Console: SNK NEO GEO
Genre: Beat 'em up
Classic Game Review
If there was ever truly a masterpiece among SNK’s vast NEO GEO gaming library, Sengoku 3 would definitely be it! While SNK was well known for creating cheap knockoffs of its competitors games (namely Capcom), the third, but not last installment in the Sengoku series was proof the game publisher had truly changed its ways. Sengoku 3 is hardly your typical side scrolling Beat ‘em up, and the music alone sets forth an experience all on its own. The entire game is woven with finely articulated sprites, incredibly detailed stages, and music that will almost send you into a trance.
The story begins with the prophecy of a timeless soul (dark samurai warrior) that revives from the heavens of the Red Moon and threatens to engulf the earth with flames of conflict. To purify the tortured entity (Timeless Soul) four ninjas of peace rise to defeat it.
Initially there are four playable characters and three initial stages including, China, Japan, and Italy, each with its own detailed settings and art work. Two of the bosses, Byakki (“White Devil”) and Okuni can be unlocked as playable characters after they’ve been defeated. Players can also choose any of the games stages without having to unlock them.
Each of the games four initial characters have their own fighting styles, special attacks, and fire attack maneuvers that can be used to wipe out closely surrounded enemies. The fire attacks also deduct life from player’s health gauges, typical of an arcade game from this era, where the whole idea was to get players to shove as many quarters as they could into these games as possible. Special attacks, unlike fire attacks, can affect enemies regardless of where they are in distance from the player.
You can pick up health and weapons throughout game play, including bombs and throwing stars, both of which become quite useful when taking on samurai bosses at the end of each stage.
The four initially playable characters:
Blinded in one eye from a previous battle, this eye patched warrior is the most agile of all the characters, although he has the shortest combo attack duration of the four. He has a great fighting reach in terms of his sword, giving him a clear advantage over the other playable characters. Because of his advantageous reach, enemies appear to have a harder time deflecting his impaling death blows.
The toughest and the biggest of the four characters, Kongoh delivers quite devastating blows to his enemy opponents, although he’s not as quick moving, and is slow in attacking with his main weapon. He doesn’t appear to have the greatest reach either. Unless you’re really close to enemies, it can be difficult to get hits in with this character. However, one bonus to choosing this character is his throwing abilities. Kongoh can literally through enemies clear across the screen, taking out anything else in the path.
This female warrior sports two blades, is very fast moving, and has a decent fighting reach among all players. She has a devastating spinning blade attack that can take out enemies on both sides of her. She has long extended combo attacks that do a lot of damage to incoming enemies quickly.
This character is the most balanced of the four, and features a powerful dash attack that is unstoppable once it’s begun. He also has great fighting reach and long extended combo maneuvers with his sword that give him an added advantage over other players.
Sengoku Densho, or “Legacy of The Warring States”, as it was known in Japan, was hardly an exciting game series prior to the third installment. In fact, the previous versions were almost a monstrosity to the existence of gaming, and probably should have never been published to begin with. The older versions of the game had choppy graphics, unresponsive controls, and lacked any real feel to draw players in.
Sengoku 3, although being published by SNK for the NEO GEO home and arcade consoles in October of 2001, was actually developed by the Japanese game development company Noise Factory, and licensed for publishing by SNK.
Stages of the game start out with innocents running for their lives as your ninja warrior approaches, only to discover enemies are directly on the prowl. The entire game never seems to pause but maybe for a couple of seconds as you transition through each successive stage.
In the end, the arcade style Beat 'em up game play in Sengoku 3, coupled with amazingly mellow background music and colorful sprites make this game a true masterpiece. This was a far cry from the earlier low quality knockoffs SNK made of Street Fighter, as well as the often boring game play of the previous Sengoku series. It was a game that caught video game enthusiasts by surprise, both when it first debuted, and again today as its now finding its way into the worlds classic arcade gaming libraries.