EL VIENTO / Wolfteam / Sega Genesis
When I first played El Viento years ago, I had gotten ahold of the Japanese version somehow, and I gave up on it pretty fast because of the punishing difficulty. I grabbed the English release for this review, and it seems that you either have more resilience to damage, or a larger amount of health, as it isn't nearly as bad as I remember it being.
That's not to say it's now easy. Each level of this somewhat Revenge of Shinobi-like action game sees you trudging through four or five sections, some of which can be pretty long, and if you get through all that only to die at the boss while trying to learn his pattern, you get kicked all the way back to the beginning of the level. Oh, and there's only one life per play, and only three continues to get you through the whole of the game.
The story is an odd mix of Al Capone gangsters, Peruvian witches and Lovecraftian Chthulu worshippers. A crazy cult, which apparently built the Empire State Building as some sort of cover for a shrine to resurrect demons, is undertaking a ritual to bring the Ultimate Evil or whatever back into the world. I'm really not sure why the Mafia would want to destroy the world, but they're in cahoots with the demon worshippers and will provide most of the fodder opponents blocking your way to the top of the evil shrine. The game is actually part of a little trilogy which Wolfteam developed, all of which is pretty obscure - the first game was Earnest Evans, their knockoff of Indiana Jones, this is the second game, and there's a final game on the Sega CD that I could never actually get to run.
The action resembles Revenge of Shinobi at a faster pace, and with long-range boomerangs as your main weapon instead of a sword and shurikens. It has that old-school style where all the enemies rush the hell out of you, take multiple hits and don't get pushed back, and damage you on contact, which I usually hate, but here it works out OK as common enemies don't take more than two or three hits at most usually. It still makes the game difficult, however, and there are some brutal boss battles in store. If you don't play on an emulator with save states, this is one of those one you may well never see the end of without cheating.
The other point of note about the game is that it has animu style art, which is certainly not a big deal now, but animu in games back in the early '90s was pretty rare and animu in general was still something kind of mysterious that we were curious about then. I think that fact alone, plus Annet's random secksay witch outfit, probably generated a lot of the cult interest in this game back then. Nowadays it's a little less exciting. The game also uses Ninja Gaiden-esque cinematics between levels to develop the story, but Wolfteam doesn't quite have the cinematic finesse here that the Tecmo team did and the story generally comes off a little on the boring side.
I can see a lot of people being put off by the high difficulty and old-school gameplay style with this one. If you are amenable to such things, however, it is a good addition to the Genesis roster if you get it on the cheap.