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Nihon Falcom

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BAKUSHOU YOSHIMOTO NO SHINKIGEKI

A true hidden gem, so forgive the long review. Set in Osaka complete with giant mechanical crab and Glico man, our man Kanpei stars in this platform game with variety levels and humour to match the Goemon series. The variety includes remembering which the prettiest girl on Osaka bridge is after they have jostled position for a one up. Or a dance section or ride on roller coaster both requiring fast reflexes. Or playing paper, scissors, stone and tossing a sizzling okonomiyaki pancake at the loser. Or mole bashing or rodeo riding..? The real peaches though come on the samurai themed level: slicing through bamboo mats or fighting attached to a kite. The platform sections are fun too: a walking stick power up turning you into an old man to beat everyone with the stick, or climbing up ninja grappling ropes, or jumping over raging bulls. The variety sections may require a little bit of Japanese knowledge, but are simple to work out through trial and error. Genki doesn't often compare to the seminal Goemon series, but this is real, tear jerking fun.

Publisher: Hudson Soft
Game Type: A Bit Special

Console: PC Engine Super CD ROM

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GATE OF THUNDER

Play as pilot of the Hunting Dog assisted by power ups from the Wild Cat in the shape of pods to help protect your ship. Heavy metal soundtrack, but no time for head banging apart from against the monitor as relentless waves swarm in to attack. Similar to the MD's Thunderforce and prequel to Winds of Thunder. Some very tidy rotation and parallax effects as Hudson demonstrates its perfect grasp of the Engine architecture with backgrounds that close in on you inducing claustrophobia.

Publisher: Hudson Soft
Game Type: Shoot Em Up

Console: PC Engine Super CD ROM

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Star Soldier

Title : Star Soldier
Publisher : Hudson
Game Type : Shoot Em Up
Console : PSP

Price : £19.99

First shoot 'em up release on the system and what a way to start the party with this update of the timeless PC Engine series that actually has more in common with the GameCube and PS2 cracker. Still the timed high score challenge is kept in there with its roots in the PC Engine Caravan contest. Speed of hand eye co-ordination is the key to clocking up a big score as bonuses are awarded for rapid destruction of incoming waves of enemy ships. The code has been optimized to fit the PSP's dimensions with the console being held vertically suiting the genre perfectly. And ergonomically it works like a dream too. Additional ships have been constructed and its now autofire so you don't have to worry about being able to see whilst frantically hammering the fire button. A very nice shooter, another medal to the Hudson lapel.

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Falcom isn't Japan's most prestigious or most successful development studio, and the company's president admits that the Tokyo-based studio doesn't have any big name developers -- but in this interview, he outlines how staying true the the studio's roots has led to a renewed enthusiasm from fans.

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