Best of Both Worlds?
Super Chinese 3 is an Action RPG and therefore combines elements of both genres. Talking to NPCs, walking around the world map, menu screens and most boss battles use a traditional RPG system, while random encounters, dungeons, and other side-scrolling stages involve running, jumping, attacking, and platforming maneuvers.
2 Player Co-Op
The game features a 2 player mode, so the action elements can be enjoyed together. For better or for worse it is possible to attack, damage, and kill your ally (friendly fire). This can add to the enjoyment of the game, but it can also add to the frustration for obvious reasons. For the most part, it’s to your benefit to have an ally, and it appears that the game was developed with 2 players in mind.
A Brave New World
Super Chinese 3 features an expansive world and a variety of cities, dungeons, and boss lairs to explore. This game is packed to the rafters, and was developed by a relatively small team (only a dozen or so developers are credited).
The controls are simple and responsive, though it seems like the functions of the A button (punch) and the B button (jump, acrobatic kick) should have been flipped.
The numbers of movements that can be performed are fairly impressive. When you press A and B together you get a powered-up acrobatic kick. Additionally, you can perform running maneuvers, and you also have the ability to pick up weapons and use them against your foes (nunchucks, lightsabers).
Running (hit direction twice and hold) can feel a little slippery, and it’s pretty hard to stop once you get going. Your inclination might be to run through the side-scrolling stages, but you would be subjecting yourself to the many hazards ahead, so for the most part it’s in your best interest to avoid running.
High Encounter Rate
Random encounters are superfluous in this game. Sometimes you encounter enemies without even moving a single square. As fun as the action is, it gets to be a bit much. Still, it’s in your best interest to be close to the max level (50) for the final dungeon and boss battles, and chances are you haven’t reached the max level when you reach that point in the game, so in a sense, it’s a necessary evil.
There are certain mini-games that have to be completed before you can move on in the story. As simple as they are, some of them depend on your sense of timing and can take a lot of time to complete. When I played this game as a kid, I remember resetting the game because I had a hard time completing one of the mini-games.
Do This, Then Do That
Of course, like most primitive RPGs, you have to complete one task before you can move on to the next one. There’s a certain point in the game where you have to go looking for a scientist across the entire world map. Eventually you have to return to the city where you need him to come to, only to find that he’s already there. Unfortunately, the game isn’t entirely clear when this series of events takes place, or what conditions you have to meet for this to happen. For me, this part of the game took more time than any other part. I never made it passed this part in the game as a kid.
Oh, and you can’t transport from one city to the other using a spell. No, that would be too convenient. You have to use your boat. That means more encounters. A LOT more.
Super Chinese 3 borrows from a lot of other successful games. I’m not going to name any in particular (ahem, Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon *gasp*), but at least Culture Brain knew where to borrow from. It’s like Aerosmith; they borrow from some of the best music out there, and make it their own. And they’ve been very successful.
At least the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. The little boy who accompanies the heroes tries to contribute to the party by farting at the bosses (occasionally he does useful things too). He also dispenses a number of one-off gags which are either irritating or marginally funny. I find this to be an endearing quality of the game, even if I didn’t laugh that much.
The game is also full of pop culture references. For example, when you visit the science capital of the world there’s a NPC who recites the famous Back to the Future line about 1.21 Gigawatts.
RPG Style Boss Battles
I must say I enjoyed the RPG style boss battles. Even with all the endlessly monotonous encounters, the RPG elements helped the game from becoming one-dimensional. Even in the RPG style combat, the characters move around when attacking or dodging attacks, which is something even Enix hadn’t accomplished yet.
A Blast from the Past
The graphics are actually pretty good for a Famicom game. I can’t see any traces of laziness here, just limitations of the console. It’s true that certain graphics get recycled and used over but you can tell they would have done more with the game if the console were able to handle it. The variety in enemies, backgrounds, and locations is impressive.
Sound & Music
Familiar Sound Effects
Certain sound effects remind me of Super Mario Bros. while others seem relatively original. At least the game is welcoming, because familiar auditory cues help you to understand what’s going on (or what’s about to happen).
One of the Best Famicom Soundtracks?
Besides the Mega Man series, this game has one of the most original and best sounding soundtracks I’ve heard for Famicom. My favorites include the boss theme and airship theme.
Before Its Time?
Super Chinese 3 was an ambitious project, and as I’ve already mentioned, it was packed to the rafters. I have to give the game extra points for this feat, because there weren’t many Famicom games that tried to provide this much content. The Action-RPG style gameplay suits me well, though for most people I’m sure it would feel outdated. If they had spent a little more time in balancing combat vs. leveling (& finances) and developing the storyline, they could have had a truly superb game on their hands. The ending really isn’t anything special, and like most early games, the reward is in playing it, not in finishing it.
Here’s a little gameplay footage: