Well here we are. The first review in this series. Shame it has to be for something I love so dearly. Today I’ll be reviewing Kamen Rider Black: Taiketsu Shadow Moon for the Famicom Disk System, released 15th April 1988.
This particular stinker was brought to us by Human Entertainment who you might know as the creators of Stadium Events, one of the rarest games for the NES. As for other titles they published, they had just published Dance Aerobics the previous year (possibly the first rhythm game) and the Famicom port of Gyrodine two years prior.
They had a rocky start with some mediocre, if interesting, games. Making a licensed game for Bandai was likely easy money so obviously they were going to take it.
I’m a huge Kamen Rider fan, and especially a fan of Kamen Rider Black. The 1987 entry in the franchise, Kamen Rider Black saw Minami Kotaro and his brother get kidnapped by the evil organisation Gorgom and transformed into cyborgs. Kotaro escaped and took on the name Kamen Rider Black as he vowed to protect the people, rescue his brother and put a stop to Gorgom.
It’s all very exciting and it’s one of my favourite shows in the series. This game however…
To say this game doesn’t live up to the source material is an understatement. Perhaps if I said “This game is a stain on the underpants of the series” then I might be a little closer to the truth. The fact remains that this game is shite. Here’s why.
The game starts with a rather nice intro showing Minami Kotaro transforming into Kamen Rider Black and then transitions into the menu you see above. This is about as much good as I’ll say for it. The in-game graphics are nothing special. Everything is competently drawn, just that nothing really stands out. Compared to the excellent Super Mario Bros. 3 which would release just a few months later, this game looks primitive in comparison.
What does stand out is the music. The same repetitive track plays most of the time and the only time it doesn’t is when you’re on the Battle Hopper, instead you’re treated to another repetitive track. I think the main track is supposed to be the show’s main theme but it’s so badly butchered that I cannot actually be sure. Kamen Rider Black has a fantastic score and you couldn’t replicate this even slightly? I know the Famicom wasn’t known for its musical capabilities but there’s plenty of great songs from the system, especially with the additional sound channel that the Famicom Disk System provided. A wasted oppotunity.
And now we get to the biggest offender, the gameplay. Boy, oh boy, where do I start with this? First problem I had was mere seconds into the game, the jump. Holy hell, who designed this game? To jump you press A which is standard enough. To jump left or right, you must hold down A for a second, then press left or right mid-jump and hope it works. Oh and you have to let go off the jump button or you won’t move. Oh but if you let go of it too soon, you don’t jump high enough.
This entire incident merely seconds into the game left me hating it already. This was 1988, 5 years after the Famicom released and 3 years after Super Mario Bros. How on Earth do you screw up just the jump that badly when so many games before have done it right?
Annoyed but undeterred I ventured forth and started the game. You have two attacks, not that I noticed for a while as I punched through hordes of enemies. Press B to punch and… Up to kick. Look I get that the Famicom was limited by two buttons but was this really the best solution you had?! The worst part is that this seems entirely pointless as both attacks seem to be identical. Same power, same hitbox, same range. Why bother with it? And speaking of hitboxes… They’re broken. Hitting some enemy doesn’t seem to trigger any damage unless you hit them in exactly the right spot. In others, you can miss by inches and still hit them. I discovered all this in the first 2 minutes of the game by the way, it never got better.
And of course there’s movement. Kamen Rider Black moves at the pace of a snail through glue. Each level is pretty small and if he moved at a normal speed, you’d probably get to the end in 15 seconds but it is so frustrating to feel like you’re making no progress at all, especially when you can’t move out of the spawn zones quickly enough and enemies swarm you. In addition to this, adding insult to injury, you also take short time to turn around. If you get jumped from behind by an enemy, say goodbye to your HP.
You may be asking yourself “What else could she complain about?”
Let me tell you about the Battle Hopper sections. These are the worst parts of the game. It handles terribly, it’s also slow and it’s harder to hit enemies while riding it. Unfortunately these are also quite frequent. The worst part is that you don’t even get off it when you reach the boss. You fight the boss while riding it and considering turning it around is even hard than getting Kamen Rider Black to turn around, it makes for an extremely frustrating time. Almost every level with this thing is the same where you have to wheelie through… some strange liquid on the ground or you’ll somehow get slower and jumping over large gaps. Tedious, frustrating, not fun at all.
And what of the bosses? After all this do you think they’re going to be any better? Of course not. There is a sub-boss at the end of each stage and at first they start off easy and then it all goes downhill. Bad hitboxes and terrible design make them extremely difficult to beat, especially with the awful controls. You get a more powerful boss at the end of each world, these are the worst. The only effective strategy I could figure out was to punch each boss in the dick.
Did I mention that if you die, you start at the beginning of a world? No extra lives, if you die against the boss on 1-4 then you go back to 1-1. I think that’s just the cherry on top of this cake made of Human shit.
Ultimately, playing this game was a huge waste of time. There was little fun to be had in it. It’s not even a good bad game, it’s just dire. It’s very loosely based on Kamen Rider Black and that novelty didn’t sustain me past finding out how bad the jump is. Tedious, annoying, frustrating and just plain dull.
So what happened to the developer? Well Human Entertainment would release the first in the Fire Pro Wrestling series the following year for PC-Engine so they did go on to much better things at least. Other titles they developed included Clock Tower in 1995 (though Clock Tower: Ghost Head is a story for another review), the Twilight Syndrome series and their final game, Mizzurna Falls. They closed in 2000 and from their ashes rose Nude Maker, Sandlot, Spike, and Grasshopper Manufacture. Not a bad legacy for the developer who brought us this abomination.
This game must have been a Gorgom plot.