Game Tengoku was a title released in the 90s by then prolific developer Jaleco, it saw an arcade and Saturn release. CrusinMix Special is a new port of the game originally developed for Steam and PS4 by City Connection, it has now found a new home in the land of the Switch, was it worth the journey or should it have stayed in the past?
Game Tengoku CrusinMix Special is essentially Jaleco having an attempt at the Parody Shmup niche genre, home to titles such as Star Parodia and Parodius. The game follows the adventures of a female member of staff who works at the arcade, her arcade machines are being taken over by the evil professor and she has enlisted the help of various 80s/90s Jaleco heroes in order to help her stop the Professor from taking over the arcade machines.
The story is quite funny and there is quite a bit of it in the Arrange Mode of the game, this features all the cutscenes from Sega Saturn version of the game fully translated but with a Japanese dub. While not a complete game seller it is worth mentioning as there are quite a few chuckles to be had here and it gives a decent reason as to why all these old game stars are flying around an arcade and classic games.
The visuals in Game Tengoku CrusinMix Special are fantastic, you can tell exactly what generation the game came from with its mix of 2D and 3D in that way only Sega Saturn and Playstation 1 could do. The character models have been cleaned up a little but overall the core gameplay regardless of mode doesn’t screen HD which isn’t really a problem.
There are an insane amount of enemy types which is good because of the visual variety but also can get you with the amount of patterns and attacks you have to learn, each stage has its own set of unique enemies and this works really well at least from a visual standpoint.
The presentation in Game Tengoku CrusinMix Special is phenomenal, there is a gallery mode where you can learn all about the games the characters come from and the characters of the game will commentate about the title, often in quite a comedic style. The menus are crisp and vibrant which is good as there are quite a few!
First off you have the choice of Classic Mode, Arcade Mode+, Date Mode HD & Options. Options are the usual Screen and button options but also features a sound test which is deliciously old school. Data HD is the gallery mode which is worth spending time with just for the laughs.
Arcade Mode + is the tidied-up version of the Arcade Mode, where every character is playable, initially, there were a few DLC characters in the previous version but this version contains all the DLC so you have 9 characters to choose from. Then you can pick the Normal Mode which is the arcade mode, 6 stages, or Time Attack which gives you a certain amount of time to score the highest between two stages. You can choose if you want the game to upload to the online leaderboard from this section too. Finally you have Game Settings, here you can adjust lives, difficulty, bombs, suicide bullets, voice and BGM types. This mode is highly customizable to suit your experience.
Classic Mode sends you over to the Saturn release of the game, this has Arcade Mode and Arrange mode as well as its own set of options. Here you have a Sound Test, Story Replay to view any previously seen cutscenes and Game Config allowing you to change Lives, Difficulty, Auto Bomb, and Suicide Bullets.
Arcade mode allows you to switch between Yoko Mode and Tate Mode, then normal or Time Attack, here Time Attack is just 1 Stage and the character selection for that is only 5 of the 9 characters, everything here is unchanged from its original release in arcades. Arrange Mode is the Sega Saturn release of the game, here you can choose to have the story on or off, the time attack here has two stages and you have 6 characters and 8 Stages instead of the standard 6. All in all, there is a whole lot of menu and choices before you’re even flying your ship.
Gameplay in Game Tengoku CrusinMix Special is that of a Horizontal Shmup, you’ll fly from the bottom to the top, dodging bullets, upgrading your shots, collecting Egg Plants and fighting a rather diverse cast of bosses!. The characters all play quite differently from each other so there is certainly someone for everyone here. The stages are all quite inventive and have you going from machine to machine, outer space, in a Karaoke bar & even over the US Box Art for Tuff E Nuff, google that last one, it’s a treat!.
You have standard fire, rapid-fire, bombs and a charge shot, one of the characters doesn’t have the charge attack as they are based closely on their old school game style but has added firepower to make up for it. The game can be quite tough even from the get-go, enemy types are tough to remember due to the amount of them, the boss battles are fantastic for the most part, there are a few duffers here and in the story mode, the Professor even mentions one being less and useful!.
While playing on handheld some of the shots were a little difficult to keep track of, it was much easier to play docked. Other than that visually the game was fantastic and the performance of the title wasn’t hurt by being handheld at all.
Having the DLC already in the game is a very sweet bonus, the characters are brilliant and varied and I know when originally the game launched on Steam and PS4 there were concerns about pricing and exclusivity with one of them. Fortunately, the whole cast is here making it the most content-packed version of the game.
I fell instantly in love with the goofy nature of the game, I love Cute Em Ups, I love Parody games and I am old enough to remember Jaleco, the game went from being unknown by me to one I have to play at least once a day as I build towards 1ccing it on higher difficulties. It’s a shame there isn’t online multiplayer but I am looking forward to some fantastic Couch Co-Op sessions in the near future.
City Connection did an amazing thing in not only initially porting this title but bringing it over to Nintendo Switch, the genre is blooming on the console and Game Tengoku is easily one of the more unique and worthwhile titles in the genre. It’s vibrant, it’s fun, it’s packed full of content and it’s causing me issues writing this out instead of being sat playing it!. There are rumors of City Connection bringing other Shmups to the console such as Deathsmiles and if that’s the case they have gotten out of the gate strong with this essential purchase in Game Tengoku CruisinMix Special.
I cannot stress enough how much fun this game is, tough as old boots and sometimes graphically similar, Game Tengoku Crusin Mix Special is exactly what it says, something special