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Legend of Hero Tonma

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Released: 1991

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: PC Eng/Turbografx-16

Publisher: Irem

Developer: Irem

Submitted by: Lee Tatlock

Following Ghouls and Ghosts was never going to be an easy job, but the humble Hero Tonma attempts to do just that – in his own special way. Now I’m not a massive G&G fan, I dig the whole spooky element a lot, and the visuals did it for me, but I just don’t find Arthur engaging enough as a hero or the gameplay ‘fun’ enough to keep me heading on back for one more jab. Understandably I’m probably in the minority here but we all have our faves and G&G ain’t one of mine. However for all its aping of that more popular title I find The Legend of Hero Tonma an infinitely more enjoyable experience, read on to find out why…

First off Tonma mixes up a whole batch of shmup cookies and flings them into the mix with great panache. Sure you’re controlling a platform hoping Hero of yore and fantasy but his power up system and speed are totally indicative of the shmup genre. Power-ups build with ferocity until you feel invincible and baddies are just bouncing off you like feeble insects. That is until you get too cocky and a projectile clouts you in the pink bits – then you’re left deflated with your boring single stream of fire power. This whole element gives the game a frantic pace (and an almost Contra/Probotector style feel) that requires a hero of greater athletic ability that poor old Arthur – Which brings me onto my second point nicely.

For what Tonma lacks in stature (He stands about as tall as my Nan who has taken on hobbit like proportions in her twilight years) he sure as heck makes up for in speed and springiness. Jumping to the highest branch of a tree – no problem, bombing it across a decrepit, crumbling bridge while dodging and attacking enemies – done & done! But the truly great thing about Tonma’s movement and prowess is he never feels out of control. Many a platform character, while trying to reach ‘arcade hit’ status just forgot to be controllable and skidded around like excited, peeing, puppies, and ultimately left you with that jelly thumbed gamers conundrum of ‘Have I landed that jump right?!’ which makes you do another three terrified and ill timed jumps in quick succession which ultimately drop you down a pit of lobsters…or whatever – none of this nonsense with the tiny T, no siree.

So what’s next, well, unfortunately we have to concentrate on problem areas and one big old clincher for a lot of people will be the games longevity. This game is short, shorter than Tonma himself, shorter than your first time in the sack with a real girly, shorter even than my patience with street canvassers  ‘No I don’t want to answer your stupid fecking questionnaire I just want to go to the bank you invasive little baboon!!!’ Ahem, anyhoo…it’s short leaving you with only speed run bragging rights (which ain’t much) once you’ve worked out some the more trying enemy patterns.

Next is the graphics – everything in the foreground is truly great: it’s bright, chunky, well realised characters all the way but this is often let down by blue skies, nothing but blue, not a cloud, bat or heavenly body, a blank canvas –  at best – you might get a half baked gradient effect but it just isn’t enough. Like I said though it’s not a complete let down by any means at all – the characters and foreground detail is rich and vibrant and animated well, it’s just that it lacks that essential atmosphere that a good old rolling storm or a few misty mountains can add.

So bad points over let’s concentrate on the rest of the mix, namely the music. It’s a decent little bunch of tunes that fits the action nicely. Admittedly the first few notes reek of G&G (and they’re also on a rather familiar map screen) but then it’s into its own with a few bouncy little ditties to carry you along smoothly. The sound effects are decent but not massively prevalent, but enough to satisfy your toil with the odd blast and magical sounding projectile effects.

All in all I think you can tell I fell for LOHT’s charms. It’s smooth, short but definitely sweet and pushes all the right buttons for a platform freak like me. I suggest you check it out however you can and as it now features on Wii’s Virtual Console it’s easier to try out than ever, and comes at a reasonable 600 points, score! Colourful, fast paced and ultimately fun what more could you ask for? Perhaps a nice cup of tea and a sandwhich.

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