I may well be writing myself into a corner with this one, but after this week’s discussion of beat ’em ups on The MoeGamer Podcast, I spent some time with Denjin Makai. And I’m in love. Or possibly just lust.
Denjin Makai, for the unfamiliar, is a beat ’em up from Winky Soft and Banpresto that originally hit the Japanese arcades in 1994. It got a port to Super Famicom under the name Ghost Chaser Densei, but neither the arcade version nor this port ever came West in any capacity.
Which is a shame, because Denjin Makai is superb — as is its sequel Guardians, which likewise didn’t make it over here — and Kurokishi is super-hot. Let’s see what we can find out.
The plot of Denjin Makai revolves around a Far Eastern city managed by a supercomputer. Said supercomputer is supposedly so sophisticated that its crimestopping capabilities are second to none. It’s all very “surveillance society”, and is oddly prescient, given the way we live our lives today. This came out over twenty-five years ago at the time of writing, remember.
Nothing is truly perfect, though, and of course, the supposedly flawless supercomputer has its flaws. Specifically, it turns out to be somewhat vulnerable to a particular breed of criminals that come to be known as “Ghosts”.
The Ghosts are agents from abroad who cannot be detected by the supercomputer’s systems. And, as anyone who has ever slapped a printer that isn’t working knows, the natural next step after technology fails is to resort to brute force. Thus the government assembles an elite Ghost-fighting squad, consisting of a robot, a near-naked wrestler with a perpetual grin, a shounen anime protagonist, a beast girl inspired by Son Goku from Journey to the West, a terrifying bioweapon-looking thing (who you can tell is female because she’s pink) and Kurokishi, a cop with a flagrant disregard for the force’s dress code.
Kurokishi is an immediately striking character. Her sprite stands tall and proud, and her outfit is effortlessly sexy without being super-slutty. Somewhat dominatrix-esque influences on her outfit — the dark colours, the thigh-high boots — make it abundantly clear that Kurokishi is absolutely the one in charge around here, and she’s the one who chose to dress like this, thank you very much.
With Denjin Makai originally releasing in 1994, it will not surprise you to hear that there are strong ’90s anime influences in the game’s visuals as a whole — including the arcade flyer, which was designed by Go Nagai. These influences are especially apparent in Kurokishi’s design. She wouldn’t look out of place riding a motorcycle in Akira or leaping into action in Bubblegum Crisis; she’s got a cool, calm maturity about her that makes it clear that she brokers no nonsense, but the sly grin on her character portrait suggests she has a sense of fun about her, too.
Given that her legs are more than twice the length of her upper body and head (I checked, with science), Kurokishi was always going to be a kick-centric character, giving her excellent reach and mobility. Her moveset primarily consists of a range of powerful kicks — and with her being the fanservice character, most of these tend to err on the high side — though she adds a few devastating punches and uppercuts to the mix when necessary.
Interestingly, for the sequel Guardians, Kurokishi returned, but looking completely different: her free-flowing purple hair became a blonde ponytail, and her overall look was softened somewhat — though she still placed a strong emphasis on kicking (rather than punching) ass. Like her peers in the new game’s cast, she also brought a projectile weapon along, too; in her case, it’s a robotic arm cannon. Fierce.
With Denjin Makai’s relative obscurity worldwide — it’s rare you’ll hear about it even from people who know their Japanese games quite well — there is, regrettably, not a lot in the way of fanart of the characters.
There is some, however, such as the fine piece of art you see above, based on Kurokishi’s Guardians incarnation — online fanart of her in her original Denjin Makai form appears to be non-existent — and this next piece, where she shares the stage with Zeldia. That’s the blue angel-like girl. Who, by the way, is what was inside the big pink slobbering monster thing in the first game. Ah, glorious.
Regrettably, that obscurity also means that there’s not a lot more I can tell you about Kurokishi right now — other than the fact that she’s a very fun character to play as in a really enjoyable beat ’em up that I will almost certainly write more about very soon.
For now, let us give thanks to a world that has Kurokishi in it… and to a world that doubtless has so many other relatively unknown titles in classic genres for us to uncover, explore and celebrate — along with the wonderful characters that appear therein.
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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