Sunday, July 14, 2024

Developer: Klon    Publisher: NCS    Release: 03/22/91    Genre: Action

Mamono Hunter Yohko (or Devil Hunter Yohko as it is known in the West) is an anime I always wanted to watch but never got around to. It ticked all the right boxes for my teenage brain; hot girls, demons, and magic. What I did not know at the time was that there was a Sega Genesis game to accompany the anime, one that still flies under the radar today. Surprisingly this one never left Japan; Sega of America was aggressive at bringing everything overseas yet this one stayed behind. I can kind of see why; while the action has a cool hook the game is only slightly above average overall.

Mamono Hunter Yohko is loosely based on the OVA of the same name. Yohko is the 108th hunter in her family line of demon hunters. Even though the official title is Mamono Hunter Yohko and the Seven Bells they never make an appearance in game nor are they elaborated on. In fact outside of some cool artwork between levels there are no cutscenes. The anime mixed comedy with its action as Yohko swooned over boys as much as fought demons.  The game plays it straight however and is deadly serious as evidenced by its extreme difficulty. This one is not for the easily frustrated.

The mechanics in the game are simple. Yohko’s only weapon is her sword which has medium range. There are no other power-ups outside of health and extra lives. However she wields magic in the form of a shield you can erect by holding the attack button. As long as you hold the button the shield stays vigilant. You can also toss like a boomerang in many directions; this will be your primary form of attack. The barrier is strong but not perfect. Head on collisions will destroy it while letting too many projectiles hit it simultaneously will weaken and eventually break it. Having to choose between defense and offense forms the heart of the game and makes it an interesting mechanic.

Mamono Hunter Yohko 001 Mamono Hunter Yohko 002 Mamono Hunter Yohko 003 Mamono Hunter Yohko 004

While the barrier mechanic is cool platforming is the heart of the game and unfortunately that is where it stumbles. Mamono Hunter Yohko has the level design and platforming of Super Mario Bros. but the rigid controls of Castlevania and the two do not mix. Yohko is not as stiff as the Belmonts and she runs faster but once airborne you are locked in. The collision detection is spotty and you will fall through ledges constantly. Momentum plays a role as terrain like ice or hills will send you flying. The game requires a level of precision that the controls cannot deliver however. All of the game’s flaws culminate in the last level, a platforming nightmare that I still cannot believe I put up with to see the end (or lack thereof).

Aside from the rigid control the level design has problems. The game relies on blind leaps of faith far too often. I appreciate the attempt at labyrinthine maps. But with the issues I have outlines previously they are more annoying than exciting. It sucks as the push and pull of holding your barrier or using it to attack makes for interesting moments. But the enemy placement lacks any forethought. They also spawn infinitely, apparently to force you to stay on the move. The aggressive clock already accomplishes that and instead you do not get to appreciate the mechanics like you want.

The difficulty is sky high. A lot of it comes from the fact it feels like you are ill equipped to handle the chaos. The barrier is not especially strong as a weapon but it is all you have. Relying on melee attacking is suicide in this game, also because the hit detection sucks. The game desperately needed at least one or two power-ups, anything to help. Health beads are rare just like 1-ups. Surprisingly the bosses are the easiest part of the game. You simply have to reach them with enough time and health. My disappointment with Mamono Hunter Yohko is not because it is bad but because I can see what they were going for and the game it could have been.

In Closing

Mamono Hunter Yohko is a decent action game that has solid gameplay but lacks the polish to make it great. I put it in the same category as Valis; it is charming and if need be it will help kill some time. But you will also have to tolerate a lot of frustration to appreciate it. There is nothing here that better titles like El Viento or Castlevania Bloodlines do not offer. We did not miss out on a hidden gem in this case.

6 out of 10

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