This review was done on the original American version without any emulation or reproduction cart on vintage Turbografx 16 hardware.This was achieved by being The Most Interesting Gamer in the World.
This is one of the rarest and most expensive video games ever made: the American version of Magical Chase (American version has superior art and programming). Does the quality of this game meet its market demand and cult like reputation? Is this game consistently fun? Does this game survive the test of time? Will this game earn the highest coveted award in all gaming: the Malstrom Award?
Above: Behold one of the rarest and most expensive video games ever.
There are four versions of Magical Chase. There is the original Japanese version, the American version, the Windows version (haha), and the Gameboy Color version (terrible!). They are all different. With the Windows version, you might as well play an emulated version at that point. The Gameboy Color version is a downport. The American version is the most interesting one as the art was upgraded, including on the main sprite, and it was reprogrammed. The American version is, by far, the definitive version. Since it came out at the end of the Turbografx 16 life cycle, with considerable hype, and was mail order only, it is extremely difficult to find. Since Magical Chase is a quality cute-em up, everyone wants it causing the price to skyrocket.
Magical Chase is an extremely difficult game to review because of its rarity and high market price as well as the cult like appeal behind the game. The question begs the Malstrom Award answer: is this one of the best games of all time?
Magical Chase is a shmup on the Turbografx 16 (which is flooded with shmups). This one is a cute-em up. I have noticed that in many of these later shmups, a random cute anime girl appears. In Pulstar, the cute anime girl is in the intro. In other games like Lords of Thunder, the cute anime girl is the shopkeeper. In Ordyne, the cute anime girl is also the shopper. In Coryoon, the cute anime girl is the princess you must rescue. But Magical Chase, as well as Cotton and another game by Irem, figured out this trend and decided to make your protagonist as the Cute Anime Girl. This way, the Cute Anime Girl would be on screen ALL THE TIME. But how would she work in a shmup? Girls can’t fly! They can if they are a witch and have a broom!
Above: Hardcore gamers are baffled by Magical Chase. And like all hardcore gamers, they cannot afford the definitive American version.
Every shmup needs to bring some new gameplay wrinkle or why play the game? Magical Chase has the star options. Ripple, the name of the witch, has two stars that act as options and as shields. Depending on how you move, they move around Ripple in both protecting her and in firing in different directions. The gameplay of Magical Chase is shooting stuff, gaining gems to use as money at the shop to upgrade Ripple’s power, and using the stars correctly and strategically.
I can talk about the ‘ingredients’ of Magical Chase like the art and sound but that doesn’t get to it. When I first played Magical Chase, I received a reaction I rarely get from a video game. I was creeped out! The first enemy in the game are giant chicken heads running around on legs. WTF!!!! What type of crazy person made this game? A WTF reaction can be good or bad. I had it the first time I played Super Mario Brothers for the NES. But Super Mario Brothers creates a nice, warm, feeling where you do not want to leave this wondrous world. Magical Chase’s world is creepy, and I do not want to stay there too long.
Above: Finally! Someone reviews the game who actually has the American version!
Turbografx 16 is the home to hardcore shmups. It is ironic that Magical Chase, the most expensive shmup ever, is a casual cutesy shmup. This game was not designed for advanced shmup players. Ripple has a laughably huge life meter plus you can spend gems to refill your life. The people who love Magical Chase all say: “I do not normally like shmups.” Magical Chase is a Blue Ocean type game.
Above: Hardcore shmups reveal themselves to be petty peasants with their Japanese version. Get the American version or go home!
Magical Chase has so many strengths to it:
One, the gameplay is excellent and solid. Topsy and Turvy, your little star options, are great and play great. Getting gems is fun and upgrading Ripple is fun.
Two, the art of this game is fantastic. It is 16-bit sprite heaven. This is a very colorful game and very pretty.
Three, the variety of this game is very good. Each stage is different and brings different enemies. There is a toy like stage where Ripple is small going through toy like enemies in a sort of ‘toy world’. Other stages go into bizarre dream-type phases. The personality of this game is ridiculously strong. After making this game, Quest, would go on to make Ogre Battle for the Super Nintendo. So if you liked Ogre Battle and thought it had a strong punch, you will find Magical Chase interesting.
Four, the soundtrack is one of the best of the Turbografx 16 library if not the entire 16 bit era. There is something fantastical and dark about it which I like. The maker of this music would eventually make Final Fantasy 12’s soundtrack.
Let’s listen to some of it, reader.
Above: Title screen music. Certainly shows us the otherworldly vibe the music is going for. You do not normally hear Japanese music like this!
Above: My favorite song of the bunch. Dark and strong as you descend deeper into the dream.
Above: Another favorite of mine. That starting vibe!
So now we come down to the money question: does it earn the Malstrom Award, the most esteemed award in all of gaming? The answer is no. This game has all the right ingredients, but for some reason it doesn’t come together for me. The game is fun, but yet it is not. I come away always feeling a tad ‘weird’ after playing this game. It doesn’t seem to gel. The music is fantastic… but it is too busy. The visuals are great… but they are too busy. The gameplay is fun… but it is too busy. All these ingredients do not gel into a harmonious whole. I never feel like I am in ‘the zone’ when playing this game. I am constantly distracted by one of the ‘busy’ ingredients flagging my attention.
With its rarity, its expensiveness, its soundtrack, its art, its gameplay, and its fantastical craziness, Magical Chase is the most interesting shmup ever made. It is not the BEST shmup or even best game. But it is incredibly interesting from any angle you look at it.
Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-
Malstrom Awards: (Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)
Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)
Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)
Soldier Blade [$100] (Consistently fun, great difficulty balance, perhaps best shmup on system and of all time)
Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)
(9) Blazing Lazers [$37] (Inconsistent quality, long stretches of boredom, yet fun to return to again and again)
(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)
(9) Magical Chase [$9,495] (Great soundtrack, art, worlds, gameplay, and rare. The most interesting shmup ever made.)
(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)
(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)
(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)
(6) Super Star Soldier [$73] (Extremely generic, obtuse challenge. Solid gameplay. Extremely over-rated. No personality.)
(6) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)
Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)
(5) Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and very nostalgic.)
(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)
(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)
(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)
(4) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)
(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)
(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)
(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)
(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)
(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)
(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)