Genre: FMV Developer: Toei Animation Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1994
Kamen Rider was the creation of manga author Shotaro Ishinomori, of Cyborg 009 fame, and debuted on Japanese television in 1971. After a slow start, the show would end up becoming a massive hit and received a multitude of sequel series all the way up to 1988′s Kamen Rider BLACK RX, which would be adapted in North America as 1995′s Saban’s Masked Rider. The most recent form the series would take outside of Japan was 2009′s Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, which was an adaptation of 2002′s Kamen Rider Ryuki, the third show within the series’ “Heisei Era,” which started back in 2000 and has been ongoing since (the time between the original show and BLACK RX is known as the “Showa Era”).
Now what does this history lesson have to do with the review? Well, in the ’90s there were no TV series for Kamen Rider. Instead, there were a trio of movies, and the second one, 1993′s Kamen Rider ZO (pronounced Zee/Zed -Oh), was turned into a FMV game for the Sega CD. Sega then brought the game over to North America in 1994 under its TruVideo label with the name The Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO. Yeah, technically this game is the first time Kamen Rider ever left Japan! Now, being in the FMV genre does give the game some problems and restrictions to its overall enjoyment, but that still doesn’t necessarily make the game bad.
Seeing as FMV titles have limited gameplay, part of the reason to play them is for the story, and Kamen Rider ZO at least has a good one. Asou Masaru was the assistant to Dr. Mochizuki, who was unwillingly experimented on and had his genes mixed with that of a grasshopper in an attempt to create the “perfect being,” changing him into The Masked Rider/Kamen Rider ZO and forcing him to go into hiding for four years. During that time Mochizuki fine-tunes his experiments and creates the Neo-Existence, a being devoid of humanity and promptly disappears. Asou is then awakened by a mysterious voice in his head, telling him to protect Mochizuki’s son Hiroshi from Doras, an evil Kamen Rider created by the Neo-Existence.
Yeah, it might sound a bit cheesy, but at its heart Masked Rider does tell a good science-experiment-gone-wrong story mixed in with some fun action scenes. The original movie was forty-eight minutes long and the game uses most of it, as well as a few scenes that were either cut out of the movie or possibly made specifically for the game. Only a few minor scenes are either shortened or removed entirely.
Masked Rider can commonly be compared to Power Rangers, and the game is no different. Much like the Power Rangers game for Sega CD, you simply watch the video play and button prompts appear on screen. By pressing the appropriate buttons, the video keeps playing until you finish the stage. Each time you mess up you lose health, and when your health meter empties it’s game over. Also, in the final parts of the game, you’re given a series of choices to make, and an incorrect choice will lead to an instant game over. You can give yourself up to five continues, which is probably recommended. Finally, each time you continue your score resets, so people who are all about getting high scores will have to definitely memorize button order. There’s not much else to say about the gameplay, and you’ll either be fine with how it plays or you’ll absolutely hate it, especially since the order of button presses don’t change at all each time you play. The game does get a little lazy in the middle, though, as stages five, six, and seven are all beaten just by repeatedly pushing a button to fill up a meter, and that’s it.
For the most part the video will look fine, or at least as fine as FMV on the Sega CD that doesn’t use the entire screen can look. But when scenes where the camera is far from everything for those environment shots are used, everything will look pretty pixilated. The music and sound effects are actually untouched from the original movie, which is great as the movie had a really good soundtrack with some fitting horror-style tracks, as well as a nice, slow theme that’s used for scenes where the story is developed. The sounds added in for the game aren’t anything special but do their job well enough. The English dubbing, though, is really only slightly better than an old Godzilla dub. It’s not the worst you’ll hear in gaming, but it’s not that good. Hell, the manual seems to indicate that it was dubbed entirely by only three people! That alone should tell you how the quality is.
FMV games are generally known for having little replay value, and ZO is mostly the same in this regard, but at least it tries. Between stages two and three you’re given a choice of three things to do, and unlike the choices late in the game these actually result in you doing three different things, so in order to see all of the story scenes in the game you need to play the game at least three times. Also, right before stage three you’re given a choice, one of which allows you to skip stage three entirely! Aside from those, though, everything else is the same in terms of what you see.
Being in the FMV genre, this game will already be hated by some. Honestly, though, it is one of the better FMV games out there, especially for the Sega CD, and I’ll probably be hounded for rating it too high but I did end up enjoying this game, even with its problems. If you’re fine with watching guys in suits duking it out while being badly dubbed into English, then you’ll probably get some enjoyment from this game, but this is definitely more for fans of FMV.