For the most part, there is little remarkable about Chuuka Taisen, which translates to "Great Wizard of the Middle Kingdom," but more often known by its localized name "Cloud Master." It's a sidescrolling shooter from the late 80s, pretty much like any other sidescrolling shooter from the late 80s, which was developed by Taito. Its big draw is that it takes place in ancient China, as you control a Monkey King-style character named Michael Chen who flies on a cloud, shooting down enemies like flying ramen bowls, stylized Buddhas, evil pig heads, and racist caricatures of Chinese people.
Wait, what? The Japanese aren't known to be the most politically correct folk, especially to us Americans, but they are aware that we used a similar squint eyed/buck toothed look to mock them during World War II, right? It's either strangely ignorant, or strangely ironic, like Chris Rock directing a ragtime show with white actors in black face.
At any rate, Chuuka Taisen is a tough little game. Your standard shots are pretty weak, and even after collecting a few power-ups - which are sparsely distributed through each stage - you feel a bit underpowered. After killing certain foes, you'll uncover a shop entrance, which allows you to pick one of several subweapons. (Amusingly, each level has a different shopkeeper - one of them has a bowl of ramen for a head.) These includes bombs, multiple directional shots, flame wheels, and other such inventive shots. Although you can only choose from four weapons at a time, they change with each shop, so there's a pretty decent variety. They're still pretty weak, but they're much more versatile than your regular weapon. The secondary weapons have unlimited ammo, at least until you die. Dying also takes you back to a checkpoint earlier in the level.
Classics like R-Type and Gradius have similar checkpoint structures, but they both have one major aspect that Cloud Master doesn't - quality level design. Cloud Master features the same background repeated over and over and over, without any variation in the landscape, and only the different waves of enemies to differentiate one area of the level from the next. Compared to some other shooters, it's not too ferociously difficult, but it quickly grows tiresome. The only really impressive graphics are the huge, colorful bosses, although they're barely animated.
There are only five levels in Cloud Master, making this something of a quick and dirty game. By all accounts it's a pretty mediocre game, yet for some strange reason, it seems to have been ported to almost every major console at the time. Most gamers outside of Japan are probably most familiar with the Sega Master System version, which was ported by Hot-B and only released in North America and Europe. It was also released on the Famicom, ported by a company called Disco. Both are reasonably competent ports, although the Master System version has a very slightly graphical edge.
The PC Engine version, dubbed Gokuraku! Chuuka Taisen, is actually a slightly enhanced port. The graphics have been redrawn and actually look a little bit better than the arcade game. There's a small intro cinema, although the segments with the wizard between levels have been removed, and there's only one shopkeeper throughout the game. The levels are mostly similar, but have been altered slightly in certain case - for example, in the second level, you go into an underground cavern halfway through the stage. Most importantly, you can now press the I button to turn around and attack enemies coming from the left side of the screen. The boss fights are all completely new, and force you to take advantage of this ability.
The MSX2 version, distributed on disks, is pretty similar to the Master System version, since it was also ported by Hot-B, although the color palette is different. However, the scrolling is choppy, and some of the enemies are missing. The X68000 version, ported by Sharp, is basically arcade perfect, although it's a bit easier, and has some slightly enhanced music.