I've never liked the looks of this PC Engine shoot 'em up, which is based on the legend of the Monkey King. That's because I've always considered it to be the two-dimensional shmup equivalent of too many of today's three-dimensional FPS titles: Brown, dark and drab.
It's almost like Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen's developers decided, "There are too many cheerful and colorful PC Engine shooters. Let's make one that's the complete opposite!"
(It should be noted, by the way, that I also find many of this title's character, or maybe I should say "creature," designs to be the definition of dreadful.)
So, I ignored this HuCard like a pixelated plague. Until I came to the realization that Taito released a ton of surprisingly great games for NEC's adorable little system--such as Don Doko Don, Hana Taka Daka!?, Jigoku Meguri, Mizubaku Daibouken, The New Zealand Story and Parasol Stars--back in the day.
Giving Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen a second chance with that in mind helped a great deal. For starters, once I looked past this game's gloomy graphics (don't be fooled by the screenshot below) and focused instead on its gameplay, I found that it's a pretty great shoot 'em up. More specifically, I discovered that it's both tight (in terms of controls) and tough--two things a shmup needs to offer for me to fall in love with it.
I also discovered that it has some awesome boss fights, which I believe rival those found in Coryoon and PC Denjin (aka Air Zonk) when it comes to beauty and brilliance (thanks in large part to the many layers of parallax scrolling they contain).
Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen's soundtrack is nice, too. Sadly, it's often drowned out by the game's overly loud "pew pew" effects that accompany each and every shot.
That lone misstep--well, if you don't count the dreary aesthetics--isn't nearly enough to get me to continue to ignore this 1992 release, of course. On the contrary, I now regularly find myself playing and enjoying it regularly due to the aspects mentioned above.
Do I still consider it to be a rather unattractive title? Yes, I do. But it no longer means more to me than the rest of what it has to offer any gamer interested in playing a retro shoot 'em up that isn't a total pushover.
See also: Previous 'Second Chances' posts