri soundtrack, you can listen while you read! It's catchy enough, though I couldn't tell at first if it was streaming off the disc or coming from the sound chip.


STAGE 2.


Turns out that the next stage is another straight run, to the left this time.

I'm not really bothering to attack enemies this time, as I can't slice and run at the same time. The weird thing is, these ninjas launching themselves out of the water don't ever seem to drop down to fight me anyway. I guess they just want to show off their soggy ass.

These two hit me so I had to stop to make an example of them. The trick to actually dealing damage in this seems to be keeping close so I use my sword attack instead of throwing knives.

Wait, I lost a chunk of 'Kaze' then when I was knocked down. Is it actually my health bar? Oh crap, that means when I throw a kunai I'm literally throwing my life away! It also means that I have regenerating health, so I guess the game does have something in common with Kareteka after all.

At least I knocked the 'Enemy' bar down a couple of notches too, whatever that does.

Well that's peculiar. I can't exit the stage by walking off screen to the left, I can't walk up the stairs, and I can't leave through the doorways in the background either.

My futile struggling does give me an opportunity to show off some of my moves though! I've got forward flips, backflips, flying kicks, slides, somersaults... all kinds of ninja techniques, and they're all pretty easy to pull off. But no amount of glowing backflips is getting me out of this hallway

I tried walking all the way back to the stairs at the start but I can't get out there either. I'm really stuck here!

Oh hang on, I've just figured it out. I have to kill a certain number of enemies to proceed, that's what the 'Enemy' bar is about. The men who swiped the princess box may have left survivors, but my righteous blade can allow no evil to escape unsliced.


LATER.


Yeah I was right, I had to fill my kill quota before I could move on. Trouble is when I came back to the stairs I found this 12 foot armoured samurai boss waiting for me here! That's not the surprising part though; the real shock is that I'm kicking his ass!

Usually it takes me several tries and a few rage quits to get pass a boss fight, but I'm making this look easy. So I'm thinking it probably is easy

Oh wait, he got a couple of hits in and now it's all going wrong for me. Things are back to being as they should be. I think I can still beat him though, as long as I keep my distance for a while to let my health recharge. It's so weird to have regenerating health in a 2D beat 'em up from 1994.

I was one hit away from killing him with no deaths on my first try! One hit! To be fair he was one or two hits from killing Kaze for most of the fight as well, as he was taking off near half my health with every swipe (while it took at least 16 successful attacks to kill him).

At least now I know Kaze restarts exactly where he died, with a few flashes of post-resurrection invulnerability to help him avoid an immediate return to the grave. Hey, that could be why he flashes while backflipping, maybe I have backflip invincibility!


STAGE 3.


Oh crap, I'm going to lose my second life to mere peons here if I'm not careful. I miraculously made it out of this with my single hit point intact, but the trouble is that whichever way I run to heal up, there's always an enemy there waiting for me. They like to gang up on me in pairs, so it's easy to get surrounded and overwhelmed.

This wasn't a problem on on the first few stages when they all died in one attack, but now they can take a few hits and block my sword, so I have to try new tactics. Or just keep wailing on them until they stop getting back up.


STAGE 4.


Hey it's mirror me! Aren't you supposed to appear near the end of a game?

My evil doppelgänger has all my moves (including my weird 'disappear for a second and then reappear in the same place' one), but he's actually competent with them and can take way more damage, so this is kind of one sided. I've been hit with a wall of utter demotivation, because there's no way I'm beating this guy.

Plus it's game over and there's no continues or passwords! I can't give it another try without replaying the entire game up to this point.

Wait, I might actually be wrong about that. If this stage select does what you'd expect a stage select to do, then I actually can jump right back to that level and give it another shot. With full lives even!

In fact I'm putting the 'Player Rest' counter up higher because I like lives and it doesn't seem like there's a way to collect more of them during the game. There's been absolutely zero pickups of any kind so far and I can't earn them from points when I don't have a score.


STAGE 5.


I got through the fight with my evil twin in the end, and received a cutscene for my trouble! I'd tell you the whole story of how I did it but 'I stuck with it until most of my lives ran out and then he got bored and left' isn't much of a story. I did discover that using backflips to avoid shurikens looks badass though (or you can just hit them out of the air).

There's still no text or dialogue in cutscenes by the way. Not that it's hard to figure out what's going on, but I keep expecting some baffling string of Japanese characters like "謝罪Spider-Man。しかし、あなたの王女は別の城の中にあります。" to flash up on screen, sending me off to Google Translate to figure out what I missed.

These two clips are all one unbroken scene in the game but I skipped a bit on the middle to keep the file size down. Unfortunately I can't skip the cutscene in game, so I'll have to sit through it every single time I play this bit.

It does looks great though; he even has a shadow on the wall! Well, had.


STAGE 7.


The next stage was much the same as the last one (it'd be fair to call the game repetitive), but I wasn't expecting the boss to bring her tiny Jedi sheep with her! Okay I know they're not really sheep, so if you've got any better ideas of what animal they are, leave your suggestions in the comments. Monkeys maybe?

She wiped the floor with me in the end, but I totally knocked her shuriken out of the sky with my sword just then! One thing I can say about this game is that it makes you look the part, even if you suck.


STAGE 9.


Ninjas on kites huh? At first I thought they were just there for decoration, but then one threw a shuriken at the back of my head and I realised they weren't playing around.

It's becoming a real grind to kill even regular enemies at this point because I have to catch them off guard. They're blocking everything I've got, so I'm trying to get behind them, or get them airborne.

The boss on this stage was my evil doppelgänger from before, but this time they were attached to a kite as well, so they were all shurikens all the time. All shurikens and no blocking made them an easy target and they eventually just blew away.


STAGE 10.


This guy's a cool boss; he's got his teleportation trick and his charged up energy ring, and... oh crap, I've just realised something horrible.

I'm pretty much just playing this for the boss fights.

I hate boss fights, I hate them so much! But this damn game has tricked me into enjoying them by making its levels a tedious grind by comparison. You just keep triggering ninjas to appear two or three at a time, and kill them until you reach your enemy quota. There is nothing else at all to do in this game.


STAGE 11.


He maced me in my beautiful anime face! I'm gonna need more plasters (or band-aids, for my US readers).

Now I'm being ganged up by three enemies at a time and they take approximately forever to kill. You think knocking him down just then was enough? Well actually it was, but the next guy after him got right back up in his feet again.

This flicker's far less noticeable at the actual framerate by the way. The game's more fluid than I'm able to show off I'm afraid.


STAGE 12.


That's an interesting mechanism they've got going on back there. It means I get to use my 'spinning background cogs' label for once!

There's no jumping on gears though, or jumping on anything at all in fact. I haven't accidentally edited out all the platforming in my shots, every level is just a straight run on a flat floor with no gaps or obstacles.

Okay this is about the mid point of the game (according the video I just checked on YouTube) so it seems like a reasonable place for me to quit. Though I kind of don't want to. But I kind of really do.


CONCLUSION

Kaze Kiri: Ninja Action is about a guy called Kaze Kiri and it really is all ninja, all the time. Constant unceasing ninja action. You start on one side of a tiny level, you cut up some ninjas, you maybe fight a ninja boss, and then you do it all over again.

The flaming arrows raining down are just scenery, the doorways in the background are painted on and the chasms are covered over. There's no power ups, or interactive scenery, or platforming, or exploration, or level design... just ninjas. Remember that time I went down some stairs? That was the only non-ninja related action I have taken in this entire game so far outside of that cutscene.

I suppose it could be compared to a game like Streets of Rage, but even that has a little variety to it. Plus classic scrolling beat 'em ups tend to lock off the screen and stop it from scrolling until you've killed a number of enemies. This locks off the entire stage. Once you've filled your quota you stroll through a completely empty level to reach the end.

On the plus side, it looks quite good for a PC Engine title. I don't just mean the backgrounds, I mean the ninja ballet that plays out whenever you get into a fight. Kaze has a lot of moves and you're encouraged to use them as the enemies really do not want to die. Plus the boss fights almost play out like a fighting game, as you struggle to out manoeuvre your opponent and catch them off guard (there's no blinking weakpoints here). I also found myself struggling to jump out of the way in time though, so I'm sure there's a bit of delay on that move. The rest of the moves though are surprisingly easy to pull off, considering there's only really two buttons to press.

Other good things include: the soundtrack, the stage select option, and the fact you unlock a second character for completing the game. She's a female ninja in purple called Suzu who even replaces Kaze in all the cutscenes (both anime and sprite). Shame she plays exactly the same though.

So if you want a monotonous game with some challenging boss fights, this might be the ninja game for you! Personally though, I've had enough of it.


Next week on Super Adventures, another mysterious game. What could it be? It's a mystery.

Please leave your guesses in the message box below, right next to your insightful feedback and opinions.

7 comments:

  1. "I'm not sure I've played a Naxat Soft game before so I've no idea what to expect"
    Naxat soft publish 'The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang' that you've played it (for quite short duration)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, I should've said 'Naxat Soft developed game'.

      Also I played that game long enough to get 20 screenshots out of it! That was an eternity for me back in April 2011.

      Delete
  2. Syndicate. I would know that video zeppelin anywhere.

    I think they're Japanese macaques.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right on both counts. Though that Wikipedia page mentions nothing about lightsabers.

      Delete
  3. That's the first time I've ever recognised the next game.

    Syndicate was fun and looked good but, it was incredibly shallow, and doesn't deserve the legendary status it has.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You should play the First two earthworm jim games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I played them both already! Check the game list or the search box. Or maybe don't, because I mostly just whined about them.

      Delete

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