Saturday 31 March 2012

Ninku Gaiden: Hiroyuki Daikatsugeki

Ugh. Yes, I know, illegible Japanese tat, get it off this blog, etc., and I agree - I don't like littering posts with words I can't pronounce. But I do like Pengo, and if I don't highlight this one, nobody will.

First, for fans of raw fish, confined spaces and long-standing tensions with South Korea, Ninku Gaiden is a Sega Game Gear game based on the short-lived Ninku anime. All you need to know is that there's a supernatural penguin in it which can omit explosive farts. Because that's what consumers strive for.

Strip all the noise from Ninku Gaiden and you get something far more appealing - a game based on Pengo, the 1982 arcade classic, and it's possibly even something you could even describe as a "sequel". Although Pengo clones are not uncommon, this one came straight from Sega, and as it features Penguins, that makes it notable. It's a suggestion that perhaps once upon a time it was Ninku-free and could have been marketed to the rest of the world.

For the most part, the rules in Ninku Gaiden are the same as bog-standard 1982 Pengo, though events are played on a much smaller screen and the two wear different clothes. The biggest change is the ability to shake the sides of the screen and stun enemies nearby - it is replaced in Ninku Gaiden with a Burger Time-esque stun move, which can slow down enemies directly behind you (it's the penguin letting off gas - deal with it). The rules are otherwise identical - you push blocks and flatten your foes. Take too long and your foes will start to eat the battlefield.

One could argue that with an already available Game Gear release of Pengo (a launch title in Japan!), Ninku Gaiden doesn't serve much of a purpose, but there are some slight changes. Bumpers which cause ice blocks to change direction for example - the kind of extra features you find in newer Bomberman titles. You also have to endure puzzles and boss fights, and the game gets surprisingly difficult for what it is.

Though there are always going to be limitations imposed by the hardware, what Ninku Gaiden offers is the logical next step. It doesn't revolutionise, but it certainly proves the Pengo formula can be expanded. A shame this was the only game to do so (unless you count the radical overhauls of Pepenga Pengo on the Mega Drive).

It's a solid game, and for those wondering, no, it isn't ruined too much by Japanese text, but it does take away the story aspect. Possibly worth your time if block-pushing penguins are your thing.

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