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Review by tankMage (September 2015)
Hagane was one of many sidescrollers released for the SNES and tends to be somewhat obscure due to it’s rarity (from what I understand it was only sold by BlockBuster video in north America), but has gained some notoriety as of late due to its substantial price tag. Overall it’s a solid and fun ninja game that offers a fair level of challenge. Hagane is certainly a gem, but there is nothing particularly special about it and much of its quality comes from the competent manner in which it was designed rather than any degree of innovation on the developer’s part.
By far Hagane’s weakest point, I could not make heads or tails of the game’s plot until I looked up and read a summary of the story…even then it didn’t make much sense. What little exposition there is to be found in the game is related through two cut scenes, neither of which explain much, and the levels themselves. I generally don’t care much about an action game’s story, unless it’s particularly good, but Hagane’s strange intro sequence and cool setting made me wonder what the game is about, so I was rather disapointed by lack of narration.
I remember reading about Hagane in Nintendo Power Magazine long ago and being surprised at the critic’s low opinion of the game’s graphics. It is true that the title does not push the technical limitations of the SNES, but the game is well drawn and full of atmosphere. The game is dark looking even in daylight, which really drives home it’s somber premise. Plus Hagane has a solid and consistent visual theme that fuses traditional Japanese art with a gritty world of machines and technology giving the it a strange dreamlike quality. Some of the creatures you encounter are bizarre machinations of myth and science, that one can only expect to see in the hyperbolic world of video games. Some of Hagane’s effects are lacking, however. The explosion animation is used for a multitude of situations, from enemy deaths to traps and even some of Hagane’s attacks.The overuse of the explosion effect (which wasn’t very good to begin with) takes a some of punch out of the game’s general experience. Enemy sprites are also sparse and many of the backgrounds lacked a sense of depth, but over all, Hagane looks good.
Hagane’s play control is flawless. Some of the heroe’s moves require a fair amount of practice and precision from the player (especially the horizontal jump), but I never felt like the controls failed to respond or were too loose. Even selecting weapons is fairly easy to do while the game is paused or even in battle.
This game is fairly tough. Bosses require memorization and strategy to beat and the last stage has some tricky platforming. The inability to continue made this game even more challenging for me personally. I never really have the time to play a game like this in one sitting (unless I really know what I’m doing) so I had to replay the levels many times until I beat the final boss. Hagane has a respectable arsenal for a game of its time or even a more modern title and I enjoyed experimenting with the various weapons. It was especially gratifying to learn a boss well enough to use Hagane’s super moves (which require precision and timing) to obliterate the boss in just a few hits.
Enemies in Hagane do get repetitive, however, even though the developers were creative at times with how they used the few foes that appear in the title. The last stage also felt somewhat cheap, because there is some fairly difficult platforming that eclipses any of the game’s earlier challenges. This is compounded by the fact that the last boss fight requires the player to navigate some treacherous terrain while dealing damage, dodging shots, and racing against time, but you are at least rewarded with the feeling that you overcame a tough game in the end. Hagane is also fairly short, but the total lack of save feature will mean that most people will get some mileage out of it.
Music and sound effects
Nothing really stands out in terms of sound for this game. Most of the songs are well put together and have a great sense of rhythm that suits the game nicely, but they lack the anthemic quality of many other SNES titles. The sound effects for Hagane are nothing special either, they just get the job done.
Innovation is not the key to Hagane’s success as a game. Instead Hagane’s quality is derived from how masterfully the development team cobbled together tried and true platforming action elements to create a solid well made title (although it isn’t as well realized as some classic SNES games). Despite it’s flaws, this title delivers a fun and satisfying experience. Just be warned, the game is not very long and has little replay value.
This game is not a must play and I think only fans of old-school ninja games (like myself) would appreciate it. Die hard collectors may want to get their hands on a physical copy due to its rarity especially since there are far worse games that cost upwards of four hundred bucks, so Hagane does make a decent trophy.