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   Tengai Makyou: The 4th Apocalypse - Reader Retroview  

Prepare Ship for Ludicrous Speed!
by JuMeSyn

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Comfortable
COMPLETION TIME
35-50 hours
OVERALL

5.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Far East of Eden is not a series known for staid plots. Amicable zaniness abounds through most of its titles. Yet even by the standards of the series, Tengai Makyou The Apocalypse IV is ludicrous. This game makes Earthbound look restrained.

   Simply describing the story of Tengai Makyou IV does not do it justice. Instead, a handy chart of but a few things the player will experience in this game is necessary:

  • Challenging the King of Lake Tahoe to his ‘Challenge the Trap! IN USA!’
  • Seeing Tombstone be vaporized thanks to orbital attack directed from Houston
  • Enlisting Romero’s aid to stop Mexican zombies
  • Entering DEVO, the gigantic perpetual-motion bird in St. Paul
  • Being labeled a terrorist by the TV network of Atlanta
  • Having a motorcycle-riding werewolf gang that supports a pop idol attack in Montana
  • Escaping from Alcatraz
  • Avenging General Custer’s death aboard the Alamo
  • Fighting Mecha Capone on the elevator of the Sears Tower
This should be sufficient to give a glimpse into the utter insanity that is the story of Tengai Makyou IV, a story that puts the player in the role of Rizing, the man who must save America from evil. Rizing and his friend Yumemi are relatively serious, but anything involving Zengo (the samurai of Jipang) gets outlandish promptly. Let alone Ace the cowboy (he’s an American Hero!). If graded as a coherent story this would fall apart, but I’m grading it on the basis of offering things no other RPG has ever featured, and on that scale it merits the highest praise.

   It is also true that if the story was somehow stripped of all the insanity and locations, it would be a rather generic ‘beat the bad guys and save the world’ type of tale. Divorcing the story from its setting is not possible, however. Whether saving Yumemi from a host of Uzi-toting bodyguards in Hollywood or charging the Skull Tank with the Alamo, this is not a forgettable tale. Even near the end when it gets (relatively) more serious there is insanity in the form of Zengo’s state of mind (seems to involve a lot of food attacking him) and Norma Jean wanting to act on Broadway. If nothing else this game offers some of the most memorable villains in any RPG ever made.

   Visually this is a striking game. Outside of battle some of the nicest sprite-based work ever seen is prevalent, along with some high-quality FMV (all the better to show early monster movie footage and Gone With the Fire in Atlanta). In battle the FMV seemingly sticks around, for the enemies are all animated as if they were in an anime feature. The price for this is that enemies do not have many attacks, but they look astounding and absolutely unique when moving and when the player’s attacks strike them. Battles are first-person but techniques also get animated effects and most of these do show the characters. Environments look unique also, especially near the end in New York.

   Aurally I also have nothing but praise. Voice acting is everywhere – every plot point and many inessential parts are voice-acted, with effects that are often hilarious even to a non-Japanese speaker. Hear Dr. M ad-libbing half his lines as the player seeks to stop his mistreatment of Minnesota; hear Bob the Jamaican bobsleigh rider’s reaction to reggae and know the truly ludicrous; hear Madame Appetit sing an ode to the virtues of being fat. Music, composed by the Tengai Makyou veteran Toshiyuki Sasagawa, is highly impressive and incredibly varied. There are over 100 tracks for this game, and while some aren’t terribly impressive there are none that stink. Many are truly superb, with some interesting techno inflections that aren’t echoed often. Sound effects are good as well.

   So how does it actually play in battle? Rather well, if nowhere near as crazily as the story might indicate and much more traditionally. Enemies (such as Smiley the chainsaw-wielding maniacs in Florida or the Mecha Mafia in Chicago) are visible on the field and can be avoided much of the time. When battle occurs it is turn-based, with agility strictly determining turn order. Basic attacks are easy enough, techniques are similarly intuitive. Magic is shared by the group however, with a group MP total. And while techniques are gained as the story progresses, magic is gained by visiting Indian shamans in their villages and having them teach new spells. The Indian shamans also grant 2MP with every spell, which is the only way to increase MP.

   Interaction is mainly hampered by the surprisingly large amount of Kanji (surprising because of the game’s setting) in the menus. Aside from that nuisance for gaijin, the menus are nicely streamlined and easy to deal with quickly.

   Battles give experience but not money. Money (dollars, naturally) is obtained at the Hunter’s Guild’s of America. Enemies do drop items that can be sold at the Hunter’s Guild for some cash, and also formed into new equipment. Some equipment is created via the Hunter’s Guild’s, other equipment is purchased from shops in the traditional way.

   Completion time is probably around 35 hours for those who wish to blaze through, but there are distractions. San Francisco has a few interesting activities to partake of in Chinatown, but for someone to fritter away time there is really only one place to go: Sin City. Thanks to the player’s benevolence Las Vegas will begin its rise into the heart of gambling, and naturally the expected games are all on hand along with a cinema to catch some of the FMV’s again. In addition to casino activities and being able to build up Vegas to the player’s desire (within limits), there is also the WTC (which stands for exactly what that acronym brings to mind). Yes, this is where the player can attempt to be a stockbroker. Play the market and see how much money can be won or lost!

   The challenge is just about at the right level to keep the player involved with fighting while not having a great danger of death at all moments. The master of Michigan is a formidable opponent, but until the player confronts him in his Detroit castle there probably won’t be any enemies that will completely eviscerate the party. Defeat occurs when Rizing falls in battle, though there is no real penalty for defeat save having to reach the battle again.

   As a title unique in the annals of RPGs, Tengai Makyou the Apocalypse IV merits special recognition. For throwing the most ludicrous RPG story ever conceived into a highly playable and enjoyable title, it deserves to be experienced. The game’s being entirely in Japanese might be a turnoff, but there are random English phrases constantly popping up to make it even more obvious what’s going on. (An example would be a factory machine instructing ‘Take and make Automatically gate open Navigator!’ In St. Paul). This is easily one of the most memorable titles that can be played, if only because wandering through Memphis, Florida is so utterly outlandish. To anyone who owns a Saturn or wants to pick up an awesome game’s port for the PSP, this game is an instant recommendation.

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