The Psikyo classics keep coming and we can finally enjoy the successor to Samurai Aces. Instead of being a vertical shmup, Tengai offers some fun horizontal gameplay so get your trigger finger ready.
Tengai is one of Psikyo's rare horizontal shoot 'em ups (like the underwhelming Sol Divide). It's played as you would expect as you soar through stages while avoiding projectiles, shooting, and unleashing the odd bomb. Even though the gameplay is disappointingly standard, Tengai is a bit of a step up from Samurai Aces because of its ridiculous sense of humour and collection of characters. You can play as the busty Miko, the super-serious Tengai, the robotic Katana, the determined Sho, or the goofy Junis who has a lemur friend that smokes a cigarette and offers plenty of silly one-liners. It's fantastic to have such an eclectic group of playable characters and watching the ridiculous cutscenes will make you wonder if the writers are comic geniuses or the translators simply didn't know what they were typing. Either way, it's funny stuff that'll have you at least cracking a smile from time to time.
As I've already mentioned, Tengai's gameplay is very formulaic and standard. This is good because it allows you to focus on the shooting action and not have to worry about complicated systems. Also, playing it cooperatively with a friend is even more enjoyable because you don't have to waste time explaining intricate mechanics. On the other hand, the fact that it doesn't take any risks is rather disappointing because if you're a huge shmup fan like me then you'll desperately crave something far more interesting after playing Tengai for only a few minutes. You'll have fun but not nearly as much as you would in many modern takes on the genre.
The diverse cast of characters also play rather differently as each has their own bomb attack and regular shot so playing around as each of them will help you decide which one clicks with your play style best. However, I had to play primarily as Junis because watching her and her lemur interact was just too funny to pass up. Along with the great collection of characters, you'll also fight a vast assortment of giant transforming bosses which has become a staple of most Psikyo shoot 'em ups. Battling them can be super-fun although I found most of them to be too similar. The same thing can be said about the stages because none of them really stand out as they're all just stereotypical ancient Japanese settings that all blend together to make an overall forgettable campaign.
As with all of these recent classic arcade releases, Tengai doesn't include any bonus content. Considering it's as short as it is, I wish there was more reason to keep playing it after you beat it. There is a hidden character named Ayin but that's about it. I really hope the companies that port these games realise at some point that fans want extra museum-style content and more replay value. Without such content, it feels like a rather hollow experience. You may as well go to an arcade and pump a few quarters into a machine because at least that would end up costing a bit less. Plus, it would be a much more authentic experience.
Tengai is a worthwhile successor to Samurai Aces and is decent enough for any shoot 'em up fan to happily add it to their digital collection. I just wish it did more to set itself apart in such a crowded genre.
- + Classic shoot 'em up gameplay that you can play cooperatively with a chum
- + Great wacky sense of humour
- + Cool bosses and characters
- - Standard gameplay doesn't take any risks
- - Stages aren't very memorable
- - Pretty short with no extra content