Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #13

Hachoo! (1989)
By: Jaleco Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 54,400 (one credit)
Also Available For: None

Bless you, Jaleco, looks like you're coming down with a bug of some sort there. Chortle! Yes I know, I'm very humorous, but the rather odd name given to this arcade-only release is not meant to represent a sneeze - it's actually meant to be a Bruce Lee-style kung-fu cry. You may now have begun to suspect, therefore, that Hachoo! is a game involving unarmed combat of some sort and you would be correct in that assumption, for it is indeed a fighting game; a scrolling one, no less, in the finest traditions of Double Dragon and Final Fight and all of those kicky punchy mostly girlfriend-rescuing escapades. Unlike those, this one is set in ancient China, and the basic back-story reveals, via a series of still images in the attract sequence, the reemergence of some sort of scary (and blue) demon creature. Naturally, you are selected (along with a near-identical twin in two-player mode) to stop this ghastly oaf in his tracks and cast him back into the fiery chasm from whence he came.

There are six stages in total, each of which is split into two or three sections. The first of these begins right outside the dojo in which our hero's master and numerous fellow students apparently cower in fear, unwilling to help out. Don't worry though, ancient Chinese people, your saviour (who for the purposes of this review I'll call Jake) is on the march, but he has a worryingly limited repertoire of moves. There are just two buttons - attack and jump - with the former providing a punch when pressed alone or a kick when used in conjunction with the joystick. Sadly, attacks cannot be performed while jumping, but perhaps making up for this is the only gimmicky type thing the game has to help it stand out - the ability to throw your opponents. Not just from side to side though, you understand, but also directly at the 'camera' if you so desire, leading to numerous humorous close-ups of splatted enemies.

There are only about ten different types of enemy though, and that's including the bosses, some earlier examples of which reappear later as normal enemies, so the novelty wears off pretty quickly. By far the most common type are the fairly generic bald shirtless thugs which could be zombies since they often emerge from beneath the ground! They come in several varieties, usually differentiated by the colour of their trousers, while the other enemies include several elaborately dressed warriors, weird floating guys, lizard-men, and a sole female representative. Whose clothes magically fall away when she gets thrown at the screen, obviously. Despite the lack of variety, though, most of the designs are pretty imaginative and detailed, and the amusing splatty close-ups do give them a bit more character too. The rest of the graphics aren't bad and feature some stages (titled Sky, Cliffside, Descending, Cave, Ascending, and Temple) taking place in some interesting locales.

The first mostly takes place on top of floaty clouds, for example, while another sees you dodging boulders as you are transported down from the mountaintops. In some areas you can knock the enemies over the edge of cliffs and stuff, which is always good fun, and other areas have liquids such as water or lava that you can boot them into in order to accelerate their demise too, but Jake is just as susceptible to these dangers. The audio is pretty good too, especially the music which is even superb on the odd occasion, although the loud, repetitive effects tend to ruin it a little. Something that ruins the game more than that, however, is pretty much everything to do with the fight mechanics. Jake is sluggish to move around and the collision-detection is very iffy too - it sometimes seems random as to whether moves connect or not, and trying to grab an enemy to throw him or her (which, let's face it, is something everyone will be keen to do, to start with at least) is tricky too.

Doing this usually sees you sustain far more damage than the throw will ultimately inflict, mainly since you only fling them at the screen as a final move, but the absence of energy-meters for the enemies means you've no way of knowing when their end is near. All this combined with the pitifully small number of offensive moves and the few types of enemy to use them on, and you'll likely tire of playing Hachoo! quickly. It certainly isn't too surprising that it didn't receive any home ports. It's probably the kind of game where you'll keep adding credits to play through the whole thing just to see everything, then never play it again, except perhaps to show friends how to splat enemies against the screen. It's as if Jaleco thought of the enemy-throwing gimmick first and figured it would be enough to sell the game by itself, and so barely bothered with the rest of it. I guess that's a bit unfair, it's not that terrible, but it's not satisfying either, nor even particularly enjoyable, and it is such a slapdash effort generally it's hard not to be a bit miffed.

RKS Score: 5/10

Gameplay Video: here's a video of the whole game being played by a talented fellow known as 'arronmunroe'. Oh, and don't watch if you want to avoid spoilers!