"The place: 16th century Japan. Evil warlocks have taken over your country.
They've stolen the Sword of the Dragon King and the five Secret Scrolls
from your family! You are Hayato, a fearless Samurai Warrior. You must get
back the sword and scrolls. . . and defeat the evil awaiting in the Black
Castle! It's more than a matter of honor. A country's fate depends on your
success." - The Kenseiden story.
Kenseiden, released by Sega for the Master System in 1988, was one of the
only serious action/adventure games released for the SMS (the only others
that would come close would be Rastan and Shinobi). It's also the closest
thing to Castlevania that you'll find on the SMS. It was also overlooked in
favor of the more popular games. Still, it's a very good game, worthy of a
place in any Master System owner's library.
As Hayato, you must traverse sixteen countries in medieval Japan to find
the Black Castle and it's ruler - Yonensai, the Master Warlock. Along the
way, you must find the Five Scrolls, which give you different powers, and
the Sword of the Dragon King.
Kenseiden is very similiar to Castlevania (played in a side scrolling
perspective) - in fact, it seems like the developers took Castlevania, set
it in ancient Japan, replaced Simon Belmont with a samurai, and took out
the special weapons. The creatures that you fight are all taken out of
Japanese legend, and some can be very tough to kill. The bosses can be real
pains if you don't have the right special attacks, and if you don't know
the pattern, then forget it.
You pick up various items throughout the game: the Gourd of Life, which
fills up your life bar; the Sword, which powers up your standard sword; the
Medicine Case, which revives you when you're killed; the Talisman of
Protection, which increases you defense power (you obtain it in the
training rounds, and you can get blue and red ones); the Wooden Doll, which
gives you an extra life; and the Diary, which lets you continue (there is a
hidden continue code - at the Game Over screen, press Up, Up, Down, Down,
and Button Two).
When you defeat a boss, you receive one of the Five Scrolls. Scroll 1 lets
you perform the High Jump (press Up and button 1); Scroll 2 lets you
perform the Crushing Head Attack (press Up and Button 2); Scroll 3 lets you
perform the Splitting The Helmet technique (press Button One, then Button 2
and Up at the same time); Scroll 4 gives you the Cutting The Air technique
(press down and button 2); and Scroll 5 gives you the Wild Wheel Sword
technique (press diagonally Up and Right or diagonally Up and Left while
running). One of the bosses also gives you the Sword of the Dragon King,
which increases your sword's attack to maximum power. Some of these
moves are quite cool. It's fun to run through a gamut of monster with your
sword rapidly slashing back and forth (Scroll 5) or jumping up and smashing
an enemy's head (Scroll 3). Additionaly,
the game is sort of non-linear...you can choose from a map after each
on the route you can take. It's pretty much vital that you hit all of
the areas with bosses, so you can get their scrolls.
The graphics are very good (which is the case with most SMS games) - Hayato
is very detailed, and the enemies (especially the bosses) look very good.
One enemy that you encounter a lot, the Skeleton, is done especially well.
The bosses are all very large and well animated - one particularly good
looking boss is the Death's Head Warlock, which is a giant firey skull the
flies around the screen and turns into several little skulls. Then there's
Yonensai's last form - he's almost as tall as the screen! The music is
alright, nothing too special - it sounds like it's from medieval Japan, but
the SMS' lame sound chip brings it down a little. The controls are very
good, but a little off at times (particularly when trying to execute a
Overall, Kenseiden is a very good game - like I said, it was overlooked in
favor in the bigger games - but if you like adventure games, then by all
means, check it out. As time goes by, SMS games get harder and harder to
find, but when you do find them, they're normally pretty cheap. If you ever
see Kenseiden for under five dollars (and you have a Master System or Power
base Converter for your Genesis) than grab it!
It's worth it.