Note 1: This game was played on a Turbografx-16 console that was modded to output in component video. It was connected to a 32-inch HD tv that can output in 240p. The game, Makai Hakkenden Shada, is an English-translated reproduction Turbochip made for play on the U.S. Turbografx-16 console. The game was originally only released for the Japanese PC Engine (the name of the TG-16 in Japan) in 1989, but recently, some brilliant translators made it playable in English! Thank you, translators!!! Please keep translating these games!! Your work is appreciated!
Note 2: This will not be a proper review, at least as of the first publishing – I have not yet completed this game, but I wanted to go ahead and give a bit of an overview of this obscure game. There are a couple of other websites that delve into the history of the game and its source material (it’s evidently based on a classic, centuries-old novel that is well known in Japan). This overview specifically focuses on general elements of the game itself. Also, if you’re familiar with Ys Books I & II, a much more well-known Turbografx-CD game, Makai Hakkenden Shada shares many similarities with it. This overview, however, will not compare the two, but rather provide information for this particular game, Makai Hakkenden Shada.
Story: (*This is from what I’ve been able to compile in the few other places on the Internet that have helpful information, in English, on this game) Shin, your character in the game, is one of 8 mighty samurai warriors. You must find your other 7 samurai brothers, and together, fight and seal away an evil being known as Tamazusa. In order to accomplish this, you’ll need to find the 8 shada, or jewels, that have the power to banish Tamazusa.
Gameplay: Shada is an action-RPG style game. Your character, Shin, interacts with characters in villages and battles enemies in an overworld and within dungeons. In villages, simply walking into NPCs that are outside of buildings causes you to talk to them (although sometimes you literally have to run over them a time or two to generate the dialogue box). When you enter into open-door buildings, you’ll automatically have an interaction with the resident or shopkeeper.
In the overworld, you’ll fight monsters in an unusual fashion – by walking into them! Your character does buy weapons, which he carries, but you do not need to press a button to attack an enemy. You simply walk right into it, and depending on the angle you hit it, you’ll do a predetermined amount of damage. Button II causes Shin to ‘search.’ If you are standing near a sign, you’ll read it; if you’re searching for an item, and you ‘search’ in the right place, you’ll find it. For example, early in the game, if you look in the woods between a suspect looking tree formation, you’ll find a hoe, which can be given to a village resident in exchange for a cash reward. Standing still will make your health bar slowly replenish. Using Button I will fire a ‘magic attack’ once you acquire and equip particular Scrolls, some of which are offensive attacks. These attacks reduce your health slightly with each use, but the trade-off is that that they’re typically more powerful than your ‘walk into the enemy’ attack, and you can attack from a distance.
Leveling Up: To level up Shin, you simply have to keep fighting enemies. There are three ‘bars’ on the bottom of the screen. The top bar is your ‘experience bar.’ As you defeat enemies, it slowly lengthens. When it fills completely, you’ll level up, increasing Shin’s defense and attack power. However, you can’t always make the experience bar increase – you can’t just level all the way up to the highest point at the beginning of the game. Most ‘areas’ only allow you level up a time or two until you advance the story or move to the next area. However, it’s still beneficial to keep fighting enemies, even if you can’t level up anymore in a particular area, because every enemy you defeat adds to your money, which you’ll need a lot of in order to buy the strongest weapons and armor in villages.
Items: Throughout Shada, you’ll find items in dungeons or the overworld, or you’ll be given them by various characters. For example, in the first dungeon (which I’m almost sure is called the Devil’s Nest from what one character mentioned), you’ll find various Keys to open doors. You have an item inventory screen, and you’ll often have several items at once, and some you’ll have to wrack your brain to figure out how and when to use them.
Armor and Weapons: Players’ Tip – Grind gold early and often. You’ll need to buy body armor, helmets, and swords – they’re not cheap. Each new village offers upgrades to your current equipped items, although sometimes characters will just give you more powerful armor or swords.
Bosses: I’ve only fought one boss so far, in the Devil’s Nest. I was leveled up as high as I could be, had all the best armor and weapons, and yet I still had to fight him several times before I won. I’m not sure if all bosses are like this one, but you had to hit him in a very specific part of his head(s), and by running over him constantly, sometimes I’d connect, and sometimes he’d connect and deplete my life bar quickly. Also, I was an unable to use my Scroll attacks during this boss fight, which was surprising and unwelcome. This is where saving constantly comes in handy, because if you die, you can start back where you last saved, or in this case, right before the boss fight.
Passwords: Makai Hakkenden Shada does allow saving – through passwords. It’s a bit confusing, and one might think you could save to a Turbobooster-Plus (battery backup device), because the words ‘Save’ and ‘Load’ are on the password screen. Unfortunately, selecting ‘Save’ simply gives you the password, and ‘Load’ starts the game from your last point after you enter the password. However, the password save system does work great! While the password is long (on par with War of the Dead – see my review!), it mostly only contains capital and lower case letters, and it can be put it in approximately 2 minutes, in my experience. Not nearly as painful as War of the Dead.
Shortcomings in this game: Having not yet completed this game, I’ve had a great time with it, for the most part. However, there are a few things, like with most games, that are, to some extent, frustrating. Although I’ve read it elsewhere that fighting is a frustrating experience, and while the ‘run into them’ strategy does takes some getting used to, I’ve found it works extremely well and is actually quite fun. My main gripe is with interactions in the villages – it stinks having to ‘touch’ an NPC (who is often pacing around) to get them to talk to you (instead of pressing a button like in most RPGs). Too many times, I’ve found myself having to repeatedly walk over these NPCs to get them to talk to me, and then I get ‘stuck’ and have to read their dialogue box multiple times as I slowly walk away from them; it’s a definite flaw that should have been fixed when this game was made.
Also, it’s sometimes difficult in Shada to figure out just what the heck to do next. Now, this isn’t a flaw, just a frustration – which used to be the best part of gaming! I beat Zelda II after playing off and on for over a year (when I was under 10) without the Internet and it’s gaming FAQs (they weren’t close to existing) or any outside help whatsoever, and I have to remind myself of that sometimes. Shada sometimes gives you clues of what to do next, but it’s up to you to figure it out, and it’s not always easy – I’m currently stuck in the “DON’T LET THE FIRE BURN’ maze, and the calvary’s not coming – I can’t find one single thing on the Internet to help me figure it out (and I’m honestly ashamed for having looked for help) – just luck, instinct, and determination will help. It’s just like the good ol’ days before the Internet made us weak and dependent on someone else to have figured out games for us. Not this time, though!
I hope the pseudo overview/review is useful to someone!