If you're like me, it's such a big let-down when you have to play a game without knowing the exciting background and story line that accompanies it, so bear with me.
Basically, the game consists of one ghost samurai (that's you), traveling through several different areas of some land, slicing up monsters and bosses along the way. A horizontally scrolling jump-and-slasher, you might venture to say.
Seriously though, although there aren't any complex moves, special weapons or other major dress-up items to make this one particularly different from others you may have seen, the old clich? still holds true: There is always room for another game of X type, if it's a good one.
Samurai Ghost starts out with a large map, displayed as a portion of an unrolled scroll, that shows your character's position and current progress, as well as those areas that haven't yet been beaten.
Each "zone" (of which there are six) consists of three of four areas before the boss arrives. Zone labels such as "volcanic zone," "arctic zone" and the "hurting zone" give an idea of what lies ahead. At the end of each zone, a large portal appears (similar to the ones found in Karateka, for those who remember it), which will take you to the next area. In some areas, two gates are visible either at the end of a level or after a boss has been defeated. These provided some variety to the game, as each of the gates leads in a different direction, through different (and possibly more difficult) areas.
Your samurai starts each game with three lives and unlimited continues. Each life is measured by several candles at the top of the screen. Take a hit and a bit of the candle disappears. If you make it through an area, but with only a small stub of candle left, not to worry: Your health is restored to a minimum of four candles at the beginning of each level. Health power-ups scattered about also help keep your "ghost" in prime fighting condition.
Although unlimited continues often serve to make a game too easy, and therefore reduce its playlife, here they definitely come in handy. Enemies are plentiful, and, when mixed with natural obstacles such as slippery ice in the arctic areas, lava pits, falling rocks and lightning bolts from above, there is little time to relax. Archers who shoot flaming arrows, frogs that will attach themselves to your legs to suck the life out of you, huge ants that take up half the screen and giant worms that crawl upon the ceilings of underground caverns all apparently have a lusting for samurai bones to munch on.
While the graphics are nice and large, there's something kind of wooden about the animation and feel of the game. The game just doesn't look how it plays, which can sometimes lead to some frustrating deaths. This is especially bad when you are dealing with bad guys that attach themselves to you. It's almost as if the developers are going out of their way to make this game as irritating as possible, and the funky game play won't help you at all.
Still, fans of samurai games may get a kick out of the absurdity of this game, but this is the type of game that doesn't hold up so well. It's just a little too easy to die in this game, a problem that is only heightened by some questionably control issues. The fact that there are unlimited continues helps keep you from throwing the control around the room, but it's clear that there are better samurai games on the TurboGrafx-16.