Box Shot
Platform: Sega Master System
Publisher: Sega
Designer: Sega
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1988
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

"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 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 special move).

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.