Thursday, June 26, 2014

Second Chances: Hana Tāka Daka!? (PC Engine)

It sometimes amazes me how many PC Engine games I initially ignored due to what I considered sub-par graphics. Jigoku Meguri is one such title. Gokuraku! Chuka Taisen is another, as is Obocchama-kun.

The funny thing is, all of the above-mentioned games have since become favorites.

Some of you may be shocked to hear that I include Taito's Hana Tāka Daka!? from 1991 in this bunch. After all, this horizontal shoot 'em up could hardly be called ugly. Its does take a while to get used to its unique visual stylings, though--or at least that was the case for me.

That's mainly due to the game's rather unappealing protagonist. What can I say, his big eyes, long nose and dangling, geta-hooved feet just don't do it for me--and on top of that, he's positively huge (compared to his surroundings) when it comes to this particular genre.

Speaking of this game's surroundings, I used to find them pretty unappealing, too--mainly due to their chunkiness, for lack of a better word, as well as their garish use of color.

How did I get over these supposed shortcomings? It finally dawned on me that Taito was a top-notch game developer and that maybe I should give some of their less appealing (at first blush, at least) efforts--like this one--a second or even third chance before deciding they weren't worth my time.

Once that was out of the way, I basically fell in love with Hana Tāka Daka!? and its charmingly weird cast of characters, setting and even gameplay (although the latter definitely is the least captivating aspect of this now-pricey HuCard, thanks to its rather pedestrian--although by no means boring or bad--mechanics).

I say "basically" because a few sticking points remain for me, with the most newsworthy being that the game puts up a pretty stiff challenge despite its candy-coated visuals.

That's rarely completely kept me from enjoying a game in the past, though, so I'm not about to let it keep me from enjoying this one. Just don't expect me to publish a post about "beating" Hana Tāka Daka!? anytime soon.

I'm also not the biggest fan of the way the game forces players to choose between having inadequate firepower and a small hitbox (i.e., a tiny protagonist-slash-"ship") and having ample firepower and a gigantic hitbox. This wouldn't be much of a problem if Hana Tāka Daka!? were a pushover, of course, but it's not, so a lack of firepower is sure to be an issue for those who aren't shmup gods or goddesses.

Aside from this colorful side-scroller's handful of negatives, there are a good number of positives associated with it too, such as its pleasantly discordant soundtrack and its surprisingly complex level design.

To those of you who've also spent a bit of time with this title: do you agree with the above, or do you have a different opinion Taito's effort here?

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts


Kaze said...

This game looks adorable! I confess I've never heard of it before your post, but I'm a fan of anything related to Japanese folklore! Also, I think the Tengu main character is super cute too! XD

Justin Difazzio said...

Two words: Tanooki balls. Whoa. said...

Yeah, now that I've come around on the game, Marty, I definitely think it's adorable. I still don't like it when the protagonist/ship is at its largest, though--it's just too big! Oh, well, I'll stop whining :) said...

Yep. Kind of funny that they included them even here!

RetroKingSimon said...

I like this visual style a lot :) It's actually on my 'to review' list for the Engine. Then again, so are about 50 other games :( said...

Hey there, Simon! I look forward to hearing what you have to say about this one when you finally get around to reviewing it. Like you said, it has a nice visual style, but will you like the gameplay, too? I hope so!

Xinen said...

This is a really good idea for an article/section. If only the larger sites could offer some decent content. But then again that's why I love sites like this, the genuine passion from real gamers. My apologies for revealing my newfound discovery of your blog.
Closer to the topic at hand, I've really begun to come around to the PC Engine/Turbo GFX systems. I'd love to get one/them but I fear the cost would be staggering, so I resort to the JPN PSN and and Wii. Nice selection but severely limited. I've been going through Ys Books I & II, so good. said...

Hey there, Xinen! Please don't apologize for only just discovering my blog. It's not like it's some world-renowned site or anything of the sort. Plus, I'd hope new people are finding out about it all the time--otherwise I'm not doing a very good job of getting the word out about it :)

Anyway, I'm so glad to hear you like this post in particular and this "Second Chances" idea/section/column in general. I started writing these posts some time ago because this is something that's happened to me quite often over the years--a game rubs me the wrong way at first, for whatever reason, but after giving it a second or third chance I realize it's not such a bad game after all--and I figured the same is true of lots of other people, too.

So, you may want to check out some of the other ones I published in the past--a number of which focus on PC Engine games, if memory serves.

As for your budding interest in the PCE/TG16 and their respective games libraries: the way you're handling things at the moment seems like a good idea to me. One thing you may want to do in the future, especially if you decide to jump into buying actual PCE hardware and software, is to first give games you're curious about a try via emulation. Should they pass muster (or not) in that regard, you'll be much more able and prepared to decide if they're worth spending your hard-earned cash on (or not).