Title Akira Game Type Platform Company ICE Players 1 Compatibility All Submission James Sellman Review Akira, in essence, created the popular western anime market. Hordes of guts-and-porn fans, and even a few true fans, look back to Akira as their first experience with anime. With the growing profitability of anime, it is not surprising that Akira became a prime candidate for a computer game license. What was surprising was that International Computer Entertainment, a relatively unheard of British software company, was awarded the contract. A Computer Game? I.C.E.'s announcement created a great deal of interest and anticipation in Europe, especially in Mangle Video's dominion - the United Kingdom. The fact that it was going to be released, at least initially, only on the Amiga was treated as a good sign. (This also had the side effect of insuring that it remained almost totally unheard of in that dull, grey land of MS/DOS compatibles - the United States.) Computer game adaptations of anime are nothing new in Japan, but this was a breakthrough for Europe. It would be the first computer game based on anime to be marketed as such in the western world. It would also be the first commercial video game based on anime to be written in the west. (Though there have been western computer games that were eventually made into anime later.) It would also (this is why I was excited) be one of only TWO anime games to be released on the Amiga. (The first was U.N. Squadron, an adaptation of the coin-op, which was called Area 88 in Japan. This was an adaptation of the anime and manga of the same name, written by the immortal Kaoru Shintani.) I eagerly waited for it. I got the cool 1994 calendar poster with Kaneda on it. And I waited some more... I was anticipating really great things, because they were putting so much time into it! I was so eager that I didn't even stop to remember the last release from I.C.E., the completely awful Total Carnage.... Perhaps this realization would've saved me, but I doubt it. It took forever. I waited and waited for it to appear, but it didn't show. I counted off the days on my Kaneda calendar until there were no more days left on it to count, for it was 1995. I considered taking the poster down, but it looked cool so I decided to leave it. Besides, it kept reminding me to look out for the game. It was almost a year after the initial announcement that a friend told me of its release. I picked it up the very same day. I was happy. That didn't last very long. First Look Skipping over the rather flimsy documentation, I immediately threw the first disk in. It wouldn't install. I was pissed at yet another company screwing the user over with a shitty trackloader. I sighed, I could live with that. It was an anime game. I didn't care. After a period of gronking I saw the intro come up... Wow! It was just like the movie! It showed a framegrabbed animation of Tokyo blowing up, and cut to the crater, showed the nice big red title, and played the cool drum sounds from the movie. The animation looked like it was only 8 colors. I could live with that, hey it's the game that counts! It then loaded the menu screen, superimposed over the jukebox from the movie, which appeared to be in only 8 colors as well. It played an uninspired adaptation of the theme from the motorcycle chase. It had all the excitement of marshmallows. I of course didn't notice, as I was still psyched from just HAVING the game! I clicked on the menu option to start the game.... Potholes After looking at another grainy 8 color picture, the first level came up. It supposedly deals with Kaneda fighting against a rival gang - the Clowns. It looked more like Kaneda was fighting with his bike to get from one end of a stretch of badly maintained road to the other. Of course that is what the real goal of the level is. In addition to that worthy objective, you are also shown the true goal of Akira: filling up a bowl with pink goop. (I think this is supposed to be the psychic scanner from the movie, but it doesn't look like it. It looks like a bowl full of pink goop.) In this stage you get pink goop by going right. When you get all the way to the right end of the level, your bowl is full of pink goop and you go on to the next level to get more goop. Kaneda's bike does NOT move like it does in the movie. It handles about as well as a tricycle with the handlebars welded in place. It cannot go faster than about 15kph under its own power. I kept looking at the bike, trying to find the foot pedals. There is no real combat here. You have no pipe to bash the Clowns. You have no gun. The road is littered with police, innocent bystanders, other people on motorcycles (which don't go very far), massive chunks of concrete (?), boulders (!?!?) and flimsy-looking picket barricades. If you touch any of them, you die. What amazing combat. Even better are the massive gaps in the freeway that you have to jump over. The potholes are killer in Neo-Tokyo. *WHY* am I on this stupid thing if it's got these gaping holes in it? To make the jump, you need to hit a ramp. If you miss the ramp, you're dead. If you go up the wrong ramp, you're dead, because two screens ahead of you, where you can't see, is an innocent bystander waving his arms, and you can't turn fast enough to avoid him. Even better are the "bonus" pickups. Approximately 3/4 of these are absolutely vital to completing the level. If you don't pick them up, you die. Oh, not right away, but if you don't pick up the "bonus" grenades at several points, you can't use them to blow up the boulders, which you then run into at 1kph and die. If you don't pick up the "bonus" speedups, you don't get enough speed to make it over a ramp, or outrun the police (who kill you). If you don't pick up every single can of fuel, you die (curiously enough you eat gas at the same rate regardless of speed, I thought the Japanese valued fuel economy.) Oh yes, and then there's the boulders. You see, occasionally there are boulders blocking the freeway, and the only way to get by them is to throw a grenade at them. The problem is that you can only throw grenades a fixed distance. If you don't throw the grenade at precisely the right distance, you're screwed. If you throw anywhere closer to the boulders, then the grenade just overshoots them, and you wind up doing another 1kph collision-with-fireball. You can't back up, you can't aim closer, you can't get off your bike and set the grenade on the boulder. If you are closer than about 3/5 of the screen to the boulder, you will die. After about an hour I was finally able to clear the first level, whereupon I was presented with another level of the same. I gave up, it was really that bad. I wanted to persevere for the sake of the review, and I was finally able to do so in the form of a cheat you can enter on the password screen. (Yes, it's another of those level code annoyances that force you to use the joystick to enter letters when you have a perfectly good keyboard for stuff like that.) Using this I was able to crawl through the remaining three levels of the tricyc- er, motorcycle sequence. (I was even treated to another 8-color picture after the second level. It seems that every two levels you get a grainy picture. Great.) Booger Globs It's of course obligatory to have one of the sequences be a platform game. In Akira, there are five of them, four of which have two levels each. The first three cast you as Tetsuo, who, having recently been granted psychic powers, is now trying to escape from the government laboratory so he can take over the world, I think. Tetsuo has the power to kill his enemies by throwing what look like either psychic bolts or booger globs at them. Once again the real goal is to fill a bowl full of pink goop. Obviously this is what Tetsuo really wants, as he refuses to leave the level without his goop. Goop is obtained by killing doctors, nurses, businessmen, airships, automobiles, bunny rabbits, teddy bears, and small children(!?). You need to kill almost all the other beings on a level in order to get enough goop to do whatever it is you're supposed to with it. The platform sections not only require pixel-perfect jumping, but punish you for screwing up by having you fall down holes in the floor that take you back 50% of the way through the level. Considering that each level takes more than an hour to complete if you play it well, this is not very amusing. The levels are artificially huge, and incredibly monotonous. Every screenfull looks like every other screenfull, though you get to know certain parts very well from being sent back to them all the time. The first two levels take place within a high-security hospital. In order to reach the exit you must have the necessary security cards to get through all the elevators between you and the exit. This is vaguely reminiscent of the platform sequences in Technocop, only with the added annoyance of having to go through all the elevators in order. Security passes are carelessly left around the level, though cleverly placed so that if you want to get out you have to walk the maximum possible distance. Curiously enough, you cannot acquire passes from all the doctors and nurses you kill with booger globs. They have pink goop, but no security passes. How do they use the elevator? Even more curious is the fact that in the movie Tetsuo simply blasted down doors, security be damned. He never actually used an elevator in the movie either. Why should Tetsuo have to do this in the game? Afraid he might collect his pink goop too quickly? The next two levels take place in an amazingly vast playroom, with lots of floors but curiously enough, no elevators, stairs, or ladders. The only vertical mobility you can obtain aside from jumping is the occasional fiddly little rising-and-falling-anti-gravity-platform-game-block. The infernal security passes are gone, but now you have to kill four times as many other beings to get enough pink goop. In addition to the old enemies, you get some new things to kill. Now there are businessmen who shoot you, miniature airships that bomb you, automobiles that puke on you (I don't recall this causing damage in the movie), teddy bears that claw you, and bunny rabbits that, well, hop on you. The other obstacles of note are the ones on the ground. There are jack-in-the-boxes with killer teardrops coming out of their eyes. They don't actually DO anything except cry. You have to time the teardrops and jump on top of the box at the right time to let you run under the them. The problem with this is that you could quite easily walk around them, if the game would let you. It's hard to describe without a picture, but it is really irritating. The same problem arises with these really tall piles of legos that you can't jump over. There is OBVIOUSLY a path you could use to walk around them, but the game staunchly insists that you can't. Well, Tetsuo did have a nasty bump on the head, and wasn't really thinking TOO straight... It should be said at this point that I was in considerable pain after slogging for 5 hours of this awful game, but I kept on going... It was my duty... Dear god... The next two levels were yet more of the same, only this time in the play castle at the top of the military laboratory, home to the children who were previously cars with indigestion, myopic bunnies, etc. The odd thing about this castle is that it is so mind-numbingly-bored-to-death huge. It wasn't much larger than a small cottage in the movie. But, I.C.E. have faithfully scaled it up FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT. Now instead of covering a few square yards of incredibly dull unplayable platforms, you can enjoy an area of a half dozen football fields of incredibly dull unplayable platforms! After throwing booger globs at uninteresting targets to get identical globs of pink goop for 5 hours, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you have another 2 hours of tedium to enjoy! There's even the temporarily enjoyable exercise of mindlessly and heartlessly exterminating the small children (who now look like small children) to suck the pink goop from their lifeless bodies! And because it's sooooo much fun you get to repeat the thrill of mass pedocide OVER AND OVER to a seemingly infinite number of incarnations of the SAME THREE sprites! Cackle in glee as you leave the drained carcasses of a hundred Thin Frail Little Girls (tm) behind! Perfect fodder for the streak of necropedophila in all of us! Feel your heart race with joy at the thought of killing yet another dozen Small Wimpy Snot-Nosed Boys (tm)! And don't forget to turn your stereo up, you wouldn't want to deny your ears the ecstacy of savoring the beautifully sampled explosions as your great globs of doom strike a blow of vengeance against the innumerable clones of Fat Kit Who Needs a Hovercraft to Get Around (tm)! And then, suddenly and sadly, after 7 hours of the same thrilling run-jump-fall-through-gap-in-floor-and-get-sent-back-8-screens gameplay, it is over. Tetsuo's mission for pink goop is complete... No more can you experience the elation of being obstructed by a tall, narrow pile of lego... No more can you immerse yourself in the wild abandon of hurling wads of snot at a billion otherwise respectable doctors gayly throwing hypodermic needles at you... Your happy days of repetition and rendundancy are over... And we are glad. It's about frigging time. Kaneda Gets Sensible After sneaking into the military complex with members of the underground revolutionary terrorist organization, Kaneda decides that it's HIS turn at starring in a lame platform segment! Why should Tetsuo have ALL the aggravation and tedium? Surrounded by soldiers, rats, and being strafed by really slow, unsteady hovercraft, Kaneda must wreak more destruction and mayhem, snuffing hundreds of lives so that HE TOO may posess the Sacred Bowl of Pink Goop Sucked From Dead People! This segment actually comes close to being enjoyable, a claim which none of the other stages could even hope to dream of making even if they were lying. For one thing, Kaneda packs a gun. This does considerably more damage than Tetsuo's weapon (which supports the hypothesis that those were in fact booger globs, and not the psychic bolts of doom of the movie). Kaneda has a head on his shoulders. (Now if only he would stop riding his unmaneuverable motorcycle-cum-hippopotamus over freeways with deadly boulders and 30 meter wide gaps.) The segment is also not even remotely as frustrating as the others due to the fact that the sewers seem to have been designed to be better suited to habitation than the building itself. There are no inexplicable gaps in the floor. There are no Bizarre Little Platforms that Mysteriously Float in Midair. There are no two-dimesinional obstructions that appear to occupy three-dimensional space. There are amazing devices known as "ladders" that can take you up or down a level without having to leap on Bizarre Little Moving Platforms that Mysteriously Float Around the Room in Midair, and you don't need to hike across the entire map to get a security pass to use them. But the fact that this part of the game, unlike the other 88.2% of the game, does not make you want to scream in utter frustration and do something impolite like, say, shooting your neighbors' kids, deep frying the entrails, and returning the freshly-cooked viscera as a christmas gift, does not actually mean that it is any fun. You still must wander around through two massive levels, in which any one part in virtually indistinguishable from any other, killing dozens of identical-looking people and collecting the pink goop that they leave behind. And while this is clearly the best part of the game, all it meant was that I was granted a brief respite from the sheer agony that is the rest of Akira, and was able to relax in relatively blissful state of abject boredom. Deja Vu At last comes a segment which is not a platformer. It is, in fact, a shoot-em-up. A shoot-em-up in the spirit of the computer game that is Akira! Kaneda apparently gets fed up with obtaining his goop drop-by-drop from a hundred identical corpses, and decides to pursue his traditional means of goop acquisition -- moving to the right. To facilitate this process he, accompanied by his revolutionary underground terrorist girlfriend, steals one of the military's hovercraft. Unfortunately for both the military and our hero, the hovercraft appears to have been manufactured in the same factory as Kaneda's motorcycle. But rather than crawling inexorably forward and steering laterally with the grace and power of a beached whale, it crawls inexorably forward and steers VERTICALLY with all the grace and power of a beached whale. Fortunately it is not armed with fixed-range grenades, but with a semi-useful laser cannon and optional heat-seeking missiles. And while neither of them do much damage, at least they allow the removal of obstacles that are closer than 3/5 of the screen away. The whole thing resembles the retarded offspring of a tryst between the motorcycle stages and R-Type. Oh, and of course they have to do the obligatory "shoot through the tunnel really fast" segment, which, given the performance of your vehicle, is almost entirely unnavigable. The forks in the tunnel that lead to unforseeable, unavoidable, and instant death are also quite annoying. End the Suffering, End the Pain! After escaping from the compound, the game goes into fast-forward. You're treated to a set of three grainy 8-color pictures this time, rather than the one you've been getting every other level. This is all very well, because I would much prefer to end this piece of tanuki turd rather than suffer through a Tetsuo-flying-like-Kaneda's-motorcycle segment, or a Tetsuo-killing-lots-of-soldiers-on-the-way-to-the-stadium-to-get-pink-goop segment, or (god forbid!) a Colonel-overthrowing-government-by-moving-to- the-right-and-collecting-pink-goop "bonus" round. ("bonus" meaning that if you don't get it you wind up dying for some stupid reason later) And so... Hurrah! It seems that my perseverance has finally paid off! I've made it to the climactic finale! I'VE REACHED THE FINAL BATTLE WITH... with... um... something. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it didn't appear in the movie or the manga. It's some sort of flying organism that occasionally releases worms that wriggle about randomly. The captions beneath the grainy 8-color pictures said something about fighting inside of Tetsuo-turned-blob, but that can't be right, as there's asteroids and buildings and legos in it. It could be a representation of the debris of the city floating within the sphere of destruction catalyzed by the coming of Akira, but that doesn't explain what the floating thing with the tentacles and eyeballs is. In any case, true to form, your ultimate goal is to gain one last bowl of pink goop. In order for Kaneda to get the goop he must fire his handy-dandy laser rifle at the big tentacle thing. Varius pickups around the level allow you to increase the power of your laser, and even convert it into a rocket launcher (how'd Kaneda pull that one off?) The more powerful the weapon, the more goop you get from shooting the tentacle thing. Once you've filled up your bowl of goop, the tentacle thing dies, and you get to see the nifty, grainy, 8-color framegrabbed ending animation, and the credits roll. (Well, actually they kind of JERK up the screen, the scroll routine was apparently written by an ambitious group of gerbils. I kind of wish they'd written the whole game, as even gerbils could do a better job than I.C.E.!) What Does it all Mean? This is definitely one of the worst games I have ever laid eyes on. It makes Total Carnage look like an inspired work of art. It makes even the worst of Ocean's and Psygnosis's movie titles seem like faithful adaptations. It makes such classic chunks of crusty crap as Trump Castle, Spaceport, and The Honeymooners seem enjoyable. The best segment of the game (the sewers) could perhaps be considered platform fare as enjoyable as Huckleberry Hound, one of the worst platformers ever. The graphics, while not horrible, are completely uninspired, and in no way resemble the anime they are supposedly based on. The digitized stills and animations from the movie are extremely coarse, but still manage to look good compared to the pedestrian efforts of I.C.E.'s artists. Audio is unimpressive, consisting of either sparse uninspiring sound effects, or flat-sounding "enter the notes and you're done" renditions of the movie soundtrack. Gameplay is simply hideous, as you probably have already surmised. I.C.E. is clearly hoping to cash in on the name of the movie, attempting to stick unwary consumers with crappy software, and take them for what they've got. Obviously the market they hope to attract are the somewhat dim-witted "new fans". Unfortunately a good many true fans, or even interested outsiders will probably be caught as well. Don't let it happen to you or your friends -- this is a waste of money. It isn't even worth the disks it comes on. Even worse, I have heard that I.C.E. offered to give a pre-release evaluation copy to a British Amiga magazine provided that they give it a rating of at least 80%. If this is true, then these people are unredeemably slime. Don't buy any of their products (not that you'd want to anyway). If It's This Bad, Why Is This Review So Long? This game could be easily summed up in a single acronym -- POS, and I DON'T mean Point Of Sale. Yet for some reason I felt compelled to write this much about it. I wanted to explain *WHY* I was so heartbroken at how bad it was. I wanted to explain *WHY* I loved anime and longed to see more Amiga games based on it... I also wanted people to know the sheer agony that I went through playing it start-to-finish for this review (and that was with the CHEAT MODE ON!). Probably the main reason I explored this game, however awful, in such sickening detail was its official, though not spiritual, link to the anime art form. It was ugly and unserviceable, but it still was a bridge between my two favorite pasttimes, and there was little else to span the gap. I don't know if a great anime adaptation will ever come to the Amiga, and I don't know what form one would take if it did, but should the day of that great release come, may it be showered with tenfold the devotion that has been wasted here, on the blasphemy of I.C.E.'s Akira. OVERALL Sound: Poor Graphics: Poor Gameplay: A violation of the Geneva Convention. Lastability: Attempting to play it for longer than 60 seconds may result in suicide. Value: Nonexistant. Overall: The lowest of the low, and even lower than that. The only thing which is lower are the people who created and marketed it. This is a product of greed.