Cho Ren Sya 68K, referred to as 68K from now on, is one of the most enjoyable shooters I've ever played. I've been a fan of Apogee games Major Stryker and Raptor. I've been a fan of Tyrian. All western shooters, and to be honest, I have to admit that all the japanese shooters I've tried up to now were just too damn hard. Then I, at one point, happened to stumble across 68K. I was looking for information about Akuji, and also downloaded this little game on some obscure freeware site. Well, eeh, I never regretted it.
68K is a vertical shooter. That means your ship is positioned at the bottom of the screen and the enemy ships come at you from the top, right? Well, usually. Sometimes, however, enemy ships come at you from the sides, the back and wherever the hell else they feel like they should come at you from. In typical japanese shooter fashion - and this is something you'll get used to - the screen will almost always be filled with either HUGE enemy ships, or LOADS of bullets and fire and bolts and missiles and bolts and fire and stuff and bullets everywhere. I can pretty much guarantee that at most times, you'll have both the enemies and the ammo careening off the screen.
The game is enjoyable, because it's difficult, but not too difficult. It gives you a fair chance against the enemies and every time you attempt it, you do get a bit farther. The main thing about this game is dodge, dodge, dodge. Oftentimes I didn't even look at whatever I was shooting at, but merely whether I was dodging all the ammo coming towards me. I mean, if I just keep hitting fire I'll hit something in the end, right? If you spend an hour on 68K, you'll be a master of dodging and one thing is very important here - it will be a very good way of getting used to the insanity of the genre - allowing you to then play more difficult games with greater ease! Bonus!
The game plays very well. The controls are simple (arrow keys to move, Z to fire, X to use bombs) and are perfectly situated on the keyboard. There are certain 'bonus ships'. These are red/greyish ships with a pointy tip. Shoot these and a bonus will fall out. This is not just a powerup. You can choose what you want to get. You can choose between getting a 'powerup', which will improve your ship's main weapon, you can choose to get a shield, which will make sure you get killed not after one, but after two hits, or you can choose to get yet another bomb. I prefer to max out my powerup, then go for a shield, and if I get any more after that, just go for the bombs. Bombs aren't necessary, shields and powerups are :)
The graphics are very well-done. It's VGA-style, but the animations are pretty and for some reason the whole retro-look just works. Of course, the game WAS originally made in '95, so I can't really say anything about that. It seems the '98 version was just a windows port. I don't know, I don't read japanese. Anyway, another thing that stands out in the game is the music. The tracks are very cool to listen to. I actually have them as MP3 versions and I listen to them from time to time. The sounds are adequate, but not exceedingly cool or anything. Just.. Adequate.
All in all, this is a game which kept me going 'okay, just one more time' for many evenings. You know how that works, right? You boot it up, get to a certain point, and make a note to just go one more time to get a bit farther than that, and then, after 3 hours of playing, figure out you didn't get much farther, but your chances of getting a nice night's rest are pretty much shot. You know that, right? Damn.. Anyway, it's addictive - it's a well-executed concept, while not original, still classy - and definately worth the tiny download. Go play, my children! Go play!