Cloud Master was designed by Taito, published by Hot-B in 1988 and was later ported to both the Sega Master System, the Nintendo Entertainment System and a couple of other systems. Unlike many other ports that appeared on both the NES and the SMS, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the two versions.
This game is hard as all sweet-fuck. There, I said it. The difficulty of this game is legendary. Well maybe not legendary, but it is hard enough to make me want to put my fist through my TV screen. The thing about Cloud Master is that it’s doesn’t seem very difficult. At first glance it just looks like your run-of-the-mill, cutesy 8bit side-scrolling shooter. And while it certainly is all of those things, it’s also very, very difficult.
The graphics are cute. They definitely have a Chinese overtone, looking like something out of a book of fairy tales from the far east. You play a young Chinese boy named Mike Chen (they couldn’t think of more Chinese name than fuckin’ Mike?) who rides around on a cloud and shoots the shit out of dumplings, pig heads, bowls of noodles as well as demons who fire lightening at you from time to time. Defeating these lighting wielding demons will reveal a door. Fly into the door and you will greeted with a shop screen. There are a few different sub-weapons on sale which cost nothing (i.e. you simply choose the one you want) and also have no ammo, meaning that they can be used at will and don’t run out. Well, they won’t run out until you eventually die, that is. There are a bunch of power-ups to collect as well most of which improve your main weapon. Enough power-up and you can do some serious on-screen damage but, sadly, all your power-ups go away if you lose a life. Which is all the time.
The controls are great. The Cloud Master’s movement is neither too fast nor too slow, and the hit detection is not too bad either. I think the problem with the game is that there is no health bar to speak of. It’s a one-hit-you’re-out deal, and once you’re out, it’s back to the start of the game. Lose all your lives and you are greeted by a continue screen, and while I don’t think there is any limit on the amount of continues you can use, sometimes it’s just not worth it. It’s also quite demoralizing having to choose between ‘continue’ and ‘end’ when you are still on the first stage and both options essentially have the same effect.
Cloud Master sounds cute and fun, but there is some serious pain waiting for you when you slap that cartridge into your console. Apart from the ridiculous difficulty, the games is pretty well built and a lot of fun. Although it’s harder to beat than a gorilla on crack, enough practice and you do start t get a little better and advance more and more stages. I have never actually managed to finish the game myself, and every time I try I almost tear clumps of hair from my head. One day, I keep telling myself, One day I’ll beat this fucking game.
Lastly, I have never played the Arcade version of this game, but I imagine it’s just as difficult. One of the key factors in designing arcade game is the likely hood of people pumping quarters into the machine. If a game can hook people, and simultaneously have them constantly fail and pop more money into the machine, then the game was bound to be a hit. I’m pretty Cloud Master must have taken the arcade scene by storm. Cloud Master was also remade as ‘The Monkey King: The Journey Begins’ on the Nintendo Wii in 2008. I haven’t played it, but it looks pretty awesome.