Review by Braben

Reviewed: 09/22/09

More Prince than King but still worth a look.

Based on the manga of the same name Kujaku Ou (Peacock King) is one of those text adventure games with rpg features that rarely come out of Japan. It should be noted that there is a Master System version that was released outside Japan called Spellcaster, but instead of being some sort of text based adventure-rpg hybrid like this version, the Master System one is just a simple side scrolling action title with a bunch of cut-scenes that resemble the original.

Plot:
You play as a monk called Peacock who is sent to investigate some strange incidents involving what appears to be paranormal activity near a small village up a mountain after a lighting burned down a temple. Sounds pretty nifty right?, well, I`m afraid that is only on paper because despite being primarily a text adventure the narrative is pretty shallow. The story is mighty strange also, filled with ridiculous and totally out of place situations and monsters… which is actually nice because as I said before the plot is not particularly well developed.

Graphics:
Pretty good for the most part. Sometimes there is a weird amalgamation of pixels resembling a human beings or something else that looks questionable at best, but overall I would say this is rather good looking game.

Music:
Not too bad but you get to hear the same melodies for such long periods of time that eventually gets quite irritating real fast and there is not a whole lot of variety.

Gameplay:
Peacock King is a text adventure game, kind of like Deja Vu or Shadowmaster but much simpler and with rpg combats. It`s simplicity is what makes the gameplay better though, the controls and options are not so cryptic, the amount of scenarios and their complexity is way lower than any other text adventure I have ever played. For example you don`t get to search items on the screen with the pointer that often (and if you have to, it is extremely easy to figure out where to search), all of which makes the gameplay much more comfortable and easy to play.

This is why you`ll hardly get stuck in this title, which is a true bless, specially considering many messed up situations and all the nonsense that happens through the adventure, in fact it is a bit repetitive because it is all about exhausting all the dialogue and action possibilities, there is not a whole lot of room to think or investigate.

The combat system is so simple it`s almost automatic, just select the fight command and sit back, that`s all. You get to equip better weapons, but only because it`s needed to continue the story. Fortunately you can also cast cast magic spells to unleash curses and summon monsters to aid you in battle, but that consumes chi, and to get it back you have to defeat enemies without using said powers, so it is better to save it for the bosses only.

Since you can`t buy items in order to heal yourself you have to look for food, for example in the cabin at the beginning of the game, at some point you`ll be able to ask the couple who lives there to give you a bit of fish. Each area of the game has a spot like this and the good news is that you can eat as much as you want because it`s completely free and the supplies are unlimited, so eat as much as you want as many times as you want.

Luckily, unlike most of these type of games if you die you simply start again more or less at the same point where you perished with full health and without any sort of annoying punishment whatsoever (there is no money here so you don`t even loose cash), which is fantastic news because chances are you`ll die quite often. This also comes in handy due to the complicated passwords, which are long and full of complicated symbols (by the way to obtain them all you have to do is cast the Kangi spell outside battles).

Anyway despite how simple it is, the combats definitely drag the gameplay at times, this games are all about exploration not fighting and while on the plus side they make the game longer and more challenging, they also make it slower and more frustrating. There is a couple of truly exasperating moments in which you have to look for certain items in areas infested with monsters that are a real test of patience.

Overall:
I`ve always loved this type first person text-adventures, however in the case of this early efforts more often than not the gameplay is so annoying and complicated and the difficulty of the puzzles so damn high that they are not fun at all, the above mentioned titles are good examples of this. That`s is why this is such a a pleasant surprise, it is not a masterpiece in any way but overall it is an curious and funky ride.

Rating: 7

Product Release: Kujaku Ou (JP, 09/21/88)

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