Category: Arcade, Action, Shmup
Release Date: 03.29.2018
Tengai by Psikyo on Nintendo Switch published by Zerodiv is a tough as nails horizontal shmup, originally called Sengoku Blade: Sengoku Ace Episode II in japan the sequal to Psikyo’s first game ever Samurai Aces. Tengai was first released in arcades and the Sega Saturn in 1992 in japan and then again on Playstation 2 in 2004 in japan. Unlike the last Zerodiv port that i played on switch Sol Divide, this Psikyo game goes back to its shmup roots that its so well known for. Tengai is a bullet hell style game to the fullest. Having seven levels of difficulty and even the lowest one (Momkey) is ridiculously hard, with the screen being almost full of projectiles at all times.
Tengai Features a line up of five unique characters. The titular Tengai is a monk who uses his prayer beads as projectiles, the ninja sho who uses projectile blades, Junis a kunoichi (female ninja warrior) who uses kunai and shurikens, Katana a cybernetic samurai that uses laser beams and last up is Miko a shrine maiden who uses shrine cards as projectiles, miko also became the mascot for all Psikyo games later on.
Gameplay is as you would imagine you steam and endless spray of bullets at your enemies wich approach from right to left. Each character starts with their base ranged attack. Power ups increase your fire power but also give you a familiar that aids you with even more damage dealing projectiles. Tengai has a hawk, Sho has mirrors, Junis has a mongoose, Katana summons a magical spear and Miko summons a water spirit. There are also bomb pick ups to do alot of damage to everything on screen but not as much as you might like. Making physical contact will downgrade your power and remove your familiar which is the last thing you want. Keeping your power up is key to dealing with the ever approaching waves of enemies. This is especially a problem if you get tagged right before a boss, if you lose any power before a tougher opponent in my experience this means your probably going to die. It may never get as intense as some other high caliber bullet hell games but it was enough for me to get my butt whooped on a regular basis.
The graphical presentation is really where Tengai shines. The sprite art for the playable characters and enemies is fantastic and the backgrounds are just beautiful. I dont know if ive ever seen scrolling backgrounds that look as good as this in this type of game. The overall steampunk esq and medieval japan aesthetic works very well in both the art style and the wonderfully themed soundtrack which is super fitting and really ties everything together and keeps the pace going.
Tengai is both fun and frustrating, even with its difficulty turned all the way down, unless you are a veteran of shmups you are in for quite the challenge. The visuals and soundtrack are my favorite things about this game and are extremely well done. I was more into Zerodivs last port Sol Divide because of its departure from the norm of sidescrolling shooters but if your a fan of the genre its definitly worth checking out for presentation alone.