New entrant to the retro gaming publishing scene, Bitmap Soft has to started off with a bang by teaming up with the Mojon Twins and releasing a double sided physical cassette of the Chronicles of Nanako for the Amstrad CPC – featuring remastered versions of Mojon Twins classic games, Nanako in Classic Japanese Monster Castle and Nanako Descends to Hell.
Nanako in Classic Japanese Monster Castle
Nanako in Classic Japanese Monster Castle sees Nanako set off on a mission to navigate her way through 25 floors within Heun Tower in order to rescue her sister Mya, an apprentice witch, who has gotten herself in a bit of trouble after she went into the old tower alone to improve her knowledge of dark magic.
Nanako has to find a way to build a path to the top of each level using the crates that can be found on each of the floors while avoiding enemy characters referred to as the Karakasa. Coming in contact with either the left or right side of a Karakasa will result in a loss of one life. However, Nanako is able to safely jump on top of a Karakasa to help her progress to the next level.
Nanako also has the ability to release a box in mid-air while jumping. This results in the box floating in mid-air, allowing Nanako to progress further up the tower. The ability to master this mid-air box drop is critical to clearing a number of the floors within the game.
Monster Castle is a somewhat enjoyable single screen puzzle platform game. It utilises Mode 0 graphics to provide a bright and vibrant display, but a number of the levels can look quite similar at times.
Perhaps the main negative of the game is that it is marred by what appears to be at times the random placement of the Karakasa. Sometimes, you will find them placed in a position that seems impossible to avoid, leading to an unnecessary loss of a life. Thankfully, the game has a level password system that means you can avoid having to repeat the early levels over and over again.
Having gone back and played the original version of the game, the only thing that has been updated on the ‘remastered’ version is that it loads up a bit faster and has a different end screen, otherwise it does look and play the same. This doesn’t prevent Nanako in Classic Japanese Monster Castle from providing a satisfactory gaming experience, but it’s a shame that the Mojon Twins didn’t take the opportunity to refine some of the game design as it does let the game down somewhat.
Game Rating: Gameplay = 5, Graphics = 6, Sound = 6
Nanako Descends to Hell
Nanako Descends to Hell is a different game all together. It starts of with a cut scene showing that her home village is under attack and that the village Oracle has advised Nanako to go to hell in order to locate 4 power artefacts that will vanquish the attackers once and for all.
Nanako Descends to Hell is a flip screen exploration game, that sees you navigate Nanako across an expansive game map in order to locate the 4 artefacts. To do this, you will need to locate scissors to cut through steel fences and axes to chop down trees obstructing your access to various areas within the map.
The game map is littered with monsters but these do not really pose much of a threat as they can be avoided quite easily by running around them or alternatively by exiting and reentering the screen to reset the delayed re-spawn sequence. However, to help you out with the monsters, you can obtain holy water that will make you immune to any contact you make with them.
The main challenge of Nanako Descends to Hell is that you only have 4 carrying slots and that you have to manage which items you are to carry at any given time, especially if you decide to carry more than one artefact as this limits your use of scissors and axes that open up the game world. One strategy you could look to use is to first open up all fences and chop down all trees blocking your path and then go around and collect all the artefacts.
The game makes use of Mode 1 graphics, which means only 4 colours on screen at any given time but with a little more detailed in the display on offer. The changing colours of the maze is really useful in helping you not get lost across the game map.
The visuals of the remastered version of Nanako Descends to Hell are a lot more refined when compared to the original. The movement of the main character feels like it has been improved as the original version suffered from having Nanako feel like she was ice skating her way across hell.
Nanako Descends to Hell will appeal to those who like maze exploration games. While the game is not difficult, there is enough here to provide a fun gaming experience.
Game Rating: Gameplay = 8, Graphics = 8, Sound = 6
The two games in one bundle format does make the Chronicle of Nanako an enticing purchase, especially since you are getting two different styles of game on offer. The Descends to Hell game is no doubt superior to Classic Japanese Monster Castle in every respect and is strong enough to carry the pairing.
Two different style of games in the one offering make this an attractive bundle but its Nanako Descends to Hell that holds this pairing up to make up for Classic Japanese Monster Castle’s flaw level design.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.