Gakkou no Kaidan is an adventure game for the Sega Saturn made to tie in with a film released at the same time, the film is the equivalent of the Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy, it's basically a children's film that the whole family can get into. Like a lot of the older CD-ROM games, it features full motion video sequences mixed with interactive opinions. For example, escaping some of the enemies may require you to press directional keys or a button at just the right time. The other element of the game is a point and click style, similar to classic computer games. The game was released in 1995 and was only released inside of Japan.
Gakkou no Kaidan has a few different plot lines which run through the story joining together to make one coherent narrative. In the first scene you see is a young girl, Mika, entering her school which is closed for the summer. Mika curiously looks around but ends up going missing. The scene then changes to a couple of boys (Kensuke and Shouta). The boys are sneaking around the school looking for something to do. There is also the young girl's older sister, Aki (played by a very young Ai Maeda) who is looking for her missing sister.
The children witness a large array of monsters from the Japanese urban legends and folklore, and if that wasn't enough, they also have to deal with ghosts, which seem to follow them around and try to spook them. They discover that the janitor has become possessed by a spider (his transformation is possibly the funniest part of the game) and has kidnapped Aki's sister, Mika. There are plot twists through-out the game featuring a variety of characters. All in all Gakkou no Kaidan has a fun story for kids.
When you are in control of the game you have a choice of rooms that you may enter from each floor on the map, some will lead to the point and click elements of the game others will lead to the interactive FMV sequences. In the point and click portions of the game you are presented with a photo of the room or corridor that you are in and you are required to search it to find clues, health items or the piece of the Haniwa, some of which will trigger a cutscene. The interactive scenes just require you to watch them, others require directional controls or button presses to help the children escape the monsters, though since the scenes are from a film the outcomes are normally quite linear. The main interface features a TV screen-like monster that shows the cut scenes and point and click.
Gakkou no Kaidan features a Flame on the right which is the equivalent of the health bar, and on the left it shows the Haniwa statue telling you how many pieces are still missing. Unfortunately the only thing which really bugs me with the gameplay is that at some points of the game it just feels a little sluggish.
The sounds used in this game are not that bad, though some of the music becomes a little repetitive after awhile. It uses some of the background from the film's sound track, so it keeps to the films atmosphere. The audio of the characters has not been distorted at all with any conversions, which is also a good thing.
Graphically the game is unique as it mixes pixel drawn characters, FMV and 3D animation effectively. Some of the FMV sequences look a little grainy and the special effects used in the video are a little dated, but it was only 1995 and it was not a big budget film. The only thing that really bugs me on the graphic side of things is that when you are hit in the interactive full-motion video sequences the screen flashes and though I do not suffer from epilepsy I still found it made me feel quite queasy.
This game is obviously in Japanese so if you don't understand the language I wouldn't advise this game. If you just want a nice, fun game you can finish in a few hours Gakkou no Kaidan is your game. If you find games like Hotel Dusk and Another Code a little too wordy, then you might want to pass on by this game. Fans of the film or Japanese dramas may enjoy this game. Though I would advise doing some research before committing to purchase, you'll probably get more out of your purchase that way.