Posted on March 31st, 2011 4 comments
Release Date: 7/28/89
Price: 5600 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 17.18 / 30.00
Another one of those rare console games that the Kogien, the great phonebook (published until 2008) that attempts to list every Japanese title ever released, actively criticized in their paragraph-long capsule review. The review text, verbatim:
“The setting has Takeda Shingen delving solo into enemy territory in order to defeat his adversary Uesugi Kenshin. The large size of the characters is nice, but it’s somewhat of a shame that the controls and movements had to become so rough as a result. A side-scrolling action game.”
The very definition of damning with faint praise, isn’t it? (Side note: The box shows Shingen fighting a mounted soldier, something that never, ever, ever happens in the game.)
Takeda Shingen is second PCE game published by Aicom, the somewhat hapless early third party whose previous game was P-47. Three out of Aicom’s four PCE releases were ports of late-’80s arcade games from Jaleco, which — if you’re a fledgling publisher trying to establish a foothold in the console marketplace — really isn’t a great way to stand out from the pack. Jaleco games, after all, were all about finding whatever the latest trend was and copying it in as quick and budget-free a manner as possible.
In this case, the arcade Takeda Shingen was released in 1988 to capitalize upon an NHK TV show of the same name, the station’s taiga drama of 1988. The 50-episode series portrayed the warlord’s life as he rose from the also-ran leader of Kai province (modern day Yamanashi prefecture) to the man who almost beat Oda Nobunaga at his own game. It was an enormous hit, the second most-watched taiga drama ever; the entire series averaged a 39.2% share in the TV ratings, a figure that’s all but impossible to achieve these days. Such is the influence of this show that many of the warlord portraits seen in Nobunaga’s Ambition and the other Warring States Period sims Koei’s released over the years were often based off the actors that appeared in the series. (The show also inspired Hot-B to make two FC Shingen sims, one of which was released Stateside as Shingen the Ruler.)
So Jaleco cobbled together a Shingen arcade game and rushed it out while the series was still running. Aicom ported it, I guess, because they had a contract with Jaleco to port their arcade stuff and they didn’t put out anything more sellable than this for all of 1988.
What’s so bad about Takeda Shingen? Well, besides the fact that the main character walks like a infant (see right), the game he stars in is a poor attempt at making a sort of medieval-Japan Double Dragon with a few RPG elements. You can freely mince through all the environments — you aren’t required to beat up any of the doomed ashigaru you run into — but rushing right to the boss of each stage without building up experience and upgrading your abilities beforehand is suicide.
The gameplay itself copies the original Double Dragon in all the wrong ways. It’s slow, laggy, and there seems to be a half-second delay between button presses and Shingen doing anything onscreen. This results in the player having to very carefully toddle up to enemies from the classic 2D-brawler diagonal angle, press the II button, and largely hope for the best. Things improve once you get some useful power-ups (that sliding move you get is rad, but that doesn’t happen until near the end of the game), but whether you have the patience to make it that far or not is highly questionable.
There seem to be three main signs that the PCE title you’re playing is crap: The controls are oddly lagged (cf. Energy); the main character walks like an idiot, and the music is surprisingly good. (That’s the Level 1 theme on the PCE, but the boss tune in the arcade version, where it sounds quite a bit more epic and taiga drama-ish.)