Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire or just “Sapphire” for short caught my attention a while back since i saw it was a co-op game. Further investigation led me to finding out that if you want a genuine copy of the game it might cost you about 1000$! That is insanity right?! What game could be worth this amount of money? Well….i burned a copy of the game on CD-R to play on my PC Engine Duo-R to find out if this price tag is even half justified.
Check out the full review to see if it is 😉
In Sapphire you and possibly a friend if you are playing co-op choose a character and spaceship out of 4 options. All the characters are anime girl space cops with different personalities who specialize i “time crime” since time travel has just been invented when the game takes place in around 2300 A.D. Some unidentified object is wreaking havoc throughout time and it is up to you girls to find out what it is and stop it. The game was of course never released outside of Japan so the story and text is all in Japanese but that doesn’t matter really. After that Sapphire becomes a what looks like a fairly standard vertical Shoot em up game (Shmup)
Before i begin with the gameplay i have to say that the real problem with this game is after all availability. Apart from the true copies of the game some fake ones were made that look almost identical to the real thing and the game has only been re-released once in a “girl space cop” compilation on the PSP and just in Japan. That version being on the PSP of course does not retain the co-op feature. In addition to all that you need the Arcade Card for the PC Engine for the game to work. The Arcade Card provides the system with even more additional RAM to help making games like Sapphire look great and feel extra smooth despite a lot of wild action. That being said Sapphire looks amazing and pushes the PC Engine to limits few thought were possible.
If you are a shmup veteran i might not have to explain the gameplay at since it is pretty standard but i will mention all that stands out. This is a vertical shooter with all that follows. The screen scrolls and you shoot everything that moves whole avoiding to get shot yourself. This is simple and may have been done before but the action here is fun, fast-paced and you respawn where you die never having to start the stage from the beginning which keeps the game flowing. I think i mentioned this in the Lords of Thunder review that i hate shmups that make you start all over after you die after just 1 shot like Gradius and those kind of games. That may be because they are arcade poerts and originally designed to be quarter eaters. But if you actually have bought the game for your home console just let us play! Sapphire certainly does that so the fun and action is non-stop!
Like i said there are 4 types of ships who have different types of shooting patterns and you can pick up 3 kinds of power-ups: red, blue and green. Red has the least spread but most power, green has the most spread but least power and blue is somewhere in between but the pattern varies between ships you pick. There are 5 power levels i think for each color so you get stronger if you pick up many of the same color but other colors replace the former power instead of the power-ups becoming like a mix and match similar to Soldier Blade.
This is a PC Engine game so you only have 2 buttons. 1 for shooting and the other one is the bomb that heavily damages everything on screen whole making you invulnerable for a few seconds. You get 2 bombs per credit and they become invaluable when fighting difficult bosses. Mini-bosses and others can drop these bombs or at least a power-up like mentioned above. Speaking of bosses, they are fantastic! They vary from big monsters and spaceships and other weird stuff since the stages take you through various places in time and they all look great and have a difficult but fair pattern.
Sapphire’s difficulty can range from pretty easy to mind mindbogglingly difficult. It has an Easy, normal and a hard mode but you can also decide how many credits you get up to 9 credits. In easy with 9 credits you will probably finish the game in your 2nd try unless you are a shmup veteran. Finishing the game in the default setting (normal, 4 credits) will prove a massive challenge especially in co-op mode where you share the credits with your pal. Imagine hard mode then…..
The difficulty does not just give enemies more health, but it gives them more stuff to shoot at you also. The shooting patterns get more difficult and in hard mode the game truly becomes a bullet hell. The many difficulty levels and co-op mode make up for the game only having 5 levels, but these 5 levels are heck good.
To sum up the gameplay may not be super original but it is a concept that Hudson Soft had perfected at the time and the programmers got so used to making games for the PC Engine. Sapphire’s gameplay is solid and well polished because of this and will keep you thoroughly entertained especially in the co-op mode with a friend that adds so much to the games’ depth
The music in this game is by the same guy that made the music in Lords of Thunder…. Yes, this is the kid of atmosphere the game has it does not only look great, it can handle all the craziness on screen with no slowdown and the music is freaking bad-ass so there is never a boring moment. The music is kinda different from the hero metal in Lords of Thunder but it keeps the epic guitar riffs and solos that makes you want to headbang. It might be sort of similar to the Black Mages Final Fantasy cover. Here is the boss theme…
Longplay *spoilers* I want to put my own co-op lonplay next week so check it out
Overall Sapphire is a pretty exhilarating experience. The gameplay is is nothing new but very well polished and fluid. The presentation is stellar, the anime girl space cop thing works for me and the futuristic style atmosphere looks great also because the graphics are great and perhaps the best the PC Engine/Turbografx ever saw. To top it off the music is amazing CD quality epicness. Epic riffs and amazing guitar solos that you will put on your mp3. With all that, plus all the difficulty settings and co-op option, this is a game you will come back to and replay making it last quite a bit.
Like i said the problem with Sapphire is availability. After some research i have found your options being: 1. Get a PC Engine Duo and an Arcade Card and a true copy of the game 2. Get a PC Engine Duo and an Arcade Card and a fake copy/burn your own copy of the game to CD-R and play like i did 3. Get a fake copy/burn your own copy of the game to CD-R and play on Magic Engine(PC Engine/Turbografx16 emulator, just google it and find a non-trial version of it even if you have to pay for it) 4. Get(or download for a hacked PSP) the PSP version and just play it solo.
Is it worth the 1000$? No, it isn’t… Probably no game is. But it is a very good extremely rare game likely because it was published in 1995 in the absolute end of the PC Engine life span and it needed the “Arcade Card” that gave the system some extra RAM but the problem with that was that very few games were designed after the Arcade Card was released so it could only be used with a handful of games, Sapphire being the only good one perhaps . Even the Play Station and Sega Saturn were out at that time so… You get my point… Still an awesome game you should try to get your hands on!
Lasting Appeal 9
Is it fun? 9
Overall 9 an awesome game!
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