Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Magical Chase (Palsoft/Quest)

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To keep the theme of this weekend alive, I decided to go with yet another light and fluffy shmup on this Sunday afternoon.  I’ve chosen to go with one of the most expensive games in my collection, Magical Chase, one of the few Japanese-heavy shmups to find a release on the Turbografx-16 system in the US.  I always thought this game was kind of a throw away title as a child, it didn’t do anything quite as well as Fantasy Zone, Gradius or even R-Type, but of course I had to dig it out when I found out how rare and expensive it was.  I am pleased to say that when I gaze upon this title with learned eyes I am much more aware of some of the great things it does and now that I finally got my hands on an owner’s manual I can play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.  See, back then if we couldn’t understand a game we just assumed that it was too complicated or we were too stupid and just ignored it.  I had no idea how to control the stars before getting my hands on that text document.  Don’t believe I actually have the game?  Well here’s your proof below (yes, this is a cheesy excuse to show it off):

While it does feature bright and colorful graphics with an enchanting witch for the main character, I don’t think I would classify Magical Chase as a cute ’em up.  It just lacks the goofy world and enemies that are common to the genre and it despite the cartoon exterior, takes itself quite seriously.  As Ripple, the name for our witch, you fly on your broom with your star maidens, two stars that rotate around Ripple and can be fixed into specific positions for shields and additional firepower. Think of it as playing a version of Gradius where you automatically have two options and a shield at the start.  In addition you get currency, little gems, from enemies that can be used in a shop that appears to be owned by Jack Skellington to purchase upgrades to your health and weapons.  The first few levels start off pretty easy, but soon things get frantic and I cannot get much farther than level 4 at this point.

For a game that came out in 1993, I’m pretty impressed with the pseudo 3D graphics (seen in the cube boss of the first level) that the Turbografx-16 was able to produce with what essentially was a Nintendo with a stronger graphics card.  For a shmup it does a decent job of keeping up with all the bullets and enemies on-screen – slowdown is always an issue on any home port of a shooter – and it gets rather hairy with each new level.  Other than that, I must admit that this game is basically just a fun and additional shooter for the collection.  I’ve heard people gushing over this game like it’s the end all be all of human existence and frankly it feels a bit “meh”.  It’s fun, sure, and there’s a scant number of shmups on the Turbografx-16 when compared to the PC-Engine (the Japanese counterpart), but with Gradius and Air Zonk it in no way tops the list, especially for the $200+ price tag.

On the other hand, doing research on this title has led me to uncover a few other fun shmup gems like Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams.  The shooter only released in arcades and PC-Engine Super CD as far as I know, but a quick eBay search showed a rather inexpensive port on the Neo Geo Pocket that I have been enjoying on the go – perhaps Magical Chase is better on a TurboExpress.  This also led to the discovery of the amazing Three Wonders (Wonder 3 in Japan) series developed by Capcom and released in arcades in the 90s.  American gamers can get their hands on these games in Capcom Collections Vol. 2 on PS2/Xbox and Capcom Collection Remixed on PSP.  So on its own Magical Chase isn’t the end all be all, but it did lead to a solid string of other great shmups.

Check out tomorrow’s shmup of the day, my favorite of all time: Salamander.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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