Magical Chase

At this point Magical Chase has become something of a legend within the video game industry.  You simply cannot talk about it without mentioning the ridiculous prices it commands on Ebay and similar websites.  At any given moment you can find listings that run from a few hundred dollars to close to $2000 CIB.  That is simply insane.  I’ll save you the suspense and simply say that no game, no matter how good is worth that much many.  However!  If you happen to be the luckiest bastard in the world and find a copy at a decent price buy it as the game is generally excellent.

It can be easy to mistake this as part of the Cotton series however they simply share the same premise.  No, that is being too polite; developer Quest shamelessly ripped off Cotton but at least they did a good job.  Magical Chase stars Ripple, a witch in training who opens the book of Sleeping Demons and unfortunately unleashes a horde of monsters on the world.  To save face and avoid punishment Ripple sets out with her companions Topsy and Turvy to correct her mistake. 

Ripple is always accompanied by her companions who function like options.  However here they fire in the opposite direction you are moving.  It can be confusing at first but in time you will get the hang of positioning them.  If necessary you can lock them in place for maximum firepower.  With a little skill you can also use them to soak up bullets although it is extremely hard to do reliably.  Unlike most shooters you have a generous life bar that can be expanded as well as an inventory of items.

The crystals dropped by enemies can be spent in the shop that appears in each level (with one exception).  Here a wide variety of items can be bought: life extensions, refill health, adjust your speed, and stock up on smart bombs.  Most importantly however there are nine total weapons to buy and equip, with a rotating selection in each shop.  Most of the shooting staples are here such as a wave beam, homing shot, and three-way fire along with my personal favorite x4.  The placement of the shops is perfect as they come along twice in each level.

In terms of its level design Magical Chase eschews complex layouts and mazes for wide open fields of enemies.  The usual moments of tension in shooters are gone since you don’t have to worry about single hit deaths.  The exceptions to this are stages three and four.  Stage three takes place in a narrow enclosure with walls that constantly open and close, threatening to crush you.  It presents an interesting challenge as you try to deal with enemies while avoiding being crushed.  Stage four’s maze of walls makes its eventual boss battle particularly thrilling.  This fight is a fast paced gauntlet as you wear down the boss while avoiding the same walls you just navigated.  The contrast between these two levels and the rest of the game is stark.  Not that the rest of Magical Chase is bad but I would have loved to see the creativity spread around more.

I found the difficulty to be perfectly balanced which is an achievement considering you have such an extremely long life bar.  Currency is in plentiful supply so you can experiment with different weapons without any worries.  While there are some clear favorites in terms of utility any weapon can be effective with skill.  This is not the most manic of shooters but it can be chaotic at times.  There is a sharp spike in difficulty in the final level as there is no shop and it is the longest stage by far.  Despite that however I still found the game to be fair overall.

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With its extremely bright and colorful visuals calls to mind Air Zonk and is visually fantastic.  While the fodder enemies are boring the bosses are large and impressive with good animation.  The backgrounds are beautiful and incredibly detailed, featuring multiple layers of scrolling.  It should be noted that the US version is slightly upgraded over its Japanese counterpart, with a redrawn Ripple sprite with new animations and a completely different and better setting for stage 1.  The lighthearted soundtrack is also fantastic and fits the tone of the game very well.  It’s a departure from the typical work of Hitoshi Sakamoto and Masaharu Iwata but just goes to show how versatile they are.

In Closing

It’s a bit short and its saccharine tone can be a bit grating but otherwise Magical Chase is a great game.  I enjoyed it from start to finish and it ranks as one of my favorite shooters for the system.  Now as to how you’ll find a copy of the game…..good luck with that.

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