Like a puppy with rabies or a children's doll possessed by the spirit of a recently-executed serial killer, cuteness does not necessarily equate to sweetness. Exhibit A: Nichibutsu's 1987 Pac-Man knockoff Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen (AKA Booby Kids). It may look like a whimsical jaunt through a candy-coloured world of dreams, but it isn't. Oh no - it is, in fact, the story of one truly depraved young man and the general population's efforts to stop his terrifying rampage.

I guess that's supposed to be Kid in the blue jumpsuit. He's sporting quite the moustache for someone who calls themselves "Kid". No doubt it's part of some cunning disguise.
There's no story, no explanatory flashback that might give us an insight into the Kid's warped psyche. Instead, you appear in the middle of the map, surround by an effect that make it look as though you've just beamed down from the Enterprise.

That's you in the blue suit. As you can see, you're in some kid of maze. Your mission? Collect all the treasure chests scattered around the stage. This unlocks the door that lets you progress to the next stage, where you repeat the process. So, it's sort of a cross between Pac-Man and Lode Runner. There's no high moral purpose here, no princess to rescue or alien horde to send packing. Kid is simply greedy, and he has no qualms about stealing all this treasure. And I mean stealing: this treasure must belong to someone; it didn't put itself in a treasure chest, now did it? It's not like Kid is out exploring lost civilizations in South America, he's clearly in a busy modern city. Just because someone left their treasure in the street doesn't mean it's yours for the taking, Kid.

As you can see, the police are onto Kid's game and are attempting to track him down. This seems reasonable: after all, Kid is a thieving little bastard. You can also see that the Mafia are after Kid as well, probably because he was stupid enough to steal from the Mob. You might think this could pose a problem for Kid, one lone moustachioed child against the full force of the police and the Mafia, but you'd be underestimating Kid. He will stop at nothing, literally nothing to get away with his stolen treasures.

You see, an English translation of Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen would be something like Dig-Dig Kid's Great Operation. So, he has the power to dig, and this is where the game takes a dark turn. Pressing the button makes Kid dig a hole, and as you can see in the picture above enemies can then fall into the hole. Well done, Kid; you've trapped the enemy and now he can no longer interfere with our kleptomania. Still, that hole doesn't look very deep - you can see the enemy's head, he'll probably be able to climb out given enough...

Kid, no! What are you doing?! As you can see, once Kid has trapped his enemies in a hole he can then calmly fill it in and bury them alive. They struggle to crawl free, but each movement only forces more soil into their mouths and noses, slowly suffocating them to death. Just in case you were in any doubt about the buried men's fates, a gravestone appears on the spot where you killed them. I told you Kid would make sure nobody got in his way.
He's still not finished, though. Digging is hard work, and not nearly efficient enough as a method of mass murder, but luckily for Kid he can find a flamethrower lying around.

One blast, and they are instantly vaporised. Except for their skulls, which must be made of metal or something. I'm surprised Kid doesn't try and steal them, too.
You can also find a freeze-ray, which lets you turn your pursuers into ice and then shatter them like Robert Patrick at the end of Terminator 2. Except he was an evil robot and these people are living, breathing humans (except the dinosaurs. And the robots. And those weird green blob things. Okay, so about 50% of the enemies are humans).
Being an arcade game from the '80s, Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen revolves around collecting points. What's a good way to collect points in this game? Why, I'm glad you asked!

Yes, the game rewards you based on how many people you condemned to a slow, lingering death via premature burial. And you though Manhunt was bad.
Imagine for a moment that Kid's murderous rampage serves a purpose. Perhaps to Kid, these people are not mere victims but sacrifices, their deaths acting as a tribute to some dark, malevolent god who can grant our "hero" magnificent powers. But what power could be worth this level of carnage? I dunno. Time travel?

Because apparently Kid can travel through time. Each stage takes place in one of several different time periods. There's the modern-day setting pictured above, and:

...Prehistoric times, where you'll face dinosaurs and cavemen. Our primitive ancestors will remember Kid long after he is gone, handing down epic tales of this dark traveler who came to their land riding a storm of destruction and death. Oh, and shovels. He's not going to dig with his bare hands, he's not some kind of barbarian...

...Ancient Japan, where not even the fabled Shadow Warriors of the top ninja clans can halt Kid's demonic rampage....

...World War II. Kid's activities become so serious that the army has to be drafted in to take care of him, draining valuable resources from the front lines and allowing the Nazis to gain a foothold in northern Belgium...

...And the future. Humanity has long-since realised that to face Kid with mere human warriors is foolish, so they have created an army of robots in a last-gasp attempt to destroy the Menace of Time.

Is there an end to Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen? I'm not sure. I played it for a while and didn't encounter anything that could be considered an ending. Still, it's an very average maze-chase videogame that's nearly as old as I am, so I'll be buggered if I'm going to make anymore of a time investment than I already did. It's not a bad little game, really: if it was an app for the iPhone, you could happily while away a train journey guiding Kid towards him treasure. Nothing really marks Kid no Hore out as being bad, with the possible exception of a difficulty curve so random that if you plotted it out it'd look like a rollercoaster designed by Salvador Dali. Oh, and the fact the shovel power-up actually works to your disadvantage most of the time, because it creates so many holes you always seem to end up falling into one yourself.

Otherwise, the graphics are nice and cheerful, the music is pretty decent, and in particular the ancient Japan theme is very catchy. The weirdest thing about Kid no Hore was just how much I enjoyed outsmarting the enemies. Every time I managed to break free of a group of them, I could hear my brain whispering yeeeah, take that, suckers! Is this the kind of level my brain should be operating at? Matching wits with the AI of an arcade game from 1987? I rather fear that it's the start of some kind of Flowers for Algernon situation and my brain is rapidly turning to mush. Hey ho: if it gets bad enough, maybe one day I might even enjoy Silent Hill: Homecoming.

Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen, then: a shocking tale of murder and greed set in the confines of a standard maze-chase game from the late '80s. Honestly? I'd stick to Pac-Man. At least that one's just about drugs.



While I may be a virile, barrel-chested manly man,* the kind you hear about in sea shanties,** I also have a soft and tender feminine side***. It's the delicate female aspect I'll be investigating today by playing a game about, uh, kicking the shit out of various bad guys. It's time for Ma-Ba's 1994 side-scrolling beat-em-up for the MegaDrive / Genesis, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon!

I'm sure you're all at least a little familiar with Sailor Moon: it's one of those things you learn about without trying through cultural osmosis, like Superman or the "music" of X-Factor winners. If you don't know anything about Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, the basic gist is that some pretty girls (bishoujos) act as warriors (that's the senshi bit), fighting evil under their heavenly-body based nicknames. The Sailor bit of the title either comes the characters' day-jobs as rough yet kind-hearted deep-sea trawlermen, or the fact that they fight in their sailor-style school uniforms (well, it is Japanese).
So, that up there's the title screen, and there's an options menu where you can change various settings. You also get a nice MegaDrive rendition of the irritatingly catchy Sailor Moon theme song.

It's rather nicely done, and on the whole the music in BSSM is very nice. I have, however, composed some more fitting lyrics for the theme tune. Ahem:
I walk from left to right punching bad guys,
I jam my pointy shoes right in their eyes,
I keep on hitting them until they die,
In this game called Sailor Moon.

Much more appropriate for the task in hand, I'm sure you'll agree. Anyway, the game is standard side-scrolling punch-a-thon: get from one end of the other, punishing your foes in the name of the moon. Disappointingly there's no two-player mode, but it does give you a generous selection of five playable characters.

That's Sailor Moon herself in the center, and going clockwise from top-left you've got Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter. Bishoujos all, and they've got some nice sprite portraits too. Now, this being a Sailor Moon game and all I should probably play as Sailor Moon herself, but you know what? Screw that. I'm playing as the earthly representative of the Roman god of War! Sailor Mars, you're coming with me. Once you've chosen your warrior, you get the obligatory transformation sequence...

Sega MegaDrive in naked schoolgirl silhouette shocker! Ban this sick filth!
...And then it's on to the first stage.

It's the city streets, as per bloody usual. Mars is wearing a miniskirt and high heels, which where I come from is considered a standard ensemble for a girl to be wearing during a fight in the city centre. Controls-wise, it's a standard setup: one button to attack, one to jump and one to use your health-draining special attack. You've also got a variety of jumping attacks depending on which direction you press in mid-air, and you can hold down the attack button to charge up a projectile attack. All the Sailors have the same moveset, just with different animations. For example, Mars' projectile attack is a little fireball, whereas Venus shoots lightning. Oh, and Venus (Goddess of love, mind you) uses a whip instead of the standard punches and kicks.

A car!? Quick Mars, beat the shit outta it! I mean, watch out for that enemy. I have no idea what is going on with the enemies, because I've never watched Sailor Moon. I assume they're all based on grunts from the show, but what do I know? Nothing, that's what. The first stage has a few different types: there are armoured lizard-man type things, some supremely pissed-off orangutans, deranged-looking women with axes for arms and some pretty women who I guess just weren't pretty enough to become Sailor Senshi. The world of interdimensional monster-fighting teams is a cruel and fickle one indeed.

After five minutes or so, there's a lift. A lift already! I mean, I know you can't have a side-scrolling beat-em-up with them, but normally they don't show up within minutes of the game's opening. The natural order is disrupted. What next, health items that aren't food I found lying on the floor?
Anyway, enemies pour in as the lift crawls upward. For a champion of justice, Mars has no qualms about flinging her opponents out of the elevator and down to a gruesome (and extremely difficult to clean up) pavement-based death. At the top of the lift, the first boss awaits.

That's the boss on the left, the one that looks like a Native American chief who's heavily into S&M. The broad-shouldered fellow on the right is Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon's love interest and rose aficionado. He shows up at the start of every boss fight, mumbles something in Japanese and then fucks off without lifting a finger. Thanks a lot. More like Tuxedo Ass, if you ask me.

The boss itself isn't tough at all. In fact, I'm not really sure what its attacks are, because I managed to knock it over, charge up my projectile attack and shoot it as it got up. That made it fall over again, so I just repeated the process until the boss was dead. I AM MARS, LORD OF MARTIAL COMBAT. BOW BEFORE ME, MORTALS! Yep. So, that’s stage one done. You get graded by Tuxedo Mask between stages, although as far as I can tell there's no reward for getting a higher grade. Righto, stage 2 then!

It's a fairground, or rather it's a railway siding with a fairground in the distance. Sailor Mars can see the glowing lights, hear the happy laughter of the normal teens enjoying themselves like any normal teenagers would. Not Mars, though; she is forever bound to her duty. There is nothing in this life for her but kicking orangutans in the face. Still, at least this area has tiny trains driven by pandas. Why? I have no idea, but then again I've never watched Sailor Moon. For all I know, Train-Driving Panda could be a character vital to the plot, perhaps some Deep Throat-esque informant who gives the Sailors tips about their enemies whilst also eating bamboo and being adorable.
There's more nice music here, too. Again, I don't know if it's music from the anime, but it's very pleasant all the same:

It sound more RPG-like to me, though, like something you might find in a Secret of Mana rip-off.
Also, clowns.

Look at them, the fat fucks. They look like the result of a serious car crash involving Rosie from The Jetsons, a ballerina and a candy cane. They are by far the most irritating normal enemies, and they'll be cropping up in every stage from here on out. The one at the bottom is sliding towards me, legs splayed, a smirk on its otherwise blank robot visage. Look at my junk, that smile seems to whisper. Look at it. Still, they're only clowns, and this is a videogame: that means we get to beat them up. Once that's done, it's on to the second half of the stage.

It... It's beautiful. A world of cakes and here I am playing as a girl with the BMI of a stick insect. To be fair to the Sailors, they don't shy away from dessert; health recovery items in this game take the form of cakes and sundaes that, yes, you find lying on the floor. That makes me wonder why I can't just eat the background to get my health back. I mean, it's a giant cake, right? Unless it's made of fibreglass. Still, those Sailor girls are tough. I'm sure they could handle a diet high in fibreglass.
Onward through the level you go. Occasionally you have to punch you way through a chocolate barrier, which I notice sounds like a euphemism for something truly revolting. Other than that, it's just fighting the same set of enemies until you reach the boss.

It's a camp Nazi! Of course it is. His name is Jadeite (I think), and he fights like you would imagine a pretty boy in a fascist-style uniform would: really badly. He must have been that kid who went to a posh public school and was mercilessly abused by all the older boys. His moves include kicking, jumping and kicking, and a Psycho Crusher. It's not as good as M. Bison's, of course. Much like the first boss, you can keep knocking him over with repeated applications of your projectile attack, so, uh, do that. I can only assume that Jadeite was so rubbish because he was constantly distracted by the pink wafer biscuits that make up the floor of his lair.
Stage three next, and it's got a bit of a gimmick to it.

You've got to stand on the top of these lorries that are constantly shifting around. When they're right next to each other you can walk between them, but when they're apart you're stuck where you are. The real challenge of the level becomes getting enough space to fight the enemies as the driver of your lorry inconsiderately tries to drive off the bloody screen. It is, in essence, a horizontal variation of the ubiquitous lift scenes, although unlike the lift you can't throw your enemies off the lorry and watch them get crushed to a fine red paste by the oncoming traffic.

Turns out the lorries were on their way to a factory, and that's where you'll spend the remainder of the stage. What does this factory make? Well, it's full of cyborg demons with hammers for arms, so I have several theories. It either makes A) Hammer-armed demons, B) croquet sets which said demons then test with their mallet hands, or C) a vast plastic tsunami of licensed Sailor Moon tat. The hammerhands make frustrating opponents as they seem to be able to hit you from anywhere on the screen with their freakish limbs, even if you're nowhere near them. Conversely, Mars seems to sometimes have trouble reaching enemies who are right next to her, which is odd given that her legs make up roughly 80% of her body. You wouldn't think you'd be able to miss with gams like that, but there you go.

Boss time, and it's another camp Space Nazi. This one's called Neflite, and judging by the picture above he has something very interesting hidden in his crotch. Diamonds, possibly, or a miniature reproduction of Michelangelo's David carved in a matchhead. Mars certainly seems keen, anyway. His schtick is speed, and he flies around the room, pausing occasionally to punch you in the back of the head. He's a prick of the first order, and this is the first really challenging fight in the game. The challenge mostly comes from not being able to hit him at all as he jets around the screen like a cheetah on a motorbike. Once you managed to grab him a few times, you'll be on your way to the next stage.

There's not much to say about this stage, really. You're in some kind of castle, fighting the same set of enemies as before. The only difference is that sometimes you have to scroll the screen upwards instead of sideways, and at a couple of points some giant logs roll towards you and you gotta dodge them. Nothing much else to say about this stage, so I'll just say that so far, I'm rather enjoying Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. Gameplay's fun if a little repetitive, and you do have a bigger moveset than most games of this ilk. The graphics are nice, especially the sprites for the Sailors themselves, and the music is well above average. All in all, it's holding its own amongst the top-ranking MegaDrive brawlers so far.

Another day, another Space Nazi. This one's called Zoisite, and he was so furious at his parents for naming him "Zoisite" that he embarked upon a life of crime. I assume. Maybe not, but it'd make sense. Zoisite here has a trick up his sleeve:

He's an evil clone of Sailor Moon or something. I'm sure this is all explained in the anime, but there're only really three options in a situation like this. It's either Sailor Moon after being hypnotised with a magical spell, a robot or some good old-fashioned crossdressing. Counterfeit Moon here isn't particularly tough, especially after the previous boss, and s/he's susceptible to the repeated projectile attack strategy.

A short stage next, as our heroine battles her way through a cave. I say battles: given her expression in the picture above, it appear the enemies are trying to tickle Mars into submission. There are lots of enemies here, though, lots and lots of them, and it's all a bit of a slog. At least it's got some more nice music:

Aside from many, many enemies, is there anything new in this stage? Well no, not really. There is a bit where you have to destroy a wall before the floor crumbles away, but that's hardly the height of gameplay innovation, is it? Soon enough, the boss shows up. Do you want to have a guess what he looks like?

That's right, he's a Space Nazi. But wait! This one has... a cape! Astounding. Kunzite here also has boomerangs (easy to dodge) and jumping kicks (not so easy to avoid). He's a tough customer, but once you get his timing down you'll well on your way to beating him. And he's the last Space Nazi you'll be fighting in the game. You've beaten them all. Do you know what that makes you? A god damn hero.

Final stage time! It's the Arctic, possibly, or maybe you've been shrunk to microscopic size and placed in a sugarbowl. Look, I don't know how crazy things get in the world of Sailor Moon: for all I know Sailor Mars could be a 50-foot tall robot piloted by Elvis' ghost. And see, now I want a game where you play as a giant robot piloted by the lingering spirit of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. If you don't want that, then there's something terribly wrong with you.

Further in the stage, there's a creepy biomechanical-looking section. Mars cannot handle the terror, and decides to have a lie down on her health bar. It's another gauntlet of foes, and I think you have to fight at least one of everything you've faced previously (except the Space Nazis). Once you're through, it's time for a boss.

Prince Endymion is his name, and what a regal-looking fellow he is too. Slightly confusingly, I think he's the same guy as Tuxedo Mask except from an alternate universe or something. No matter who he is, he got between Mars and her vaguely-defined goal and therefore he must die. He's all about the sword, and conveniently it can fire projectiles. He's a bit like Kunzite, except with more health. Once he's dead, it's final boss battle time.

The last boss is the evil Queen Beryl. Beryl? Not generally a name I associate with evil rulers of dark dimensions. It's more the kind of name you expect an 80-year-old suburban grandmother to have. Maybe that's what Beryl's life is like when she's not plotting to destroy super-powered schoolgirls (I say super-powered, but from what I've seen Sailor Mars doesn't have any powers that couldn't be replicated by a gymnast armed with a petrol-filled water pistol). As befits her royal status, Queen Beryl is a royal pain in the ass. She's fond of projectiles; her basic, forward-firing attack is easy enough to avoid, but she supplements this with a homing lightning attack which seems nigh-impossible to dodge. It's frustrating to say the least, and you're better off just taking the hits from the lightning and getting in close. She's also pretty agile considering she's wearing a dress that binds her ankles together, but if you've got a few lives spare you'll get her in the end. Once she's dead, the game is over!

...Unless you're playing on the Hard difficulty, in which case there's an extra boss at the end. This charming young lady is Queen Metallia (not Metallica), and she's only vulnerable in her giant eyes. This is why the Xenomorphs from Alien are so terrifying: no external eyes to act as convenient weak points. Unlike Beryl's lightning, which was merely very difficult to avoid, I think Metallia's orbs are impossible to avoid. I don't think I ever managed to dodge them, so once more the prevailing tactic is to throw caution to the wind and kick her right in the eyeball as many times as possible. A tough battle indeed, but once she's dead Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is over.

And here's the ending (for Sailor Mars, at least). THRILL as she says some words! READ said words with your eyes, assuming you know Japanese! Yeah, that's it. It does seem that each Sailor has their own ending, which I guess might add some replay value, but it hardly seems worth it if all you're going to get is a (admittedly nicely drawn) static picture.

You know, if I'd been born a girl I probably would have loved Sailor Moon, and this game hasn't done anything to disprove this theory. It might not be anything Earth-shatteringly novel, but it does what it does well and it's superior to the vast majority of licensed MegaDrive / Genesis games. Solid gameplay, a decent difficulty level, good graphics and music and fairly generous selection of characters all add up to a game that might not challenge Streets of Rage or Golden Axe for the title of "Best MegaDrive brawler" but that can certainly hold its own amongst the chasing pack.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, then. Give it a go if you like this sort of thing. And now I'll leave you with yet more alternate lyrics to the theme song on honour of our triumph over the forces of evil.
All the bad guys I found have been killed,
My quest to beat up Nazis is fulfilled,
For my services you will be billed,
I didn't play as Sailor Moon.

* Not true.
** Also untrue.
*** This, however, is true.



Ghosts: so often in the world of videogames, from Pac-Man to Luigi's Mansion, the restless spirits of the dead decide that rather than spending their eternal afterlife doing something useful like finally putting those shelves up in the bathroom, they're going to get their incorporeal asses right in the way and attempt to kill any videogame hero they come across. Not today, though. Oh no, for the dark powers of spiritual possession are finally being used by the forces of justice in Jaleco's 1991 arcade possess-em-up Avenging Spirit.

So, what's the story here? Our hero is enjoying a pleasant stroll with his orange-haired girlfriend, when two villains attack them.

Well, I'm sure the hero will be fine. We haven't even started the game yet.

Oh. Well, that could put a dampener on things. It turns out that your girlfriend's father is an expert on "ghost energy", whatever the hell that is, and they kidnapped his daughter so they could ransom her for his data on ghost energy.

"Ghost Energy" may sound like a clear, refreshing health drink from Japan, but it is in fact some kind of cosmic force that allows our hero to manifest as a goofy little ghost.

He looks pretty cheerful for someone who was just murdered whilst watching their girlfriend get abducted. Judging by his expression he's higher than a giraffe on stilts anyway, so now he can mellowly float his way to the start of the game.
This is where Avenging Spirit's gimmick of forcible phantasmic possession is explained to you. Four enemies are placed on the screen, and you can select one of them to control by moving your ghost over them and pressing attack. The ghost wriggles his way into the hosts body, taking control of them like some hideous ectoplasmic parasite and giving you full control over their actions.

The controls are, well, they're in that picture above. They're pretty basic: Avenging Spirit is, at its heart, a cutesy version of Contra with the added mechanic of undead parasitism. Jump around, shoot things, get to the end of the stage.
AS's more unique aspects are represent by the two health bars in the screenshot above. The bottom purple bar is the health of your current host body: when they get hit too much, their body gives out and our ghostly friend is forcibly ejected. This is where the top red bar comes into play, because that's your "Ghost Energy". It constantly depletes when you're in ghost form, so it's (usually) in your best interests to jump into an enemy as soon as possible. It also decreases a little when you get hit, and when your Ghost Energy runs out you, uh, die? Un-die? Perhaps when your Ghost Energy runs out your soul is completely erased from all planes of reality, as though you never existed. Cheerful!

I decided to start out as a ninja, (and why wouldn't you,) and you're instantly faced with an assortment of tommygun-wielding gangsters and anime-style heroines to defeat. Or, if you prefer, you can dodge as many enemies as possible, try and preserve your Ghost Energy and just head for the exit. That's a valid tactic, too... if you're a wuss. You're a ninja for chrissakes, get out there and ninj something!
The levels themselves as fairly large, with plenty of scope for up and down movement as well as the standard left-to-right, giving you more than one path to take in each stage. It's a good job you've got the vertical space, too, because this ninja jumps like someone riding a pogo stick into a minefield: straight up. The "feel" of their jumps is one of the differences between each of your potential flesh puppets, but more on that in a while. For now, just enjoy the ninja's face when he jumps:

"I have no idea what I'm doing," that expression seems to say, or possibly "did I remember to turn my ninja oven off?"
Personally, it was the graphics that caught my attention with this one: I'm just a sucker for the big, cartoony pixel style of the early '90s, I guess. What AS reminds me of most is Metal Slug, although obviously without quite the same level of beautiful, beautiful sprite work as MS. I mean, look at the guy in red at the bottom of this screenshot:

Now tell me he doesn't look like he belongs in a Metal Slug game. Also pictured: a giant GO! sign. That marks the end of the stage proper and the entrance to the boss' lair. Yes, Avenging Spirit has bosses, but sadly they aren't all that interesting.

First up, a robot snake in a trash compactor, which makes about as much sense as anything else in Avenging Spirit. He bears something of a resemblance to the giant snakes from Mega Man 3, as seen in Spark Man's stage. No, I'm kidding, they're in Snake Man's stage - he had the decency to pick a theme for his stage and stick with it. Not like Top Man, because what the hell does some futuristic garden have to do with spinning tops? Anyway, I digress. Defeat the boss, and you get a little bit of story and you move onto the next stage.

So, that's the gameplay: move through the stage, possess a bad guy, use your unearthly powers to make them kill their own comrades against their will in a prolonged orgy of mind-rape, defeat the boss and move on. Now, the interesting bit: there are a fair few types of bad guys to possess, so let's have a look at the various categories.


Really fearful looking ninjas, it has to be said. Perhaps ghosts are the mortal enemies of ninjas, as ghosts are the only things more stealthy and mysterious than they are. They don't want ghosts horning in on their territory: ghost ninjas would be far superior at ninja-ing, and due to not needing to buy food and clothes and things they could constantly underbid regular ninjas for valuable assassination contracts.
Ninjas are fairly common and come in two flavours: blue throws shurikens and red has a ball-and-chain to attack with. Both types jump around like a cat with a firework up its arse, and I think red ninja is probably the best "unit" in the game due to his power and speed.


Entry-level mafia goons who have moved away from illegal gambling and into the (I imagine far less lucrative) ghost-hunting business. Imagine Tony Soprano in an episode of Scooby Doo. They attack with pistols, and there are purple ones later on who have tommyguns.

Anime Girls

Acrobatic, miniskirted ladies who look like every anime heroine ever. As I'm sure you've already guessed, they're real quick and they can jump well. They attack with punches and kicks, and the purple-haired one can shoot crescents of energy (standard, not Ghost) out of her feet, but the best way to use them is to avoid the fighting and run the hell away.


Some big, burly fellows with headbands have taken refuge from the likes of Contra and pitched up in the cutesy world of Avenging Spirit. They didn't leave their murderin' ways behind them though, because they attack with either an uzi or hand grenades. All round, they're pretty handy and they look as though they're battle-hardened enough that an undead phantom invading their body won't really faze them - in fact, it'd probably be more traumatic for our ghostly friend as he becomes party to all the dark and terrible things they've done on the battlefield. That's what you get for creeping into other people's brains, you ghostly little twat.

Snow Women

You know what's better than bullets for killing your enemies? Snow! No, of course it isn't, although it's not far off. Madam Sasquatch here has the power to roll balls of snow across the screen, although sadly they don't get bigger the more they roll. However, they don't travel that fast and you can only have three on the screen at once. This can lead to the unfortunate situation of not being able to fire when you need to, leaving you to curse your decision to possess this old lady when there're guys with guns around.


So, you spend years of your life learning the dark arts, gaining a mastery over the very elemental forces of nature itself, your body coursing with enough power to kill a man with a mere gesture... and then you go and ruin it all by wearing a pink robe with cat ears attached. It's like becoming the world boxing champ and nicknaming yourself "Powderpuff". Still, they are some pretty adorable wizards, especially their focused expressions when they're firing their magic. Because that's how they attack. With magic. Yup. The pink ones fire beam and the green ones a larger orb of death, and they're also quite good to use.

Elderly Baseball Players

Well, that about covers it. They baseball players, and they're elderly. What more do you need to know? That their moustaches flow mighitly, like the surging of some vast river? That they attack with baseball bats? Actually, the best thing about the baseball players is that they can reflect projectile by hitting them with the bat. It's just a shame they're so rare.

Vampires (in their underpants)

Also rare are these guys, my personal favourites. They look like regular vampires until they attack, at which point they whip open their cape to reveal their boxers. Oh, and some bats fly out and gnaw upon the faces of your enemies. It's all a bit Castlevania, truth be told, except I don't think Dracula ever fought the Belmonts dressed in his pants and a cape.


Mystic holy men who have developed the power of flight at the expense of their fashion sense. They're probably the least useful (and least interesting) enemy, because for some reason when you take control of them they forget how to fly. I guess that's the bit of knowledge that got pushed out of their head when our hero took up residence.


Well, that's what they are referred to as on the arcade flyer, anyway. They're almost exactly the same as the soldiers, except that they look like a cross between Lupin III and a Metal Slug character.

Holy Crap It's Dragons

Yep, dragons. Big ol' fire-breathing dragons. They got the job of guarding the kidnapped girl after mentioning their previous job, guarding a large pile of gold from would-be adventurers, during their interview with EvilCorp or whoever's behind all this. That's the kind of experience that money can't buy, and it's vital in the "protecting-strongholds-from-avenging-spirits" business. Plus they can breath fire, and they can take quite a lot of punishment.

And that's it for the possesable enemies (well, there's a robot too, but I forget to get a picture of him. He can fire missiles, but he's not very good). You choose your humanoid meat-vehicle and make your way through the game's six stages until you reach the end. The stages see you traveling through the city streets, through what might be either a construction site or a building made entirely of K'nex, across some rooftops, through the sewers and into the enemy fortress. It seems like a lot of sneaking around for an incorporeal being, but I guess he knows what he's doing.

The only major complication comes from collecting keys. You see, after the first stage you are told that the room holding your girlfriend is locked by three keys that you're going to need to find to free her. They're hidden about the levels, but they're pretty easy to find if you look around a little. The last key is on the final stage, and it makes you do a little puzzle (and I mean "puzzle" in the same way that writing your name or opening a can of Coke is a "puzzle") where you have to step on five blocks in sequence to spell a word, which opens a door so you can get the last key. The password your enemies chose? GHOST. GHOST!? That's hardly secure, is it? For a start, it's only five letters long, but that's not the point! Ghost? This whole thing has been about ghosts and their various energies, you could have at least picked the name of your pet dog or something. "We've got to keep these messages out of Nazi hands, so our clever chaps at Intelligence have come up with this code to make them unreadable. The keyword you will need to decipher them is BRITISHINTELLIGENCE. Carry on!"

To be fair, this is an organization that decided the best way of inputting said password would be a series of metal blocks protruding from the wall that require a grown man's weight on top of them to activate, so they're obviously not the sharpest group of minds in the world. What's wrong with a keypad, too gauche for you? Also, YOU'RE A GHOST. Just float through the fucking door! Aaaanyway, rescuing or not rescuing your girlfriend not only determines which ending you get, but also gives you a gameplay advantage if you perform your boyfriendly duty and get her out of her cell.

Yep, I possessed her good. She doesn't seem scared by the sudden appearance of the ghost of her dead boyfriend, more sort of angry. Still, he did just possess her. That's got to put a strain on any relationship.
Your reward for saving the girl is that you get to use her to fight the final boss, which is handy because she's much more powerful than every enemy you can pilot. She's got some kind of bracelet that fires laser, which rather begs the question "why the hell were you just sitting there in your cell instead of lasering yourself the fuck outta there?"

Here is the final boss. He looks like Archangel from Airwolf and he's riding around in a flying penguiny-ducky-lobstery thing. Considering he's the leader of a brutal evil organization that had no qualms about kidnapping and imprisoning a girl, murdering her boyfriend and holding her for ransom, he looks pretty goddamn goofy. That's okay though - I like goofy, especially when it comes in the form of an eyepatch-wearing, pompadour-sporting old man flying around in a vehicle that would look more appropriate floating in the lake of an amusement park.
Considering the standards set by most final bosses in arcade games, it's not a tough fight (especially if you're controlling the girlfriend) and soon you have emerged victorious.

If you got the good ending, the girlfriend is freed and our hero gets to enjoy the world one last time by hijacking the senses of his lady love. Then his ghost energy runs out and he fades away, content at a job well done. If you didn't manage to get the girl out and left her to rot in her cell...

The ghost, still looking baked as all hell but more sad-looking, hopes that the girl managed to escape. This doesn't seem very likely, because the enemy base is shown to have exploded, presumably vaporising the girl. Oh dear. Well, at least you stopped the evil villain from completing his plan to use Ghost Energy in some ill-defined but no doubt evil way. That's something, right? Right?

I gotta say, Avenging Spirit is really rather good. Personally, I've always found that Jaleco's games occupied a position where they were generally quite good but never really had that extra oomph that'd push them up to being real classics. While Avenging Spirit might not be in this very top class, it's definitely one of Jaleco's best and is something of a lost gem. The graphics are lovely, full of character and well animated, the music is really good (if occasionally repetitive) and the gameplay is really good fun. The possession gimmick lifts it out of standard action platformer territory, it controls well and it's not so difficult it becomes tedious, so all in all I've got no hesitation in recommending it if you fancy a quick blast of arcade fun. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to start studying for my PhD in Ghost Energy.

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