15 September 2007
Like many platformers, your quest begins with a map. It's a distinctive one, though, scrawled on a worn piece of parchment, and the topography hints at the level design. The scale is a little off, though. It's really not that far, just up a hill, around the corner, through the mountain, and into the fortress.
This game distinguishes itself from the typical platformer by treating power-ups more in the spirit of shooters. You start off with a standard straight shot, but one power-up later you're firing a spread shot. The shots can change, too, becoming concussive, or zigzagging across the screen. There are even some nifty homing missiles—I mean fireballs.
The graphics are so colorful that they often remind me of Titian paintings; look at the stunning contrast of red, green, and blue. The Italian Great Master would be proud. In addition to powering up your main weapon, you cana also get concussive grenades at and even a forcefield.
To continue with the artistic metaphors, the sickly sky in the third stage reminds me of Salvador Dahli's post-apocolyptic background in The Persistence of Memory—you know what I'm talking about, think dripping clocks.
Legend of Hero Tonma boasts some of the most vibrant graphics on the TG-16. Let me count the ways I love the visuals: rich colors that evoke the contrasts seen in Titian paintings, smooth animation, and wonderfully crisp, detailed sprites.
The opening screen gets you in the mood right away with a thumping beat that somehow retains a Japanese feel. Overall, the music is quite good, providing a rousing score that propels Hero through the gauntlet of dangers. Sound effects are pretty standard, though, from the burst of fireballs to the boom of secondary explosions and the thud of enemies taking fire.
Don't let the protagonist's chumpiness fool you, this guy can jump as high as the star of Ninja Spirit. Sometimes this can be problematic, though, when you're trying not to bump your head on enemies. Interesingly, Hero Tonma combines shooting elements with Mario-style hop-and-bop mechanics. Bouncing off a gnome's head is as good as blasting it—at least in the short term. Still, it's a little odd that you can't duck while shooter.
It's a damn shame this title never made it beyond Japan. Rarely do you find a platformer that is so intuitive, gorgeous, and addictive. It even packs a jamming soundtrack. If something like this were packaged with the TG-16, instead of [cough, cough, gag] Keith Courage, this system would have survived much longer in the brutal struggle against Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.