| |

Cloud Master Review

Developer: Hot-B Publisher: Taito
Release Date: June 1, 1989 Also On: None

You know, shooter titles really can get old when you play enough of them. I
mean, you need to see something unique once in awhile to get your mind
stable. Now and then, programmers came up with something that pushed the
envelope, if only a bit. Cloud Master, originally an arcade title, is one
such game. However, though it is a lot different in many respects to other
examples of the shooter swarm of the 80s, it’s not really the best game to
pick up and play. It’s a shame, because with a bit of tweaking it really
could have been pretty damn good. As far as I know, this game may have been
based off of a Japanese anime series or perhaps a serial character, but it’s
at least based heavily off of Japanese mythology and such. This is quite
clear. It’s original name is “Chuka Taisen.”

Disclosure: We may earn a commission from links on this page

Graphically, Cloud Master is an impressive little game. I even like it
better than the arcade. The backgrounds have this minimalist, watercolor
look to them that really creates a superb atmosphere. Enemies are
interesting and sometimes not entirely well animated, but still they have
some good detail. However, due to the fact that there are numerous
references to Japanese culture in this game, some of the character may come
off as simply too strange for North American or European gamers. For
example, you have flying bowls of ramen noodles, flying sushi wraps and
Mahjong tiles, just to name a few. Without knowing what these are, they
appear out of place. Even when you know what they you may wonder why
they’re in the game. This is offset somewhat by giant, wonderfully rendered
bosses, but the main graphical flaw here is flickering caused by too many
enemies on the screen. This affects the gameplay, unfortunately. Also, the
boss segments have this drab, olive-green background for some reason. Bad
choice there, they would have been better off throwing you on a black
background with stars flying by.

Cloud Master’s sound is a mixed bag. Some of the themes are quite good and
fit the game well, while the rest are just awful. Actually, now that I
think of it, I believe only the themes from levels one and four caught my
attention, the others might as well been pulled from the game entirely.
They suck, enough said. Sound effects are odd. While a few fit the
atmosphere like Mike’s shot sound, some are just as bad as the music. For
example, when the bosses die you get this scraping, twittling,
paper-crumbling sound thrown over TV static I can hardly explain.
Regardless, most it should have been redone, it’s pathetic. Overall,
pretty disappointing.

The gameplay is fairly basic for a shooter despite Cloud Master’s
appearance. Basically, you control your little Mike Chen character on his
cloud, flying about and shooting at enemies with your “ki force.” Your
weapon starts out basic, but you can eventually build up your power and, in
addition, collect a number of interesting and quite useful power-ups. Some
of these include a barrier of four fireballs, a bomb that shatters into
pieces and covers the entire screen, a rotating fire-snake thing, and plenty
of others, twelve in all. Great variety there and if you keep progressing
they get more powerful. You can also increase the speed at which you move.
Basic shots are performed with Button 1 and the special weapons with Button
2. This game has a built-in rapid-fire feature when you upgrade your weapon
enough, and this really helps later on. However, this title is not without
some serious gameplay flaws.

First, Cloud Master carries the classic shooter flaw. Basically, when you
get far enough, if you lose your powers, you suck so bad you can generally
forget progressing any further in the game. Since you get power-ups rarely,
this is compounded further. It is possible, I’ll tell you that, but it’s
just too difficult and generally requires you to nearly memorize enemy
movements to get anywhere. Second, it unfortunately carries
the most dreaded shooter flaw of all, graphical flicker. When there are too
many enemies and projectiles on the screen, the characters and shots begin
to flicker and you thus sometimes never see them coming until it’s too late.
It’s not a matter of skill, it’s a matter of poor programming, and this
seriously effects the gameplay overall. There is nothing more annoying than
dying in a shooter title when it’s not your fault. Further on, when you get
to the final level, if you lose your powers, forget winning, it’s not going
to happen. There’s this one segment near the end that you simply cannot get
through. Not only is there a sick amount of flicker at this point, there is
also a mini-boss that cannot be destroyed without having almost full power.
Awful. The bosses, surprisingly, tend to be fairly easy though almost all
of them are difficult at first. Overall, not entirely terrible, but not
entirely good either.

Cloud Master is definitely a creative game. It’s really nice to see the
programmers taking traditional cultural elements and using them in a unique
way. You’ve got some interesting little jokes therein, like a giant Buddha
boss wearing sunglasses. Other references, like the giant Kappa boss in
level two, are excellent. Nothing beats a good historical, mythological
romp in the shooter genre. This is one of the categories where this title
really shines, it’s one of the most creative shooters I’ve ever played,
easily comparable to the NES release “Parodius.”

As far as replay value goes, however, Cloud Master has little, if any. It’s
kind of fun to play the first few levels, but then again why would you be
doing this for the hell of it? The graphical flicker and difficulty caused
by it make this game too stressful. In addition, the ending is hardly worth
the effort, they just throw the same in-between level screen you see and add
another text box. Thanks. It’s got decent game length, though, that is if
you can make it through it without dying too many times, which unfortunately
is what tends to happen more often than not. It’s annoying and you’ll
likely uppercut it right out of the Master System (one of my favorite video
game hating tactics). I’d have to say I’ve thrown uppercuts at this game
like the Hardy Boys.

Overall Cloud Master has some strong elements that are generally ruined by
the aforementioned problems. It’s really a shame. I’ve only seen the
arcade version, never played it, so I’m not sure how well this has mimicked
the original, for better or for worse. It would be interesting to see, but
after playing this I doubt I would want to. I’d rather die repeatedly for
free than for a dollar or five.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 5
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 4.5
Final: 6.5
Written by Stan Review Guide