Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Kagirinaki Tatakai (1983)

There's a neat little sequence showing each attack and then the button to use that attack.
Name:Kagirinaki Tatakai (限りなき戦い or Limitless Warrior)
Developer:Hiroshi Ishikawa
Genre:Side-scroller Shooter
Time:1 hour
Won:No (61W/57L)

Enix is a weird company. For most people, their pre-merger with Square output is solely defined by Dragon Quest, maybe ActRaiser and...Star Ocean!? They're responsible for that confusing mess of a series? Yikes. Otherwise, like me, you're vaguely aware they released some computer games and published one of the most important Japanese games, Portopia Serial Murder Case. But what's the real story?

Enix was originally a newspaper company, when its owner decided to venture into the world of video games. Rather than the usual practice of having an in-house staff, Enix would hold programming contests in which they would publish the best titles and pay out royalties. This worked wonders, and at least for a little while, caused Enix to dominate the Japanese computer scene. Limitless Warrior was not one of those successes, only selling 3000 copies allegedly. But judging by reviews in English, this doesn't mean that its a bad game.

Whatever story the game has is unknown to me, but its probably not important. The player is the warrior of the title...presumably. You move around with the numpad, 789 activate a jetpack. 123 increase the speed at which you go down. To attack, you get a rapid fire laser by pressing space, grenades which fly nicely in a downward arc, and rockets shoot straight and move you back a tile. You have limited ammo for the latter two, but they're restored to 20 and 10 respectively whenever you die. You start with three lives, and get one at 10k, and probably another at 20k. I never reached the second threshold.

A little ways down, the opening section is just a giant hole.

Once you begin the game, you're unceremoniously dumped into a giant hole. A triumphant theme tune plays which is probably a legally distinct version of some famous movie theme. Once it stops, which is a surprisingly long amount of time, you start falling. This game has fall damage, or rather death, which is why that jetpack is important. Whether or not you die from falling is determined by how fast you're going. And its pretty quickly clear that while the game's controls work on a superficial level, you can only have one button's action working at once. Shooting stops any movement you have, outside of momentum. Pressing one movement button cancels out another.

Enemy design here is pretty broad. You start off against turrets manned by aliens. Destroy the turret and the alien does nothing. Perhaps the reverse is true, but that's one heck of a situation to set up. They aren't repeated for a long time. Just a little ways down are more stationary objects, round things you have to walk into (or use explosives) to destroy. Walking into them causes an explosion, which destroys the two tiles below them. Thus revealing the gimmick of the game to anyone randomly starting it. Explosives destroy scenery.

As such, the game is basically a balance of using explosives when required, using it to avoid fights you can't win, and managing lives so you don't run out of explosives in an awkward position. For a game from this year, that's fairly impressive. Touching enemies is also not instant death, depending on your foe. With touching ranged enemies doing nothing, while you can stand safely on all enemies. Most only kill you via shooting you, though one group of flying enemies has the ability to kill you if they touch sideways.

The enemy at the top shoots, the middle one just flies around, and the bottom one just walks back and forth shooting mindlessly.
The game does a good job of mixing up the design of each "section" of the game. You can see the two different forms in most of these screenshots, falling and hallway crawls. Even though I found the falling sections annoying, for many reasons, they did a good job of mixing them up. Assuming you don't get stuck, each section lasts for a relatively short period of time. There are also numbered coins, which mostly exist for you to shoot in order to get points. Note, shoot, not blow up.
Missiles and stationary objects tend to kill you when they touch you.
Now, obviously this game has some faults. Quite a few of them. Firstly, the music is nice the first few times around and rapidly becomes annoying. The little intro tune grinds the game to a halt, because it happens every time you die. Even discounting hearing that dozens of times, because of the way its set up, its easy to be in a situation where you're likely to die when it finally unpauses. Sound is also annoying. When some enemies are on-screen, they cause a constant noise, like morse code.
In order to get past here, I had to wait for those things to rise up to where I was standing. Very fun.
Despite the nice variety of enemies, there's one glaring problem. They act completely randomly. Sometimes you can get the drop on them, other times they just sit down and let you kill them. Worse yet, while its neat that you're travelling down one large level, falling puts you in a position of constantly being at risk of the game just deciding you're dead. It is truly comical how the game can easily screw you over.

On a simple level the controls don't really work. That much is already clear, but it works on a more insidious level than that. You can walk over holes if you do it right. However, this distance isn't consistent, and often I found myself falling in. Flying out is a tricky thing to just right, because too much height and you're a prime target to get shot by the thing you're trying to destroy. Precision is impossible. Considering the way to destroy stationary targets without explosives is to walk into then, which creates holes, this can rest in considerable annoyance.

I got as far as about 400m, out of a total 600m. This game can be won, but as I keep saying, this is annoying due to the randomized nature of the game. The real roadblock is one type of enemy that shoots homing missiles. Because of the way the controls work, I find this too troublesome to deal with.

Each weapon has its own use and purpose. I like that. 3/10

Just enough variety to make things interesting, even if they are designed to screw you over. 2/10


I like the design and concept well enough, but the randomization puts me off. 2/10

Player Agency:
Functional only in where the keys have been placed. Otherwise its a fight to do what you want. 3/10

About the only thing that is well executed. Destructible walls are always nice too see, and in this case it can save you from an otherwise unavoidable encounter. 4/10

I'm sure that early '80s Japanese computers have an appeal to someone. Just not me. 0/10

Garish, bad, but everything is distinct. 1/10


Pure noise. 0/10

That's 15.

Its a neat little thing to see, but outside of its central gimmick, nothing worth talking about. I'm surprised this wasn't that big a hit back then, because for the year this seems mind-blowing despite its issues. All you'd really need to do to fix this is remove the music, get rid of the starting delay, and fix the controls. Undoubtedly, some indie game exists which does solve that. Perhaps not one with consistent level design, but some roguelite or Minecraft-esque title. Come to think of it, that's not too dissimilar to Starbound. Which would bring up a whole new set of worms.

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