Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tokyuu Shirei Solbrain (Nintendo Famicom)

Who didn't like the NES growing up? I have vivid memories of playing my Nintendo as a young kid and when it was time to head down to the local Toys 'R Us to buy a new game it was indeed a special day. Long before video game reviews were the norm, many people I suspect would buy a game based off a rental they made had previously made or by the box art of the game alone. The NES library had some wild artwork and one of the games that drew me in was Shatterhand.

As a kid I thought this looked pretty awesome. Today...yeah it has a bit of that cheesy element going on, but I've seen worse. Being that Shatterhand was one of my all time favorite NES games, I was thrilled when I found out several years ago that in Japan Shatterhand was a slightly different game. Based off a sentai show, Super Rescue Solbrain, the game looks different but pretty much plays the same.

I love the blue Famicom cart with its sentai character on the front label. It took me awhile to track down even a loose copy of this game for a reasonable price.

Developed by Angel, a now defunct subsidiary of Bandai. Solbrain features a different opening scene from Shatterhand. Instead of a dude wearing shades, a t-shirt and jeans you get to control a Power Rangers looking character.

The game starts immediately on this construction yard. Unlike most games of the time, instead of attacking your enemies with a gun or other type of weapon you get to punch your way through the level. Your character can jump, kneel and punch. After pressing the B button 3 or 4 times, your quick jabs turn into a slower, but more powerful punch. As long as you are standing in one place your punches will continue to be the slower variety.

Once you defeat the boss at the end of the opening level, you are taken to a level select screen. This reminded me of Mega Man in that you can pick the order of the levels you take on. Notice the level in the upper right hand corner. This is a carnival level, exclusive to the Famicom game. In Shatterhand, this level was replaced with a submarine level. Nintendo was known for it's censorship and I imagine the boss of the carnival level is why this part of the game was changed for it's North American release...

...you fight two women that leap around the room. Sorry for the blurry picture, I was trying to snap the picture quickly, so fast that my camera didn't have a chance to focus. It's been awhile since I've played Shatterhand, but from what I remember I found this carnival level and it's boss to be more entertaining that the submarine level.

As you progress through the level you'll find white boxes that you can punch open to reveal a few different things. Greek letters can be collected to aid you in your fight. When three letters are collected, a drone is created and hovers over you. Depending on the combination of letters, your drone may attack with a grenade, boomerangs, a laser, fire or another form of attack. Trying to remember the different combinations to create your favorite drone can be tough. 

Also found in the boxes are orange boxes with a "P" in the middle. This is basically the game's form of currency. The amount of "money" you have is shown in the bottom left corner of the screen, just below your health. At times you'll find a large white box with a "P" in the middle. If you continue to punch it you'll get several of the orange currency boxes, larger boxes when your punches turn to the stronger version. Be careful however because some white boxes may contain a grenade that will explode once revealed.

The currency can be used to replenish your life, power up your attack or buy another life. You'll find white boxes on the ground with a number value on them. The money you collect on each level does not carry over to the next level so you might as well spend it when you can.

My personal favorite drone type to create is this one that hurls a grenade in a downward fashion in front of you. This one is created when you collect 3 of the Greek "b" letters. I should also mention that regardless of the drone you create, if you press down and A & B together, your drone will hover directly over your character and pick you up and flies you straight up into the air. This is a feature that I never knew of until my recent play through.

If you have a drone and collect a different collection of 3 letters, your current drone will simply be replaced with the new one. However if you collect the same 3 letters as the drone you currently have, it will be replaced with a larger, more powerful hand held weapon. In the case of collecting 6 "b" letters, you'll get a bazooka like weapon. I was able to make quick work of many enemies, even a few bosses with this weapon. This new firepower however is on a timer and will eventually run out and be replaced with your drone again.

Once you are able to complete all 5 stages, your selection screen shows a what appears to be a missile silo. I hope you are ready for a challenge because this level is tough!

By now I hope you have a cheat sheet handy of which combination of letters creates which drone because you are going to need some offensive help! There are many hazards on the level and the enemy characters are strategically placed to give you a fit. I got the grenade drone once or twice and it helped me make it through what I thought was the half way point. I had to fight the same boss again from the opening level of the game. Once I took him out, the level kept going. It wasn't long before I died and I expected to start right where I beat the boss...but nope! The game sent me back to the beginning of the level. Argh! I hate it when games do this.

Overall I love this game from beginning to the end. The difficulty curve isn't too bad. It's not punishingly hard, but it's not a cake walk either. Most of the enemies do follow a pattern, as do the bosses. Thankfully the enemies don't regenerate if you backtrack a little to pick up that item they drop. There doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of continues so that does help the replay ability of the game.

The game isn't that different from Shatterhand, minus the carnival level. With the high price tag of the game I can't really recommend it unless you are a huge fan. Go and pick up Shatterhand if you want to play the game. I hate the term "hidden gem", but it's a game that seems to be overlooked and it's a lot of fun to play.


  1. It's funny that you posted this now; I just recently acquired this game in a bundle, along with Power Blade. American characters in the 90's were all about attitude and being percieved as cool, so the localization is typical, but it didn't hurt the game. Too bad there was no sequel.

    1. Power Blade also received a make over for it's US release. In Japan it was known as Power Blazer and your character looked like a Rock Man (Mega Man) knock off. The game I think is also a lot harder than Power Blade.