Saturday, January 5, 2019

Take Two Reviews: Super Adventure Island (SNES)

Written: January 4th-5th, 2019

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and happy new year to you all!  =)  Hope you all had a good one, and... I know 2018 wasn't as productive a year on my StarBlog as most other years... but what better way to start off the new year than by making a new review of a game I previously reviewed years ago on account that I don't think the original review (from April 2013) has aged well.
Especially since it was written before I played the other installments of the series and hadn't paid close attention to some of its credits since for the past year or two I've learned to value deep, well-rounded research seriously, and with each review I hope to improve on my reviewing prowess.  I'm getting ahead of myself, though, here is a Take Two Reviews treatment of the following game:

Received: July 12th, 2010
Alternate Title: Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima [ ]
Year: 1992 | Developed by: Produce
Published by: Hudson Soft | Supervised by: Westone
Following the success of the first two Famicom/NES installments of Hudson Soft's Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima/Adventure Island, it was only a matter of time before a subsequent iteration would pop up on the then young 16-bit Super Famicom/SNES console.  And that very game came out in Japan on January 11th, 1992 as Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima, which would see an American and European SNES release that April and November under the title Super Adventure Island.
Image cropped from Paca Paca Passion cover from GameFAQs
What distinguishes today's title from the prior games and what came after the fact was that instead of being developed by Hudson Soft it was instead developed by Produce, a company founded by former Irem employees in 1990 led by Shinji Imada, for it was one of the first games they made as well as the first platformer they worked on... and the latter shows.

During a nightly date with Takahashi Meijin (named and modeled in the Japanese version after Hudson Soft's then executive of the same name), or Master Higgins in the Western versions, and his betrothed Tina on top of a rocky pillar underneath a star-studded sky, a hooded being on a broomstick by the name of Black Mantle appears out of thin air and turns Tina into stone.
What a great boyfriend, leaving her unattended and alarmingly close to the edge where she might fall off!
After cackling at his own misdeeds Black Mantle then flies away.  Takahashi Meijin/Master Higgins, enraged about this situation, summons a feathery King Bird (in the same franchise that has dinosaurs, no less, that has never been around before now and after) and follows after the hooded being.  His adventure to revert his girlfriend Tina back to normal begins.

Beginning by skating down the tropics
Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima/Super Adventure Island is the third game in this sidescrolling platformer franchise, where once again you take control of Takahashi Meijin/Master Higgins, who retains some of his previous functions while also adding new ones in the mix as well as nixing certain elements in the process.  Whenever you start a new game, or anytime you resume after losing a life, you begin at your most vulnerable as until you get a weapon you cannot defend yourself, as was true of the majority of the franchise.  There are two weapons of choice here: the stone axe and the boomerang, the former of which gets thrown at an angled trajectory while the latter has got a healthy dosage of range which returns back to you, but once you obtain one of a different kind than the one you're currently carrying it will be replaced until you find the same one later on; when you first get a weapon you can only fire one at a time until you get two more (same or otherwise) which will enable you to throw up to three at a time, and upon getting it for the fourth time the stone axe or boomerang will be replaced with powerful flame projectiles.

Traversing in the jungle
Also carried over from the prior games is a skateboard that you'll come across on occasion where you'll be able to ride it continuously without being able to stop (you can slow down your ride a bit by doing a wheelie by holding left) until you either reach the end of the given area or until you trip on an obstacle thereby having you go on foot again.  Each round comprises of four parts, and the goal for the first three parts is to reach the end, but along the way you should get as much fruit as you can to sustain your stamina for it gradually depletes itself the more you progress for if it becomes fully empty you'll lose a life, same with sustaining damage from an enemy, its projectile, or falling offscreen at the bottom for this franchise is largely a one hit and you die affair, and doing so will start you back from either the beginning of the round's area or from the middle checkpoint.

Now let's not carried away there, Mister, you
don't want to get sued by Mario for trying to copy
his high jumps and wearing a red hat
The controls are simple as you can move left and right, jump (and swim in a couple segments) with the B button (with how much altitude you gain dependent on how hard you pressed the button), and amass any from one to three of your unlimited stone axe, boomerang, or flame projectiles with the Y button while standing, moving, while in midair, while swimming underwater, and while crouching down.  This time around you can crouch down and throw your projectiles above and below you as opposed to just in front of you, and exclusive to this game is the super jump ability which is accomplished by pressing B while holding down (yes, really) in order to gain a higher altitude than you would after a normal jump.  During the fourth and final part of each round is a boss fight which you must defeat in one life, otherwise you'll be sent back to the middle checkpoint of the third part of the respective round.

Light up the candle
Super Adventure Island's visuals are of the decent variety considering that it's the first 16-bit game in the series, and it is largely colorful throughout which works in most cases (except for the color brown which in this case is largely unappealing) but could benefit in certain areas (i.e. the foreground has got more detail than the backdrop) but there is that occasional effect that makes up for that.  Some examples are the tropical setting you begin your adventure in with the palm trees and green hills painted in the backdrop, when you're dropped off at the beach setting there is a subtle skewing effect when it comes to the crashing waves the further along you move to the right, the second portion of the second round has got a chartreuse sky with big clouds adorning it, in a forest there is a deep mist that is blanketing it, two of the swimming segments have got nice wavy effects, and during the desert there is a sizzling effect in the mountainous backdrop with a small amount of parallax scrolling dedicated to the group of cacti to add a sense of visual depth.

Defeat the fire idol
Master Higgins has got a good design for his 16-bit foray, and there is a sense of detail about him, though I'm not sure why he's got a red hat in this venue as opposed to the white one he usually wears in the series; we already have one red hat wearing platforming hero, we don't need two.  Anyway, he's got solid animation when it comes to walking, remaining idol, jumping, swimming, and even when prepping for a bonus round when you find a hidden star, but when it comes to throwing his weapon they are just a single frame of animation, and honestly there is just something off putting about the way he's drawn when doing that.
Someone at Produce and/or Hudson Soft must've been really proud of that sprite...  That's sad...
My least favorite animation of his, however, is the one that occurs whenever you lose a life due to his obnoxious "oh" face and the equally obnoxious sound effect that accompanies it, the fact that it lingers on that sprite until he falls straight offscreen (adding to the overbearing quality), and the fact that he always does so when facing the left.  Well, why bother with a side pose if you're not going to have it both ways?  Why not directly face the screen during that situation like most installments did?

Bad penguin
This time around the enemy roster is radically different than what came beforehand as this time you get to contend with worms inside shells, moth-like creatures that move in a circular motion, lit up sentient candles with legs, bouncing black balls of goo, penguins with little curls on their head that occasionally attempt to fly towards your direction, indigenous spear throwing enemies, spinning stingrays, inflated walruses, electric eels, and beach bums, et al...  o_O  Now just so we're clear, this is the same franchise we're talking about, right?  Regardless, they are designed decently and animate decently as well.  In terms of bosses they are huge and tower over you as this time you face off against a giant fire idol, a tentacle squid, a rock salamander, and a giant sword-wielding skeleton.
Like a lot of early Nintendo 16-bit games the developers would always try to find a way to incorporate the console's trademark Mode 7 rotating and scaling effects, and this game is no exception as there are a few instances of it: before the game starts proper with Master Higgins falling towards the screen, being swallowed whole by a whale, falling down into the water, and when Black Mantle is initially defeated he zooms in until just his eyes are visible and then zooms out to reveal his true form, and they are all done to good effect

Stingray barrage
Super Adventure Island's soundtrack was provided by Yuzo Koshiro, who was a household name at this point after composing music for Nihon Falcom's Ancient Ys Vanished diptych, Sega's The Super Shinobi/The Revenge of Shinobi, Quintet's inaugural title Actraiser/ActRaiser, and Ancient's Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist/Streets of Rage.  I'm not quite sure how he got involved in this game as it's the only game in the series he composed for (perhaps it was under the recommendation of Hudson Soft following his aforementioned contribution to the Ys franchise), but all the same it is the highlight of this game for me with its hip hop stylings and beats which augment an appropriate sense of atmosphere, even if it does deviate from all the other games' musical stylings it does showcase his range and versatility as composer.

Light jogging
The first round's theme sets off your adventure with its hip hop beat, the second round's theme really complements the fun scenery with its funky calypso tunes, the desert theme has got a bit of a Western vibe due to the hot nature of its setting, and the final area leading up to Black Mantle has got a menacing build up to its theme and is a sign that things are about to come to an end.  There is a whimsical harp-driven number that plays in the intro as Tina gets turned to stone, the swimming theme sounds relaxing, the normal boss theme is driven by hard piano, Black Mantle's theme is intense in nature, and finally the ending credits theme are filled to the brim with calypso music.  The sound effects are serviceable for the most part (and I'm not counting the one for when you lose a life) in regards to downing enemies, boss explosions, throwing weapons, jumping, and swimming, but I could swear that the sound effect that emanates from the King Bird whenever it pops up is the exact same one that was used by the people-carrying bats and Arctic wyvern in Actraiser/ActRaiser (and I thought the other Quintet games were the only ones to recycle that sound--among other ones--but I guess not).

Boomerangs increase range
Super Adventure Island has got only one difficulty, and the degree in difficulty is largely steady and manageable, unfortunately there is one caveat to all this: so is your pacing, which in this case is slow.  Yes, unlike the other games where you could alternate between walking and running by holding down the attack button, this time you don't have such a privilege, and the fastest you can go is when you ride on a skateboard.  You start off with three lives and gain a new one after every 50,000 points, but upon losing the last one you'll be given a prompt to continue or forfeit; the continues are limited in this installment as you only have two, but unusually enough you have seven seconds to decide as opposed to the usual nine (odd choice in numbers), and choosing to continue will start you back at the start of the current part you were in.

End of area
The slow pacing sort of makes Master Higgins a big target (no pun intended), and while it is possible to progress and get over that handicap you still have to be careful when it comes to enemies but it would've been nice to have a little bit of traction to make the proceedings feel less awkward (I mean of the consistent variety).  The bosses have easy to follow patterns and having flame projectiles at your disposal will ensure that the battles are shorter; during one fight in particular against the rock salamander you must stay on top of its coiling and recoiling body as you attack its head and avert wall obstacles.  The game also ends abruptly upon defeating Black Mantle, as there is no build up or lead in to that moment, we don't even see Tina revert back to normal, as both her and Master Higgins are happily together in the end; I expected better from Ryuichi Nishizawa.  ...  O_O  Wait, Ryuichi Nishizawa?  Creator and consultant of the Wonder Boy franchise Ryuichi Nishizawa??

Swimming inside a whale
Apparently!  And compounding things further is the involvement of Wonder Boy developer Westone albeit as the supervisor for this game; which is really bizarre when you know that Nishizawa's and Westone's roots are deeply embedded in the Wonder Boy series of games.  I know the first Wonder Boy and Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima/Adventure Island are more or less the same game albeit with enough differences to give them their own identity, but afterwards the two individual games would form up franchises in their own right that each went in a different direction from each other (the former would incorporate RPG elements while the latter would mostly rely on straightforward action).
And yes, that is no exaggeration and you are not reading that wrong, but that really is Ryuichi Nishizawa's name in his one and only Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island contribution--with a story credit.  A story credit in a platformer, no less.  I would actually give that the benefit of the doubt if there was much of one in-game to begin with, but there's not.
There's no written story progression or narration inbetween areas, and you're not really given any clue (e.g. a map, like the last game) what location the King Bird will drop you off at in the beginning of each round until you're there; guess Takahashi Meijin/Master Higgins is just lucky that he's on the right track.  He gets swallowed by a whale in the middle of the second round and is outside at the beginning of the third round, but we never see him exit the mammal one way or another; he had to have come out somehow.  And it really makes the trip feel worthwhile when the game concludes itself on such a rushed and spontaneous note with no build up or fanfare leading up to it, so glad this game told such a great story-_-

Okay, I'll admit, that squid is adorable~
For awhile the first Nintendo 16-bit incarnation of the series was relegated as a console-exclusive, though eventually it (alongside its direct 16-bit sequel Super Adventure Island II/Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima II) would see a second lease in life as a downloadable on Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console (RIP, 2006-2019) in 2011 which is the only time it ever got rereleased to date.  When you compare this game with the other traditional installments it really feels like the odd one of the bunch as there is a lot different aside from the monster roster, sound style, and lack of a running feature; 

Jumping up on the tree's branches
there are no eggs that encase items this time around as you stumble across the weapons in midair (which means no invincibility fairies and no eggplants trying to momentarily siphon your stamina from you) and the skateboard is just there on the ground waiting to be ridden on, no seemingly normal flowers to pass by to be followed later on by a wolf which will leave behind the controller of the console pertaining to the present game should you manage to take it down, there are invisible fruit which can only be revealed if you throw your projectiles at seemingly inconspicuous spots, instead of the goal being the entrance of the next area or a flagpole the given area ends when you jump to grab the ball,

and finally there are bonus rounds that can be accessed when you throw your projectile at seemingly nothing yet there's a sound anyway, jump up from said spot to reveal the star, and get said star.  None of the staff from Hudson Soft who worked on the other Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island games (before and after) were involved in this one, and the staff that actually was involved had never worked on a Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island game before.
Images from GameFAQs
That is, except for Japanese manga artist Susumu Matsushita who worked on the cover art for the other Takahashi Meijin installments courtesy of Light & Shadows for he provided the cover for the Japanese and European versions of this game, whereas the American version of Super Adventure Island had an entirely Americanized art cover which is one of those instances of making the game look more exciting than it actually is.

Misty forest
I first found out about this game over a decade ago, and general consensus says that Takahashi Meijin/Master Higgins' first 16-bit venue is not good.  Before I played it the only experience I had with the Adventure Island series was the original NES game and the Game Boy port of Adventure Island II (which dropped the Roman numeral in the localized version for some reason so it was simply called Adventure Island), and those games at the time I thought were okay (just okay, nothing great).  I kept my expectation in check when I ordered it back in the Summer of 2010, and upon playing it I could not help but agree, and more than eight and a half years later my thoughts on Super Adventure Island are pretty much the same on the whole (I've learned to appreciate certain visual aspects, but it doesn't change the gameplay); it didn't help that at the time I was not a fan of the series.

But after I first reviewed it back in 2013 I was curious about other installments, namely New Adventure Island and Super Adventure Island II, but I wouldn't get to play the former until I downloaded it on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console in 2016; it was such a huge improvement over today's game that it felt cathartic, it reinvigorated the series with a fresh new take, it had a good sense of polish, it was charming and appealing to look at with its vibrantly colorful palette as opposed to emphasizing on shading, and it was the most fun I had in the series; and the latter I imported from Japan in 2017, and it was also good fun, embracing the nonlinear open-ended structure while retaining the series' action.  =)  All the games in the franchise that I played that came out after this one made me appreciate and like the series more, which is a good thing.

"Ow!  Why'd you slap me?!"
I had actually considered re-reviewing this game almost two years ago, but I had no patience for it at that point so those plans were scrapped.  That may have been a blessing in disguise, in hindsight, as looking in to the credits recently in preparation for this review had shed some new light.  The problem with Super Adventure Island wasn't a change in developer; many video game franchises had at least one or two installments that was developed by a different company than the one that usually worked on it, and largely turned out fine.  No, the problem with Super Adventure Island was the developer in question Produce's lack of experience in the platforming genre.

This reminds me, I haven't played Hudson Soft's
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West video game in
This was one of Kyon Kyon's two directing credits, the other was Produce's SuperGrafx horizontally sidescrolling shoot'em up Aldynes: The Mission Code for Rage Crisis which was also a Hudson Soft release which might explain how Produce got roped into this game due to those ties.  It also had two producers (Mikio Ueyama and Mitsuhiro Kadowaki), two programmers (B. Hanawa and Makoto Sakai), and five designers (Takayuki Hirai, Tomoko Sugou, T. Suzuki, Y. Asakura, and Jun Kusaka), and a common link I found with most of these names was their involvement in one way or another with Hudson Soft's Super Bomberman but also many of them would move on to different things.
Primarily Produce's Nintendo 16-bit contribution to the RPG genre beginning with their turn-based Elnard/The 7th Saga which had Sakai serving as sub programmer, Kusaka as graphics director, and Hirai and Sugou as graphic designers.  Produce would ultimately find more success with the Enix-released RPGs, and while they would collaborate with Hudson Soft again (namely for Super Bomberman 4), it was clear that the platforming genre was not for them as they have not worked on another one after today's game.

Jumping up on a skateboard in the desert
My biggest problem with Super Adventure Island comes down to two issues: its lack of polish and its need to go at a slow pace.  There are at least two if not three areas where you must venture forth and confront the enemies ahead of you but occasionally you must be mindful of a penguin that will try to blindside you by appearing from the left edge of the screen out of thin air (they don't even appear from offscreen) which is blatantly bad design.  It's awkward enough to move at a slow pace, but is even awkward still when you have to hold down and jump to reach your highest altitude.  I don't have a problem with a slow paced platformer if it was done so by design and with a purpose (Quintet's ActRaiser 2 is always the example I fall on whenever this argument pops up), but when the slowness comes across as an afterthought and feels intrusive, then that's where I draw a line.

Mountain climbing
It's not so much a problem when you're in the midst of swimming, but since the game has you largely go on foot then that's a different scenario entirely.  The reason I feel that it is an afterthought is because this is not how the Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island series was established from the start, it was established as a series where you could choose to walk or run, but because you're just relegated to walking it really sucks out the energy of the proceedings here, and without the other elements that were present in the past and future iterations (like the random content eggs) it really makes this venture feel bland and unremarkable (with or without Yuzo Koshiro's music that would still ring true, for a good soundtrack does not automatically make a game better), and let's face it, the areas would be a lot shorter than they actually are if they did incorporate speed.  Poor Europe, at a time when TV console games ran at 50 Hz speed, which is roughly 16.7% slower than the 60 Hz speed of the Japanese and American versions, I imagine the slowness must've been highly unbearable in that region (and on the 1992 PAL SNES launch year, no less).  =(  I understand going in a new direction, but the direction this installment went in for is not one I'm particularly fond of.

Sanitary water
There's elements that try to freshen up things once in awhile (like a mine car ride, scaling up a tree and later on a mountain, swimming in a whale's stomach and later in the water, and a very dark room with a small vignette circled around you), for sure, but it doesn't change the fact that it lacks in fun value for it could have benefited so much from it (beginning with more exciting area designs and gaining traction as you move, but alas, no).  The only area design I felt was genuinely interesting was the final one as it's the biggest room in the game where you must scale upward and occasionally jump from moving platform from moving platform.  You'd think the game was rushed for release; Nintendo's 1990 16-bit launch title Super Mario World was rushed for release, and yet it still felt polished and well-made in spite of that.

"Let me ask you something:
Look, I love platformers, it's one of my top favorite video game genres alongside RPGs and puzzlers, but Super Adventure Island did not fit the bill at all for it is easily the nadir of the series bar none (I haven't played Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima Wii/Adventure Island: The Beginning as I never downloaded it on the Nintendo Wii's WiiWare service, so I can't comment on that one).  I've played far worse platformers than this and it is not so much bad so much as average, but it is not one I find myself playing over and over again.  I know there are some people who like this game in spite of its flaws, and I respect them for that, but I have seen some try to excuse its lesser quality on account of its age and perceive it as normal because some other games at the time were like that (a line of defense I'm less receptive of; age is irrelevant, there have been many platformers at the time that were better made and enjoyable, so forgive me if I respectfully don't believe in that excuse, but you do you, to each their own).

Snow wheelie
Regarding then console-exclusive Nintendo 16-bit platformers that were around by the time this game came out, I personally wouldn't play it over Nintendo's Super Mario World, System Sacom's Jerry Boy/Smart Ball, Capcom's Chōmakaimura/Super Ghouls'n Ghosts, or Konami's Akumajō Dracula/Super Castlevania IV.  I wouldn't even play Super Adventure Island over Quintet's Actraiser/ActRaiser (granted, the last one is less of a full-fledged platformer and more of a game that occasionally becomes one).  I especially wouldn't play it over the first Nintendo 16-bit installment of Red Company's Genjin/Bonk franchise
in the form of the 1994 Red Company/A.I/Amble-developed Chō Genjin/Super Bonk/Super B.C. Kid (even if it too is the nadir of its series, in my opinion, it's still okay to play as it feels like a proper continuation of the ideas presented in the prior installments).

Final destination
I know the people at Produce who worked on this game were out of their depth when they worked on it, but I'm sincerely hoping that this was not the best that they could come up with for their one and only contribution to the Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island series.  Maybe that rushed speculation theory isn't that far off...  Still, there is an upside to unremarkable platformers like this one, and that is they make you appreciate the fellow games in the genre that are better made even more.  Waste of a story credit for a game that barely has enough to warrant one, though.  If you are curious about this game though, it's not a great or even good game in my opinion but if you want to play a game that's simple and short then this game will do you fine (it's roughly a half hour long), but if want to play a Nintendo 16-bit Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island that is genuinely fun to play and one that is legitimately good, then I recommend you play the direct sequel instead.

My Personal Score: 5.5/10

d(^-^)bTO EACH THEIR OWNd(^-^)b

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think (neither spam nor NSFW comments are allowed); hope you have a great day and I wish you all a happy new year, take care!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Cacoma Knight (SFC) Review

Received: December 21st, 2017 / Written: November 11th-12th, 2018
Alternate Title: Cacoma Knight in Bizyland
Year: 1992 | Developed by: Affect
Published by: Datam Polystar | [ ]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and reviewing more content from Datam Polystar.  "What?  Two Datam Polystar video game reviews in the same year, and it's back-to-back?  Oh, StarBoy, you spoil us!"  =D  …is how I presume some of my followers might react; but then, there's a chance they might not react that way.  Shouldn't really second guess stuff like that.  ………  Anyway!

Following Jorudan's unpolished platforming misfire Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya, which was Datam Polystar's first published video game for the Super Famicom in April 1992 (which saw an American SNES release under Seta's USA distribution company as Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror eight months later), the developer stopped making platformers and the publisher would seek a change in direction, and all for the better if you ask me.
One change involved a new developer to publish games for: enter Affect, a company that began making games in 1990 and whose prior credits involved the Japan-exclusive horizontal shoot'em up on the MegaDrive XDR: X-Dazedly-Ray co-developed by Unipacc followed by 1991's Super Stadium on the Super Famicom which got localized for the SNES in America over half a year later as Nolan Ryan's Baseball.  Their very next game would be today's game Cacoma Knight which was released on the Super Famicom on November 1992, and would be the second game published by Datam Polystar, and like Musya before it this game would see an American SNES release by Seta's USA distribution company as Cacoma Knight in Bizyland on June 1993.

The Kingdom of Fieldland was a lively and prosperous place,
especially since it was ruled King Cacoma, who decides to choose today to partake in a game of golf.  But alas, all good things must come to an end.
Meanwhile Wagamamā, the Queen of Lasyland, was extremely jealous of Fieldland's hard working style, so she began to concoct her evil scheme.
So in her impractically and impossibly designed castle she looks around in her treasure room for the very thing she needs to fulfill her plan.
Eventually she finds a magic mirror where she casts a wicked spell to trap King Cacoma's daughter Princess Ophelia in it, thereby corrupting Fieldland's inhabitants and rendering the locales gray and dismal.
The benevolent monarch searches high and low for someone, anyone, to rescue his daughter and restore Fieldland to its former glory.  So, who will right these wrongs committed by Wagamamā?
That's quite the outie ya got there, Kakomaru, hope no one decides to walk up to you and poke at it
This random trio--all three of whom were unaffected by the spell.  There's the girl Jin, the boy Hii, and the sentient automaton Kakomaru.  King Cacoma beckons them to bring back Ophelia and restore peace to Fieldland and promises them upon foiling Wagamamā's scheme that he will reward them with anything they desire.

Yes, one of the enemies is an ocarina--
where's Link when you need him?
Cacoma Knight is an action-oriented puzzle game done in the vein of Taito's 1981 coin-op classic Qix in that the goal throughout each area is to claim just as much, if not exceeding, the eligible percentage required to clear the given area.  Before starting each game you can choose in the Player Select screen to take control as Jin, Hii, or Kakomaru, and from the moment you begin the game proper you're given magical chalk to ensure Fieldland's gradual return to normal.  Each time you start off on the edge of the frame which you can ride on (with one button you can speed up your sliding on the edge depending on who you play as), but to enter the unclaimed portions of the area, regardless where you are each time, you must hold down a button in order to accomplish that.  A bit of forewarning before I continue, I never had to thoroughly describe this kind of game before, so please bear with me as I elaborate on its gameplay further for I might be struggling a bit to search for the words to accurately describe it.

Beware the large cymbals
Each round is comprised of three parts, and before starting you're given a brief glimpse of what the current area used to be like before fading to reveal the corruption it had endured; and anytime you draw a big or small amount of space bits of Fieldland's former glory will be revealed once you move either back to the edge you came from or towards any other edge of the screen (including ones you added inside the frame).  Occasionally restoring certain segments of the current area will reveal a concealed treasure chest which will include any one of the following: a magic piece of mirror, a faerie, a pair of boots to momentarily increase your speed, an arm for what I presume must be arm strength, a 1Up to give you an extra life, an hourglass to momentarily remove all enemies on screen, and a clock to give you extra time.  Yes, there is a timer, as represented by a chartreuse line that gradually highlights the frame from the bottom to the top, and if the frame's edges are completely chartreuse then your time is up and you'll be forced to start the current area from scratch.

"'Owl' do you do?"
Throughout each area you will have to contend with varying kinds of enemies; there are those who will roam and bounce around the edges of the corrupt segments of Fieldland and those that will ride on the edge (including the one you're currently in the process of making with your magical chalk).  Being touched by any one of them or their projectiles will cost you a life, at which point you'll resume right on the spot (after two seconds of seeing your incapacitated character rotating around), but if you lose your last life you'll be brought to a game over screen where you can choose to continue from the start of the current area you're in or give up the game.

In-game comparing and contrasting
There are some enemies that will cause you damage even if they don't touch you just by bouncing off from the unclosed chalk line that you're making, so exercise caution whenever you utilize this magical tool.  Since you can use the chalk in any portion of the field, it is possible to encase certain enemies inside the claimed portions of the land, which will either dispose of them until they respawn again shortly after or they'll still be around but will not be able to go any further.  Once you reached or exceeded the qualification to graduate to the next area the entire playing field of the current one will revert back to Fieldland's former glory, and at the end of the third part of each round you'll be brought to a screen and see the mirror pieces comprising of pieces of Princess Ophelia--always randomized in each playthrough.

Time is not always on your side
Cacoma Knight boasts really vibrant and colorful visuals through and through, and it is always fascinating on a visual sense to see both versions of the same area you're currently at.  The glorious portions of Fieldland are rich and colorful and pleasant to the eyes, while the corrupt portions are brown, barren, and devoid of life; the contrast is especially striking when comparing the restored and corrupt portions of the land side by side as you play it.  A few examples are Round 1-3 where the water has been seeped away with a rotten, decrepit ship versus a wholesome ship with sails on a body of water attached to a port with green pasture towards the right side, Round 3-3 with a stale and unappealing locale versus an inviting and colorful place with gingerbread houses, and Round 4-2 with rotten landscape that has a purply toxic pond in the middle versus a healthy green locale with a refreshing blue pond in the middle with some lily pads for extra measure.

Careful not to have your line hit by the
projectiles of the crystals
The main characters Jin, Hii, and Kakomaru are designed decently in-game and animate well when it comes to switching directions and rotating around any time you lose a life.  The enemy roster comprises of ocarinas, an owl who spins its head in a (counter)clockwise manner, evil sentient clocks, a big umbrella that occasionally sprouts tiny umbrellas from the top of the playing field, a sentient airplane that flies and bounces up and down, magnets that every so often move up and down and fire off a three-way projectile spread shot, and slime, et al.  Wagamamā is designed decently in-game when you reach Round 6-3 and has got minimal animation, and I love that the entire game has got a golden leaf frame adorning the playing field just like the first four games of Nihon Falcom's Ys A-RPG franchise--even when it fades to black as it transitions you to the subsequent area and when you get the game over screen the frame is still there which I appreciate.

Rotted versus fresh
The game's characters were designed by Ano Shimizu, whose prior credits involved the isometric-viewed 1988 N.H. System-developed Namco coin-op Märchen Maze, Whiteboard's 1989 MegaDrive adventure/Mahjong game Mahjong Cop Ryū, and the 1991 Santos game on the MegaDrive Battle Golfer Yui.  Shimizu's characters in Cacoma Knight evoke a simple yet lighthearted design in the opening cutscene, manual, and cover art, and there is an anime-like charm to it as a result.  During the game over screen there is an over-the-top exaggerated chibi design of Princess Ophelia in the middle and the character you chose to play as has got a flustered and/or annoyed expression that reverts back to a happy one once you choose to use up a continue, and finally when you beat the game you see King Cacoma's daughter in one piece minus the exaggeration.  Shimizu would also go on to serve as character designer for Affect's subsequent Super Famicom venue Makeruna! Makendō and its sequels.

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere
Cacoma Knight's music was composed by former Human Entertainment composer Takahiro Wakuta and was the first music he did for the developer Affect; afterwards Wakuta would provide music for subsequent Affect games like the aforementioned Makeruna! Makendō and PlayStation One titles Finger FlashingPhix no Daibōken: Phix in the Magnetix World, and Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura: Eternal Heart.  The soundtrack isn't big as there aren't that many songs in it, but what is there works well in conjunction with the game as it is largely lighthearted.  The only downside is that if you press Select to look up how many lives and continues you've got remaining it will cut to a different song, but then when you return to playing the song in the current area will start again--don't like it when that happens, but luckily there's an in-game sound test in the options screen.  The sound effects are interestingly chosen as each character has their own sound for when they lose a life, the sound for when you get the boots and go fast sounds appropriately whimsical, and the sound for when you uncover a chest is satisfying to hear.

Gingerbread houses
There are three different difficulty settings to choose from (Easy, Normal, and Hard) in the options screen, and they vary regarding the amount of challenge enemies dish out at you and how much of a percentage of the playing field you need to recover in order to qualify to go the next area; in the options screen is also a sound test and monitor and pad test.  Speaking of elements that vary, the three main characters have got different attributes that distinguishes them from the other in terms of speed: Jin is the fastest of the three and is the go-to character because of this, Hii is the median character and moves at a reasonably steady pace, and then there's Kakomaru who is the slowest character in the game (more on why that is a bad thing later).  In the mode select screen you can choose to play the normal game by yourself or with another player, and there is also a competitive player versus player mode.
Special presents indeed, best to make good use of them
In the mode select screen there is an almost Konami-esque code sequence where you can augment the number of lives (up to five) and continues (up to nine) to prolong your adventure: simply press up, up, down, down, right, left, right, left, B, A.  If you did it right you'll be brought to a Special Presents screen where you can also choose to start from the beginning of the first round to the sixth of your choice, especially if you're picking up where you previously left off.  I sincerely recommend accessing this screen any time you play it because your chances of making it to the end with the default settings in one go are slim at best.

Restore the yellow brick road
Affect was a largely Japan-only company as many of their titles remained in the Land of the Rising Sun, for the only games of theirs to reach American shores in physical format was Super Stadium (as Nolan Ryan's Baseball), Cacoma Knight (in Bizyland), Makeruna! Makendō (as Kendo Rage), and Phix no Daibōken: Phix in the Magnetix World (as Phix: The Adventure, which took thirty-eight months after its original May 2000 Japanese release to reach American shores; that's three-plus years in layman's terms); some of their other PlayStation One venues would be released in America for the first time later in life on the PlayStation Network downloadable service under the PSOne Classic label.  Affect is still around today, but no longer as a video game developer as in 2008 they began their business making and producing web apps.

In the Summer of 2012 I got a Retro Duo when my desire to play games from Japan was growing intensely which opened a doorway for me as I could now play Super Famicom games; in Christmas 2015 I got a Super Famiconsole which in hindsight I wish I got from the start (had I known that they shared the same outlet plug as American products, I would've gotten it without question) because it's better made and has got an eject button.  That Christmas I got Namco's Libble Rabble, which was my ninth physical Super Famicart that I got, a 1994 direct port of their 1983 16-bit arcade game and is a game I enjoy a lot.  =)
On February 2013 I shared my impressions (not a proper review, but I hope to rectify that sometime in the near future) of the game which were positive.  Bard Oly left a comment on there remarking that the game looked like Cacoma Knight, a game he said he liked.  I can see how one would arrive at that conclusion as there are hidden treasure chests scattered about and it's a colorful game through and through; Affect must've been influenced by Namco's coin-op in some form or another when making today's game--but whereas Cacoma Knight played exactly like Qix, Libble Rabble played with the formula in a way that made it stand out.

I had heard of today's game prior to Bard Oly bringing it up, but it was afterward that I decided to browse MobyGames to look at its screenshots out of curiosity.  It seemed interesting, but I was a bit uncertain of trying right away; there are only so many games to play on the Nintendo 16-bit console (I have almost two-hundred physical carts in my collection), and my go to genres were mainly platformers and RPGs and occasionally puzzlers, or sometimes a hybrid of two or three of them.  Cacoma Knight, despite fitting the criteria, was not high on my curiosity list.
Then in the Summer of 2016 my Datam Polystar kick began when I imported Success' Super Famiport of their charming 1993 Sharp X68000 block pushing puzzler Keeper which I was curious about for years and absolutely adored it upon playing it, then weeks later I imported Success' colorful cute'em up Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% which was the most I spent on a Super Famicart and was worth every penny as I enjoyed it a lot.  =)  These two games made me want to explore more Datam Polystar games on the Super Famicom, and this game turned out to be among them.
Early that December I caught up with Jorudan's Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya which had a genuinely creepy atmosphere but was a bit of a struggle to play because the main character was so slow and his jumps so awkward that it contributed to its unpolished structure; not impossible, but not very fun either; at best, it was average fare.  That Christmas in 2016 I got Affect's Makeruna! Makendō, among other games, inside with the manual in the box which in my opinion was solid feel-good entertainment and was cathartic to play after Musya.

Yes, I am in the mood for a Frogger game
If you can't tell, there are frogs riding the bottom edge
Affect's prior game Cacoma Knight was the next game released by Datam Polystar that I wanted to try, but I wouldn't be able to play it until the next Christmas in 2017; well, technically I got it days earlier.  It was the first time in three years that my family and I had an early Christmas as we celebrated the actual Christmas day with relatives out of town.  Like Makeruna! Makendō the previous year I got Cacoma Knight in CIB; when I got to play it I left my expectations in check and knew it would not be up to the standards of the Success games I played.  If by chance you're reading this, Bard Oly, and you read my previous review before this one and are expecting a similar kind of reception to this game from me, I'm afraid you might not like some of what I have to say.  =(
Let's just get this out of the way to set the record straight, it's above the quality of Jorudan's Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya; but that wasn't hard.  That game was in desperate need of polish and was frustrating at points due to its deliberate pacing,
The only thing more horrific than its atmosphere is the prospect of playing through it
not to mention its tone was very dour, dreary, and grim; sure, it had a creepy atmosphere and was replete with horror elements, but that's about it as far as positives go.  Yeah, I admit there are certain games I like based purely on an atmospheric level (like Software Creations' Solstice II/Equinox and Team Cherry's recent indie hit Hollow Knight to name a couple examples), but at least those were backed up by good, solid gameplay and a fair structure which Musya simply lacked.

I got a mirror
One good change that came from Datam Polystar moving on to publish for Affect was that the tone was more lighthearted and palatable, and its bright abundance of colors in its aesthetic designs was really welcoming versus the serious nature and heavily detailed location settings evinced by Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya.  The fact that Jorudan's game was the first video game published by Datam Polystar is still surprising, but from Cacoma Knight onward they focused on lighthearted and colorful fare when it came to their Super Famicom content, which frankly speaking is a good thing.  But with all that said, this Qix-styled action puzzler is not devoid of faults either.

Mechanisms and DIP switches galore
The three characters all have differing speeds, and having to wait two full seconds each time you lose a life is a bit annoying.  Jin is the best character to control as based primarily on her swift speed, Hii's steady pacing is tolerable to a point, but what really sinks it is Kakomaru's pacing.  Look, I get that they had to be given different attributes so that any time you play as one of them it doesn't feel like you're controlling the same character, I really do, but I draw a line if it entails the character moving at such a sluggish pace to the point where he becomes such a huge target, especially since there's a timer working against you and you cannot defend yourself in any way from enemy attack, because that equates to good design, right?  Wrong!  There is also an unhealthy amount of slowdown when you take control of Kakomaru at points which can simultaneously be alarming and distracting.  I'm okay with a slow pace if the game in question warrants and justifies it, but this game is not among them.  And when I say Kakomaru is slow, I mean he is slower than even molasses which I'm not sure how it was possible, but somehow Affect managed to accomplish that.  As a result it's fairer to play the game as Jin than as Kakomaru.

More comparing and contrasting
Some of the treasure chests you reveal contain a magic mirror or a faerie, and anytime you beat the third part of each round you'll see some puzzle pieces appear comprising of Princess Ophelia appear provided that you get one or more of them.  Because you'll progress to the next area after restoring the qualifying amount of the current playing field you won't get a chance to get everything and upon beating it the restored playing field reveals what treasure chests you overlooked if any.  However, once you vanquish Queen Wagamamā in Round 6-3 you'll have rescued Princess Ophelia who's been restored full.  Well,... what was the point of collecting the mirror pieces if you're just going to free her at the end anyway?  =/  Seems like a waste.  In the Special Presents screen you can choose to start from the beginning of the first round to the last one, and even if somehow you didn't get much if any you'll still see the same result.

Magnetism, to be utilized further in Phix
Cacoma Knight is a also very, very short game; shorter if you play it as Jin and longer if you go through the indignity of playing as Kakomaru, whereas it is somewhere in-between if you choose to play as Hii.  I checked a World of Longplay video on YouTube, and shockingly enough it was roughly fifteen minutes in length with Hii as the chosen character (less if you don't count the opening and ending credits).  If the game is fifteen or twenty minutes short by yourself, imagine how short it must be when played by two people.  Another reason I checked was because I wanted to double check to see if there was an extra ending, as the ending theme that played whenever you beat the game was not exactly my idea of a happy ending theme, and I checked the sound test to see if there was another ending-like theme.  Nope; it really is that simple.  -_-  I couldn't help but feel cheated because of that, and as a result I found Cacoma Knight to be rather slight.
Disappointingly, though, there is no ending on Expert mode like I'd think there would be for if you eventually manage to beat it you'll be treated to "Try the other level"; what "other level"?  It's over!
I much enjoyed Capcom's 1992 Super Famiport of Mitchell Corporation's 1990 coin-op Super Pang a lot more in terms of action puzzling arcade fun, and it felt more wholesome in and out of comparison.  =)  Why am I not playing that game instead?

Slime attack
Okay, to be fair, Affect worked on today's game around the same time they worked on Makeruna! Makendō, as those games were released two months apart from each other (the latter came out in Japan in January 1993), and generally speaking when two projects are being worked on at once there is going to be a dip in quality somewhere along the line, and Cacoma Knight received the short end in that regard.  Of course, one was an action puzzler done in the vein of Qix and the other was a sidescrolling platformer, but regardless of what genre the games in question are if both are being worked on at once some quality will be lost in transition.
To be honest, I felt that Affect put their heart into Makeruna! Makendō more than they did for Cacoma Knight; no, it wasn't perfect either, but it was playable and had a good dose of challenge and replay value and had a reasonable thirty to forty minute length and above all was a lot of random, silly fun and was the closest the Nintendo 16-bit got to having a proper Valis game, the very series by Telenet Japan that it was lampooning and poking fun of that came before it.  Basically, it was feel-good entertainment.
And when you think about, Datam Polystar and the public that played it must've felt somewhat similarly or pretty much the same.  Consider the following: Makeruna! Makendō had franchise potential and it spawned one after it came out (a short-lived one, but it spawned a franchise nonetheless) in Japan only for it got two sequels (each a different genre than the last each done by a different developer), an OVA series,
and in Success' Keeper both Mai Tsurugino (as "Makendō") and Maririn would turn up as playable characters courtesy of Ano Shimizu apart from just the highly adorable eponymous creature.  That should speak volumes about how much of an impact Affect's platformer made on release compared to their previous venue Cacoma Knight which made little to no impact and lacked franchise potential.
I feel I should reiterate that this game is no better than Makeruna! Makendō in my opinion, but it is an improvement over Jorudan's Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya that came before it, but not by much I'm sorry to say.

Elegant versus not so elegant
Anytime you play the game the chests will always have to be revealed in different spots of the playing field than the last time you played it or whenever you use up a continue in the current area you lost your last life in.  I appreciate the randomization so that you don't have to look at the same spot each time you play it, and it does add a slight bit of replay value.  The gameplay is simple, which is fine, but it's ultimately let down by the execution and the feeling that there could've been more to it than there actually is.  I didn't expect much, if anything, before having played it, but it was still a bit disheartening over the slightness of its quality.  The brevity feels slight, the lack of a different ending despite the game hinting at one feels slight for the next reason I'll bring up, the fact that you occasionally get mirrors feels slight because it doesn't matter in the end whether you get any or not because you still save Princess Ophelia anyway, Kakomaru's unbelievably slow pace augmented the slight value, and the game as a whole felt slight to me--which is too bad because there are things to like and appreciate about it and there was some potential for something great, but all those aforementioned downsides let the game down for me.
When it comes to games that have different characters I'd personally like most if not all of them be fun or decent to take control of, and if that doesn't end up being the case then there's a problem: Hii's steady movements make him tolerable to a point, but Jin's swiftness makes her the ultimate go to character here and is practically the only one worth playing as.
Different genres, I know, but my point stands
As far as games with the word "Knight" in the title go, I personally had more enjoyment and satisfaction playing Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight and Team Cherry's Hollow Knight.  They are also better both subjectively and objectively speaking.

Chalk this one up in the okay department
I realize I sound like I'm coming down hard on Cacoma Knight and I know there are people who like it, and I respect them if they do, but this is just how I personally feel.  I don't mind a good arcade-like experience on the Nintendo 16-bit once in awhile, but this one fell just short in that regard.  I don't hate or dislike Affect's first venue for Datam Polystar, but ultimately it in my opinion was okay but slight; the developer would have better success with Makeruna! Makendō.  If you like or appreciate Qix or its variants and were curious about this game, it plays with the coin-op's formula to a T; if you wanted to play something with a little bit more depth beneath the surface (and I don't just mean on a visual sense) then you might end up disappointed.  If you wanted to play a game with replay value, there is some but whether you get enjoyment out of the proceedings depends on whether or not you can overlook its slight elements and blemishes.  I'm glad I played it, but it could've been something more.

My Personal Score: 6.0/10
d(^-^)bTO EACH THEIR OWNd(^-^)b
P.S. For the first time year I reviewed a game not made in the year that ends final digit 3 or 8, so no anniversary ribbon this time.

P.S. 2 In irrelevant news, the award for the most unexpected way to end a chapter in a video game goes to: Chapter 1 of Deltarune!  My God, that was so genuinely creepy, I did not see it coming one iota.  O_O  When is the second chapter coming out, Toby Fox?  I MUST KNOW!!!!!!  =O

P.S. 3 Stan Lee passed away, aww.  =(  Man, we lost an amazing legend.  Rest in peace, man.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think (neither spam nor NSFW comments are allowed); hope you have a great day, take care!