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Huang Di

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Released: 1990

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: NES/Famicom

Publisher: Asder

Developer: Asder

Submitted by: Darran Jones

Throughout its life the Famicom remained buoyant on an ocean of mostly identikit platformers, the generic nature of many being painfully apparent today. Cutting through these, like shiny glass through a slimy eyeball, is Huang Di. The fact that it’s an unlicensed game from Taiwan based company Asder makes it even more special; most unlicensed games are dreadful.

As fresh to play now as it was years ago, Huang Di stays relevant thanks to several clever ideas. Firstly, you can fly anywhere, anytime, indefinitely! Not that this makes the game easy, since each level has clever enemy and platform positioning. And what levels they are, with their vibrantly detailed and animated backgrounds! One moment you’re battling along a river, before flying above a burning village where headless undead warriors throw severed limbs at you. After a quick jaunt underground you’re soon navigating a bamboo forest through the air, before fighting a wildcat under cover of moonlight, and then traversing a pulsating jungle of fungi.

The enemies are all based on recognisable Asian myths and legends, and defeating the demonic bosses rewards you with some particularly gory cutscenes. To dispatch them you have both a projectile-firing katana and several sorcerers’ spells, all of which activate by holding aloft said sword and summoning down lightning. There is tremendous satisfaction to be had from correctly navigating a maze, reaching a devil spider’s web-covered lair, and then slaying the unholy beast with your blade. The distinct oriental settings, themes, enemies and exceptionally catchy music, all make Huang Di reminiscent of such films as A Chinese Ghost Story, and other Asian fighting fantasy epics.

It may be rough around the edges (collision detection isn’t perfect and it’s damned tough), but even today Huang Di still has great zest. It’s a pity then that due to being unlicensed, finding a copy in the wild will be very difficult. Even if you can’t visit Beijing for the afternoon, we’re sure you’ll find other ways to play it!