I wrote this this January. Somehow I thought I’d posted it here, but somehow I hadn’t. Problem corrected! I made some minor tweaks and improvements to the article, but little was changed; it is fairly recent. I covered this game in short in the Turbo CD Game Opinion Summaries list, but this review is much longer and more thorough. Also it came after finishing the game, something I did between writing the two.
- Title: Hihou Densetsu: Chris no Bouken [Legendary Treasure: Chris’s Adventure would probably be the English translation, if it had an official one]
- Platform: TurboGrafx-CD [PC Engine CD]
- Standard CD title, not Super CD or Arcade CD.
- Developer: Arc Co. Ltd. [now known as Arc System Works]
- Publisher: Pack-in Video
- Released: 12/13/1991 (Japan-only release)
- Review written January 2014, and posted here September 30, 2014.
Hihou Densetsu: Chris no Bouken is a decent 2d platformer for the Turbo CD. The games’ title in English would probably be Legendary Treasure: Chris’s Adventure, though though there is no official English title; all in-game and manual title and character name text is in Japanese. The game is a fairly average, but decent (at times) platformer from Arc Co. Ltd, now known as Arc System Works. A somewhat obscure but not expensive game, this is one of a few Turbo CD games by Arc; I have three, including this, Minesweeper (yes, a port of the Microsoft PC game), and the super-easy racing game Road Spirits. Anyway, in Hihou Densetsu, you play as Chris Steiner, a girl who is looking for her father, an archaeologist. Her father went missing in the Americas somewhere while searching for the ancient legendary treasure of the Indio (native) people of Latin America somewhere. Naturally, ancient aliens and Atlantis end up being involved. Of course. Also, sadly, there’s plenty of incidental racism in this game, as is usual in such stories — the Indio, if they are indeed alive, are just villains and never appear in any cutscenes past the backstory bit at the beginning of the intro, unless you count the two Atlanteans, but they really are different. The story is confusing and unfinished, but the gameplay was decent enough to keep me going. This game has some bad, probably unfinished elements, but I enjoy it overall despite them.
This webpage has a great summary of the game: http://www.chrismcovell.com/games_illustrated/arc-hihou_densetsu.html The page has a nice summary of the game, but despite its flaws I did enjoy it… though that is hard sometimes because of how frustrating it is. Hihou Densetsu isn’t all that long of a game, but they try to make up for that by making the game hard and annoying. There are some tough jumps, tight time limits, and annoying enemy placements in this game. It’s doable though, with effort. You really need to memorize everything in order to get through. I covered this game in my TCD “Game Opinion Summaries” thread, but this writeup is new, since I’ve beaten the game now and have more to say. Hihou Densetsu is a memorization-focused platformer with a confusing story. On that note, if anyone knows Japanese and can watch the LP and tell me if knowing Japanese would make the story make any more sense, that would be much appreciated.
Hihou Densetsu is broken up into eight levels, probably the most common number in videogames. Each level has two stages, with a boss at the end of the second stage of each level. You have a strict timer in this game, so you must keep moving if you want to beat each stage without running out of time and dying; I’ve died from time over within sight of the end of a level more than a few times. I like the “day” theme the timer uses, though — you have a set number of “days” to finish each level, and there’s a graphic in the bottom right showing the day and time. These days are a lot less than a day long, but still it’s a somewhat clever way to make a timer more interesting looking. If you die you start from the beginning of the stage you’re on. Enemies and traps always appear from the same places, so yes, memorization is what you do here: keep playing until you’ve memorized the level layouts and boss patterns, then you can win. This isn’t the hardest game, but it’s a reasonable challenge at times. Sometimes you get sent back to the main menu and have to restart the level from stage 1, though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it has something to do with if you got enough coin pickups? I’m not sure. You cannot save your progress, which is the worst thing about this game, gameplay-wise. Seriously, one block to save that level-select menu as you unlock stages, that’s all I’m asking for… having to play it all in one sitting, or without turning the system off, is annoying.
The second most annoying thing is the weapon powerup system. Now, there are several kinds of pickups in this game, all of which drop from either enemies or the pillars which come out of the ground at certain points and may have items in them. All items are random drops, and none are in preplanned locations. Those pillars often drop nothing, for instance, or maybe something you don’t need. They can drop those coins I mentioned earlier, hearts to refill one of your five hit points, weapon powerup orbs, or nothing. This design decision was a big mistake! Chris’s default weapon is a pathetically weak knife with a two-millimeter attack range. Hitting enemies without getting hit yourself, without a powerup, is often unlikely. If you want to beat this game without too much trouble, try to never die! If you do die, you’ll need to find two differently colored orbs in order to get a stronger weapon, and they must be different colors, too. If you pick up one the same color as the one you currently have, it won’t count at all. There are three powered-up weapons: Red+Yellow is a stronger close-range attack, Red+Blue is a throwing knife (best weapon), and Yellow+Blue is a boomerang. The default weapon is so hard to hit things with without taking damage that in the later levels I found myself not caring about if I died with my first and even second life of each continue, since all that really mattered was getting a decent weapon so that the next time I could attempt to actually beat the level. I died quite a few times because the game was refusing to give me two differently-colored powerup orbs in later levels. Yes, it’s frustrating. And while you do keep powerup weapons between levels, thankfully, if you get a game over of course it’s back to square one.
As far as the level designs go, Hihou Densetsu has virtually no exploration. This game is entirely linear, and you need to keep moving in order to finish levels before the tight time limits run out. I’m alright with that — not all sidescrollers need to have you going around collecting things during your adventure — but it does reduce replay value and make the game shorter. Only one stage’s layout is at all mazelike, and that level, 4-2, is a small, simple ‘maze’. Ah well, I don’t really mind. The level designs in this game are straighforward, but I thought they were okay. You do do a lot of walking to the right or left while attacking enemies as they appear, but there is just enough variety to keep things interesting. Most stages have at least one unique level element, such as various types of platforms you have to jump on, tricky jumps on moving objects, a surprisingly easy mine-cart segment, orbs you shoot to move them out of the way, and more. And once again, thanks to the weapon powerup system the game gets much harder if you die, and you will until you’ve memorized the game. Stage 5-2 probably took me the longest amount of time to beat; it may look simple in that LP, but that second moving-orbs jump is quite tricky, and if you don’t have the throwing knife the stone circle enemies are hard to hit and shoot fire at you. I finally managed to beat the stage, though it took a while. The last stage, 8-2, was tricky too, but in a fun way. That’s a short level, but reasonably fun. It is kind of weird looking, though, and the organ-style music is a strange choice. The later levels have somewhat odd visual/audio themes. Seriously, from levels six through eight this game got weirder and weirder… and yet there’s very little to no reaction from Chris like that in the cutscenes. Maybe there is in Japanese, but shouldn’t she say something obvious about how this trip to the Americas to look for her father has turned into a battle against an ancient-alien Atlantean demigod or something in his spaceship hidden under a Latin American jungle temple?? I guess she’s slightly surprised when she first sees Fillia, but not much obvious about the crazy adventure. No, just some fairly calm conversations with Fillia, after the drama with the traitor guy got resolved after level 5. She’s tough. Or maybe it’s just that she probably can’t hear the awesome, and sometimes strange, music? But those blob-monster enemies in level 6 and the like are weird looking too…
Graphics and sound
This is a CD game, so it’s got CD audio and cutscenes between each level, as you might hope for. The cutscenes are done with very limited animation, but the audio track and art design are decent to good. Environments look particularly good, which characters look only okay. The in-game graphics are similar, with good backgrounds but somewhat bland character sprites. Chris’s sprite has a bland, androgynous look; it’s okay though. I couldn’t tell for sure that she was a girl until I played it and heard the voice acting, but she is. The shirt and shorts adventurer outfit seen in the game is the only one she wears throughout the game, too — so yes, this is a game with a female lead which doesn’t sexualize her at all! That’s worth some praise, though they aren’t consistent with her design — her shirt is blue ingame, but white in cutscenes. Also her sprite is always holding a knife, no matter which of the weapons she has. Ah well. Enemy sprites are mixed, with some cool looking ones and some very bland. The climbing skeletons in the first level are interesting, and I like the art design in some of the caves and alien base levels too. Hihou Densetsu has somewhat simple graphics and makes almost no attempts at parallax, except for stages 5-1 and a few clouds behind a window in 7-1, so it looks like a Turbografx game for sure, but it’s a decent-looking Turbografx game. This game clearly didn’t have the largest budget, but they did a decent job with what they had.
The music is even better. This game really has a great soundtrack overall. It’s all at least good, and it peaks in level seven; that track is fantastic. Even though the graphics are not complex, with simple and repetitive environments within each stage, the visuals and sound together combined to make the last three levels seem kind of weird, as I traveled through the alien/Atlantean/whatever spaceship and the like. The creepy atmosphere in those levels really worked for me! It’s really unfortunate that level 7-2 is the easiest level in the game after 1-1, and that the level 7 boss is the only one I beat without dying at even once, because that music is great, and might be the best in the game. Some other levels’ music is almost as good too, such as level 6’s, but 7 has the best one. I’ll have to listen to this soundtrack sometimes for sure. Watch the LP linked at the bottom if you want to listen to the whole soundtrack.
Hihou Densetsu’s story feels incomplete, since some things just weren’t explained at all. Sure, it’s all in Japanese so I can’t understand most of what they are saying, but even beyond that, a lot of stuff just isn’t explained and don’t make sense in both story and game design alike. Here are a few examples of the games’ story and design flaws that are important and I don’t have to spoiler.
– According to Chris Covell’s article on the game I linked earlier, the manual spoils almost every major plot point in the game in the character descriptions section. I can’t read Japanese, but I’ll take him at his word there. What a bizarre manual design decision! Who would do that?
-Also, as that page mentions, the story’s connection between Atlantis, South/Central American Indians, and ancient aliens is tenuous at best. This is something that I’m sure being able to understand the dialog would help a lot, but it wouldn’t explain everything. This is one of those games where the story and gameplay don’t really line up, and the results are kind of dumb when you think about them. I understand the basic idea — the Crystal Skull myth is a popular one, and this games’ story is the same basic concept that’s behind Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but this story isn’t nearly as coherent as that one. Cutscenes feel incomplete, as I’ve explained above; the story is disjointed; and not much is adequately explained. I wouldn’t be surprised if the story and cutscenes in this game weren’t really finished yet when it was shipped.
– As I said in the above point, this game has some pretty serious discrepancies between its gameplay and its cutscenes. Other than the final boss, no other enemy you fight in the actual levels — not one! — ever appears in a single cutscene. As far as the story goes, most of the game could have never happened at all! And what the heck is up with all the Indian (“Indio” as the game says) enemies, anyway? It’s clearly somewhat racist, in that classic adventure story way, and that’s a problem for a game from 1991. But it’s not only racist, it’s weird because none of them ever get a mention in the cutscenes. The Indians breathing fire, the several native bosses, etc. I guess the Indio people are protecting the Atlanteans still, or something, but they aren’t important enough to actually mention in the cutscenes… are they even alive, or are they spirits or something? Either way it’s still racist; though I know this kind of story generally is like that, they could have done more than they did. None of the crystal robots, zombies, blob monsters, or any of the other things you fight appear in cutscenes either, but it makes even less sense with the “human” enemies.
Warning: major spoilers below! For anyone who actually cares, stop reading. Images below are just links in order to not spoil anything. Highlight the text below in order to read it.
http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/0/2/c/gfs_4963_2_14.jpg – The real villain is revealed!
The Characters: I’ll start with character and basic plot descriptions, and mention some of the problems as well. First, Chris Steiner is the main character. She’s okay. Her father (I forget his name) is the missing guy she’s looking for. The local kid (forget his name too) is someone she runs across who apparently just happened to know her father and had a vitally important thing he was looking for. Altmeier, the bearded guy, is her father’s “friend”, but he’s actually ‘a leading member of the neo-Nazis’ and betrays them of course, though it doesn’t lead to much gameplay-wise (since he never appears in-game, only in cutscenes). Fillia is an ancient Atlantean and maybe also a demigoddess or alien or something. When high-tech Atlantis fell thousands of years ago, somehow her and her brother survived in spirit. Then this spaceship or whatever it is was hidden under a pyramid in the Americas somewhere, until it was found during the events in the game. I’m not sure about the rest of Fillia and her brother’s plot, though; I don’t know the details, I’d need to know more about what the plot of this game is to get that, and I can’t figure that out just from context or that page I linked above. Her brother is the real main villain, and is also the final boss. I guess he couldn’t get over Atlantis’s fall, or something, and is taking it out on the people who found them. Maybe he wants revenge on the world? Seems likely, that would fit the angry-villain stereotype he’s mostly acting out. I don’t know, I’d need the context from someone who understands the language better. He’s the only person in the story other than Chris herself who ever actually appears ingame during a level.
http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/8/1/5/gfs_4963_2_1.jpg Fillia is also the character on the level-select screen. (Remember, turn off the power and you lose access to anything beyond level 1, this game doesn’t save your progress, you just have infinite continues.)
http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/3/4/c/gfs_4963_2_16.jpg The Atlanteans’ spaceship, which is thousands of years old but naturally still works perfectly.
Issues with the Plot: Here are some of the confusing or under-explained elements in the plot. Yes, there are quite a few for a short game!
– First, I already mentioned above about how almost all of the enemies you actually fight in the game are unmentioned in the cutscenes, so I won’t repeat myself further, but this is a definite problem.
– The game has a cutscene at the beginning and end and between each level, but the cutscene before level 7 is about five seconds long and is wordless. Seems pretty lazy, compared to all of the other cutscenes in the game. Sure, it establishes that they’re going to the Atlantean base (yes, the Atlanteans and their stuff is the “legendary treasure” of the title), but other cutscenes have that much, and a lot more besides.
– In the cutscene before level 2, Chris meets a kid (a boy I think?) who just happens to know who her father is. The kid even has the Eye, an ancient (Atlantean!) artifact which will get them into the temple from where they can access the place her father was last seen, or something like that. How her father got in there is not explained. There’s one problem! The kid himself is even worse. Seriously, I know stories often rely on coincidence, but this kid she runs into doesn’t only just happen to know who her father is, he(?) also has the Eye that her father had been searching for for 18 years; no, I don’t think even in Japanese this is explained. He just has it, don’t ask why. The person who wrote the article I linked earlier sure missed it if it was, anyway, and he knows at least some Japanese. If this is explained — like, maybe her father found it and gave it to the kid after he went into the temple or something — it isn’t explained well enough for it to actually be understandable. If it isn’t explained, seriously, why in the world did that kid have the Eye??
– The story also never bothers to actually show when Chris meets her father. You’d think that that would be an important moment, but while the game shows Chris meeting the kid in the before-level 2 cutscene, meeting Altmeier in the before-lv. 3 cutscene, and then the three of them using the Eye to get into the Atlantean area in the before-lv. 4 cutscene. The next cutscene, before level 5, is all about Fillia’s appearance (with an orb, which is a powerful Atlantean artifact connected to the Eye). She appears, says who she is, and seems to figure out that Altmeier is lying to them and is actually evil (and, apparently, a neo-Nazi, though this isn’t made clear in pictures) — the orb she has marks him. Then I think he says something about ‘if you want to see your father again give me the orb’. Then in the next cutscene before level 6, Altmeier is threatening Chris’s father with his gun. Uh… where did he come from? If Altmeier was hiding him nearby… how? Altmeier only just got into the temple, after all, and couldn’t have gotten in on his own since you need the Eye to do that. Maybe her father was hidden outside somewhere nearby, but the game didn’t bother to show it? Man, is this story so unfinished! Something like that must be what happened, but really they should have shown an image of her father before the before-lv. 6 cutscene if that is what happened. At the end of the lv. 5 cutscene would have been the right time.
– Continuing the theme of ignoring the side characters, after the cutscene before level 6, the local kid and Chris’s father only appear again for one very short scene, and otherwise vanish without explanation. Her father, the main reason for the quest, barely ever says anything, only appears in two of the games’ nine cutscenes, and the second of those, in the cutscene before level 8, is a second-long appearance, cameo-level, showing that he and the kid are alive. I presume they escape at the end, but none of that is mentioned. Neither one appears at all in the games’ short and lacking ending, either. Yeah.
– A for the woman on the level-select screen, Fillia, she is a major character and does appear extensively in the later cutscenes, but her design is a blatant ripoff of the goddess from the Ys title image. She’s basically the same design, with minor changes. Lazy artists… and pandering, given Ys’s popularity on the TCD at the time.
– More on ignoring side characters — Altmeier is revealed as evil late in the before-lv. 5 cutscene, and then is killed in the before-lv. 6 cutscene. He threatens her father, takes the orb, shoots her father anyway (though not fatally)… and then Fillia’s brother (that they are related is supposed to be a spoiler the before-lv. 8 cutscene reveals, but it’s one more of the things that the manual apparently spoils.) appears and kills Altmeier. Yeah, the guy makes a strong first impression. Of course Fillia’s brother turns out to be an even bigger threat, but killing off a seemingly important villain in a cutscene and not having you fight them is kind of an odd design decision. Other than the last boss, the bosses and enemies in this game are all the completely random foes I’ve mentioned, including various Indians or Indian spirits or something, spiders, skeletons, statues, and the like. Here’s an opportunity for a more relevant boss enemy, and the game passes. Unfortunate.
– The ending also is badly rushed and lacking. I mentioned some of this above, but in more detail, as Chris Covell’s review says, the game never really explains why Fillia’s brother, the main villain, dies, and the ending is short and badly rushed. The end cutscene shows how Chris and Fillia look almost the same, apart from their hair. Maybe it’s implying that Chris is some long descendant of whatever Fillia and her brother are (Atlanteans, aliens, demigods, whatever) and that her being here is not a coincidence? Or maybe it’s just that they are similar, I don’t know. Anyway, Fillia’s brother is still angry, and tries to attack Chris. Fillia protects Chris, and then the brother dissolves or fades away without explanation. So, maybe Fillia kills her brother to protect Chris? But if she did that, then why didn’t she kill Altmeier after revealing his evil? Yeah, he said something about Chris’s father, and demanded the orb in return for him, but still, if she had that kind of power, she must have been able to do something then, but didn’t. Or, alternately, maybe Fillia’s brother died slowly from wounds Chris inflicted during the final boss fight or something? That seems unlikely, but it doesn’t show Fillia attack him either. But I (and Covell’s article) covered that one already. After that, Fillia and the Atlantean spaceship fade away too, as I described, and that’s pretty much it. All that happens after that are two shots of Chris, standing nearby and then finally a shot of Chris sitting in a tree, remembering her adventure. Roll credits. Uh… what? That sure ended in a hurry.
http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/0/c/1/gfs_4963_3_3.jpg – Here’s the ending shot, as described above.
Yeah, that’s way too much written about this games’ simple little plot. I wrote it though, so I’m posting it! :p
Overall, Hihou Densetsu: Chris no Bouken is a moderately fun, and also frustrating, action-platformer game. The game has decent graphics, good music, simple gameplay, and some fun action. The story has to be unfinished, but it’s a decent classic-style adventure story despite that, and it’s one with a female protagonist too. Hihou Densetsu isn’t a good game, it’s too flawed for that in both gameplay and story, but it is an okay one. I can understand why this game is apparently disliked by the few who know of it, because the game is flawed, annoying, and unfinished, but I enjoyed it anyway, overall. I think it was worth playing for sure, and it might be worth a look for platformer fans. The Turbo CD doesn’t have a particularly large selection of platformers beyond the Valis games and Castlevania Rondo of Blood, so for platformer fans with the system, definitely give the game a look despite its flaws! As for a grade… hmm, I don’t know, B or C something. I’m an easy grader on average platformers if I enjoy them at all, I guess… B-. It probably should be a C+ though. Way too many flaws.
direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5lwTRvAVig