Join Date: Mar 2006
Spellcaster AKA Kujakuoh
I have the flu and I've been replaying this little game (for the glorious Sega 8-bit) that I love from my childhood. So I guessed I could share it here to make it known and see if anyone else knows it or wants to try it out, since it's no effort because I wrote the review years ago.
This review was written for the first issue of Abandoned Times, but when it stalled the first time, I submitted it to a Sega Master System fansite. The division in sections (introduction, gameplay...) was mandated by the website. It didn't accept screenshots because it already had (albeit insufficient), but here are a few (some could be considered light spoilers):
You are Kane, the warrior monk. You have spent all your life studying and training with your wise master Daikak at Summit Temple. You can cast fireballs of pure ki at your enemies or call the gods to do your bidding. Never have you cherished pretension in your heart nor had other purpose than the pursuit of virtue. Yet a higher destiny awaited you amongst all others, and now the time is finally come. The utmost evil is about to awake and only you will be able to stop it! (Disclaimer: I kind of made that up myself.)
You're sent by your master to investigate some strange goings-on, and you'll gradually unveil events that menace the very peaceful existence of your world. Your journeys will take you across many regions of a fantastic world, and beneath its seabed, riding an ancient spaceship to an alien pyramid, to the Underworld where you must convince the gods themselves to aid you willingly or by force, and finally to the sky where you must face the ultimate battle. Rock'n roll!
This is a very engaging game with a very nice mix of genres. It's actually made up of two modes of play, both of which would be nothing so special on their own, but together make a great combination: adventure and action. The story advances in a kind of graphic adventure interface with limited options, and some manga pixel art that greatly adds to the quality. Be warned that there are puzzles and you're likely to get stuck in some of them at some times.
The story is actually not very original (save the Universe), but then again most RPGs have unoriginal plots--if they can be called plots at all. On the other hand it's very well developed, one of the game's strong points is the world it's set in. Frankly, the fantasy found in this game is very hard to find outside Japan. Anyway keep in mind that this game, and the manga it's (loosely) based upon, are from the 80s, so it graphically resembles for example Knights of the Zodiac (Saint Seiya) more than present manga.
Besides all this there's the action mode. When you travel from one place to another you're likely to encounter opposition, and then the mode of play changes completely and you won't have menus any longer, instead you must manoeuvre Kane within a side-scrolling display (the last stage is an exception but I'll disclose no more about it!). You can jump nimbly, and shoot fireballs from your hands, being also able to charge for a while so that they're more powerful. What's more, you've got an array of spells available, or actually gods you can pray to, although their usage is limited unlike the standard attack. The effects of these spells are varied, some are special attacks, while others are protective, or healing, or enable you to fly! By the way these spells are equally available in the adventure mode, but then they will be only useful for specific puzzles, and you must know what each spell is about and what you want to do. (For example if you want to burn something praying to the god of fire may do the trick, but he won't help you to exorcize evil spirits, for that you need to open the path to the Temple of the Phoenix--duh!.)
The enemies you'll fight are mostly diverse forms of evil spirits, actually very diverse, I mean there are dozens of different ones throughout the worlds you travel--which is good. But of course no classic action title would be complete without the spice added by bosses, and of course every once in a while you must defeat a boss to progress, be it an enemy warrior with powers no less amazing than your own or a nightmarish apparition of whatever sort. Some of them are tricky, but most aren't difficult; actually I miss some more serious challenge in this area.
This game is usually regarded as a RPG, but it does certainly not adhere to the standards of hard-core RPGs. It's not as long and there isn't such a strong component of character development, it's more like an adventure. When battling enemies, success or failure won't depend on just having amassed "more XP than Microsoft", but on the player's skill above all. Still this game may appeal a lot to RPG fans, as well as pretty much to anyone with a sane taste. :P
My opinion is that the graphics are pretty darn good, on several levels. The sprites usually make most of the SMS's screen resolution, depicting many different enemies, and some of the bosses are superb (whereas some others aren't). The backgrounds are rich and together with the enemies really succeed at getting us into the fantastic world of demons and mystic warriors. And that's less than half of the story, because the best part of this game's graphics is displayed during the adventure parts. Also then the picture of the hero in the lower right corner shows whether he's in fighting stance, his mouth moves when he talks, and he actually winks from time to time. This game really shows the love its makers put into it.
In the Japanese version (called Kujaku-Oh like the manga) the hero is wearing long monk's robes, whereas in the export version this was changed to plain shirt and pants.
Sound & Music
The sounds are okay for the 8 bits era--God bless emulation for that FM sound chip. There are different tunes for different situations, both in the action and adventure modes. I would say the tunes are fairly inspired and contribute to the experience.
The basics are quite simple, shoot and jump. I myself find the hero runs kind of slow--specially since he can apparently jump almost two metres high--, and that's too bad specially for fighting bosses. You can't charge the fireball and run at the same time--which makes sense on the other hand. To select a prayer press the pause button, then hold fire and press down to use it. Hitting a moving target with Fudo can be tricky, but that's where skill is important. The prayers are an awesome element of the game, too bad that they aren't to be used more often.
This isn't of course one of those arcade games that you'll use to kill time every other day. On the other hand if you liked as much as I and many others did, you'll always want to get back to beating it ever again sooner or later. So I'd say that even if it doesn't have a great short-term replay value, it sure has a long-term one--pretty much like Alex Kidd in Miracle World for example. (And if you're one of those wacky speedrunners then you've got plenty of work.) The game includes a password system, but if played in emulation the state-save feature is far more practical.
I must admit this is a personal favourite, because of the rich gameplay and great atmosphere. In my opinion the reason why it didn't become very famous is because of the limited circulation the Sega Master System enjoyed, otherwise it would likely have got up there into the RPG hall of fame. Still it's held very dear by many people who got to know it back at the time. There was a sequel after all, for the Mega Drive/Genesis, purely action platformer (boo).
Life starts every day anew. Prospects not so good...
Last edited by Japo; 07-01-2014 at 01:29 PM.