Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Import: Fiend Hunter

In this installment, we take a look at an action/platform game that's on the right side of playability for the Japanese-impaired -- Right Stuff Corp.'s Fiend Hunter, released in 1993 for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM format.

The game features fully-voiced animated intermissions that are entirely in Japanese.  So I don't really know much about what's going on in the story, but that rarely stops me from trying to forge ahead, and in this case it's not really that much of an issue.  Here's what I have managed to glean...

The hero's name is Feed Sluster, which I know primarily because it's similar to the title, and appears on the in-game menus:

I suspect the hero's unusual surname, more suited to a fry cook than a sabre-wielding adventurer, is meant to be read in English as "Thruster."  I draw this tentative conclusion based on the game's opening scene, wherein our hero bids good morning to his lovely hostess of the previous night:

Feed has magical abilities referred to as Psycho Powers, and is accompanied by a flaming spirit sidekick with sweet doe-eyes that tend to undermine the creature's official billing as Exy the Photon Fiend:

Exy stays in Feed's pocket while he's making his initial rounds in a world based on the old American West, conversing in Japanese and presumably discovering something useful about his pending quest:

The opening segments feature some dramatic music and animation, with a few digitized backgrounds that lend the environment a suitably epic feel.


But eventually the player gets to take over, as Feed steps out of town and into Castlevania/El Viento-style adventuring territory:

Feed controls a bit like the Prince of Persia, though not nearly as fluidly.  The PC Engine's limited controller means a lot of moves and commands require combination D-pad and button presses, and it's sometimes hard to get the desired action to register.  Falls from a great height are fatal, but the levels are generally free of routine enemies, leaving our heroes free to navigate the treacherous landscape.  Occasional locked doors require Feed to track down a key, with narrow passages, hidden pathways, and fatal drops to keep things interesting. 

When enemies do appear, they are fairly powerful and difficult to dispatch, but basic controls are sufficient in battle, with none of the ambiguity of the platforming sections.  So the game plays like a series of boss battles broken up by moderate platforming challenges.  One of the early enemies is this topless harpy:

This maraca-wielding wasp demon is fairly difficult to deal with until you work out his pattern:

The action is well-done, if a little rough around the edges, and the CD-ROM format is exploited intelligently.  The game uses chiptunes to support the platforming action, perhaps to allow for spooling of map and graphic data in from CD, and switches to redbook audio for the more dramatic boss confrontation themes.  The game benefits from graphical variety and some nice use of color-cycling in the backgrounds.

Fiend Hunter has RPG elements as well -- as Feed destroys major enemies, he collects crystals that give him power-up points, to be allocated at the player's discretion across a range of abilities.

There are potions and special items available in shops and occasionally in the wild, with handy icons helping to break down any serious language barriers:

Eventually, the enemy forces wear Feed Sluster down, and he falls on his face in Super-Deformed style as his questionably angelic spirit wings skyward:

Fiend Hunter isn't a bad game, and plays well enough in English if you don't mind guessing at the plot; my understanding is that Mr. Sluster is out to save the Western world from demonic forces, which seems a commendable goal.  One tip -- the Japanese conversations are unskippable and can't be accelerated, so if you don't want to wade through the lengthy fully-voiced cutscenes, visit the title screen's options menu and turn them off.  Turning off both options makes the game more of a straight-on action title, skipping the opening story section altogether.

This is a worthy one, and not too expensive if you shop around.  It may be available for purchase at this affiliate link.

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