Enter Edo, the 17th century capitol city of feudal Japan. Rami, a seemingly typical teen, has been the keeper of the Key to the Secret Treasure. Rami is really the descendent of aliens who came to earth in ancient times. But what is this mystery treasure the missing Key unlocks? Rami doesn’t know the importance of the treasure, nor does her overbearing grandmother remember what the secret key unlocks. But one thing is certain: the Key has been stolen (while Rami was at the local mini-mart, a common hangout for teens then) and now she must get the Key back.
Rami rides into battle on her trusty dragon “Spot” as she encounters an octopus sea monster, the U.S. Navy, and the Russian Army until she arrives at the ship of Dr. Pon. Dr. Pon, billed as the most intelligent creature on earth with an IQ of 1400, has the appearance of a racoon, appropriate for the thief that he is.
-Taken from the english manual.
Hands up all those Anime fans, and non anime liking people, that like the bunny girls. Because I know I am not the only one to find these characters just a little on the cute side. Along with pointy eared elven girls (I am looking at you Mail). And maybe the odd cat girl……
So right out of the gate Keio Flying Squadron (which I am gonna shorten to KSF for the duration of the review because it stops the spell checker from burning out) ticks a box in the “like” column for having a bunny girl in it. Then another big box is also ticked in the “like” column because this is a shmup. A genre I tend to enjoy.
Yes KSF is a shmup for the Mega CD. And a good example of not only a shmup but also of what happens when a Mega CD game is done right. And not some god awful quick-time-event driven atrocity, that is all flash with very little bang.
Gameplay in KSF is your standard shmup. In fact it may be considered a more simplistic and “barebone” shmup. Due to a lack of features that were seen in more contemporary titles, such as Gradius. This is not to say there is a lack of any sort of power-up system. Power-ups are collected from certain enemies and 1-up’s do appear after performing small tasks within the levels. These may include destroying all of a certain type of enemy. However the lack of more complex features should not be seen as detrimental to the game. And it actually has a more of a classical shooter feel to it because of this. Even the difficulty has a more laid back and easier feel to it. Meaning this is very approachable for gamers wanting to get into the genre.
The controls on this game feel nice and responsive. Only the three A,B,C buttons and d-pad are needed to play this game. Meaning the Arcade Power Stick is the perfect partner for this game. The controls are easy enough to get to grips with as ‘A’ adjusts Rami’s speed from fast to slow, ‘B’ fires your weapons and ‘C’ fires the Spot Jnr’s. Which is the Kamikaze attack of the option style Spot Jnr’s. Thankfully though they replenish themselves automatically if you don’t fire for a few seconds to a max of 3 Spot Jnr’s. However if you fire before one manages to reappear then you lose it and have to start the cycle again.
Graphically the game manages to showcase the Mega CD and Mega Drive combined power. The graphics are crisp, clear, colourful and well defined. The game zip along at a nice pace and very little slowdown occurs. The only major times I did notice slowdown is when the screen gets really busy, such as in the later levels, and on boss battles. I love the between level screens and they have this wonderful “and in the next episode” feel to them as seen on many TV and anime shows. The only real complaint comes from the attract mode’s full motion video. This, while still looking better than most on the system, is still grainy and small. And I feel the game would have probably suited something like what is seen in the opening of Popful Mail. Yet I can’t really see any other graphical problems apart from this. Which if we’re honest about it is a common thing with most Mega CD games.
Audibly the game again shows the combined power of the Mega CD and Mega Drive. The music is just really nice and fitting to the game. It cheery, upbeat and memorable. Especially the first levels music. The English dub is done very neatly and doesn’t sound too over the top. I do like that fact that they have kept in the original Japanese incidental sounds. It adds a nice little touch and I do feel that if they had tried to dub these then it would have just sounded silly.
So at face value KFS would seem like a very barebones shmup. However scratch at its surface and you will find a very entertaining and well crafted game. True, it may not appeal to hardened shmup fans, due to the lack of things like power-ups. But that is no reason to dismiss this game. And gamers new to the genre will find it a nice introduction with its more laid back difficulty.
The story, settings and characters are all just goofy enough to keep things entertaining and give the game a nice flow. The inclusion of the static “coming up in the next episode” style cut scenes is a nice touch. Along with not dubbing the incidental sounds within the game. Which all adds to the overall charm of the game. The controls feel nice and there is nothing in them that would break the flow of the game. And it all has a fairly reasonable load time considering it’s on an early CD-ROM based system.
So when it comes to giving this game a score I am a little indecisive. On one hand the lack of features more common to other contemporary shmup’s, like Gradius and Thunder Force, can be seen as detrimental to the game. On the other hand the game is just incredibly fun, instantly playable and accessible to anyone. And I would normally look for a game that has a higher fun and playability factor over substance. But the shmup fan inside me does override this slightly. And, unfortunately, demands more of the substance you would expect from games of this genre. Thus forcing me into this state of indecisiveness.
If I were to be put on the spot, with shmup fan mode active, I would give this game a four out of five star rating. But in reality this game would be more like four and a half to five star material, depending on your point of view. So I am going to override the inner shmup fan, and allow the bunny girl fan side of me a chance of happiness, on this one and give this game a four star rating.
Go find a copy and see what you think. I doubt you will be disappointed.
It’s worth noting that some demo CD’s of this game were shipped with full copies of the game on them. Part of the game code was altered so that the game would stop after level 1. However through the use of a level skip code the rest of the game was fully accessible and would play as normal. So as you can imagine these CD’s can be just as valuable as the full price game. They can also be a nice oddity to have in your collections.
Crazy but worth knowing in case you come across one of the demos.
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