Friday, January 22, 2010

PS1 on PSN: Kyuin / キュイーン

I waste money on Japanese PS1 titles so you don’t have to! A review of the fairly awful PS1 shmup Kyuin, recently released on PSN.

One of these days I’m going to learn to stop buying every action based, obscure Japanese PS1 classic on PSN which I don’t recognise. They’re normally obscure for a reason. I’d recently bought Rapid Angel off PSN, which makes me think of Guardian Heroes despite being absolutely nothing like it. It’s alright, and deserves a write up. But, more recently is Kyuin (pronounced “Kin” by the vocal song), a shmup incorrectly listed on Wikipedia as Kyujin. And you, the HG101 readers, need to be warned.

Looking at the PSN screens made me think it might be like Harmful Park. Perhaps it would be a forgotten classic? There was also no information on it online, either by searching with the English romaji, or the Japanese Katakana ( キュイーン ). No one talks about this game outside of download sites, and there are no youtube videos. The Shmups forum had one obscure reference to it, but nothing more.

Anyway, it is diabolically awful, and nothing like Harmful Park.

EDIT: I've just discovered that GaijinGamer made a post regarding this. It's an extremely positive post for a game which is a travesty and an insult to the genre. I don't care it reaches Kizuna levels of price on Yahoo auctions. It's a sucky, sucky game, and a waste of money. Maybe if it's the first hori shmup you've ever played you might glean some satisfaction from it, but if that's the case then HG101's crack-team of commandos will probably be abseiling through your window RIGHT NOW in order to re-educate you on what makes a good shmup. I don't know what brand of Single Malt GaijinGamer was quaffing when writing that entry, but don't be fooled. Japanese PSN funds are too precious to waste on a shmup which doesn't even reach mediocre on the "PSX shmup tree".

The story involves a kid vacuuming his house and then deciding to read his sister a fairy tale book, at which point the two go flying off in vacuum cleaners to shoot the hell out of various fairytale characters, like Snow White, The Big Bad Wolfe, Frog Princes and so on.

Visually it’s washed out (possibly the result of my HDTV), with only 2 layers of parallax scrolling. Harmful Park, by comparison, is rich and detailed and totally gorgeous. Kyuin’s sprites are a mixture of cheaply drawn generic fantasy characters (birds, angels, gnomes) and some of the worst 3D renders I’ve seen. There’s a few nice special effects, and some sprite distortion, but overall it looks cheaply made. I’ve seen Net Yaroze games that look more professional. The music is lacklustre and seems totally disconnected to the gameplay. It also starts and stops in awkward places, like it’s a bad ISO rip.

Which is fine. I play shmups for a good challenge and clever mechanics. But this is instantly forgettable (or at least it would be, if I hadn’t wasted 600 Yen on it). You’ve got your standard array of power-ups: weak homing, powerful slow lasers, triple-V shots, etc. None of them stack so once you’ve got your favourite you can ignore all others.

It’s sole unique poinr is its Super Bomb attack. You start off with 3, and using it unleashes a conical beam of energy which destroys everything it touches, while enveloping you in a protective shield. The interesting thing is you can recharge this attack by vacuuming up enemies. Most smaller foes, and most projectiles, can be sucked which recharges your guage. When full you get another attack. This also makes the vacuum nozzle a kind of roving shield, a bit like R-Type. Most projectiles coming straight at you will get absorbed, same with enemies, but angled attacks will damage you, same with if you’re jittering around. Getting hit loses your weapon and the nozzle, so you can’t get more power attacks until you’ve collected a medkit which restores the nozzle.

Dying results in you restarting a few screens behind an invisible checkpoint, meaning it’s possible to beat a boss, die, and then restart before said boss. There’s also a simultaneous 2-player mode, which corrects this checkpoint problem, and makes the game considerably easier.
This all might seem like a clever set-up. Unfortunately everything else with the game is terrible. There are 2 modes, easy and hard, and even on hard the opening levels are a cakewalk. Later on though they verge on impossible - there is of course infinite continues, but why you'd be so eager to see the end is beyond me. It’s not because the game itself is difficult in the usual sense, but rather because they screwed up the collision hit box.

Kyuin uses a very tall, very awkward vertical hit box, and there are many occasions where it’s simply not possible to manoeuvre between oncoming projectiles. This forces you to reach said point in perfect condition, with the expectation of either losing your nozzle, or your entire roster of Power Attacks in order to generate a shield. Thing is, some bosses don’t take damage from the Power Attack, so you’re basically screwed. One boss, a Giant Wall, can only be damaged by regular fire, and you have to fight him twice in a row. He regularly shoots out a wave of bullets where the gaps between them are too narrow to slide between, and they move too fast to suck up. I fixed this by controlling a second player and alternating between them to use the combined might of 6 power attacks.

The designers realised this problem with the hit box though, since some levels which require careful movement through a maze of enemies, actually show you your hit box (which I’ve highlighted in green). It’s like they’re saying: yes, we realise this sucks, and we know the whole thing is unbalanced, but rather than fixing the design we’re just going to steam on ahead. GANBAREMASYO!

Keio’s Flying Squadron had a vertically aligned sprite, but the hit box was customisable and a lot more generous. Also, despite being on the Sega CD, a system technically inferior to the PS1, it had better sprites (proper sprite work, as opposed to crude 3D renders which are then turned into sprites ala Donkey Kong Country), better animation, infinitely better parallax scrolling (simultaneously horizontal and vertical) and better music. The pattern and rate of enemies also made for more exciting gameplay. Kyuin in comparison feels like a cheap product made to cash in the popularity of the genre, and it rightfully sunk without a trace until now.

If you want a hori shmup specifically with a vertically aligned main sprite, get Keio. If you want a hori shmup on PSN, get Einhander, or hell, pretty much anything else. Even Gaia Seed is better. Kyuin should be avoided at all costs, and is also one reason why I hate digital downloads - there is no rushing to eBay to recoup my losses!


  1. Sounds about as bad as a UFO/Starfish game! 0_0

  2. There's an older, complete review of the game at Postback. It's much more positive than yours, and it also provides some background on the studio that developed the game. The writeup is on Spanish, though.

  3. Ignore the review above, the reviewer (ketcz) simply doesn't have a clue. Kyuiin is a fun old school shooter with interesting scoring and levels (reminds me of Parodius). Definitely worth getting on PSN. (And yes, I do play lots shoot 'em up games and know what I am talking about).

    1. Agreed! Any game that has you shooting Snow White and her underpants gnomes is a great game in my book! I had a lot of fun with this title!