|Taito's second collection of Psikyo arcade shooters (the first had Strikers 1945 (see entry 267) and Strikers 1945 II (see entry 266)) happily presents two very nice games that I hadn't really played before: the vertical shooter "Sengoku Ace" and it's horizontal sequel, "Sengoku Blade."|
From what I read on the 'net, the ports appear to be faithful to the arcade versions. Ace has a vertical monitor feature, and Blade appears to have the secret characters that the arcade (or Saturn?) one had. You can save configurations and scores in each (although they don't auto load/save, which is too bad), and each has a Practice mode that I think lets you set up specific scenurios (stage, difficulty) to play, though I haven't really tried it. The menus are all in English.
Supposedly the games run in a high-res video mode, although they're really low-res games, and this tends to frustrate people playing on RGB monitors or something. I can't tell the difference on my VGA upscanned image, so nyah!
Both games have the difficulty scaling seen in many of Psikyo's other arcade shooters, such as the Gunbirds (see entry 428), where the initial three or four stages are presented in a random order, but the enemies get tougher and their bullets harder to dodge as you progress through them. This keeps you on your toes since you may have played the same stage on your last attempt, but on an easier difficulty, so the patterns won't be the same. Aside from this, the port also lets you choose from five or six overall difficulty, one of which is named "Monkey."
Also similar to the Gunbirds, both games give you shot, bomb, and a powerful charge attack (hold Shot for a few seconds). Each of the six or so characters per game has of course different weapon styles and different movement speeds. Each game seems to have one character who's a bit deadlier than the others, as far as I can tell (the old man in Ace, the robot in Blade), so I can't say I feel like spreading my play time among all the others. Oh well.
Still, both games have that stamp of good hard Psikyo quality, complete with multi-mode morphing bosses, that shmuppers have come to expect from them, and I really like both these games. Ace's presentation is a bit less elaborate than Blade's, which makes sense as it's an earlier and probably smaller ROM, but it plays just as well. As you know I like vert shooters a lot, but the horizontal Blade is an unusual departure for Psikyo, and it's neat to play as a magical person flying along through the air.
Having snooped the shmups.com forum, I find that to play as Ain in Blade you highlight the Random character choice, then press Up (x3), Down (x3), Up (x7). It's a little tough to use, but his sword-swipe charge attack is powerful, and just looks badass. The Saturn version let you play as Marion after beating the game with all the other characters--whether that feature has made it into these ports, I'm not sure.