Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Dragnet/Kan’s Publisher: Sammy Studios Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
There was a good reason why some gamers in the early 1990s were shelling out big bucks for the Neo Geo AES system, which was just about the same as the Neo Geo MVS machine, from hardware specs to controllers. Most gamers wanted to bring home the lovely Neo Geo titles, but they were expensive, with the system costing around $600 and the games costing around $300 each. So, they went the cheaper route by buying watered-down versions of their favorites on the Genesis. While most of the Genesis ports were just about the same in terms of gameplay, they were missing so many things that made the Neo Geo the arcade powerhouse it was. A Japanese release only for the Mega CD, SNK’s Sengoku Densyo shows that even with CD-ROM technology, you can’t always get arcade-perfect gameplay. Sammy tried to do a good port of Sengoku Densyo on the Mega CD, but the hardware just wasn’t able to provide 100% fun like the original arcade machine.
The gameplay, like just about all beat-’em-ups of the era, is easy to get into but has an interesting gimmick. You have the standard attack button and jump, but the third button is the “change” button. By defeating a mini boss you’ll receive a “fighting spirit.” The fighting spirit can be three things: wolf, samurai, or ninja. Each spirit has its strengths and weaknesses, and it’s wise to use them when you can use their strengths the best. When you receive a spirit, you can change into them by pressing the change button. Being in spirit form does have a time limit, so you must use them fast before changing back to your human form. When the time limit is up, you’ll revert back to your human form until you regain another spirit again later on in the game.
Defeating regular enemies yields different colored weapon orbs floating in the sky. Picking them up allows you to use different weapons, from two-handed swords to fireball attacks. These weapons also have a time limit, so they’ll disappear after a certain amount of time too. If you’re in spirit form, the orbs can give different weapons, depending on the color and which spirit you’re using. This gives the game tons of different weapons you can use depending on the situation.
The visuals in this port are average, for the most part. If you’ve played a lot of the Neo Geo version and then played this on the Mega CD, you’re going to notice tons of animation loss. While the quality in the Mega CD port is decent, the missing animations really hurt the game, and the level of graphical detail has been largely affected. What made the arcade version so great was the atmosphere, and most of it was accomplished by the graphics. Sadly, most the atmosphere in this version is gone, and it makes the game look weak in general.
The audio hasn’t fared much better, and about the only good thing about the sound is the music. Since it’s on CD-ROM, it has arcade perfect music which is actually very good and helps make up for the botched atmosphere, creating a creepy, but drilling setting. The sound effects, on the other hand, are average. As with the graphics, you’re going to notice a good number of missing sound effects. They, as well as the voices, are also of low quality and it’s hard to hear them at times.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in Sengoku Densyo is the loading times during the levels. Throughout the game, you’re going to be teleported back and forth from Earth to a Japanese-style sprit world full of evil. Teleporting happens frequently during the levels and each time you’re teleported the Mega CD has to load the information. After a little while this becomes annoying and, in the end, makes you want to run back to the Neo Geo machine.
Now, it’s true that beat-’em-ups must have a two-player feature for maximum enjoyment, but the other major flaw with this Mega CD release is that there isn’t one. That’s right, you’re going to playing by yourself without any friends. Sengoku Densyo lets you select one of the two fighters before playing, but both fighters have the same abilities, so this feature is useless. This is rushed programming for the most part, since Final Fight CD (an earlier release) plays just about perfectly with two players.
Mediocre sound and graphics, frequent loading times, and no multi-player option really affects this version of Sengoku Densyo big time. With so many flaws, it’s sad to see a great arcade game being destroyed by seemingly inexperienced programmers. This shows once again that even porting a great game onto the CD-ROM format doesn’t guarantee arcade-perfect gameplay. This rendition is actually an uncommon game in Japan and goes for around $30-$50, but you should spend your money on something much better. If you must own every single Japanese Mega CD software ever made, then buy it; however, if you’re a regular gamer who just wanted to play something other than FMV games or RPGs, stay far away. Sengoku Densyo should be played only on a Neo Geo system where it belongs, end of discussion.
Some screen shots courtesy of Whipassgaming.com.
SCORE: 4 out of 10