By Nick Zverloff, 11/26/10

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Mahou Daisakusen
Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kingdom Grand Prix
Soukyuugurentai

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Battle Garegga
Armed Police Batrider
Battle Bakraid

Page 3:
Great Mahou Daisakusen
1944: The Loop Master
Brave Blade

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During the early 90s, Toaplan was known for compelling shooters such as Zero Wing, Truxton and Batsugun. When Toaplan died, many companies formed from their remnants, all of them specializing in making (usually) great shooters. Cave and Takumi are some of the best known of these. Raizing/8ing (the later pronounced "Eighting") was one of them, and their games are much beloved among shoot em up fans, with many topping gBest Shooting Games of All Timeh lists. Their most famous games are probably Battle Garegga and Soukyuugurentai, but they're also known for the Mahou Daisakusen trilogy, as well as a handful of other, lesser known titles. They're all varying degrees of fantastic, with some obviously better than others, but all are worth playing to some degree. The company's obscurity may have to do with the fact that not even half of their library was ported to consoles - and absolutely none of these made it outside of Japan.

Even though not all of their games in a series proper, they all share many common elements. They're sort of like Psikyo games, in that they're filled with strange player characters, although these generally just appear in the character select screen or in between levels to say something silly - in game, you're usually piloting some type of ship. Many games share characters too, and one of the later games, Armed Police Batrider, even reuses many of the same bosses. The action is usually fast and intense, somewhere in a midway point between Psikyo and Cave, as they've got some outstanding production values, with some high quality sprite work and generally excellent soundtracks. Unlike many arcade games, there are also cheat codes hidden in many of them, allowing you unlock secret characters or alter small things, like color type or extra option formations.

Raizing's company name is a common Japanese pun. It obviously sounds like the English word "Rising", although stylistically spelled, but pronounced in Japanese, it's read as "raijin". This means "god of lightning", hence the lightning bolts in their logo.

Battle Garegga

Mahou Daisakusen (魔法大作戦) / Sorcer Striker - Arcade / Sharp X68000 / FM Towns (1993)

Flyer

Mahou Daisakusen

Mahou Daisakusen is an interesting style of fantasy shooter. Many of the enemy designs are archetypal of the fantasy genre but with a modern military twist. Dragons look like they have been fused with bomber planes, gigantic tortoises have stone fortresses mounted on their shells, and cyborg centaurs shoot arrows while rolling off factory assembly lines. Harpies carry bombs, and goblins even ride helicopters. In many ways, it's remisnicent of Sprigganfs mixture giant futuristic robots and medieval castles, but the mood is much darker. This being released in 1993 and predating the modern bullet hell shooter, do not expect microscopic hitboxes, elaborate patterns of bullets, or screen clearing attacks. The bullets do move very fast, though, and some of the bosses are very challenging.

Characters

Speaking of magic, you can level up your character with gold coins and magic books. There are three different magic books, which come in three different colors, and each levels up a different shot type. Red gives you extra homing shots that are usually slow, but are good at clearing enemies. Blue gives you a sort of spread shot that hits enemies on the sides and diagonally. Green simply shoots straight and does the most damage. Even though you can level up your main shot and your magic shots, it never feels like you're doing enough damage. This becomes very apparent in later levels where the challenge goes way up. All of a sudden there are more bullets on screen than you would expect from a game in 1993, more than half the screen is taken up by enemies, and fast, unexpected lasers pop up out of nowhere, all while leaving you underarmed.

Even though Mahou Daisakusen has its flaws, they can be overlooked, especially since it's the first of Raizing's titles. It took Street Fighter, Smash Brothers, and Mega Man two entries to really get things going, after all. The actual action is somewhat middling, but it's absolutely brimming with memorable moments. One stage takes place in a series of narrow castle corridors, where the walls start to move and attempt to crush you. Once you beat the mid-boss, its explosion breaks the dam, which causes the entire level to flood with water. One boss arrives by jumping out of the warhead of a gigantic missiles. An entire stage is devoted to a colliseum type battle, consisting entirely of mini-bosses, where the onlookers bombard you with coins upon your victory. At the end, you run across the king, instead of congratulating you, dives into the ground and turns his entire throne into a gigantic laser spewing face.

Similar to MUSHA, another one of Compile's titles, there's a recurring flunky named Bashinet, who is relegated to mini-boss status throughout most of the game. He starts as a gigantic red fighter, but eventually grows a full mech body. One of the final stages appears to be little more than a victory run, with the entire kingdom coming out to congratulate you - until a wrecked Bashinet comes from the sidelines and momentarily threatens the life of the monarchs, leaving you to save the kingdom once and for all.

Mahou Daisakusen received two ports to the Sharp X68000 and FM Towns. Both of these ports require a lot of memory, and stay pretty true to the arcade version, although they're missing tate mode. The FM Towns version requires plenty of memory and will not run on an FM Towns Marty console.

Mahou Daisakusen

Mahou Daisakusen

Additional Screenshots

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen (疾風魔法大作戦) / Kingdom Grand Prix - Arcade / Saturn (1994)

Saturn Cover

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen - Kingdom Grand Prix is one of the most original genre-blending games ever made - a racing/shooter hybrid.The closest comparison to Kingdom Grand Prix is probably Irem's Armed Police Unit Gallop, mixed with a tiny bit of Super Mario Kart. Like in Gallop, you move faster by getting closer to the top end of the screen. You can also give yourself a short speed boost by holding down the fire button, although doing so will temporarily leave you defenseless. You can bump into walls and even enemies without dying, though bullets will still kill you, of course, which will slow you down. It's like Mario Kart in that the field is full of other racers. They cannot be directly attacked with your shots, but they can be rammed into the scenery or enemy fire, or slowed down with bombs.

After completing the first race, you have the option to choose between two and sometimes three courses. Depending on what rank you come in at the end of the level, you'll receive an appropriate number of points, much like any grand prix racing game. If you manage to place first by the end, a second loop is unlocked using the levels that were not used on the first run. You play through six races in a single loop, although there are twelve levels altogether. Some of the stages are fairly creative, like the vampire castle, the arctic corridors and the sewer, where the course alternates between above-water and below-water segments. The bosses show up near the end of levels, but there's usually a small stretch of regular enemies afterwards, giving you a quick chance to try and catch up to a rival before crossing the finish line. The difficulty has been toned down from the first Mahou Daisakusen, but the bosses are still mighty impressive. One of the most outstanding is a horrific monster with the heads of a demon, a baby, and an owl that attacks with its tongue.

The power-up system is simple. There are bags of money you can shoot, which drop power-up coins to strengthen your main weapon, as well as fairies, which drop magical spell books to switch between (or upgrade) secondary homing or forward shots. There's not much of a scoring system besides shooting and dodging, since the main goal is to place as highly as you can at the end of the race.

However, the racing elements don't entirely make sense. As you get further and further in the game, your top speed is lowered, so it doesn't feel much like you're racing. And once an opponent has passed you, it's incredibly hard to catch up, since you don't always have a lot of control over your top speed.Furthermore, it's incredibly unfair that most opponents can speed right past boss fights. Occasionally they'll get stuck on the same screen and get destroyed temporarily, but it feels like the rules of the game only apply to the human players, and no one else. However, there are a few things you can take advantage of, like the fact that rivals cannot drop bombs. There's no shame in dropping one at the beginning of a race in order to gain a head start.

The storyline tries to justify the strange genre-blend by stating that after years of war, the kingdom wants to end the violence by holding a race. New characters include Honest John, a steam powered robot; two kids that can drive a fighter jet named Kickle and Laycle; Nirvana, the queen of the fairies; and Bul-Gin, the goblin king. Returning are Gain the warrior, Chitta the witch, Miyomoto the ninja dragon, and Bornam the necromancer. This makes a total of eight playable characters.

Characters

The graphics utilize a similar style to Mahou Daisakusen with no real enhancements, but sound is a huge improvement. The music is almost always frantic, the level two theme sticking out as one of the catchier songs. Another one of the better songs is the final boss theme, Divide By Zero. The soundtrack was composed by the irrespressible duo of Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata. While mostly known for their orchestral scores in Final Fantasy Tactics and Radiant Silvergun, they still manage to pull off some fantatic music using FM synth. One of the boss themes sound right out of Vagrant Story, complete with some of the same chanting samples.

While some of the racing elements are clumsy - a better way to accelerate would've been nice - it's still an incredibly original game, unlike not only every other shooter, but unlike anything else in Raizing's library. Thankfully, it received a Saturn port, though it was only released in Japan. It's quite faithful, complete with a tate option (dubbed "Saturn Mode"). Upon inputting a code, you can enable a mode to turn off the racing aspect, allowing you to play the game like a typical shooter. Since there are no rivals and no ability to accelerate, the game's default scrolling speed is a little slower than normal, and stages end right after defeating a boss. Even when removing the game's primary gimmick, it's still a quality title.

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen

Additional Screenshots

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Soukyuugurentai (蒼穹紅蓮隊) / Terra Diver - Arcade / Saturn / Playstation (1996)

Saturn Cover

Soukyuugurentai

Soukyuugurentai (also known as Terra Diver) is an outlier amongst Raizing shooters. Like Treasure's Radiant Silvergun, it mixes 2D and 3D graphics, and pulls lots of crazy cinematic, graphical tricks, like zooming out the camera during large boss fights. Functionally, it's quite similar to Taito's Galactic Attack/Rayforce/Layer Section in that you can use a huge targetting cursor to attack enemies in the background. It's got a tough, gritty, industrial look to it, and Hitoshi Sakimoto's orchestral soundtrack perfectly complements it. One of Raizing's most popular games, it was ported to both the Saturn and PSOne, although only in Japan, of course.

A more in-depth review can be found in the Soukyuugurentai article.

Soukyugurentai

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<<< Prior Page    

    Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Mahou Daisakusen
Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kingdom Grand Prix
Soukyuugurentai

Page 2:
Battle Garegga
Armed Police Batrider
Battle Bakraid

Page 3:
Great Mahou Daisakusen
1944: The Loop Master
Brave Blade

Back to the Index