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Kaikan is a freeware vertical shmup from Zakichi, the same mad mind behind Contlade. I would say, in my own humble, alcoholic opinion, that Kaikan is the superior of the two, even if Contlade is a lot of fun in its own right. While Contlade closely resembled an early console shooter, Kaikan closely resembles an arcade shooter. It’s fast, it’s hectic, it’s got shit flying everywhere and power-ups galore. It’s awesome.
You start the game choosing a craft to pilot. Each craft has a different main attack and appearance. The appearance of the ship is completely arbitrary, but the main attack alters the gameplay significantly. The main weapons on each ship varies, from flame attacks to homing missiles to exploding bullets. I also noticed that some ships handle differently than others. It felt as if the blast-shot ship was more agile than the homing-shot ship, but that could have just been my imagination. Despite some attacks being more powerful than others, the choice of ship doesn’t effect the difficulty as such, it just changes the way you might go around taking down enemies. It’s a very well balanced game.
Kaikan looks really good. I want to say that it looks like something from a 16bit console, but it’s probably just a bit better than home-console hardware of the time was capable of. It looks more like and arcade game from the late 90’s. Think Raiden. While it has well detailed backgrounds, smoothly animated sprites and clear sound effects, it’s all a bit pixelated and retro. And I mean in a good way. The one aspect of Kaikan that really shines it’s fluid gameplay. There is no slowdown or sprite flickering, and the speed of both the payer, the enemies and the attacks are all spot-on.
Kaikan is a pretty easy game. The boss fights can be a little tricky, and you definitely need to pay attention during the level proper, but it’s nothing the average gamer can’t handle. On top of that, you are given an ample supply of continues straight of the bat. It’s still an enjoyable game, it’s just not much of a challenge. But you know what? It’s actually nice to win for once. My life is a seeming never ending succession of failures at the best of times, so loading a game up and being able to play it right through to the end was a nice change.
There is a lot of fun to be had with Kaikan. It doesn’t have a huge amount of levels, but the different ships requiring different play-styles should be enough to keep you occupied for a little while. The game also seems to support gamepads straight out of the box, which is nice. Give it a try.