|Release Date:||June 1995|
Without a doubt, Hagane: The Final Conflict is one of the most criminally overlooked games from the 16-bit era. With its swift, action-packed gameplay coupled with a unique futuristic Japanese theme, Hagane is a special treasure indeed. It doesn't dazzle or blow you away aesthetically but it is very, very fun. The old-school difficulty will satisfy hardcore gamers as well. The only problem? Hagane is *extremely* rare so good luck actually finding a copy.
Overview: At first glance, I am certain that many of you had a similar "What the heck is Hagane?" reaction. After all, Hagane is a game that even a lifelong NES/SNES fan like myself didn't even know about until last year (2012). I feel ashamed of this sad fact but it is the truth.
After doing a bit of research, I began to understand how a fantastic game such as Hagane could slip through the cracks of obscurity so easily. Hagane: The Final Conflict (even the subtitle is a bit confusing as it only appears within the game and is nowhere to be found on the game's label) had the misfortune of being one of those rare Blockbuster exclusive games that couldn't even be purchased in stores. Remember The Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak for the NES? That game was another rental exclusive which explains why it is so incredibly rare and valuable (particularly complete). The same goes for Hagane. And while both Hagane and the second Flintstones game are juicy collectibles today, it is a shame that...well...no one got to actually play them!
This is truly unfortunate because Hagane: The Final Conflict is a fantastic action/platformer! It features a wide variety of attacks/moves (very impressive for a Super Nintendo game) and a satisfying challenge level that hardcore gamers will appreciate for sure! The best comparison that I can think of off the top of my head would be a combination of Ninja Gaiden and Strider elements. If you were to mix those two games together and add a heavy Japanese influence/theme, Hagane might be the final product. That is paying the game a very good compliment too because I absolutely adore the classic Ninja Gaiden series for the NES (Strider was solid too but Ninja Gaiden was way better IMO).
To give you just a brief overview, you control this sweet-looking cybernetic ninja who basically beats the crap out of anything that crosses his path! Enemy cyborgs, muscular Japanese clowns (at least they look like clowns), Raiden-like foes who seem to pay tribute to Raiden from Mortal Kombat fame, bats (Why are bats in every action-platformer known to man?), and additional random vermin await you in Hagane. And to defeat them, you possess a full arsenal of weapons/abilities. Your sword can be used infinitely but due to its short range, you will want to use your spears/dirks and old-fashioned grenades depending on the situation. Your spears/dirks and grenades are limited but by defeating enemies, you will receive capsules that increase your respective ammo. You also have special nukes (for lack of a better word) that will essentially destroy everything on the screen (ala Contra 3!) These are fairly rare but by collecting a slew of them, you can build up an arsenal that will leave even Arnold Schwarzenegger green with envy! And if the weapons/items I touched on above are not enough, you can even execute some pretty impressive acrobatics that involve you punching or jump kicking your enemies in spectacular style by simply holding the L or R buttons! These moves can be pretty tricky to time just right but they are sure to impress when executed cleanly.
There are a few additional nuances in Hagane as well! Whenever you jump and are still on your way up, you can press the jump button again to execute a spinning roll. This move in particular is one that you simply have to master in order to finish the game. In addition to making some of the more difficult jumps a cinch to execute, you can use this move against any wall in order to wall jump! This was almost certainly inspired by Ninja Gaiden although the move itself feels different.
You also have a grappling hook of sorts that allows you to reach higher platforms. You can even attempt to use it as a weapon but I don't personally recommend it. Another battle tactic involves pressing Down on the D-Pad to literally burn your enemies with your feet. This move isn't terribly powerful but it does come in handy in preserving your life.
And like with any good action/platformer, Hagane throws a few monkey wrenches into the actual gameplay in order to mix things up a bit. Stage 1-4 feels a bit Battletoads-esque in that you are automatically scrolled to the left and have to jump over holes that open up in the floor. There are enemies that you can quickly defeat and there is one jump in particular where you have to use the aforementioned spinning roll in order to clear the chasm.
I enjoyed Stages 3-3 and 3-4 as well. You fly on a hovercraft of sorts all while fighting enemies and dodging obstacles such as fire and projectiles. The boss of the stage is also fought while riding this nifty contraption. This game certainly keeps you on your toes at all times and you never really know what to expect during your initial playthrough which makes it all the more fun to play!
Graphics: If you're looking for a darker, more gritty action/platformer for the Super NES, you can hardly do better than Hagane. Atmosphere is a term that I use a lot in my video game reviews and let me tell you: Hagane has a fantastic atmosphere! Between the rustic graphics and the Japanese-esque soundtrack (I will get to that shortly.), Hagane just feels different than other games...even games within its genre. For some odd reason, several areas of Hagane reminded me of Chrono Trigger's 2300 A.D. setting. Hagane has a futuristic feel and it even contains some factory stages that have music with a sort of Chrono Trigger sound to it. I don't know...maybe I just have Chrono Trigger on the brain or something.
Now with that being said, let me just clarify something real quick. While the atmosphere is memorable and the graphics in Hagane possess a nice quality about them, they are by no means mind-blowing or spectacular. The overall quality is probably a notch or two below something like Mega Man X. I was honestly impressed with Hagane in this regard; I just wasn't blown away by any stretch. Had Hagane been released earlier in the Super NES' shelf life (say 1992 or 1993 instead of mid-1995), I probably would have been much more impressed. Still, the atmosphere really sticks with you and some of the Mode 7 effects are very nice by Super NES standards. The animation is quite good too. I don't mean to sound conflicting; Hagane is just somewhat difficult to critique in this regard.
Music: Some of the tidbits that I mentioned regarding Hagane's graphics can be applied to the game's soundtrack as well. While the music is probably just a bit above average as a whole, it is impactful as it helps to create the game's unique atmosphere. Not to deviate but I can't help but think of my Monster Party NES review as I write about Hagane. Hagane simply isn't one of those games that will wind up receiving "4.8", "4.9", and "5.0" scores. However, there is just something intangible about Hagane that makes it one of those must-play games.
That's not to say that the music in Hagane isn't good because it truly does fit the game like a glove. I love the Japanese aura and the feel that each track gives the game. Stage 2-1 with its beautiful albeit brief, Stage 4-1 with its dark, haunting track (absolutely perfect for wandering a mysterious forest in the rain at night), and Stage 5-1 with its quiet-yet-suspenseful theme all add a nice auditory element to Hagane. The sound effects are pretty solid too.
Play Control:For the most part, the controls in Hagane are fluid and spot on! Executing moves like the spinning roll, jumping, sliding, and attacking couldn't be programmed much better than this. I really appreciate how easy it is to switch between weapons as well. By simply pressing the X button during gameplay, you can easily switch weapons and can even do so while pausing the game (a very nice touch that most games do not allow).
My only gripe is that, on some occasions, I accidentally attack downwards (by pressing down during a jump, you will instantly fall downwards and attack enemies below you) without meaning to do so. Honestly, CA Productions could have left the down attack out of the game and it wouldn't have bothered me. Still, this is only a minor gripe.
Challenge: Honestly, this is one aspect of Hagane that I feel is a bit overblown. Granted, this game is difficult and is one that will even challenge hardcore platforming fans at times. However, to say that it is one of the most difficult Super NES games ever made is probably a bit of a stretch. Now if this review was for the game's Hard Mode (which is accessed upon beating the game and truly is mind-numbingly tough) then I would agree that this game takes a superhuman effort to beat!
Keeping the main game in mind, I would say that Hagane is probably about as difficult as the second Ninja Gaiden game for the NES (which I felt was the easiest game in the original trilogy). I personally love the difficulty level of Hagane and I feel that they hit the nail squarely on the head in this regard. This game will push you and will really make you work at times but it never truly overwhelms you. Since you are only able to continue three times in Hagane, trial and error will certainly be the main theme early on. For some strange reason, however, I found that once I managed to beat Stages 1 & 2, the rest of the game didn't seem to be too bad. Part of this could be attributed to the large amount of moves and weapons at your disposal. The learning curve in Hagane is slightly more than your average run-of-the-mill action game for this reason alone. I wouldn't consider it to be too daunting though.
And as far as replay value is concerned, Hagane actually scores fairly well despite its lack of any real unlockables (other than its Hard Mode). There are a few secrets littered throughout this rather linear game and the game's sheer uniqueness and superb gameplay will keep you coming back from time to time. In other words, the fact that this game is fun is the driving force behind its appeal. Too bad a lot of gaming companies today have forgotten this simple fact.
Storyline: All I can say is that this is one of those occasions when actually having the manual would sure help to explain the game's story. As far as I can tell, Hagane takes place in a futuristic and sometimes bizarre Japanese location. The whole world has pretty much gone to the dogs (or cybernetic dogs as it were) and who better to save said world than the cyber-ninja known as Hagane? It appears as if the powers that be have become corrupt and power-hungry because you see them during the brief story scene (although it looks like they are playing pinball with themselves or something...I am not kidding!) and fight them again later in the game.
Whatever the reason, Hagane doesn't mess around with anyone in this game. Whether it is spearing evil ninjas or tossing grenades at weird spaceships with Japanese emblems on them, you can count on Hagane to go Commando on pretty much anything that moves! Who needs an epic, in-depth plot for a game like this, right? At least the unique theme works. Hagane is certainly not guilty of being unoriginal...that much is for certain.
Funfactor: I sure thought that I had played pretty much all of the great games that the Super NES had to offer but Hagane: The Final Conflict proved to me that there are still uncharted waters that need to be explored in video game land. This game is undoubtedly one of the finest 2-D action/platformers for the Super Nintendo console and most gamers don't even know that it exists! The important thing is to spread the word which is one of the reasons why I decided to write a review for this particular game. If you enjoy good old-fashioned action games with a challenge level that hardcore gamers will appreciate along with a unique atmosphere/theme, then Hagane is without a doubt your man...er...robot...uh...ninja? Whatever...just find the game somewhere and play it okay?
Negatives: As I touched on earlier, while the controls are very, very good in Hagane, the down attack can screw you up at times. This particular move could have been scrapped and no one would have complained. And on a related note, although the weapons/moves in Hagane are impressive from a quantity standpoint, it almost feels like you have too many options at your disposal if that makes any sense. You do get used to the controls the more you play but the slightly high learning curve could turn a novice gamer off.
On a related note, while Hagane's challenge level is fantastic for hardcore gamers, I could see lesser-skilled gamers playing Hagane for 15-20 minutes and giving up due to the high level of difficulty. I personally love it and feel that the game's challenge level is part of its appeal but other gamers might disagree.
And lastly, while the graphics and music in Hagane are very good overall, they simply aren't good enough to reach otherworldly marks. I only mention this because, from a gameplay standpoint, Hagane feels like it should be a Golden Classic or a Silver Stud. Unfortunately, it won't quite be able to reach that impressive mark due to the aesthetics only being very good and not necessarily great.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.2 Music: 4.1 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.0 Funfactor: 4.5 Overall Score: 25.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo
Back to Super NES SpecialLast Updated: June 10, 2013