Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Unknown Publisher: Unknown Players: 1-2 Released: 199?
Yang Jia Jiang has been one tough nut to crack in regard to my research on it. I know that it is based on ancient Chinese folk lore involving a family of warriors defending China from invading forces only to be sold out by their peers. I don’t know much more about the story, so if someone can shed some light on it then please share it in our forums. A friend of a friend of mine is fluent in Chinese, and we sent him some links of the game’s box art to see if he could translate any of it and find any info regarding the game’s release, and he said it was just a pirate bootleg. It’s obviously an original game, but due to China’s lax copyrights our mysterious developers never left a trace of who they are, either with a name or year of release, leaving us all with one obscure game mostly shrouded in mystery.
It’s really a shame that Sega wouldn’t grant licensing rights to any of these Asian developers as doing so would’ve really helped bring more of these games to the light. Yang Jia Jiang more than likely came from a piracy and hacking giant, and it’s not a great game by any means. However, given the track record of most of the unlicensed and bootlegged games that got released in China, it’s really not that bad, that taken into consideration.
Yang Jia Jiang is a beat-’em-up that borrows ideas from many of the popular games of that genre released during that time. It starts out with a rather nice attract mode showing a full screen image of each of the four characters, and then it splits them up one-by-one, detailing gameplay and moves for each. It’s probably the best part of the game, for what it’s worth, though the rest of the game isn’t really that bad. The title screen is pretty simple, with only a one or two player select and no options. There are four characters to select: an old man with a slow but long range and powerful attack, a samurai-type character with a sword, a martial arts-based strong man with some speed, and a super-fast but weak female character. Unfortunately, only the samurai and the strong guy are any real good. The others are so unbalanced that they are almost impossible to control and attack with properly and are way too easy to be ganged up on in the later stages.
The gameplay takes place across six fairly long and repetitive stages. Each stage’s background is bright and colorful and has a fair amount of color and detail but really lacks any variety. Most are way too long, are too similar to others and have backgrounds that repeat far too many times. Only stage six, the Great Wall of China, really seems to mix things up a bit by adding something original to the visuals (at least the exploding enemies are interesting to look at). The four selectable characters all have a decent move set under their belts. There’s the standard three punch combo, which does a lot of damage to enemies by taking almost half their health away, and a throw, which does almost no damage at all but is useful for bowling enemies over to get you out of a tight spot. Throwing an enemy can be fairly amusing though because if you throw an enemy into another that is facing away from you, he’ll fall over backwards and often times fall into you and knock you over. It gave me a good laugh. You also have two jump attacks – one while moving and one while standing still. The A button is a special strong attack, and again, you have an attack while moving and another while standing still. You might be thinking that the damage mechanics seem a bit unbalanced, and they are, but they get the job done.
Many of the rest of the mechanics are unbalanced as well. For one, most of the characters just move too sluggishly and are on the stiff side for control. Even though all the enemies have the same size health bar, and all take the same amount of hits to defeat, they just move too fast most of the time and are only hard because you can’t keep up with them. The bosses are fairly generic and repetitive as well and are only challenging because of their speed and that there are always two enemies that endlessly respawn for the entire fight. The game also gives you several health items at the start of each stage, which is kind of pointless. Even though the enemies and most bosses all have the same patterns, the game is still pretty unforgiving because you only start with three lives and two continues, and I haven’t even gained or found extra lives yet. I thought the game would be impossible to beat until I found out what is probably a glitch. When I was on my last life I quickly switched to the second player, pressed start and continued with the game. To my amusement, I was allowed to continue once again with player one when I was previously out of continues and then continue again with player two, a pretty funny glitch if you ask me!
The graphics, like I said earlier, are nice but repetitive. They’re still serviceable for what they are. There is a cut scene telling the story at the start of each stage, which is a nice touch (even though I can’t understand what they say), but unfortunately the ending is only a single screen followed by an English game over screen, which was disappointing. The audio also gets fairly stale by the end. The music has an ancient Chinese sound to it and is actually catchy for a little while, but it loops way to fast and only seems to use one channel for each track. It’s nothing to write home about, and the sound effects just aren’t going to save the game either. There aren’t any grunts or screams when an enemy or player dies.
My final verdict is that I didn’t really like Yang Jia Jiang that much due to its repetitiveness, but it was a treat to get such an obscure cartridge in the mail and be able to play it on real hardware. I really liked doing the research on it too since I love obscure stuff. It’s not that bad of a game as a whole, but aside from the cool factor of owning it I can’t really recommend it to anyone on gameplay alone. If you’re a collector or a diehard beat-’em-up fan then you really should find a copy of this, as you’re bound to get enjoyment or collection value out of it, but there are far better games out there.
I actually really enjoyed writing this review due to this game’s obscurity and would always love to know more about it. I think I can speak for most of the others on Sega-16.com as well, so if you can shed any more light on this game regarding the development or history of this game then be sure to share it with us.
SCORE: 5 out of 10