By Justin Guillou / September 13th, 2016
Last weekend at A Video Game Con(That’s the actual name) I got a chance to play Henshin Engine, a new project by Saru Studio that is a giant love letter to 8 and 16-bit video games along with the console rivalries of the era. As the name implies, the game is heavily inspired by the mighty PC Engine or as we knew it in the west: The Turbo Grafx-16! To get the full experience, I played this on an actual Turbo Duo!
You play as Yuki Shirokawa a young woman with a passion for video games. It is that same passion that led her to becoming a game tester for the Jipang Electronics Company or JEC. While at the company she stumbles upon a hidden video game console known as an FX-Engine. As she approaches it she is transported into a new world and transforms into FX unit: Yuki! There is a cool webcomic that further expands on the story and gives more backstory to our charming heroine.
Henshin Engine plays like any platformer of that era would. You run and jump your way across platforms while avoiding or fighting enemies as you encounter them. Yuki can slash her enemies or punch if you hit the attack button when you crouch. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, especially when you have it running on a nice BVM. The spritework and animations are bright, colorful and can really catch your attention if you happen to be walking by someone playing it. The character portraits were also really detailed and had a lot of expression to them. The music to go along with all of this was superb and very much the kind of rockin’ tunes you would want in a 16-bit action game. I actually let the game sit idle for a few seconds and kept my ear closer to the speakers so I can appreciate the music. It’s good stuff.
The demo had a handful of level and most consisted of very basic platforming puzzles. The controls felt tight and responsive however, I think the game could benefit from slightly more forgiving enemy placement and better balance. Like a lot of old games, when your character is hit, she is knocked back a bit. This is not too bad, however in the third level there were a lot of enemies that would be encountered over bottomless pits. If that wasn’t enough, some enemies also have knockback when hit meaning you are constantly pushing them forward as you jump from platform to platform. It also doesn’t help that certain platforms move as well and their patterns seemed to be really random. Unfortunately, Yuki’s range is very limited you you really have to get up close to these enemies to attack them. One slight mistake, and you are falling into the bottomless pits leading to a lot of instant-death scenarios. A projectile attack either as a permanent skill or a limited power-up, would definitely help in these situations.
Of course, this is an early demo so I’m sure these issues will be ironed out. In fact, I think Henshin Engine has lot of potential and highly encourage Saru Studio to fine-tune this so that it will be as great of an experience as possible. Fans of 16-bit games of the 90s will find a lot to like about it. There are loads of nods and references to classic video games both in-game and in the webcomic! Henshin Engine could very well be that nice cute trip down memory lane while offering something new, exciting and fresh. Right now, you can back Henshin Engine on Kickstarter. The $15 tier will get you a digital copy of the game while the $40 tier will get you a physical copy for either PC or PC engine/Turbo Duo. The estimated delivery date for these tiers is March 2017.
Henshin EngineIndieNECPc Engineplatformer 2DRetroSegaTG16turbografx