Mahou Daisakusen
by sunburstbasser



Mahou Daisakusen is a vertically scrolling shmup which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. Play the World version, Sorcer Striker, and you can actually get some narrative!

Mahou Daisakusen was Raizing's first game, released in 1993. Raizing was a branch of the still extent 8ing, and was mostly relegated to developing arcade shmups. Unique for it's time, Mahou uses a fantasy setting mixed with modern technology. Flying castles, armored turtles, steam-driven robots, and dragons exist alongside huge mecha, laser trip wires and gun emplacements. It's a nice change of pace after playing Raiden Fighters and Cave shmups.

Raizing decided to include a story and put a slight amount of narrative in the game. Sorcer Striker presents it in readable Engrish. The Gobligan army is attacking, and four warriors have stepped up to challenge them. It will be the greatest battle of magic. After each boss, the characters will drop a one-liner usually taunting the now defeated enemy.

Controls are basic shmup controls. Tapping A fires a stream of bullets, keep tapping to keep firing. B drops a bomb. Unlike later Raizing games, all characters use the same bomb. Powerups come in the form of coins and spell books. Coins power up the frontal shot which adds bullets and a tiny bit of spread. Spell books come in the form of red H for Homing books, blue W for Wide books, and green F for Frontal books. Each character has their own set of attacks. These four characters became a sort of collective mascot for Raizing and appeared in many later games. If you've read my writeup on Battle Garegga, you'll see them mentioned there as well. Let's look at them a little closer here:

GAIN


Gain is a fighter with a monkey on his shoulder. His goal doesn't seem to be fighting for a good cause, he wants to prove he's the strongest. His homing attack drops several feathers which lock on and rush towards enemies. His wide attack is hatchets thrown at enemies. His frontal attack is piercing green swords, which later became his Battle Garegga Option attack.


CHITTA


Chitta is a witch who trips on her own feet while climbing into her battle craft. She says she'll be successful, and then become famous. Her homing attack is a pair of flamethrowers that rotate to hit enemies. For a wide attack, she flings ice cubes all over. For her frontal assault, she uses green penetrating lightning.


MIYAMOTO


Miyamoto is what happens when someone decides that dragons are cool, and samurai are cool, so putting them together should give shmuppers full erections. They were right. Miyamoto is a dragon with a katana who foregoes a battle craft and chooses to flap his own wings really fast. Even the Cyvern dragons aren't as badass as Miyamoto. For Miyamoto, the battle is personal because Kage killed his master. His homing attack shoots aimed fireballs and would become Chitta's options in Battle Garegga. His wide attack fires bombs and would return for Battle Garegga. His frontal attack is a stream of shuriken.


BORNNAM


Bornnam likes bones. He seems to have some kind of crazy plan and defeating the Gobligans is Phase 1. He also has a bone fetish. His homing attack shoots a femur straight ahead, which turns at a right angle to hit enemies. He throws bats at bad guys for his wide attack. His frontal attack is a pair of very powerful piercing skulls.


All of the characters are pretty well balanced and have enough firepower to beat the game. I haven't done any really methodical testing, but it seems that Bornnam's attacks do more damage than the other characters. Miyamoto is pretty strong all around, Chitta's homing attack is great, and Gain's frontal attack is very powerful. Pick one you like and go to town.

The graphics in Mahou Daisakusen aren't particularly fancy for 1993, but extremely functional. I didn't see tons of rotation or scaling, or other fancy tricks. Where the graphics shine is in creativity more than presentation. In the first level alone you'll see dragons with gun packs, robots, giant turtles, a tortoise with an armed fortress for a shell, lots of tanks, flying red bat creatures, and missile carriers. While in life stone is not very aerodynamic, in Mahou many stone structures fly high above the ground, such as the castle in the first stage. Even the tanks have rounded domes and little pieces that look like antennae. After playing a ton of shooters using variations on tanks/planes/helicopters, it's downright exhilarating to see so many enemy designs.

The music is very good. It has that buzz that immediately identifies it as video game music and actually sounds a bit like Sega Genesis music. Explosions sound good, though they don't have a solid low-end thump. I don't think anyone will stick this music on their iPod, it's just really good background music for a video game.



Once you have selected your character, you'll get a neat takeoff sequence. Bornnam summons his ship around him, Miyamoto just flaps really hard which is cool to see. The first stage begins with some very fast flying over a forest and an ocean. You'll meet two dragons with gun packs on their backs. Shortly after the second one, you'll catch up with a flying castle. This castle is more than a fortress. An entire town exists surrounded by these flying castle walls, and it is under attack. Watch, and you'll actually see people getting chased around and cheering you on. The midboss is a turtle creature that lives in a fortress instead of a shell. After taking out the two towers, you can bomb it if you want though I suggest saving bombs for later. Towards the end of the level you'll meet another midboss, a skinny red mech called Bashinet. He fires blue balls that explode to about the same radius as your bombs and freeze your character to death. Using Wide or Homing, it's easy to take out his guns. He'll leave instead of being destroyed.

The Stage 1 boss is an airplane with three dragon heads. Only in Mahou Daisakusen have I seen such a unique combination of cool things. This fight is really easy. The dragons do breath fire, but they'll yell before doing so. Just get out of the way and you'll be OK. The red enemies being pooped out the back of the boss can ram you or shoot you but they die really easily so they shouldn't get that chance. Just concentrate on one side, then the other. Once the two outer heads are destroyed, you can milk those red guys for a while or just go for the kill.



Stage 2 opens over gray clouds. Remember those green tanks from the first stage? The Gobligans liked them so much they painted them blue and attached rockets to them to create flying tanks. They still aren't too dangerous. You'll also face some big flying mouths that fire bullet spreads. You can sit in front and dodge most of it, but don't stay there too long or you'll be hit by their forward attack. Not long after squaring off against two of these face dudes, something starts poking through the clouds. It turns out that Stage 2 is the assault on the giant battleship. In this case, the giant battleship is an airship that I believe most Cids would be pleased with. It's an actual ship, with a few propellors that could never keep a craft of this size aloft. Right when you meet it, a tower that looks a bit like a siege tower or maybe a rook from Chess detaches and starts shooting at you. I suggest killing it before taking on the other enemies, as it'll fire a bunch of aimed bullets that can seriously cramp your style. If you haven't guessed already, Mahou Daisakusen is not a bullet hell shmup and pretty much your entire sprite is vulnerable. This stage also has two midbosses, one after the other. The first one is a pair of huge turrets. These aren't too bad as they just fire forward. What is bad is the two smaller turrets on top of each large turret that fire a 3-way bullet spread. While it isn't required, dropping a bomb here is a huge help. Conveniently, you are given four of them right in front of the turrets. Immediately after the turrets are destroyed, you'll come across what I believe is the main control deck of the ship (superstructure?). This mid boss has two bays that endless tanks drive out of and about a dozen small turrets that pop out and fire at you. These are actually pretty easy to beat without bombing. Stay in one corner, wait for as many bullets as possible to be fired, then start moving. Once the turrets are destroyed, blue bombs will start flying in. If they are destroyed on top of the tower, it'll do some nice damage.

The boss of Stage 2 is a flying box with a skull. Change the art style a bit, and this could be one of Dr. Wily's skull ships. The pincers will wave around and if he gets too close they can kill you. His projectiles are quite varied, though once you see them they aren't too hard to get around. He fires some blue skulls which will home in, let them come after you then quickly move around them. He fires a spread of green bullets from his forehead which is pretty easy to dodge, but if you use your Frontal attack they do blend in so be cautious. He will also occasionally stop, fold his arms, and ram you. Unlike an actual Wily boss, he does not have a set pattern and can throw these attacks out in any order.



Stage 3 starts out looking like the first stage, with a forest background. Then, the scrolling stops as you reach an enormous wall. On either side is a huge demon in a cage. Kill the demons and tear down that wall! The level takes place in a stone corridor line with archways. Unlike most vertical shmups, Mahou has terrain that needs to be avoided. Unlike most horizontal shmups, simply touching a wall won't kill you. Early into the corridor, you'll be greeted by a bunch of green blobs. They have a bit of resistance for normal enemies, but there is an easy way to dispose of them if they pile up. Look closely and you'll see a laser running across the hall. Pass it, and an alarm will sound and a pile of blocks will slam the passage shut in front of you, smashing those green blobs. The blocks can then be shot through. The narrow hallway opens up so you can fight a pair of gargoyles who have had their faces peeled off. These guys aren't too deadly, firing a pair of fireballs each. They each drop a bomb. The space will narrow again, and gets narrower as the right-hand wall begins trying to crush you. Just don't sit on the bottom of the screen and you'll be OK. Suddenly, the scrolling stops and a new track plays.



Bashinet is back, and he has a few new tricks. First, he has traded his freeze bombs for buzz saws which he can throw around. Second, he now fires a few easy to dodge blue bullets from his back. Third, he has a hip new blue shot that can strafe the room and twist around itself. It's a little like Raiden's toothpaste laser. Deal enough damage and a big chunk will be blown off, but he can be seen escaping.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL!

The wall behind Bashinet collapses, flooding the room. The water actually pushes you back, though normal control resumes before any enemies show up. Besides some throwaway enemies, the first important enemies in this section are red tortoises with spiky shells. They take a few hits to kill but I've never actually been attacked by one, they don't seem to aggressive despite that wicked shell. Green blobs will stick to you and slow you down. Some blue heads vaguely reminiscent of Giger's xenomorph will try to suck you in. Much deadlier are the dragons, which duck down into the depths and surface. I found it hard to tell when they were below me and when they were on the same level. Don't sit on top of them, they scale up pretty quickly.

The boss is a very strange amoeba-like beast. It pops out of the wall and starts throwing a bunch of destructible bullets your way. Piercing weapons help a lot here. The movement patterns are a little odd. The boss has two arms, and at least one must be gripping a wall. Rather than moving in straight lines, the boss moves in wide arcs. He takes up a lot of screen space. Be wary of where his arms will be when he moves. I was killed more often by his arms than his projectiles by a wide margin. He has a ramming attack as well. He will start at the top of the screen, and crawl down. Remember Shadow Dancer and it's variants from the Gradius games? Same deal here. Wait for it to retract one arm, dash past, then do the same when the blob crawls back up. Note the animation on it's head when it is crawling. That wild flapping is hilarious.



For the fourth stage, you'll be tackling a desert, a ruined city, and space. This is another case of crazy shmup geography. In the desert portion, pods will burrow through the sand and leap out at you. You'll encounter a few big helicopters, but if you have some firepower built up they shouldn't pose much problem. The enemies that give me the most trouble are the gliders in the smashed city. You'll face two of them at once. What kills me most is that to beat them, you have to wait for the middle to split open and reveal a face. The face shoots straight down, you shoot straight up. Use an attack that lets you move out of the way. On a positive note, each glider drops a bomb for you.

At the end of the city street, you'll fly out into space. While the other characters have their vessels, Miyamoto has to hold his breath in space. The boss is a missile that comes from behind. Actually, only the nose section can be damaged, and when blown up it reveals...

Bashinet!

He ditches the usual shoulder guns and instead opts for strapping an entire missile base to his back. On each side are six slots that fire missiles at you. They aren't homing, but they try to move towards you. Sit in the middle and they'll go right past or be destroyed. When he moves to the bottom of the screen, get away from the center because he uses the recoil from his huge cannons to push him back up. Look for the green charging in front of the barrels, as there is no audio cue. He can also fire a small bullet spread but generally this isn't too deadly. Once defeated, he'll hobble off again but he is starting to look pretty beat up. I don't blame him; most giant robots don't survive being blown up even once.



I'm not sure what Stage 5 is, but I refer to it as the hell level due to the red background and all the stone structures. Fucking KICK ASS tune in this level, sounds like classic Capcom at their best. You'll need to navigate around these stone blocks. This level is full of mages and has some very cool design elements. Some enemies will punch those blocks and slam them against a wall. Get caught, lose a life. The laser trip wires make a return here, but instead of a crushing wall they open cages with nasty enemies. The second trip wire opens the midboss cage, which is a worm that looks like hideous vagina dentata. Past that tumor, the hell is replaced with cold metal. You've reached the war factory of the Gobligan empire.

The domed tanks of the previous stages are here, but unfinished. So many of them, that at one point nearly the entire screen is filled with these things. While they don't shoot back, they do give points. The more deadly tanks here have flat turrets, and actually come out of conveyor belts which don't have material visibly going in but have no trouble stamping out tanks. You'll also see more of the first two bosses on girders, though they are much softer now and don't shoot back. The huge castles DO shoot at you, firing both a wide salvo of aimed bullets and a screen-wide spread. Hopefully you've been saving some bombs for this section.



The boss is a little wizard on a beach ball. He isn't very hard.

Unfortunately you don't actually fight him directly, he pulls in a bunch of junk and smashed bits of bosses and magically bolts them together. Dragon heads, domes, pincers, a smashed skull, all of these things are lumped together into this hastily cobbled together weapon of meh destruction. This is actually a pretty tough fight. He starts off with big pink skull bullets in wide patterns. This isn't too bad. When the shoulders, loaded with tank domes, start firing you'll be in more trouble. The bullets are aimed and fast, and unlike the tanks these domes are very resilient and take a lot of hits to destroy. You best bet is to work on destroying the pincer, dragon head and shoulder on one side before taking on the other. Having those bullets coming from just one direction is key. Once both sides are destroyed he'll fire wider spreads of those pink skulls as well as rotating bits of garbage, but this section is more manageable than the first.

In shmups, a "boss rush" is sometimes referred to as a "boss alley." In Stage 6, you'll actually get to fight a whole crap load of bosses in an alley, or rather in some kind of long coliseum. You'll be given a nice pile of powerups before the fights start.



Your first boss is a two-headed dragon with rocket packs. The packs have some pretty fierce looking bullet spreads, but they are unaimed and have nice safe spots. Destroy those pods, then it'll jump around and shoot fire straight down. Aim for the chest, if you picked up Wide before hand you should be set.

After each fight, the crowd will toss items at you. It seems the better you do, the more likely you are to get powerups. They can toss junk as well, but it isn't lethal.



Boss 2 is a big robot with spiked ball and chain arms. Lots of moving parts too, the animation on this guy is a joy to watch. His arms will fly out towards you, hit the wall, then try to hit you again so be ready to dodge twice. He can also charge, but he'll get really bouncy before doing so.



Boss 3 is a big ninja. This guy is a fucking DOUCHE. He moves far faster than any other enemy in the game, his bullets are fast and cover the whole screen, and he has a ton of HP. In what is the BEST death animation in a shmup ever, when you do beat him he falls over, commits seppuku, and explodes.

After that fight, you'll be greeted by a pair of yellow armored dudes who fire constant streams of bullets. They are easy to dodge, thankfully. You can't actually kill these guys, no matter how much lead you pump into them. uddenly, two familiar blue balls ignite on top of these guys.



Boss 4 is BASHINET! Thoroughly thrashed in his previous encounter, he now ditches what is left of his body and snaps his head into a new armored golem. He can make a stream of blue balls, which explode after a set time. He can fling whirly green things at you. But once the claws on his back are destroyed, he simply fires a thick laser spread in front of him. He can't hit you if you sit on the side. A good homing attack like Chitta's is perfect here. Interestingly, when defeated he explodes but instead of leaving a crater like the other bosses, his pieces are scattered all about.



This is the end of the general audience. You now have a private audience with King Gobligan himself. I don't think that's his name, but it's a good fit don't you think? He looks amused, sitting in his throne. Suddenly, his throne lowers into the ground. The castle shakes and rises up, revealing a huge-ass face that takes up the top half of the screen. This is the final boss.

To start, his hands will fire easily dodged diagonal shots. When they retreat, each of his three eyes will randomly begin firing some very large green blasts. Concentrate on one side, move to the top of the screen behind the eye in question when it prepares to fire. His arms will now try to crush you, be prepared to move. Once an eye is destroyed, it'll spray death confetti instead of a laser. This is harder to dodge, but the spray has a big open spot in the middle that you can fit through. Use bombs if you need to.

Defeat this boss, and his castle crashes down, forming a huge chasm in the ground. You'll be treated to some good victory music as you fly back over the castle from Stage 1. The people in the lanes run with you, waving and cheering you on. At the castle proper, the king and queen of the land can be seen on the balcony.

SUDDENLY

The castle explodes! The war is not over! Is it time for Loop 2?

Not quite.































BASHINET!

Bashinet Final has come to kick your ass. Like a James Bond villain, if you don't actually see his dead body (or a crater) he isn't quite dead yet. He still has his golem armor, but it is very tattered. He doesn't mind. He starts flinging blue bombs that are as large as your own bombs all over. He seems to generally aim at your vertical level, and cover most of the horizontal space at that level. When I got to him, I used Wide and sat on the side which seemed to lure some blasts away, but this is a hard battle. Win, and you'll see the royal couple checking each other for wounds, a huge crater, and at last you'll take off for your ending. Each character has their own ending.

Keep playing, and you can start Loop 2 which has more bullets and far more durable enemies.

Mahou Daisakusen is an excellent, old-school shmup with a unique setting that still hasn't been used extensively. Raizing would go on to create some of the most iconic shmups afterwards, like Battle Garegga and Soukyugurentai, but it all started here. No complex scoring, no invisible bullets, just straight ahead classic shmupping done right.

Overall:







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