Youkai Club (NES) Review

Click here to view the Youkai Club description page for screenshots and more information.

Review by The Every Gamer (July 2018)

Score: C-

   It’s time for another Famicom game… those things you can play when using English translations. I just found a patch, got the ROM and tried one out, and what I played was Youkai Club. Developed by TOSE and published by Jaleco, this title was released in 1987 in Japan only.

   It’s an 8-bit game and you know what that means: The year is 199X…because of course it is. Gallus has awakened and is bringing his Youkai with him and it’s up to an Esper named Akira, to take down the Youkai and defeat Gallus. So the story is lacking, but it’s a game from the 80’s so that’s par for the course. By the way, Youkai are Japanese demons, so you could see why it couldn’t have been released in the US without some changes, can’t have religious stuff on our Nintendo games.

   The game is a platformer, starring a guy named Akira. Once you start the game, you may feel like the game is like a less detailed version of Castlevania, and I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest, this was released at a time when Castlevania was a hit, so because the money-wagon stops for anyone who dares to not give a damn, Jaleco may have wanted to make that spooky scary cash. And I know it’s not like Castlevania because Akira throws knives at his enemies instead of using a mere whip.

   Anyway, the game is anything but a Castlevania-clone as the controls aren’t clunky, it’s quite smooth, but floaty. I wouldn’t mind it if it wasn’t for the level design as it feels lazily made, especially in the underground sections where the design looks so amateurish that I could make a level like that in Super Mario Maker. Though there are sections where it looks like a generic side-scroller with its own theme of Japanese mythology and the level design is more like it belongs in a legitimate game.

   So you mostly go around the place in six stages, and I say “go around the place” because some of the levels rely on you going up and down, left and right to either access the rest of the level, find a secret to progress through the game, or find the boss to get to the next stage. You also have an XP bar, which you can increase by either finding books or orbs throughout the game. The higher the bar, the more power you have for your attacks, and your knives will turn into circular beams. One problem with this is that when you die, you lose XP, and you NEED to have a full bar to beat the game.

   You can collect power-ups like the POW bar, which will refill your health …erm something that will freeze enemies, but keep in mind in that if you suffer from epilepsy, DO NOT USE THIS ITEM. Or to be safe rather than sorry: DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME, because when you use the item, the screen flashes and BY GOD can it near blind you, especially if you play it on a big screen. You also have an on-screen killing bomb, an item that makes you invincible, one that makes you go fast, and one that increases your attack for a short period of time.

   My issue is that there is an item called the glove that you must collect during the game. I wasn’t able to find one and by the time I get to the final level, there’s an area that’s blocked and I didnt know where the glove was, meaning that the game ended for me. There are way too many secrets that might prevent you from progressing and the only way to figure some out is through luck, determination, or a guide. To be fair, it does feel quite good finding out where to go, though this is very rare in hindsight. I mean, there’s one level where you side-scroll your way through an area and you reach a dead end, but you were supposed to find a board on the ground where the enemy pops out and after killing it, you need to go down it, the game doesn’t tell you this so your journey would stop right there if you missed it.

   And then there are some elements that they DID take from Castlevania like its difficulty, especially knockback, it’s here and proud of it. And because later in the game we have bottomless pits and tight platforms and…you know what it will result in. The graphics have become dated, with the level design being very poor, though the final level oddly doesn’t look too bad, but the majority are just terrible. The music has that Japanese mythological feel to it, but it’s forgettable and not all that interesting.

   Overall, Youkai Club is not very good. The gameplay is a bit messy, but I wouldn’t call it an awful game at all, there are just some elements that kill the experience. The graphics are horrible and the level design is awful, it’s hard as nails, but at the end of the day, it’s just there and isn’t anything unique…maybe minus the XP element which does help. Do I recommend it? I’d say give it a try and see for yourself.

You can get Youkai Club on the Famicom (NES).

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