While it boosts one of the greatest gaming libraries in the history of mankind, the SNES will never be mistaken as a system home to a wide plethora of darker, more mature games. One of the few that truly fit this class though is Majyuuou (AKA King of Demons) exclusively released on the Super Famicom. Just look at that box art. You’d think it’s gotta be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sadly, it never quite lives up to the lofty expectations built inside of my head nearly 10 years ago when I first played it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It just means I was hoping for a little more.
At first glance, “Resident Evil meets Castlevania” crossed my mind. A most enticing combination indeed. Well, when viewed from such, I guess it was doomed to fail. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as per usual, so let’s rewind it back a little bit…
WILLING AND ABEL
You are Abel. Your wife (Maria) and daughter (Iria) have been captured by your former friend Bayer who sold his soul to the devil. With them Bayer intends to revive the KING OF DEMONS. You’ll do anything to save your family, even taking on various demonic forms yourself. This gives it a bit of an Altered Beast feel.
You start the game out in human form. Here you can do the following:
- Do a downward kick in mid-air
- Double Jump
- Fire his 9MM gun
- Fire a power shot (hold attack until the power bar flashes)
- Transform into different types of demons
Majyuuou opens with you battling Bayer on the bridge to hell. It’s basically a mere scrimmage, with Bayer eventually retreating. The door on the far right swings open, and your foray into the darkness begins…
A DESCENT INTO MADNESS
Things start out easy. Low entry winged demons are one and done. A fairy helper acts much like how an “option” does in SHMUPS.
Just when you think “This is TOO easy,” the earth rumbles and the ugliest, biggest grub you’ve ever seen quickly slithers your way!
The parasitic creature traps you into a dead end. Fortunately, or so you think, the ground collapses, sending you even deeper into the rotting depths of hell.
Mutant frogs, gun toting she-devils and hordes of zombies greet you with open, decaying arms. One shot cleans the zombies’ heads right off while two seals the deal. Out of the corner of your eye you can see victims pinned up against the perfidious walls like grand prizes, but there’s no time for sentimentality — you know you could very well be next! With hell’s army hot on your tail, you come to a decrepit elevator. There’s no choice but to enter the dank, rotting interior…
Exiting the elevator, you’re visited by an old friend. I do love the attention to detail in this game. Look at those nasty veins. It’s a fight to the finish.
March forward and meet the Barons of Hell. These big bastards are tough, requiring 12 shots to kill.
WHEW! That’s only the first stage. It’s all very short though, but you gotta love the assortment of mini-bosses and demonic enemies. On a system sorely lacking these such things, it’s a very much welcomed sight! But can Mayjuuou keep up the pace? Sadly, although every fiber of my being at this point wishes it were so, I’d be lying if I said I thought it did.
Stage 2 is a plant themed world with buildings in complete ruin. Green pods releases little red fairies. Kill ‘em, then you can eat their fallen carcasses to regain health. Brutally creative, and you know you love it.
Everything’s going smoothly until you cross an old abandoned building. You hear a trembling and know it’s not JUST the racing of your heart, but that something BIG and BAD comes your way…
If it catches you with its iron mandible it’ll drag you up and down the screen like a rag doll.
Defeat the insect mini-boss and then find yourself eye to eye (no pun intended) with yet another mid-boss!
The Plant Queen guards the exit of stage two. Put this wannabe Empress out of her misery and then get ready to enter the ride of your life, literally. A spook-filled speeding train rolling past a cemetery. Something afoul is in the air…
Within 10 seconds this mini-boss appears. It only has 1 attack: throwing its two scythes at you, which will spin in place for a few seconds. Just leave some room on the left and you’ll be OK. Battle the rest of the minions on the train and soon you’ll meet a pair of twins unlike any you’ve met before…
[Can’t be better than the Synch twins I met during the summer of ’89 -Ed.]
You are completely helpless as you watch the two monsters kill this innocent lass. Her banshee-like scream as she perishes is actually somewhat eerie and unsettling. After these two you immediately face the end boss of stage 3.
Once the disgusting bubbly mass is blown to bits, the Ghost Train is rendered helpless and crashes through the castle walls.
Level 4 begins and from here on out, I’ll let you discover what horrors await. Will you be able to stop Bayer? Will the King of Demons arise? Can Abel save his family?
- There are 3 different demon transformations, with stronger versions for each. Each has a unique regular / super shot. One demon form can flip, another teleports, etc. Find out which form works best for which stages
- To get the good ending, you must use all 3 forms at some point before the final level. Doing so unlocks the 4th and ultimate transformation…
- You are human only for stage 1, unless you opt to not touch an orb after defeating the end level bosses, which would make the game more challenging
- The beginning plot is in Japanese, but throughout the levels there is no text. There is an English fan translation for those who want to experience it in full
- Press select at the title screen to activate the options menu. As a side note, try pressing select 15 times. Done correctly, you’ll access a level select cheat in the options menu. Very handy…
- The helper is very useful. If you die it’ll revive you for a 2nd go and you won’t waste a life. Some levels contain a green aura symbolizing the helper — touch it to gain its powers
- There are health refills here and there. Stand over and press down
- The health bar increases as your point total goes up. You can continue forever, but you’ll start at level 1 health and for the later levels, it’s simply not enough
On a system lacking in these sort of darker, more mature titles, it’s nice to see a game such as this exist. It certainly helps to fill a void, but part of me, even nearly 10 years later, can’t help but still view this game as somewhat of a letdown. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy this game enough, but it pains me to think WHAT IF. It’s a perfect example of a game being “solid” yet “disappointing” all at once.
That said, this is a quality game. It’s just not the epic gem I was hoping for. Looking for a ghoulish action platforming shoot ‘em up sort of good time? With macabre visuals up the wazoo and some demonic transformations thrown in for good measure? Then check out Majyuuou. Just make sure you leave the lofty expectations at the door.