“It’s the final battle. A warlord in the past planned to conquer the world by brutal attack. Now, 400 years later, this “Demon Castle” suddenly appeared in the sky above Washington D.C. The prophecy came true! Only two samurai warriors with the special weapon can stop the revival of this ghost!”
I’ve always been a huge fan of beat ’em ups. I’ve played all the classics – Double Dragon, River City Ransom, the Streets Of Rage series, The Simpsons (that was a great one!). This game, however, is one of (if not THE) greatest beat ’em ups of all time! A game that is truly for the connoisseurs of the genre.
Sengoku (a/k/a Sengoku Densho, which translates to “Legacy Of The Warring States”) Was developed and released to the arcades by classic game developer SNK on February 12, 1991. For the record, SNK had countless classic arcade releases throughout the 90s. There’s the Metal Slug series, Fatal Fury and all of their classic fighting games, the sports titles, the puzzle games… almost everything they’ve ever released is golden! This game is no different.
The basic premise is, an ancient, evil Japanese warlord vowed revenge on the world long ago when he was defeated in battle. Now, it’s the 1990s and he’s coming for revenge! Only two men can stop him; a ninja and a cowboy. That’s one hell of a team. Sort of like if Chuck Norris somehow divided himself into two people, each representing one of his two greatest personas – a ninja and a cowboy.
Everything about this game makes it stand out. It has so much more detail and small elements of gameplay that most games of the genre lack. For example, the levels are much more varied. You’re not just walking down an alleyway, beating up the same 4 different guys countless amounts of times. Sengoku’s levels bounce back and forth (sometimes multiple times per level) between 1990s Washington DC and some sort of “samurai spirit realm”. Enemies don’t always come at you from the left or right; sometimes they come charging towards you from the background or descend from the sky. Another small little detail is sometimes when you’re fighting an enemy who’s using a sword, you can roundhouse kick the sword in half so they have to throw it down and begin to fight you in pure, hand to hand combat.
Another interesting feature is being able to transform your character into different forms. As you play through the game, you rescue several spirits who can then “possess” you and allow you to transform into things like a wolf or an ancient samurai warrior. There are also lots of power-ups scattered throughout the game in the form of colored orbs that are dropped by enemies. Different colored orbs give you different types of swords or magic attacks for a limited amount of time. With the combination of different forms, weapons, and power-ups; there are endless ways to defeat your foes. It never gets old!
The enemies are also extremely varied. Like I mentioned before, you’re not just going down an alleyway beating up the same 4 characters, repeatedly, countless amounts of times. Sengoku’s enemies include your standard street thugs but also include things like mutant turtles, kabuki warriors, ninjas, and countless different samurai ghosts and demons. The boss characters at the end of each level are also very well done. They’re not frustratingly hard and they all have an interesting design. Seriously, between some of the insane enemies and level design, this game seems surreal and “trippy” at some points. That’s why you gotta love it!
One last positive; Sengoku is also much longer than most beat ’em ups. It takes about an hour or so to play through. That might not sound like much but I know plenty of beat ’em ups you can play through in 20 minutes or so. That makes this game 2 or 3 times bigger than most in the genre. That’s saying a lot.
I had a lot of fun reviewing this one. It’s truly a “must play” and a classic. Nowadays, you can purchase Sengoku on most current-gen consoles through Hamster’s ACA series for about 8 bucks or so. Fair price for a classic game! Everyone should check it out.
*Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World. http://www.canadianbulldogsworld.com