Publisher: MonkeyPaw Games
Developer: MonkeyPaw Games
Release date: Available now
Microsoft may rule the console digital distribution space with their elegantly designed Xbox Live Marketplace, but Sony clearly trumps them when it comes to their back catalog. Their online store may be a bit disjointed (making it tougher to find your way around), but like some back alley boutique discovered while exploring a foreign land, the shelves are often stocked with treasures long-forgotten. In addition to the healthy line-up of PS One classics available for purchase, the PSN Store also plays host to a Japanese Import section – one that MonkeyPaw Games has used to showcase their latest find, the wacky shooter Kyuiin.
While many Japanese titles made the trip overseas during the Nineties (with role playing games leading the charge following the mammoth success of Final Fantasy VII), there are plenty whose concepts were so out there, no one dared localize them for Western gamers. Kyuiin clearly falls into the latter category. The game may be a basic side-scrolling shooter at heart, but the overall scenario is decidedly Japanese. It tells the tale of a boy, an evil wizard, and his trusty grime-fighting vacuum cleaner. Of course, the vacuum also flies and has the power to inhale enemies and fire giant beams of energy. Par for the course, really. After being sucked into a fairy tale book, Kyuiin and his sister (controllable via two-person co-op play) battle through six side-scrolling stages set against the worlds ripped from the book. There they’ll face off against all manner of enemies including paper airplanes, devilish angels, giant frog kings, and even a fairly innocuous princess. (Why she deserves the smackdown, I have no idea, but she’s resting in a meadow when you and your sis fly by, so of course she ends up absorbing an unhealthy amount of ammo.)
As you play, you can keep blasting enemies, aiming for a high score, or whip them with your power cord. Players can also choose to suck up enemies which will build up a power meter. Once this is full, you can unleash a devastating attack that empties the contents of the vacuum and clears a wide path through the screen. The trick is in balancing when to use this power in order to maximize your score. By increasing the difficulty level, players can opt to score more points.
Kyuiin is a PS One Import title that’s located in the Imports section of the PSN store, and is playable on both the PS3 and PSP. It’s important to note that this Import has been left completely intact from the original source, meaning players will experience the same sights and sounds from the original 1996 code. In addition, all of the text is in Japanese; which for a shooter is not too high a hurdle to cross, but some menu options could be impenetrable if you are unfamiliar with Japanese. MonkeyPaw Games does offer English language instructions on their website so players are encouraged to seek out their FAQs document if you are having trouble with understanding how to play the game.
While the shooter is colorfully designed (and the 2D sprites have aged much better than so many of the early polygonal models that dominated so many games in the PS One era), it clearly is a product of its time and place. This is an easier Shoot-Em-Up; greatly removed from the Bullet Hell titles that prized developers such as Treasure unleashed on us at the time, so players shouldn’t feel too frustrated as they seek to best their score. That being said, while the graphics look fine – the game simply feels too simplistic. That’s one of the problems with this hobby – time is rarely kind to the older titles. As a curio, this may make for a nice diversion for shooter fans who’ve got to play them all – especially since this is likely the first time they would have experienced this whimsical title.
In reviewing this game, I cast my eye back to the mid-Nineties. I’ve been gaming since the Atari 2600 era so I have total recall over each generation. I remember similar titles that came out on the PSN during the Nineties, especially Square’s Einhander, and unfortunately Kyuiin is simply too simplistic for my tastes. Measured against shooters that have come since then (such as Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun) this can’t compete. Hobbyists may enjoy spending time with this artifact of a bygone era, but I can’t recommend this to the masses.