If you’re like me, you’ve long awaited the day when you could live out your dream of flying around on a magical vacuum cleaner. Well, your wait is at an end thanks to MonkeyPaw’s import PS1 release of Kyuiin for the PSN (playable on the PS3 and PSP).
At its heart, Kyuiin is a pretty standard horizontally scrolling shmup with cutesy graphics and typical power-ups but your unique magical vacuum powers help to set the game apart. Your most basic power is a vacuum hose which waves around in front of you like a hungry snake and will suck up certain enemies and bullets. Sucking up things charges up your blast bar which when activated makes you invincible for a few seconds and will destroy most enemies with ease but prevents you from gaining points while it’s in use. Finally, you have a back attack involving the vacuum’s power cord which has really short range but deals a ton of damage and gives a score bonus on enemies that it destroys.
You might think that your magical vacuum’s power to suck up bullets and enemies would make the game really easy but you would be wrong. Despite the game’s cutesy appearance, Kyuiin is tough, even on Easy mode (there’s also a Hard mode). Not impossibly tough, mind you – this isn’t Ikaruga by any stretch – but even experienced shmup fans will need a fair bit of practice before they’re able to maximize their scores since the best methods for increasing your score (vacuum hose and extension cord) both have a rather limited range.
The graphics in Kyuiin are a mixed bag. The 2D art is good but the 3D rendered art (ala the early Donkey Kong Country games) isn’t the best. This is really brought home with the game’s opening. Kyuiin begins with a charming old-school anime sequence reminiscent of Doraemon. This is then followed by some horrendous 3D animation which serves as a reminder of just how far 3D animation has come in the past 15 years. Although I got some chuckles out of just how bad the 3D animation was, I wish they had stuck completely with 2D art for both gameplay and the movies.
The music is quality stuff, but what I really enjoyed about Kyuiin were the boss fights. They’re frequent, well designed, and generally made me laugh. Most of the bosses are based on classic fairy tales which works a lot better than you might think it would – The Musicians of Bremen and Snow White & the Seven Dwarves are surprisingly worthy adversaries. And when I finally managed to beat the final boss after having learned his many attack patterns, I felt very pleased with myself.
Kyuiin isn’t the best horizontal shmup I’ve ever played (that honor goes to Gradius V), but it’s definitely a fun one and the vacuum powers and unusual cutesy fantasy setting help to set it apart from other games in the genre. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s well worth the measly $6 that is its asking price.