Friday, June 2, 2017

Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya (SFC) Review

Received: December 1st, 2016 / Written: May 30th-June 2nd, 2017
Alternate Title: Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror
Year: 1992 | Developed by: Jorudan
Published by: Datam Polystar | ]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games and big retrophile, and I love to import games from Japan (namely for the Super Famicom).  =)

Today I'll talk about a game from a little-known video game developer named Jorudan, who got their start with their 1990 Game Boy title Battle Bull published by Seta and afterwards graduated to the Nintendo 16-bit console to create games like the system's first turn-based RPG Gdleen in 1991 (again published by Seta) based on the seven-volume light novel series Jikō Wakusei Gdleen that lasted two years from 1989 to 1991 which remained in Japan followed by a March 1992 Super Famicom release of the action-oriented platformer Chou Kou Gasshin Xardion courtesy of Azmik (which did come out the following month for the NTSC SNES as simply Xardion) which had mecha designs from Moriki Yasuhiro and Gundam's Hajime Katoki.
During the month of April 1992 when America was experiencing Xardion Japan received yet another Super Famicom offering from Jorudan in the form of Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya which roughly translates to "Brave Spearman Jinrai's Legend - Warrior", and it was the first game published there by Datam Polystar (as well as the only Jorudan fare they released); when it came to the American release it was localized by Seta's USA division that December as Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror.  So, what do we have here today?

After a long hard-fought battle where the spearman Jinrai winds up being the sole survivor he decides to go to Tengumura Village where he collapses from his sustained injuries.
After resting up a bit there the village mayor greets Jinrai and informs him that the maiden Shizuka has been taken away from monsters and must be saved.
Heading down the deep and dark abyss to find her Jinrai will venture to Kihōshōnyūdō in order to rescue her from harm, but it won't be easy (it never is).

Heading towards danger
Because I've only played the original Super Famicom version of this game I will discuss this version exclusively, though along the way I might bring up what changes were made since gamers who live in America that don't import might only be familiar with the version they were given.  Like Chou Kou Gasshin Xardion before it, Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya is a 2D action-oriented platformer; in it you control Jinrai whose only means to attack enemies is with his spear with the Y button (while standing, while ducking, and while in midair; the last of which you can even point downward if you press down and Y simultaneously) once or repeatedly and with the A button you'll amass a spear attack that spins around Jinrai as if it were a barrier for a few seconds (even when in midair) but can be cut short by pressing Y.  With the B button Jinrai can jump in the air, and how hard you press the button will amount to varying altitudes; interestingly enough, if you want to jump really high up as you can hold down the up button as you jump (you can adjust your position in midair a little bit).

You can also move while ducking to either the left and right, and by holding down the left and right shoulder buttons you can make him crawl backwards in either respective direction (there really isn't much reason to do this though, but it is there if you feel the need).  While progressing you'll find strange containers for which the contents may include something to replenish Jinrai's qi (capacity being sixteen), a small statue to summon a deity (always random; depending which one pops up they'll either replenish the qi completely, render Jinrai impenetrable for a short period of time, or wipe out all onscreen enemies), something to render the spear more powerful (up until you lose a life), and a magic scroll.  When you begin the game you only start with one magic spell, but after the defeat of each of the first four bosses you'll learn a new spell in the process; with the Start button you can select one of up to five magic spells you want to use (four being the scroll capacity) and provided you have at least one scroll can conjure the spell with the X button.  Finally, pausing is done with the Select button.

Visually the game is fascinating to look at; there's a serious look and feel to it with its good sense of detail but what really complements the already interesting-looking scenery is the sense of shading and lighting.  When you start the game you're treated to a wooden infrastructure with some vibrant torches laying about and for a brief moment there's a glimpse of a nice crescent moon and that's just the first segment; one of the later segments of the first stage has got lots of huge imposing trees in the backdrop with a waterfall along the way.  In the second stage there's a dark cave-like setting followed by a long corridor comprising of... um, I'm not sure what those things are actually, eggs?  o_O  The third stage has got neat-looking detailed temples which look like they've been abandoned and in a later part there's a cave-like room with rows upon rows of statues;
I mean look at this: absolutely striking stuff!
also the final stage is the most visually arresting in terms of setting design and color choices and shading (especially the final boss room, holy crap).

Keep attacking it so it doesn't replicate itself
Jinrai is designed decently in-game and has got solid walking/crawling and swift spearing animations when facing straight ahead; disappointingly there's no splash effect whenever you get in and out of the water (as if it were Quintet's Actraiser/ActRaiser from 1990) but the effects for when the deities are summoned and the magic you use look cool.  The enemy roster in Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya comprises of creatures and monsters based on Japanese folklore and original designs that are rather grotesquely designed in their own right; some examples of them are menacing head creatures, giant eyeballs, eyeballs with wings, corpse/spider hybrids, specters and ghosts (especially ones who emanate from the other side of a flipped wall in the third stage), statues that blend in with the background statues, enemy samurai and archers, et al.  The bosses you fight are darkly imposing like the fire-breathing tanuki, the mud monster, and the giant red samurai to name a few; the final boss is very ominous and at points makes for nightmare fuel as far as the heavy contrast and shading is concerned (and the aforementioned room you fight him in adds to that).
During the intro, ending, and after the third stage are sepia-toned anime stills that are beautifully and effectively drawn; they really set the tone for the game and add to the atmosphere.  =)

The game's soundtrack was composed by Kiyoko Asukawa, who from what I gathered hasn't really done much of anything else before or after the fact, and it's one of this game's highlights for me as it blends perfectly well with the respective stages' atmospheres it accompanies.  The instrumentation is purely Japanese but sounds unconventional for the platforming genre in that there are songs with an understated quality to them (namely the boss battles) and yet they still work in the context of the game because of the darkly atmospheric nature.  The introduction theme does a good job pulling you into the game's story, the first stage theme gets you geared up for adventure, the second stage theme is chilling, the theme for when you rescue Shizuka is deep, the sixth stage theme is slightly foreboding, the final stage theme has got a rather woozy feeling to it with its slowly unnerving tempo (which was actually sped up for the American version), and the final boss theme is interesting in that it's very understated; and luckily until you lose your last life the music resumes as opposed to starting from scratch.  =)  It's a shame Asukawa didn't do anything else, I think she would've been a really good composer with what's in evidence here; some of the sound effects by Tenpei Sato (Gdleen, Chou Kou Gasshin Xardion) and Naoto Niida (Gdleen) are curiously selected on the other hand, like the sound for when Jinrai learns a new spell and summons a deity but most of the other sound effects are low-key--which is good since the music is atmospheric.

Keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious
Whenever you start the game and anytime you use up a continue you start off with three inochi (the equivalent of lives), and anytime you lose all your qi (and if you use a continue after losing all three inochi) you resume from the segment you're currently in especially segments where you fight against the stage boss.  There are an unlimited number of continues that you can use, but if you feel it to be overwhelming to continue presently you could always decline in favor of a simple four-character password, so you don't have to worry about playing through it in a single sitting if you're not confident enough.  After the third stage when you save Shizuka she grants Jinrai a more powerful spear and armor, seemingly sending you back to the start.
Now I know what you're thinking: shades of Chōmakaimura/Super Ghouls'n Ghosts?  Um, not really--it might seem like it at first but it doesn't take long to discover the difference: unlike the 1991 Capcom classic where the stages have the same amount of enemies per visit, in Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya's case the second time you visit the first three stages there are more enemies to contend with than before, not to mention that the bosses in the first two stages revisited are completely different.  Also since it's only the initial three stages that are revisited (with a different warp point in the third one) as opposed to seven of them like in the aforementioned title you're not required to look for a special item to head to the final stage, for there are a couple extra stages you didn't explore before in the latter half.

No, not this boss!  =(
One of the most notable things in this game is its numerals: from what I looked up this is one of the rare games from Japan that actually uses the Japanese numerals as opposed to the common number system that is universally recognized, and I believe that; you can kinda get an idea of what the numbers represented are if you pay attention to it rising, but it is a very fascinating aspect--not that you'd be able to tell that in the American version as in there it's been replaced by Hindu-Arabic numerals (well so much for maintaining the purity of the Japanese original... oh, who am I kidding?  American localization in the early '90s rarely maintained the purity of the Japanese original, so it's no surprise really).  Jinrai was given the name Imoto in America and changed into a pikeman instead of a spearman (as spears are regularly known for being thrown but they can be thrust also, the latter being the case with this game; odd detail to change, really).  The most understandable change had to with the symbol representing the scrolls as in the Super Famicom version there was a manji symbol attached which I looked up was removed for the American version (the symbol has different connotations depending on certain religions or cultures, but since it's really only seen outside of Asia as a symbol of hate and oppression then, yeah, it's for the best that it was taken out).

I remember finding out about this game years ago when I stumbled upon information on it online and saw a gameplay video of it on YouTube; it looked very interesting from what I saw but didn't get a chance to play it on account of other games which I was also curious about grabbing my attention (being a collector who plays games); not to mention the American version is a bit pricy.  It wasn't until November 2016 that I had considered ordering it from eBay in the form of the more affordable Super Famicart Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya (because I had wanted to play it in its original Japanese state, plus I was on a Datam Polystar kick with Success' Keeper and Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% before it), and when it had arrived that December 1st I had actually beaten it on my first sitting; now I know how that sounds, but trust me when I say that this game wasn't a cakewalk in the slightest.  It was quite a night playing session experiencing this game for the first time.

The biggest thing this platformer has got going for it is its sense of atmosphere as it is absolutely replete with it; there's a grand sense of Japanese culture in the proceedings and there's a seriousness about its fantasy world to the point that there's a slightly creepy quality to it, from the grotesque creature and monster designs to the mysteriously unnerving settings (the American version's subtitle classifies itself as horror which I suppose is apropos on occasion for it's definitely not what I would call lighthearted fare).  In the third stage and the third stage revisited (the sixth stage) there is a room where you must find the right warp statue that takes you to the boss fight as taking the wrong one will send back to the start of the segment, and the first time I played the game it took me awhile to find the correct one (and the second time you visit the stage it's in a different spot).

Thrust all the way
So what exactly gave me the most trouble in my initial playthrough and in my most recent one (albeit not to the same extent)?  Unfortunately it's the game's structure and gameplay itself.  =/  I like the idea behind the mechanics but it's the execution that lets it down: for starters, Jinrai moves at a deliberate pace and when it comes to the jumping it is a bit floaty which makes him a big target, but on top of that the controls don't feel polished.  If you were thrusting the spear while standing (and in quick succession if need be) and wanted to it while ducking you have to duck first and then begin using the spear which is a bit inconvenient when simply pressing down while doing so would've been more preferable.  Ultimately, however, it's difficult to go by without sustaining damage from enemy contact here and there (namely during the stages leading up to the boss in the end), and even if you tried to be as precise as possible in taking them down chances are you might still lose some qi in the process; nothing a little refinement of the controls or making them more responsive couldn't have resolved.
As a result you're going to see this a lot for you might go through many lives and continues (thank God the number of continues are unlimited and there's the option to use a password).

Going deeper and deeper still
On the way to face the boss you have one of eventually five magic spells to use; some examples being offensive magic that affects all onscreen enemies, magic that temporarily freezes time for the enemies around you, and one that replenishes a bit of your qi to name a few.  When it comes to the boss fights however you can't use the magic against them or to heal yourself except for one homing spell which will enable it to deal in plenty of damage to the boss for you; one of the power-ups you find will make the spear stronger up until you lose all your qi, but you'll still have the magic scrolls if it's in the same continue.  There is a catch, though, and that is if you lose all three idochi and have to use up a continue, you'll resume right at the stage segment you lost your life in (especially a boss room) sans the magic scrolls; no problem if it's in the earlier parts of the stage but may pose an issue if that happened whilst in a boss room (depending on the current boss).  Some of the boss fights have safe spots and have simple enough to follow patterns (because of its slightly unpolished nature I didn't beat any of the bosses on my first try; took me forever and a half to find a somewhat foolproof solution to the final boss' first phase), and the aforementioned homing spell and spear power-up would be enough to make the battles shorter... otherwise it might just take awhile to finish them off and as a result can become mundane in some instances (and I mean very time-consuming) if you didn't want to lose any if much qi (always satisfying to see the bosses change color to signal you they're almost defeated and see them going up in purple smoke when they bite it).  =(

I realize how I'm making this sound, but Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya is not impossible... it's definitely manageable if you stick with it and persevere to the end, but it could've really benefited from polish to make it more playable and fun for me.
As far as Datam Polystar-published platformers are concerned I find Affect's 1993 game Makeruna! Makendō (which did come out in America courtesy of Seta's USA division as Kendo Rage) to be superior.  Not without flaws either, I personally feel that one edges out today's game on account that when you get its gameplay and structure down pat then it becomes very solid fun while it lasts; it also does one better in that you could also attack enemies from above you as opposed to just ahead of and below you.  Not to mention it's really lighthearted with a ridiculously goofy sense of humor about itself that makes it very endearing; kendo sword over spearing action any day!  =)

Underwater prison
Considering this was Datam Polystar's first publication it's not a terrible way to start off their business but Jorudan's platformer is deeply flawed in the gameplay and structure department and lacking in polish that it prevents it from being good or great, thankfully the publisher would have better footing when it comes to releasing games developed by Affect and Success.  If you wanted to play a game that is jam-packed with atmosphere and elements of horror you're going to get exactly that with this game, but if you wanted to play a game with strongly polished gameplay you're better off looking elsewhere; if you want to play an easy game then you won't find one here for it is novice-unfriendly, but if you have enough experience with games and were curious about it then I think you can do a lot worse than this.

My Personal Score: 5.5/10
<( -_-)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(-_- )>
P.S. Between this and Chou Kou Gasshin Xardion I'm not impressed with Jorudan's work, there are things about them that impress me but not as a whole; I do hope that when I get to play Battle Bull, Gdleen, or Imperium that I might find something decent or at least solid.
P.S. 2 If it seems like I'm struggling with the writing it's a combination of being kept busy in real life, not having gotten a chance to get images in the past few weeks and playing lots of games, and I might be getting a bit rusty(?); it has been over a month since my last review, after all.
P.S. 3
You know, I always wanted to know what a more serious take on Pocky and Rocky would look like, Jorudan, thanks=)
Never mind that today's game precedes Natsume's first contribution to Taito's KiKi KaiKai series by eight months, but you get the idea.
Happy 25th Anniversary, Musya
(Whether you deserve it or not)
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think; hope you have a great Summer, take care!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Disney's Mulan (GB) Review

Written: April 22nd-27th, 2017
(As played on Super Game Boy)
Year: 1998 | Developed by: Tiertex | Published by: THQ
Distributed by: Disney Interactive

Disclaimer: Might contain spoilers
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and... anything goes.  I may mostly cover Nintendo 16-bit games, but that's not all I cover as I do occasionally cover games that don't fall in that trajectory--should really consider updating my opening line... or maybe take it out altogether.

Image from Wikipedia
The Ballad of Mulan is a Chinese ballad that centered around a legendary woman warrior from the Southern and Northern Dynasties period (420 to 589 AD) named Hua Mulan (or Fa Mulan as it's been transliterated to reflect its pronunciation at the time) who took her father's place in the army on account of his delicate old age and due to her younger brother being far too young to go into combat.  Mulan was a strong and beautiful woman who became known for practicing martial arts and was a highly skilled sword-wielder; after twelve years of battling and being lauded for her achievements she decided to retire to her homeland and did not wish for any reward (at least that's how the pre-Sui Tang Romance interpretation ended a millennia earlier anyway).

Over the centuries the Chinese legend has become a folktale in the country on par with The Butterfly Lovers and has for the past century served as inspiration for two plays (the oldest made in 1917 via Mulan Joins the Army) and numerous movie adaptations (most of which were live action),
Image from Wikipedia; excellent John Alvin poster art, by the way
among them the most popular and well-known of the bunch in the Disney animated adaptation by first-time directors Barry Cook (who would also co-direct Arthur Christmas and 2013's Walking with Dinosaurs feature film) and Tony Bancroft (who would also direct Lenny & Sid and this September's, um,...  Animal Crackers?), Disney's 36th feature-length animated film used the basic story from the ballad but added some lighter elements so that it would be not just accessible towards adults but to children as well making for family viewing.  Arriving in the Summer of '98 it was greatly received by critics and audiences, received many Annie Awards and earning Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, and grossed $304 million at the box office on a $90 million budget, making it a good success.

I was seven when it came out and saw it in theatres at the time during my visit with relatives, and I really liked it; it was different than the other Disney animated movies I saw up to that point in terms of traditional hand-drawn animation which had a Chinese aesthetic touch to it and I liked the characters and song numbers (years later I would recognize its good storytelling prowess), plus Mulan was a great and engaginly well-developed character.  =)
Image from Wikipedia
During the Michael Eisner era of Disney (up until he was booted from the company roughly a decade ago) there were a string of made for TV sequels made to make a quick profit off of Disney's beloved animated properties, for which the movement on the whole received a mixed reception despite DisneyToon Studios' game efforts to try to recapture the spirit and charm of the movie in question (albeit on a limited budget).  In November 2004 arrived Mulan II (directed by Darrell Rooney and Lynne Southerland, with most of the voice actors reprising their roles) on TV which took place after the events of the first movie where this time China's heroine Fa Mulan and her boyfriend Li Shang (promoted from Captain to General) are tasked to escort the three daughters of the Emperor of China to meet their future husbands whom they are arranged to marry for the sake of forming an alliance to save China from an imminent threat, also accompanied during this trip by fan-favorites Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po who the three daughters may or may not fall in love with before they reach their destination; meanwhile Mulan's guardian dragon Mushu, out of fear of no longer being needed since Shang has just proposed to marry the woman warrior, uncharacteristically plots to sabotage the two's relationship so that he would keep his job (yeah, that's a plot).  This follow-up got thrashed by both critics and fans of the first movie not to mention the legend it's based on and is considered by some as one of the most dishonorable Disney DTV sequels ever made; there were plans for a Mulan III but the idea was scrapped shortly before the release of Mulan II.

I only ever saw the sequel on TV one or two times over a decade ago and even saw a commercial for it, but I don't remember too much from it aside from Mulan observing men's propensity to not ask for directions after an argument ensues between her and Shang upon losing their path (a cliché) and Shang impossibly surviving a thousand-foot drop into the river where he's washed ashore after the group is attacked by Mongols, at which point Mulan is dejected (believing Shang to be dead) and decides to take the place of one of the Emperor's daughters for the arranged marriage to save China (that is, until Shang shows up and publicly proclaims his love just as it's about to happen).  =/

In the Sui Tang Romance version of the legendary woman warrior Mulan is saddened to find upon returning to her home that her father had long since died and her mother has been remarried, at which point Mulan's been summoned to become a concubine under Heshana Khan's rule; her final words were "I'm a girl.  I have been through war and have done enough.  I now want to be with my father," at which point she committed suicide to escape the fate (her motivation to do so stemmed from the observation that "even a Chinese woman would prefer death by her own hand to serving a foreign ruler").  I apologize in advance for upsetting those who've only learned of this the first time.
Disney's version of Fa Mulan would inspire a live-action portrayal by Jamie Chung in three of the seasons for the fairytale TV series Once Upon a Time, and next November we'll be seeing a live-action edition of this animated feature (by which point I'll be twenty-seven, where does time go?), plus Mulan and Mushu have appeared in a few of Square's Disney-themed Kingdom Hearts RPG series.  On October 1998 America received the highly obscure monochromatic Game Boy edition of Disney's Mulan (developed by Tiertex) which shortly followed suit later in the year for Europe, but is expanded a bit when played on the Nintendo 16-bit console's Super Game Boy peripheral cartridge.  So, want to know how Tiertex did with this license?  You know you want to!  =3

With Han China having been invaded by the Huns led by Shan Yu (voiced by Miguel Ferrer), the Emperor of China (Pat Morita) orders a general mobilization of the country in preparation for the next invasion; the conscription notices ask for one man from each family to serve in the army.  The army veteran Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh), despite his old age and weakened state, decides to undertake this task, which makes his daughter Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) anxious; caring about her father so much she takes his armor while her parents are asleep and in this version specifically impersonates as a man so that she would enlist in place of Fa Zhou.
Once she reports to camp Mulan passes off to Captain Li Shang (B.D. Wong) as a man called "Ping", at which he's surprised that Fa Zhou has a son; but in spite of that Mulan is now part of the training camp. where she must train in preparation for the battle against the Huns.
Shang will have to make men out of his recruits if they are to become trained warriors.

Target practice
As Fa Mulan you can move left and right, duck down (in certain cases enabling you to look below you), climb up ledges after jumping upward, and climb ropes or poles up and down.  The only way to attack enemies is to throw projectiles ahead of you with the A button (B on the Super Game Boy; you can hold it down to fire consecutively), running is accomplished by holding down the A button whilst moving to the left and right, and jumping (upward or ahead of you) is done with the B button (Y on the Super Game Boy) which can be controlled in midair slightly, and when it comes to bouncy surfaces you can hold the button down to bounce off of them until you bounce higher.  Yeah, this is yet another one of those games with backwards controls as was the case with Tiertex's Game Boy version of Hercules the year prior, and just like that game there's no changing it.  =(  It wouldn't really be an issue if the button's actions were relegated the other way around, but as it stands it's awkward for you have to be accustomed to them so as to not to mix the two up (which can happen); but once you get past that you should be fine.
Disney's Mulan for the Game Boy is largely a 2D sidescrolling platformer with one exception.  You know that segment in the movie where Mulan is bathing naked at a pond but is almost exposed to be a woman by Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe), and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo) because they want to bathe in the same pond?  Well the second stage uses that exact plot element only here she escapes under different circumstances.  Heheh, I love that Tiertex felt the need to include that...  =\  at least we're only seeing her from her backside.  In this automatic vertical scrolling stage you must guide Mulan to the farthest end of the pond as you must avoid contact with multiple Yaos, Lings, and Chien-Pos; you can either swim fast by holding up or go slowly by holding down, also you can submerge yourself underwater for a short time by holding down the button until you either let go of the button midway or until the gauge completely runs out.
In the third stage, after the avalanche has been caused, Mulan is riding her way through the snow (and ice) with a shield which she uses as a makeshift board; this is another automatic scrolling stage, but this time you can push left to slow down and push right to advance forward as well as up and down to turn diagonally.  You can also jump over gaps and obstacles with proper timing, but be very careful not to collide with logs or snowy hills or be tripped by one of the Huns hidden in the snow otherwise you have to restart from a nearby checkpoint; this culminates in her rescuing Shang and grabbing the rope to safety.  Umm, where exactly is that emanating from?  o_O
"That's not a snowball!"
The movie's score was composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith (yes, the Jerry Goldsmith who provided his musical talents on Ridley Scott's Alien, Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall, and Stephen Sommers' The Mummy; I was surprised when I found out) which is unique in his impressive discography in that it's inherently Chinese flavored in terms of instrumentation and augmented the movie's sense of atmosphere, but none of his cues were replicated in game format with the exception of "A Girl Worth Fighting For" (sans the lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel) which is played during the combined epilogue and ending credits.  Curious choice; you'd think that "Reflection" or "I'll Make a Man Out of You", the most popular songs from the movie, would be more qualified or utilized at a certain point, but that's not the case (not even during the title, where you normally hear one of the main themes from the movie).

Takes three hits to take that Hun down momentarily
The game's soundtrack is small, but the compositions are solid and are highly improved with the Super Game Boy's enhancements.  =)  The game's soundtrack was done by Tiertex musician Mark Ortiz (who previously worked on Toy Story and Hercules for the Game Boy, the Game Boy version of Olympic Summer Games, as well as the SNES edition of Timon & Pumbaa's Jungle Games), and while the songs might sound tinny when heard on the original handheld (or when played on a Game Boy Advance or the GameCube's Game Boy Player) there is a welcome oriental quality to the music when playing it on the Super Game Boy.  The title theme is inviting, the three diverse area themes complement the appropriate settings (they're all used two separate times), and Ortiz's take on "A Girl Worth Fighting For" is well-done; just don't disable the music when accessing the options screen.

I'm having Game Boy Pocahontas flashbacks here
The visuals in this game for late Game Boy standards are really solid in spite of its monochromatic color scheme, for the areas are neatly detailed in places and feel like they were lifted from the movie.  =)  The training stage has got a nicely shaded mountain backdrop, the snowy mountain stages have got a poofy look to them with some occasional avalanche debris around, and the Imperial City is filled with legions of inanimate people and have got a marketplace-like setting.  Mulan is simply designed and is easily recognizable, plus her walking and running animations are fluid, especially as she turns around while running and when she's moving her arms while swimming with the water trail behind her.  Shang, Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po look decent but are underutilized, and there are three Huns you have to contend with in-game (as well as Shan Yu's hawk) but when you face Shan Yu in the end he's a modified palette swap of the swordsman Hun but his demise animation is different.

Occasionally in the game are in-between still designs but the styles are inconsistent throughout.
Some of them look faithful in design to the movie (right down to the perspective),
Yes, I deliberately took out most of the passwords
but others are a bit different, whether it be to overreliance on contrast (like the first still design you see) or looking like a sketch with lines to emphasize extra shading or looking as if it came from a Chinese comic but with roughly unpolished edges (I think).
Considering the game is aimed for kids though, the imagery for when you get a game over is rather intense given the composition and usage of black in spite of the less than detailed background (not to mention those eyes just scream of death).
Oh, what is up with Mulan's eyes right there?  X{
Oh, by the by, neither Mushu (Eddie Murphy) nor Cri-Kee (Frank Welker) make any appearances in this game nor are they ever referenced,
but Mulan is shown riding back to her homeland on her family horse Khan (Welker) after the defeat of Shan Yu--never mind that in the movie she doesn't wear her armor at the end.

Ice sliding
There are two difficulty settings in this game, Easy and Hard, but the differences are minimal at best.  You start off with a health of five but should you lose a heart (whether it be by falling off the bottom edge or falling too long or by being attacked) there is a chance to replenish it if you find a heart icon, but those are few and far between; regardless of how full or dangerously low on health you are by the time you reach the end of the stage the moment you begin the next one it'll be full once again.  Losing all your hearts will result in a game over as you're essentially doing this in one life, at which point your choice is to either start over or resume your progress via a friendly five-character password provided to you the moment you reach the subsequent stage.  But hey, at least there's no timer to fixate on so you can take as long as you'd like, though you will have to adjust to this game's backwards controls if you are to make it.

I see a heart behind you
I remember my parents having gotten the game for me sometime in 1999, given I really liked the movie and had a strong affinity for all things Disney growing up (I still do as I look forward to most of their new releases); I was surprised there was a Game Boy version of Mulan, but I liked the handheld adaptation when I was little (even though at the time my gaming skills weren't quite great) and I played it a lot.  =)  Playing it on the Game Boy Color and eventually the Game Boy Advance was fun, but I remember the first time I plugged it into a Super Game Boy cartridge on the SNES when visiting my relatives that Summer what a huge difference it made in terms of expanded sound, set color scheme, and border (much in the way that it happened for other Tiertex adaptations of Disney licenses like Pocahontas, Toy Story, The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Topsy Turvy Games, and Hercules).  I do consider playing it on the Super Game Boy to be the proper way to experience this game, and I actually got up to the part where I faced Shan Yu in the end when I was younger but I didn't quite know how to take him down until several years later when I revisited it again during my teen years.

Running to warn Shang of the Hun invasion
What I like about this game was how each stage always had a unique element to make it fresh during the proceedings: the first stage had you learn the basics of the controls (obviously), the second stage had Mulan traversing the pond by swimming to the end, the third stage entailed riding through the snow straight away or diagonally, the fourth stage while it resumes your normal gameplay also had moments where you slid down vertical slopes as well as sliding down the ice (especially diagonally), the fifth stage had you bounce up from the marketplace tents, and in the sixth and final stage you could amass a limited amount of firecrackers which acts as a more potent version of the normal projectile weapon Mulan throws.
But the best thing was that in this game you could actually face off against Shan Yu; the most disappointing thing about Tiertex's Hercules the previous year was that you never once got to fight Hades (you know, the reason Hercules became mortal in the first place?) let alone see him, he only got referenced a couple times and the best that game could do to bookend the experience was "tornado gods" (never mind that it was a Titan and not a god) at Mount Olympus--you never got the satisfaction to venture to the Underworld and confront Hades (do yourself a favor, stick with Eurocom's PlayStation One video game adaptation of the 1997 film, it's so much better and is good fun, trust me).  I'm glad that Tiertex got Disney's Mulan right in this regard.  =)

Swinging on over to the next pole
Another thing I appreciate about this game was that it's surprisingly faithful to the movie; okay, some liberties are taken (e.g. when did Mulan fight Huns on the way to the Imperial City?) as is commonplace with licensed titles (but if it's in line with the character or doesn't serve as a detriment I'll give it a pass), but the settings are exactly like in the movie and some key moments are lifted (like Mulan climbing up to grab the arrow during training and the aforementioned evasion of almost being exposed as a woman), not to mention the character you're playing looks exactly like the titular character in question (not the case with Hercules for the Game Boy).  All this makes today's game feel like a Mulan game (the opposite of how Tiertex's Hercules felt), which is good.  Unfortunately several elements drag it down a bit: there's a serious lack of challenge and depth, the controls don't feel natural due the backwards nature, the fight against Shan Yu is sorely anticlimactic once you figure out the pattern to make him a sitting duck and throw just enough firecrackers at him until he
gets pushed back to fireworks around him that'll end up being his end, and it's a really short game for it can be beaten in about fifteen to twenty minutes at least.  But if you can look past that Disney's Mulan for the Game Boy is a decent if rather unspectacular license of the movie, and as far as movie-based Disney games on the original Game Boy are concerned this is in my opinion one of the better ones... and hey, you're not going to find another legitimate action game exclusively starring Fa Mulan out there.

*crackle crackle BOOM*
Considering this game came out around the same time as the then new Game Boy Color handheld Tiertex could've easily made it for that format; I guess they wanted to give the preceding system more chance to breathe shortly before its expiration date, so good on them for doing that.  If you liked the movie and wish to play a video game adaptation of it or if you just want to play a decent Disney game for the Game Boy original, you should check out this game (for the best experience, play it on the Super Game Boy peripheral cartridge for the SNES if you own it and the console)--just don't expect there to be much challenge or depth out of it or for it to be fantastic, or you will wind up disappointed.  Tiertex isn't known for crafting high quality titles, but it's good to know that overall despite its shortcomings they did not dishonor the name of Mulan.  =)

My Personal Score: 6.0/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. It's funny how the ending of this game mentions Mulan restoring honor to her family, even though the otherwise very detailed opening text neglects to mention that her family was even dishonored or what caused it.  Must've been an afterthought.

P.S. 2 These past few weeks I watched the latest comedy Trial & Error on NBC and I enjoyed it a lot.  =)  It was charming lighthearted fun with its tongue in cheek humor in the vein of Parks and Recreation, John Lithgow and the rest of the cast was great, and it was so creatively inventive.  I look forward to the next season!

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think; hope you have a great day, take care!  =)