Review by SailorMook
"She's got a nice game, too."
Ah middle school. When I was there, Fox Kids was still on the air, Pokemon was still fresh, and Harry Potter had yet to take over the world of children's literature. When I think back to those days, one of my fondest memories was time spent on my...Super Nintendo.
It was a good ways into the 32/64 bit generation, the cube/PS2/xbox era was on the not-so-distant horizon, and my older cousin had introduced me to a wonderful world of old school gaming. I had loads of fun playing games I hadn't played since I had a babysitter, like MegaMan X and Super Mario World, as well as some games I'd never heard of until then, like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana.
I also got the chance to play some pretty obscure games, and of these little-known nuggets of "forgotteness", the one that left the biggest impression on me was GS Mikami. It's a pretty standard beat-em-up based on some anime I've never heard of, but it's incredibly fun.
[/long winded nostalgic rant]
If you're like me you probably don't understand a word of the Japanese language, so you probably won't be playing this for the story. But from what I gathered playing this game, it seems similar to early episodes of Yu Yu Hakusho, with this Mikami girl going out and beating up on ghosts and recovering important relics. She's got a goofy friend and a blue-haired specter following her around, too. Whatevs.
Anyway, you travel through a variety of levels beating up a bizarre cast of enemies to collect some mystic gems. Upon collecting them, a statue of some woman (I assume the item used to drive the plot of the game) slowly gains more and more armor. (And I assume that's the ultimate goal, to replace all the gems on the statute.)
Now the graphics. I've never been one to be able to gauge the graphical quality of a game unless another game was sitting right next to it so I could compare them. Not to mention I was just a wee lad during the 16-bit generation, so telling what constitutes good graphics from that era is even harder for me. But they look nice.
The sprites have a good amount of detail, everything is made up of a variety of colors that look both vibrant and appropriate for the level theme. All the enemies and obstacles stand out from the background pretty clearly, so I'm never surprised when I suddenly lose my last heart and die.
There's also a few nifty touches. Mikami is quite the trendy young ghost hunting woman, as every level she'll be sporting a fashionable new color of her lovely dress. And quite a few enemies make some amusing expressions right before they die. (I get an immense amount of satisfaction from bringing down witches on the broomstick level.)
One more thing I really enjoyed was the large variety in enemies. Every level has it's own set of them, with very few enemies making recurring appearances later in the game. A far cry from the palette-swapped goons seen in most games of this genre. Though perhaps the strictly left-right and jump gameplay (opposed to the much more freely moving style of most other beat-em-ups) allowed the designers to be more creative. Either way, it's an awesome trait for the game to have.
The music isn't going to win any awards, but it's got a nice sound to it. It's clear and sets the mood for the location quite nicely. However, none of it really stands out. It sounds nice when you're playing through a level, but when you're finished playing the game very little of it's soundtrack will probably still be in your head.
The sound effects are your standard hits and cries. Nothing to write home about, but they don't hinder the enjoyment either.
Now the gameplay, the deal maker/breaker for most, if not all video games. Most levels are your basic side scrolling beat-em-up fare. It's on a strictly 2D plane, however, unlike most beat-em-ups that were in an almost isometric view. There's some light platforming involved, but nothing that'll be really demanding of you. You traverse the stage, laying the smackdown on a number of ghouls and monsters with your trusty baton/sword-looking thing. Your basic attacks are pretty limited. You have a standing attack, a crouching attack, a downwards slashing move, and the ability to do a standing attack or downwards slashing attack while jumping.
A gimmick throughout the game are small platforms with candles and a paper seal attached to it, where you need to perform an upwards attack to latch on, then press jump to flip over and on top of the platform. This will (obviously) allow you to reach parts of the stage you otherwise could not.
There are some power-ups scattered throughout the level, and they'll be handy if you can hold on to em till the boss fight. (one hit and they're gone). They mostly just give you a projectile to fire, and come in a variety of ranges.
You also can collect some items that let you perform a screen-clearing attack. The items needed to perform this attack don't show up that often, though there won't be many places you'll desperately need it. They don't seem to do any damage to bosses, as their main function seems to simply suck up all the lesser baddies and stop time for a negligible amount of...time.
Two levels take a slightly different route. You're still beating up baddies with your baton/sword thing, but on an auto-scrolling vehicle level. (If you can call them that.) One level has you riding a giant cat across rooftops, and the other has you on a broomstick and plays very much like a shmup. (except for the noticeable lack of shooting most of the time)
But like any beat-em-up, there was one move that was pretty much completely broken and took priority over most anything else the player had in their standard arsenal. In Ninja Turtles 2 on the NES, it was the A+B move which could kill just about any foot soldier in one swoop; in Golden Axe, it was arguably the running jump kick, which was for the most part unblockable and created a large space between you and a troublesome enemy; and in GS Mikami it's the simple downwards sweep of her baton/sword thing. Hold up and press attack and you can hit any enemy coming in front of you that can hurt you. In the air, towards your center, even on the ground. There's really no reason not to spam the mess out of this attack, save for one of the later levels which has about two enemy types that are normally just barely out of reach of it.
The bosses are simple, but get too comfortable and you'll get curbstomped. Luckily this game makes use of a convention I don't remember seeing too much in 16 bit games, the "unlimited continues" luxury. There's even a password screen to skip to any level. The game is very lenient, though why it even bothers with a lives system baffles me, as there seems to be no penalty for losing all of your lives except starting at the beginning of the level instead of a checkpoint. Considering how short the levels are, it's not that big of a deal.
In closing, it's a decent game. Very fun and nice to look at, the soundtrack is pretty good and won't grate on your nerves anytime soon, and it controls pretty smoothly. The levels are nice and varied, starting you on a simple train and moving on to town rooftops, forests, industrial parks with a randomly placed Ferris Wheel, and some crazy dream-like stage. There's 7 of them, and aren't terribly long. The game could take a new player about an hour to an hour and a half to complete.
If you have the means and resources to play this game, I highly recommend you give it a chance. Even if you're not a fan of this particular anime or anime in general, it's a fun game. If you are a fan of GS Mikami, then that's all the more reason to look into it.
and now it's time for the lazy numbers:
A lot of the dialog is lost on me as I don't know Japanese, but the story seems to be your basic "collect so many such and such and destroy the evil force(s) of ______". And for a beat-em-up on the Super Nintendo it's really not that bad.
6/10 (with a dash of salt)
They look pretty, nice varied environments and enemies, they never get dull. There's a good use of colors that really brings things to life. Unfortunately there are parts of the levels that are pretty barren in terms of content, and won't be as impressive. Still, I say they deserve a solid
Basic sound effects, the music sounds good and compliments the levels nicely. Probably won't remember much of it though after you finish a level.
Controls well, and a variety of enemies and obstacles keeps things fresh for the short time you'll be playing. A bit on the easy side, but a good time to be had regardless.
Overall: 8/10 (not an average...duh)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/09
Game Release: GS Mikami: Joreishi wa Nice Body (JP, 09/23/93)
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