Format reviewed: Sega Master System
Sega’s Eastern horror platformer might not be the most original game of all time, borrowing heavily from Castlevania, but it’s a favourite of Master System owners. How many of these great moments do you recall?
Nobody’s Perfect, So Why Practice?
“Thou must practice here,” says the old master. In a game like Kenseiden we’re fine with the prospect of a little practice – after the tough opening stages, some respite seems welcome. However, this is no simple workout. Kenseiden’s training stages demand incredible precision from players, as only a single hit will end your session and cause a small loss of life. Considering the barrage of arrows that appears from both sides of the screen and the tricky timing required to dodge spear traps, that’s a harsh failure condition.
Of course, you’re not taking this risk for no reward – successfully clearing one of these practice stages can bring massive benefits. In a game where health refills are scarce and extra lives rarer still, it’s well worth exchanging a little health for the possibility of an extended health bar or a talisman that reduces enemy damage. Quite frankly though, those are fringe benefits – the truth is that managing to beat one of Kenseiden’s training stages will make you feel like you actually possess a samurai’s skill!
Journey To The East
Kenseiden’s non-linear structure allows players to make their way across the 16 provinces of ancient Japan as they see fit, with a map screen appearing after each stage to offer a choice of route. Very few stages are actually mandatory to play – it’s your job to decide which upgrades are worth the risk of obtaining before you fight the final boss.
Thanks to its distinctly Japanese setting, Kenseiden features many monsters that will be unfamiliar to Western audiences. Spiders, crows and skeletons are fairly run of the mill horror beasts but before long you’ll be confronted with truly bizarre enemies, including fire-throwing demons, chain-flinging apparitions and our favourite – a lizard with a woman’s head for a tail.
Lord Of The Sword
While Kenseiden does reward practice, it’s an utterly brutal game and you’re constantly under attack from enemies. It’s vital to learn how best to utilise your sword as a result – being able to hold it out while crouching is helpful, but powerful attacks gained from bosses such as this Helmet Splitting Sword technique are the ones that really prove useful.
Benkei, the club-wielding warlock, is an absolute nightmare of a boss. He only seems to be vulnerable during specific frames of his walking animation, and can retaliate with an attack which drains a huge chunk of your health. The best approach is to swing your sword and immediately run – leading to that sweet moment of relief when you finally best him.