Reviews of Games Old & New, Japanese Game Shop Visits, Plus Much More!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wangan Midnight Review (PS3)


Game: Wangan Midnight 湾岸ミッドナイト
Developer: Genki
Publisher: Genki
Release Date: July 26, 2007
Genre: Racing
System: Playstation 3
Game's Site:

Years before there was Initial D, there was Wangan Midnight. If the Initial D manga was a Toyota Corolla, the Wangan Midnight manga would be a Porsche Turbo. Better, faster, more refined. But like a the cars I metaphorically compared them to, you'll find more people driving a Toyota Corolla than a Porsche. Initial D, which focuses on drifting, takes place on the touges of the Japanese countryside while Wangan Midnight, which focuses on highway battles, takes place on the expressways of Japan's largest metropolis.

Wangan, which means "bayshore", is also the name of a famous stretch of highway in the Tokyo metropolis area. Late at night when everybody has gone home, the Wangan expressway transforms into a battleground for Japan's fastest street racers. They all gather at various spots in Tokyo and Yokohama and call out their rivals. Tuning shops send out their best to see who has the best tuning methods, teams send out their fastest to see which team can reign supreme, and mysterious solo drivers are the lone wolves who can devour an entire team.


Genki has been synonymous with racing games in Japan. They are the developers of the long running Shutoko Battle series (Tokyo Xtreme Racer outside of Japan). The series was created by Bulletproof Software back in 1994, but Genki took the helm when the Dreamcast was released. Their Kaido Battle (Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift) series has been less than stellar, but they always produce solid mission-based arcade style racing games for home consoles.

The story is you are Akio Asakura, a high school failure who works two jobs whose only care in the world is racing on the expressways of Tokyo. His goal is to become the living legend of midnight racing. He is out racing one night with his friend when he comes across the legendary Blackbird. A black RUF-tuned Porsche 911 Turbo driven by Shima, a doctor, who owns the title of Wangan Emperor. He attempts to race the Blackbird but is met with a crushing defeat. After his defeat Akio becomes determined to beat the Blackbird by any means possible. Akio, who drives a Z31 Fairlady Z (1984-89 Nissan 300ZX) has always wanted an S30 Fairlady Z (1969 Datsun 240Z in the US). He hears a certain junkyard has exactly what he is looking for, so he goes to check it out. The car was about to be scrapped but Akio takes a liking to this car. He is told the car is possessed by the devil himself and should keep away from the Japanese Christine. He convinces the junkyard to sell him the blue Z. Upon buying the car, Akio finds out the previous owner, who has the same first and last name as Akio, died in the car in a horrible accident. People try to tell him the car is cursed and it would eventually kill him, but Akio either doesn't care or doesn't believe what he is told.


The late previous owner of the blue Z was a friend of the Blackbird's driver. One night Shima is driving the Blackbird on the expressways and encounters the blue Z. Thinking it's a ghost the Blackbird chases the Devil's Z and this is where the story mode begins. Akio befriends different opponents, mechanics, and women who all contribute to him becoming the new legend of the Wangan expressway. The story in the game doesn't follow the manga or the anime word-for-word, but they did the best they could and made a 'condensed' version.

In the story mode follows the manga, so if you're familiar with the story then you know what to expect. you can choose you who want to follow. The main characters are Akio and Shima. Akio pilots the S30 Nissan Fairlady Z aka "Akuma no Z" (The Devil's Z). Shima, the rich doctor, drives a Porsche Turbo (RUF 964). For legal reasons (blame EA) Genki could not use a Porsche in the game so it contacted a company named RUF who builds Porsches. RUF is a car company in its own right that uses Porsche chassis.


You start off by only being able to choose Akio or Shima, though it is recommended that you start with Akio's story. You can unlock different characters as you progress through the game. While Akio and Shima's story modes have 12 and 10 chapters respectively, the unlockable characters only have one chapter. The story is the same with all of the characters, but the perspective changes so that you can see the story unfold through their eyes. As you go through the story mode, you are given objectives for each race. Between each race are cutscenes that progress the story further. The story even progresses while mid-race as the do characters converse as a headshot appears on the left or right of the screen. This is supposed to give it the feel of reading a manga...while you're racing of course. So be on the alert if you want every juicy detail of the story.

At the end of each race you are given a grade. These grades are, best to last, S, A, B, C. I have never earned an "S" on Akio's story mode no matter how well I do. It may be impossible, that is what I keep telling myself anyway. Other people who I know play this game have said the same thing. Are we delusional or is Genki playing with us? Anyway, at the end of each chapter all of your grades are tallied and you earn a medal based on the results. Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. The better the medals, the better the cards you unlock.


As you progress through the story mode (or other parts of the game) you earn cards. Each card represents modifications that can be done to your car. There are 4 slots available but you cannot have more than one card of the same category. The categories range from engine tuning, suspension, body modifications, and the like. This limits what you can do to your car. Depending on your performance in each chapter, you can earn different cards. The cards necessary to advance through the game will always be given to you and the rest are just bonus cars so you can customize your car to your liking. The card system takes away the potential of making your car an unstoppable beast, but that would also make the game inconsistent with the flow of the manga.

Card Get!

Other than the story mode there are other ways to race as well. If you aren't too keen on watching cutscenes and following the story (or if you completed the story mode), there is survival mode, Wangan Connection, time attack, and SP Battle, and Free Run mode. Survival mode is just how it sounds. You battle car after car until you beat them all or until you lose one race. It is very similar to Shutoko Battle (Tokyo Xtreme Racer) but instead of free roam, your opponents come one after another. Both of you have "health" bars which deplete if you crash into another car or wall, or if you are not the race leader. You race until one of you runs out of health. There are three different Survival difficulty levels, each with two different "tracks". The Wangan Connection mode is the online battle portion of the game. You can battle your friends or complete strangers in various modes and rules for online supremacy. There are leaderboards to prove to everyone that you are the top racer. In the SP Battle mode you can battle CPU opponents one by one. You can either have a ranking battle (finish first to win), a time attack battle (get the best time), or a front/last battle (just keep the lead within a given distance). Lastly there is a free run mode where you can drive freely around Tokyo's and Yokohama's expressways with no opponents. Other than racing, there is the Wangan Theater. Here you can earn unlockable character profiles and watch replays.

While you are racing, there is an engine meter on the bottom-right hand corner of the screen. This monitors how hard your engine is being pushed. If you push the car too hard, your engine will blow. This aspect of the racing scenario adds a sense of fragility to your car and hence increasing the challenge. It would be too easy if you could just go balls-out on the accelerator. The rate in which your engine meter maxes out depends on which car you are driving. While Akio's Z is very temperamental, newer more advanced cars last longer but with lower top speeds.


The game takes advantage of the PS3's pressure-sensitive buttons. If you hold the button down too hard, you will be at full throttle in which blowing your motor isn't too far off. Hold the button down too lightly and you'll cool the motor down but you'll also lose speed. The trick is finesse. Find the perfect balance of holding the button down so that you are gaining speed while your engine maintains a cool temperature. This is the strategy to winning the long distance races. This would be a lot easier on the PS3's R2 and L2 triggers, but I used the default "X" button. The game is also compatible with the GT Force, so perhaps that would be the best way to not blow your engine

From my personal experience in Japanese tuner culture, I can say that the game follows the feel of it. In Initial D, the characters and teams are the main focus, but in Wangan Midnight, the cars are characters all to themselves. It is very much this way in real life. Like in the manga and the game, people and the cars they drive are two different entities. If you are not into cars but have watched your fair share of sci-fi anime, then I can say the way anime characters refer to their spaceships or mechs is the same way real life hashiriyas refer to their cars. This game does not exaggerate this reality, it emulates it.



The racing cutscenes are beautiful. They really made the cars the stars of the game. The blue Z looks aggressive. I always found myself watching the replays just to look at the cars in motion. The R32 GT-R is pure art in motion. Another great thing is the story can be viewed from multiple angles and you are not limited to seeing the story only through the main protagonist's eyes. Lastly, I am glad this game doesn't include any aspects of the overdone drifting fad. It's hard to find a current Japanese-developed (or even Western-developed) racing game without some kind of drifting. Drifting is great, but is is hardly racing. All you have in this game is pure racing on very realistic and true-to-map "courses".

I have personally driven (very fast on many occasions) on the same highways and bridges shown in this game (and Shutoko Battle) and I can say that Genki has done a fine job of capturing the realism of the actual expressways. The only thing unrealistic is the number of cars on the road at any given moment. It is a lot more than what you see in the game.



The story mode is very repetitious and boring and at most times, too easy. I am a fan of the manga, so it's not the story that is bad, it is the way it is presented. The horrible voice acting doesn't help matters much. It seems they got voice actors with no prior experience. In the Initial D Extreme Stage review I said the voice actors were overacting. In this game, it is opposite. It sounds like the guys just woke up, read their lines, and went back to sleep. Perhaps they should have gotten the voice actors from the anime.

The card system is also a hindrance. I don't know what Genki was trying to accomplish with this, but it is broken and pointless. There are other ways they could have limited tuning to stay consistent with the story, but after you've finished the story mode you should be allowed to tweak your car in any way you like. Unfortunately you are limited to just 4 slots for cards.

As mentioned before, the screen is too dark. You cannot adjust the brightness of the game and adjusting the brightness on your TV doesn't help. I played this on 2 different TVs with the same result. I found our later that this was a very big complaint among reviews in Japan. I agree with them. It is very difficult to see obstacles. You can turn on your high beams, but this requires you to hold the button down which is a big inconvenience.

No open battle mode. You can choose survival mode, but it's a far cry from the open battles from Genki's Shutoko Battle games. On the same note, there is no offline 2 player battles, which is also a bummer. Online multiplayer is a ghost town. Rightfully so since this game was released 4 years ago and it wasn't that popular even back then.

The music of the game is unbearably annoying. It's great they have the option of turning the music off during gameplay. The soundtrack is bad triphop meets wannabe Rob Zombie at a rave meets muzak. They should have used more music from the anime instead.

Last grievance: it is not the arcade version (Maximum Tune). For me, this was the biggest let-down of the game.


The Verdict: This game could have been so much better that it really is, so unfortunately we're given a game that is a 6 at best, and that is being generous.

Genki should have just made a proper Shutoko Battle game instead of trying to create a game based on the Wangan Midnight manga. It feels like they took Shutoko Battle, removed the meat of the game, and added filler. All you're left is a repetitive story mode with added extras that don't really complete the game. Genki should have at least made this based on Wangan Midnight; Maximum Tune which is a lot more fun. I am still waiting for a proper Shutoko Battle game for the current generation. Step on it, Genki.

Wangan Midnight as a franchise is not as big as Initial D, but does have a pretty strong following. I much prefer Wangan Midnight over Initial D, but I cannot say the same about the games. The Initial D offering on the PS3 is a better game as far as racing action, online accessibility, and challenge. But if you are a fan of Initial D and have have never heard of Wangan Midnight, you owe it to yourself to check out the manga, anime, movies (including a live-action movie released in 2009).

Some pics I took which you can use for comparison. I took these pics while cruising around in my oldR32 GT-R on the same Tokyo expressways in the game...looking for a match.

Running with an S14 on the C1

Approaching the Rainbow Bridge (featured route in the game)

Shooting down the Rainbow Bridge

I could not keep up with this R35 GT-R.

The tunnels go on forever...just watch out for speed cameras. That is a
speed camera detector on the lower right-hand corner.

No backups, pirates, or emulations. My Copy: (along with a random copy of the manga)


If you're a fan of this niche genre of racing, I suggest this DVD box set. It's called "Tokyo Speedway" (Shutoko Trial). It has nothing to do with Wangan Midnight, but it is a series of 6 movies. The 6th installment of the movie was never released in Japan due to legal reasons (read: illegally raced on highways without permission). The acting is bad, but at least there is a lot of racing action and the man himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya, makes an appearance in the series. ... B000K4X5UI

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Super Aleste Review (Super Famicom)

Game: Super Aleste スーパーアレスタ (Space Megaforce on SNES)
Publisher: Toho
Release Date: April 28th, 1992
Genre: Shooter
System: Super Famicom/SNES
Version Reviewed: Super Famicom

Compile has a great history of making great shmups. Zanac, Gunhed, other games in the Aleste series. They have come up with very unique power-ups and ways of obtaining those power-ups. This game is no exception. Super Aleste (Space Megaforce in the U.S.) is the 7th proper Aleste game in a series of 8 which began its life on the MSX2 system. Aleste games are often overlooked and most people don't know that the series has quite a large library for a shooter, rivaling Gradius and Darius.

The story in the Japanese version goes that you are a pilot named Raz who most stop an alien attack on earth. The aliens have focused their efforts in South America, specifically the Nazca Lines of Peru. Somehow the alien force draws energy from these lines. Accompanying Raz on his mission is Ti, Ti is a female alien character who looks exactly like a human being. Ti is connected to the ship via cables and becomes part of the ship. Maybe the guys at Cave got the idea of Dodonpachi Daioujou's Element Dolls from this aspect of the game.

To help you annihilate these alien attackers, you have an arsenal of 8 different weapons. These weapons range from lasers to heat-seeking missiles to more unorthodox types of weapons not common in shooters. When you destroy specific enemies they release a green orb which rotates from numbers one through eight. Each number represents a different type of weapon. There are also orange orbs in which the numbers do not rotate.
Try the different weapons and see which ones suit you best. Memorize which number they are classified by. On the same note, remember which power-ups you do not like and try to avoid them as they sway around the screen.

Once you have chosen your weapon of choice, be sure to collect the oval orbs to power these weapons up. They can be powered up to level 6. This system is common in Compile shooters. A powered-up weapon also works as a health system for your ship. When you are hit by enemy fire, you will not lose a life but instead your powered up weapon will drop 4 levels. If you are at level zero, you will lose a life. The ship also has an adjustable speed up to 4 different speeds which can be changed at any time by pressing the "select" button. Find your sweetspot so that you can dodge enemy fire with a quickness.

When you lose a life in the game two things can happen. You will either start at the beginning/last checkpoint or start where you left off. The ability of starting where you left off is earned. When this happens, the icons of your ship stock will turn yellow. It is tedious when starting at the last checkpoint unless you are playing to practice. Earning those yellow ships really pays off and saves time. If you are shooting for the high score, maybe it could be a strategy to always start at a checkpoint so you could theoretically double your score on a given level if you earn enough extra lives.

There are 5 different difficulty levels ranging from 'normal' to 'lunatic'. As you can imagine, the 'lunatic' mode is pretty crazy. There are times in lunatic mode that look and feel like newer danmaku shooters. If you are a veteran of this genre, play this game in lunatic mode. It is very satisfying and challenging. It also pays off as you get a longer ending in the Japanese version.

Perhaps those ancient alien theorists were right about the Nazca lines.

One of thing bigger things you'll notice when playing this game is that the levels are LONG. Shooters traditionally have pretty short levels, especially back in 1992. Not all of the levels are the same length, but all offer a great challenge. There are 12 levels in all, 3 of which are bonus stages that may cause you to wince or jump for joy depending on your feelings for Hudson Shooting Caravan games in which these stages obviously draw their inspiration from. The 2nd stage is my favorite. The entire stage consists of one giant enemy space station which zooms and rotates in the background as you destroy it bit by bit until you get to its heart. The stage is not very difficult, but it is fun to play and puts Mode 7 to good use. Another impressive boss can be found on Stage 6. In addition to the regular game, there is a "Short Game" mode which are merely score attack games much like Hudson's tournament games.

Homage or rip-off?

This game takes advantage of the Super Famicom's power. While it doesn't take the Super Famicom to its limits, it does utilize its advantages over other systems of the era. While it is not on the level of Axelay, the game is still impressive graphically and technically. One thing that surprised me was that there is not much slowdown in the game despite the fact that there are many moving sprites on the screen at once. It's too bad the same cannot be said about Super R-Type. The only time you experience some flickering/slowdown is in the higher difficulty settings because of the number of projectiles on the screen.

One strange thing about this game which I have yet to figure out is if it was intentional or not is the unstable difficulty curve. As with most games, the game starts off easy and the difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game. In later levels you'll notice that the difficulty drops down again. This happens more than once as you play the game. I don't want to spoil the game, but the last boss was not the most difficult of all the bosses. What could have made the game more challenging overall was to not allow unlimited continues, but I presume that would alienate the novice players.


Beautiful graphics.The Mode 7 effects are put to great use without overkill. From the detailed backgrounds to the beautifully-designed bosses, this game is great to look at. The controls are very precise and on spot. To get the most of this game, try to play on the lunatic mode with a 1cc in mind.

Compile did not skimp on the music. The music of this game, as with most Compile games, is top notch and they didn't cut any corners to bring you From the jazz-inspired opening, to the joyfully melancholic ending music, the soundtrack always gives to your ears what the game itself gives to your eyes. Be sure you select "stereo" in the game's option menu!


The game didn't need its "voice acting". Before you face-off against the 2nd stage boss, your character says "Give me a break, dude" (JPN version). Which is exactly what I thought after hearing it. Most bosses have a demonic inaudible message before you fight them (these were cleaned up in the English release), which I find somewhat tacky. At this point, I am just nitpicking. The game has hardly any faults. Another 'fault' is It's sometimes difficult to tell what is in the background and foreground. You don't know what will crush your ship or what you can fly over. As with most vertical shooters of the era, depth is very hard to decipher. One last demerit is for the English release. The ending of Japanese version goes deeper into the story and has somewhat of a romantic twist. I don't know why this couldn't be translated for the English version. It's a shame that western gamers missed out on this.

The Verdict: In 1992, this game would easily be a 9 out of 10.

This game could be one of the best vertical shooters of the 16-bit era. It's not on the level or depth of its predecessor, Musha Aleste (aka M.U.S.H.A.), but Super Aleste holds its own. Definitely pick this game up if you own a Super Nintendo or Super Famicom. From the original Aleste to Zanac X Zanac, Compile gave us some magnificent shooters in its 20-year history. Super Aleste is part of this elite club. Play it and you will see why. If you've played it, play it again to remind yourself that the 16-bit era had shooters that could rival shooters of today. It is evident that this is one of the games that inspired the people who make modern shooters. Pay your respects to the genre, and play this game as well as other Aleste games. How does Axelay compare to this game? Wait and see....

No backups, pirates, or emulations. My Copy:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pilotwings 64 Review (N64)


Game: Pilotwings 64
Developer: Nintendo / Paradigm Entertainment
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: September 29, 1996
Genre: Flight Simulation
System: Nintendo 64

With 3D console gaming in its infancy in the mid 90s, an already-busy Nintendo needed help developing a follow-up to their 1991 success, Pilotwings. They enlisted the help of a now-defunct military simulation developer, Paradigm Simulation, to help with the graphical aspect of the game. Paradigm had no prior experience in video games, but Nintendo entrusted them to deliver a product consistent with Nintendo's high quality standard. Shigeru Miyamoto was also part of the development of Pilotwings 64. Miyamoto and company were busy readying the world for the launch of the N64 with this title as well as Super Mario 64 that he could not commit full time to the Pilotwings project. Pilotwings 64 seemed to have all the makings of a great game. A bit of technical know-how by a seasoned flight simulator developer, as well as Miyamoto's Midas touch. How did the game turn out?

There are 6 different types of "vehicles" in which you compete in different objectives to get the highest score. These vechicles are the Gyrocopter, a cross between a small plane and a helicopter. It doesn't have the ability of stationary flight like a helicopter, but it can reach pretty low speeds for better cornering. The Rocketbelt, which now has a stabilizer thruster (a feature not present in the first Pilotwings) which makes for easier maneuverability. Hang Glider and Skydiving, which are self-explanatory. The Cannonball is another new edition in which your character is a human cannonball which must be fired at targets. Finally there is the Jumblehopper. The Jumblehoppers are bionic boots, if you will, in which you can jump high and long distances. There is a 7th bonus "vehicle"is the Birdman. Your character can fly like a bird around the map freely to explore and to find hidden secrets.


One major difference besides the obvious is that instead of the flight instructors being the characters, you are now the character. You can choose from 6 different characters. Three male and three females. Each gender has a different weight class and each character is named after a species of bird. Lightweights are Lark and Kiwi. Lark is a kid who resembles Nester of Nintendo Power fame. Kiwi is a female version of Lark. These two are ideal for quick maneuvering and getting in and out of tight places. The Rocket Belt and the Hang glider would be ideal. The middleweights are Goose (Top Gun reference?) and Ibis. Goose looks like the stereotypical American while Ibis is a cool, mysterious woman. They are best suited for the Lastly there is Hawk and Robin. Hawk is a heavy-set man with a mustache and Robin is a large-breasted woman with large thighs. They make up the heavyweights. It's too bad Nintendo of America changed Robin's original snicker-inducing name of "Hooter"


For best results, it is good to get a feel for each weight class and see who is most compatible with
For example, lightweights are great for maneuvering the Gyrocopter and hang glider while they would be ill-fitted for the human cannon due to their venerability to the wind and their lightweight does not take them very far. The middleweights are best for the skydiving and and rocket-belt, but not good for Jumblehopper. The heavyweights are best for the cannonball and worst for skydiving. Mix and match the weight classes to the different events and you'll be sure to maximize your score. There are three different medals awarded: bronze, silver, and gold. Do your best to earn gold across the board. There are 4 different classes, ranging form Beginner's to Pilot class. Work your way through the ranks and earn the highest score of each class to complete the game.You can unlock the Birdman levels if you earn at least all silver in the beginner's class.

In addition to objectives that previously existed in the first Piltowings game such as fly through rings, land on targets, etc there are fun, new ones such as fire missiles onto fixed targets and destroy giant mechs. There are odd ones as well, like take a picture of an oil rig natural gas burn-off flame and return to base. Each objective presents a great challenge. I feel the Jumblehopper is a bit out-of-place in this game, but it is still fun nonetheless.

There are four different islands which the events take place. The most notable island is Little States. Little States Island is a small scale version of the United States. It features major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago as well as national landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty. This is one of the first console games that I played which had such a grand scale and I spent a lot of time exploring the Little States. Exploration pays off as you will well-hidden goodies on each map.


One thing I thought was cool and funny, especially the first time I played, was the Gyrocopter's ability to fire missiles. Here you are flying around an island resort and you're attacking people on yachts with impunity. I always thought it seemed odd on the missions that didn't require missiles. It made the game more fun and a little silly.


Like the first Pilotwings game, this game really gives you a great sense of flight even though they were limited to their console's capabilities. This was something relatively new to console gaming in the 90s and even though Pilotwings 64 was released 6 years after its predecessor, we were not yet spoiled by the countless Mode 7 games that came in previous years. It was still new to us and it gave us gamers a glimpse of what to expect of the new generation of gaming. Not only does the game give a great sense of flight and speed, but a great feeling of freedom. No amount of technology can give you that, it's something that comes from the ingenuity of its creators.

After spending more hours than I care to admit with Pilotwings 64 back in 1996, I awaited eagerly for another Pilotwings game. With the release of the Game Cube, I was almost sure I'd get it. That never came. By the time the Wii was released I had given up all hope of another Pilotwings game. When I heard of another Pilotwings games in development, I was ecstatic. To later hear it was for a new portable from Nintendo, I was a little disappointed because I don't think the great sense of flight and freedom can be felt on a small screen. I hope I am very wrong about that as other portable games were able to completely take me in. This remains to be seen at the end of March. Expect a Pilotwings Resort review soon.



Great 3D environments (for 1996) with a great sense of scale and speed. It really feels you are there flying with your character. There are also unintended comic relief moments (when the player screams in pain). Lots of various events present a great challenge and great re-playability.


The game is not as lengthy as I would like. Perhaps a few more unlockables or secret levels would do the trick. While fun, some 'events' seemed out of place in a Pilotwings game (read: Jumblehopper).

The Verdict: Better than the original. Easily a 9/10 for a game that was released in 1996.

A great game which was used to show off the N64's abilities in the same way the original Pilotwings showed off the SNES's abilities. If you own an N64 I highly recommend this game if you're into the genre. Even if you aren't, give it a shot. It's not one of those flight simulators that takes itself too seriously. It's pure fun a way that only Nintendo of the 90s could deliver. As any sequel should be, this game greatly evolved the series. I hope the third installment of Pilotwings due out this March lives up to the prestige of the first two.


No backups, pirates, or emus, my copy:


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homura Review (PS2)


Game: Homura
Developer: Skonec
Publisher: Taito
Release Date: December 5th, 2005
Genre: Shooting
System: Playstation 2

Here is something you don't see everyday: a Korean-developed game that is set in historic Japan. The Korean developer, Skonec, is responsible for ports of Psyvariar and Shikigami no Shiro III, as well as Korea-only DS software. Homura was their 3rd attempt at a shmup. This is not a spaceship or aircraft shmup, but a flying human shmup like seen in Espgaluda, Sengoku Blade, among others.

The story is that a forbidden jewel was stolen by a monster. After the monster stole the jewel, he gave it to real-life Japanese warlord, Ieyasu Tokugawa (Who hired the monster to steal it). The jewel gave Tokugawa powers and he was able to invade Osaka castle. A group who also wants the jewel banded together to steal the jewel from Tokugawa. The group's leader, Shoshi Tenyu, wants to use the ever-powerful half human, half monster Homura, to get the jewel. Some members oppose using Homura to get the jewel, but he is the only person who can do this job. The reason being is that Homura cannot be influenced by the jewel's evil power because of his bloodline. Homura, who was in prison, was asked by Shoshi Tenyu to help get the jewel. Homura initially refused, but later changed his mind because heard the people in Osaka Castle were all killed by Tokugawa, including Homura's mother. Driven to revenge, Homura has drawn his sword with only one thing in mind: cutting off Tokugawa's head. It's on


Make no mistake, this is a danmaku (bullet hell) shmup. The bullet patterns are not as intricate as the ones in Cave games, but they are often creative. Many bullet patterns form shapes relevant to Japanese culture such as manjis and sakuras. The hit box is very small so that means a lot of very precise bullet-dodging will be necessary for survival. The retro-futuristic enemies make the game feel stylish and unique.

Like most shmups, you are given a regular shot and a bomb. The shot can be powered-up, and the bomb annihilates everything on the screen. It's pretty straightforward. The unique aspect of this game are the two different "Battou" attacks. Battou, which means "drawn sword", allows Homura to execute a one-hit-kill close range rush attack to every enemy on the scree. The other Battou attack deflects enemy bullets if you are ever in a tight spot. There is a Battou meter in the upper-left corner of the screen. Which Battou attack Homura executes depends on what is going on in the game. If you have any enemy in close range, Homura will perform the rush attack in which he zig-zags across the screen slashing all in his way. The other Battou attack occurs when Homura is surrounded by enemy bullets which are then deflected back at the enemy.


As you kill enemies, you can collect "chikara" icons. As you collect these icons you build up a power meter (located to the right of the Battou meter). Every time the power meter hits its limit, you are given an additional "option". These "options" are similar to options from Gradius games; pulsating orbs that give you more firepower. You can have a limit of four "options". If an enemy is killed with a Battou attack, Chikara icons are drawn to you as if you're a magnet. Kill an ememy with a shot or a bomb, and you'll have to make an effort to collect it.

There are 4 stages in the regular game, but if you clear the first 4 stages without continuing, you will be introduced to a 5th stage where you can meet the true last boss. Halfway through each stage you can choose a path. Left, or right. With a lot of combinations, the game will be slightly different each time you play it as long as you don't always choose the same paths.



The audio bugs in the game are a reminder that this game might have been rushed or made by a novice developer. No game is perfect, but there are bugs that seem a little amateur. Perhaps that is the reason behind the doujin feel of this game. I love doujin games...when they are done right.

The backgrounds are not very nice and somewhat bland. There are some really nice backgrounds, such as the boss of level 2, but for the most part things could be greatly improved.


The Battou system is really cool and unique for a shmup. It is always very satisfying to see Homura rush across the screen, killing all in his way.

The historical Japanese Warring States (Sengoku Jidai) backdrop, while not original, is a fresh breath of air from traditional spaceship shooting games. The retro-futuristic enemies make the game feel stylish and unique.

Selectable routes mid-level gives the game variety and replay value.

Offers a great challenge by only giving you 3 credits, but every time you use all credits, you are given an extra credit when you start a new game. You have to work for your credits if you want to beat the game by having the game beat you, first.

The Verdict: 7.0

Homura is a lesser-known shmup that holds its own among a sea of ho-hum space shooters. Think of Homura as a vertical version of the Sengoku blade games. There is great replay value and the game encourages you to keep coming back until you can clear it with one credit. It will reward you for doing so. There really isn't much information about this game other than what's in the manual. Again, this game is a lesser-known shmup, but it is worth playing if you're a fan of the genre.


No backups or emus, my copy: