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Old 12-10-2011, 01:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Giving Evil the Boot with Kickmaster

Just one thing before I begin... that last post was a mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn't my place to make presumptions about Miyamoto's retirement, and frankly, others had done a better job of covering the news anyway. I apologize, and hope you'll forgive my lapse in judgment.

Now onto this installment of Retronauts! Today's selection is Kickmaster, released by Taito for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. The NES was near the end of its lifespan, and Taito was determined to make sure the system went out with a bang, publishing top-class titles like Panic Restaurant and Little Samson. Kickmaster wasn't quite as successful as either of these cult hits, but it's a unique take on a style of gameplay first explored in Konami's Castlevania series.

Put simply, Kickmaster is Castlevania with the iron whip taken out of the equation. When your brother Macren is killed in battle against the undead armies of Belzed, you swear to bring the sinister wizard to justice, using your martial arts skills and the occasional magic spell. You begin with a modest assortment of strikes, but can earn flashier kicks by laying the smackdown on monsters and collecting the items they drop. Three power-ups are thrown into the air when a foe is vanquished, but you'll only have the time to grab two of them, forcing you to make quick decisions and painful sacrifices. Do you take the gem that will raise your experience level and grant you access to the best attacks, or leave it behind and snatch the heart that will fill your dangerously low life bar? You've got two seconds to make up your mind!

Speaking of choices, you'll find yourself wishing the developers of Kickmaster had made smarter ones. Frankly, close-quarters combat doesn't work all that well in side-scrolling platformers like this one. The whip in Castlevania let you keep a safe distance from the hungry creatures roaming Dracula's estate, but in Kickmaster, you'll have to get uncomfortably close to the monsters before you can sink a foot in their skulls... and the scythe-wielding reapers and flitting bats rarely afford you that opportunity. There's also a lack of impact in the fighting, since enemies just burst into tiny clouds of vapor after you've kicked them. You'll never get a chance to send them sailing across the screen or drop them to the floor with a bone-crushing wrestling move, making the battles rather sterile. The combat works on a fundamental level; it's just not very exciting.

If given the choice, you'd probably be better off with Natsume's Shatterhand, created by former Castlevania developers and infused with the speed and style Kickmaster lacks. However, Kickmaster is a fine game in its own right, with strong visuals and a twist on the Castlevania style of gameplay that's far more palatable than 8-Eyes' endless corridors or Ninja Crusaders' fragile heroes.



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Old 12-10-2011, 02:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Giving Evil the Boot with Kickmaster

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