It’s another beautiful day in the retro-gaming scene with another addition to the Arcade Archives collection. This list of titles has grown so large that I’m predicting a compendium bundle in the future where you’ll be able to get several titles in one discounted swoop. Today I’m reviewing Kid’s Horehore Daisakusen (KHD), originally released by Nichibutsu in 1987. The port was released for the PS4 on 4/26/2016 by HAMSTER, of course. Sadly I had never heard of this game or original developer before being asked to review it. I say sadly because it’s actually a very well made game. But if you take the time to look up Nichibutsu you will learn that the company has been defunct for the past two years. KHD is a little hard to describe in modern gaming terms. It’s a labyrinth, treasure collector game with a hint of Bomberman style combat.
KHD is a pretty good looking game for 1987. I was impressed by the large amount of detail and variation in literally everything. The levels, weapons, and enemies are all highly detailed and full of variation. This is not your standard same thing in different colors type of design. Every stage has a different theme which affects the stage’s overall appearance as well as the types of enemies you see. Some of the themes you will see are feudal Japan, sci-fi, army, and caveman. Enemies come in all different shapes and sizes ranging from police officers to robots and weird looking monsters. There are several different types of power-up items such as ray guns, yo-yos, roller blades, and shovels. There is a lot happening on screen during play. Several enemies will be moving around at once along with up to two players plus power-ups. Everything looks really good and runs smoothly. Deaths have their own special animations as well.
The only thing I didn’t particularly like was the fact that the HUD just sits atop the game in a black square. Instead of the usual integration of the HUD into the game window as most games both today and from that era do, Nichibutsu decided to just literally cut corners and shorten the game window in order to put the HUD in its own standalone black box above the game. It’s actually a very nice HUD with more than your standard classic arcade features. It has the hi score, your score, and remaining lives as per usual. But it also has the amount of time remaining for the stage, the number treasures yet to be found, and shows special occurrences such as bonus time when you get that specific power-up. It’s a great HUD in reality. I just don’t really like the way it was placed. But to be fair, putting that much info over such an active game screen would have probably been too hard to read in real time.
I will say that I wasn’t happy with the visual adaptability provided by HAMSTER. As with all Arcade Archives titles, you can alter the game’s appearance. The only setting I really ever play with is the display size. In every game I’ve tried in this collection, the default setting was not full screen, but instead a much smaller window. But in every game up till this one I was able to enlarge the game to the full size of my TV without it looking any worse. That can’t be said about KHD. It’s certainly playable with the screen enlargement, but it just doesn’t maintain its overall visual quality the way other games in the collection do. I can’t necessarily fault HAMSTER for that, but I do believe it is worth noting. Especially considering how important space/screen size is in a labyrinth game like this one. But overall the graphics aren’t bad.
The gameplay is very easy to learn, but extremely challenging. You goal is to pass through each level by collecting all the treasure chests in the maze within three minutes. You move around with the control stick and use weapons with the mappable button of your choice. Once you’ve collected all the treasures in the maze, a key will appear. You grab this key and take it to the randomly placed green door and move on to the next stage.
Similar to PACMAN, the maze is filled with enemies which will constantly respawn. The enemies will follow and corner you and they travel in groups much of the time. You instantly die by making physical contact with an enemy, falling into water, or walking into one of the holes you dug, which happens way too often. You can kill enemies by digging holes and having them walk into them and then burying them. If an enemy is not buried after it falls into a hole it will eventually climb out of it. Digging holes is your default means of dealing with enemies other than avoiding them, but there are also a number of attack based power-ups. If you step on a power-up pad, a power-up will appear in the same spot which must then be walked over again. These can range from improved shovels, which will let you dig multiple holes in one button press, to flame throwers, freeze guns, and roller blades, which increase your movement speed. Power-ups remain with you until you die even if you move on to the next level. Attack power-ups supersede each other so you have to make sure you don’t pick up something you don’t want to replace something you already have. Power-ups are very responsive and can be used as much as you want.
As you progress farther into the game, the number of treasures present in each level will increase, but the time will not. What was really nice about this game that many other titles in the Arcade Archives collection don’t seem to have is that you can continue at the stage you died in. Your score will reset but you don’t have to go back to the first level. Coupling this with the standard interrupt save function available in all titles in the collection is very useful. KHD is very difficult. There are many enemies that often congregate near treasures. You have a time limit and the maps are actually quite large. You also have no guide to help you find treasure so you have to make sure you pay attention to where you’re going and where you’ve been. Levels also have barriers in them which block your path and force you to go around. And the main means of combat, digging holes, is extremely ineffective and slow considering the number of constantly respawning enemies you have to deal with. Do not buy this expecting something easy from a simpler time in gaming.
You don’t have that much customization options as far as gameplay is concerned like you do in some other Arcade Archives games like Life Force. Basically all you can control is the number of starting lives, difficulty (easy is still very hard), and points needed for an extra life. I feel like there was actually a lot of room for more options in this game, but there just aren’t.
The sound is quite good in this game. The music is at a pretty high level of quality and it’s pretty catchy. It’s classic gaming music that’s active but not too heavy. It changes slightly from level to level, but it’s pretty much the same general track the whole way through. The effects are very well done. You have sounds for basically everything except walking. Digging holes, picking up things, killing enemies, dying, and whatever else each has its own sound. I was very happy with all facets of the audio portion of this version of KHD.
This was the first game in the collection where HAMSTER offered me nothing in the form of writing. Usually you get a short one to two sentence plot summary of the game, even when no such plot can actually be seen in the game. But in KHD you get nothing. If you go to the PSN store page it says “Kid, who has been drawn into the space-time labyrinth from the 23 century, fights to escape from a large track of the enemy in order to return to the present day.” This summary makes perfect sense and I’m not sure why it wasn’t included in the game’s manual like with all other games in the collection. But what you do get in the manual is the original Japanese instruction booklet which was actually really cool to see even though I couldn’t read it. There are also Ms. Pacman style cutscenes between certain stages but I’m not sure how relevant they are to an overall plot because the first one was quite odd and I haven’t gotten to the next one yet. In any case, this isn’t a game you buy for the story.
There isn’t really much replay value in this game outside of the high score and online leaderboards. It has your standard six score based trophies that all newer Arcade Archives titles have plus the Hi Score and Caravan modes as per usual. There are a total of 32 stages each with a three minute time limit. That means technically the game won’t even take you two hours to complete if you never get stuck, which you absolutely will. It’s a fun game, but $8 seems a bit high for this one. Especially if you get stuck and end up giving up which I can see happening to a lot of people with this particular game. I’d probably say pay no more than $4 for this small piece of history.
Arcade Archives Kid’s Horehore Daisakusen is not a bad game but it’s also not really a memorable one. It’s a game that I think only the most dedicated of collectors need to own. It’s not very long and while challenging, the gameplay has very little variety in all reality. It’s a well-made piece of software, but for $8 you can get something much better even within the same collection of games. I say pass unless it’s on sale for considerably less money.
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