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Old 01-13-2012, 01:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Slicing and Dicing with the Ultra Sexy Samurai, Rising Zan!

We're going to leave the 80s and early 90s behind for this installment of Retronauts and talk about a game that was released just shy of 2000, near the end of the original Playstation's life. ASCII Entertainment made a bold return to the US video game market as Agetec, and planned to take America by surprise with an assortment of high-quality, refreshingly original titles. Rising Zan: Samurai Gunman was the headliner, a fast-paced, cinematic action title starring a cowboy who takes up the katana after being ambushed by Japanese bandits.

I could be totally off-base here (and if so, I'm sure my readers will tell me as much), but Rising Zan strikes me as an ancestor to the third-person beat 'em ups released for the Playstation 2 years later. Like in Capcom's long-running Devil May Cry series, Zan is armed with a gun and a sword, letting him slowly chip away at enemies from a distance or close in for a risky but devastating finishing blow. Instead of an extendable arm, Zan is given "hustle time," which shifts the ultra sexy samurai into overdrive and lets him sweep a room full of foes clean in seconds. This burst of adrenaline doesn't last long and takes forever to charge, but it's nevertheless handy for cutting the game's intimidating bosses down to size.

I'd also wager that Rising Zan was an influence in the bewildering humor that players found so endearing in God Hand. The game's jarring juxtaposition of East and West, along with its unrelenting anachronism, result in situations that wouldn't make sense anywhere, at any time. One scene forces Zan to rescue the town's clock tower from a marching coffin armed with explosives. As he chases after the black box, which squeals "Smash it!" with every step, Zan is swarmed by hostile scarecrows and Japanese good luck charms. Later scenes reunite Zan with his way-too-underdressed for the time period love interest and challenge him to outwit robots with rechargeable batteries and ninja-powered flamethrower treadmills. If you like your games weird, welcome to paradise!

The only issue with Rising Zan is that it, like many PSOne games, hasn't aged gracefully. The combat that's smooth and flowing in Devil May Cry is frustratingly constipated here, and stage designs are kept simple to accommodate the hardware's limitations. The graphics are dark and grungy too, which fits the dusty western setting but also leaves you wondering what the developers could have done on today's high-octane systems. Unlike many of the games reviewed in Retronauts, time was not on Rising Zan's side, but you still have to appreciate the foundation it laid for 21st century action titles.



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Old 01-13-2012, 02:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Slicing and Dicing with the Ultra Sexy Samurai, Rising Zan!

Doesn't look so sexy to me.

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  Agreed.
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Old 01-13-2012, 06:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Slicing and Dicing with the Ultra Sexy Samurai, Rising Zan!

I still need to play this, I've been meaning to for a while.
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