12/28/09

Game Review -- Kyonshi 2/キョンシーズ2

Hello Dracula wasn’t just popular in Taiwan. The mix of the macabre silliness and cute, kung fu fighting kids won over Japanese audiences when the first few movies were adapted into a television series that aired in the late eighties. It was popular enough to spawn toys and a manga by an artist named Yu Hiroe. The most curious artifact of its popularity in Japan? A Famicom game from Hudson!

A first look at it might fool you into thinking Kyonshi 2 shamelessly plagiarizes Dragon Quest, but it’s actually closer to Zelda 2. The goal -- so far as I can tell without any knowledge of Japanese -- is to collect the various jiang-shi zombies scattered about town and return them to the Taoist temple, where Ten-ten awaits to issue orders and generally be a bossy little bitch.
You pick from the four male characters (you can’t play as Grandpa King) at the start screen, although I can’t tell what makes them different, and then you’re free to roam about town, buying and selling stuff and going on fetch quests for the locals. Eventually, you’ll walk into a location where the corpses are hanging out, and then you’ll be in the Zelda 2 side-scrolling mode. A button punches, B button kicks, and jumping is assigned to the up key on the d-pad. It’s an awful layout that doesn’t really affect anything since the enemies hop at your character in a single, unchanging pattern. They have high hp, so hitting them over and over until they die becomes tedious pretty fast.
And for those that don’t know Japanese, the frustrating part will come when the battle is over, and leaving the battle screen shows that there are no reanimated corpses following as they guide their character back to the temple. The player needs to buy Taoist charms before the zombies will hop behind him or her. And it’s not a simple task either, since there are a couple dozen characters to talk to who will give you advice, or sell you items, or serve some other purpose I couldn’t discern. And in order to get certain items, the player has to speak to certain characters while holding other items that must be found the same way.
A lot of Famicom RPGs are opaque in this way, particularly the ones that didn’t copy Dragon Quest by the numbers. Adding tedious combat sequences makes Kyonshi 2 even more irritating than other pseudo-RPGs of the era, somehow playing into the long-held stereotype of licensed video games held in the United States -- borderline unplayable.

Kyonshi 2 isn’t unplayable, but it certainly isn’t particularly great. But with the benefit of twenty years hindsight, it does seem like a nice tribute to the popularity of the Hello Dracula films. It's nice to see a Famicom game based on a Chinese film that isn't a pirate cartridge with artwork ripped from successful Japanese games.

Stuff of interest:
Japanese DVD promo

Liu Chih-Yu and Liu Chih-han on some sort of Japanese morning show

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