Keio Flying Squadron
-Victor Entertainment Inc. / JVC (1994)
One night Rami, a twenty-year-old girl and the keeper of the Key of the Sacred Treasure, gets hungry and heads to the local mini-mart to get some hamburgers. While she is there, Dr. Pon, a raccoon with an affinity for felines and the most intelligent creature on Earth, and his cronies swoop in and steal the key.
Rami yells, “Hyper cutie bunny change!” and instantly changes her clothes to those of a Playboy bunny. She mounts her dragon Spot to ride into battle to fight the coons of Dr. Pon.
Raccoons rowing flying canoes, riding giant toads and dolphins, a raccoon that drives a Buddha-dozer, a cow pulling a wooden tank with a monkey throwing bananas, dogs riding on flying carpets, a raccoon carrying a basket with a giant squid inside with man in a fish suit that spits his own head standing on top, green beavers riding clouds that throw happy pickles, and cats inside bombs. These are but a few of the crazy things you will encounter in the unique shooter Keio Flying Squadron.
When you start the game, the narrator in the opening cinema talks about the end of the Feudal era of Japanese history. It’s fairly informative and suddenly says, “Unrelated to these historical proceedings…” and goes into the weird story Dr. Pon stealing the key. At least there is some educational value in the game.
The story is one of the key elements of the game. Between, and sometimes during stages, you will see a still frame or an animated clip that advances the story or gives a taste of what’s to come. Right after the first stage you see a still that has the nut sack of Spot staring right at the camera, which is disturbing because Spot is actually a girl. Spot is also purple in the cinemas and stills, while she is green in the actual game. The voice acting is intentionally bad making it very good. It’s humorous and the voices fit each character well. Keio Flying Squadron is more of a comedy than anything else and shows throughout the bulk of the stages with all the raccoon and animal enemies and bosses.
At the end of stage three Rami and Spot have a run-in with the US Navy. For the next two stages they fight super-deformed vehicles of the Navy and the Russians. While it may be nice to have a change from raccoon shooting, I would have preferred more crazy raccoon antics than cute versions of vehicles I can fight in every other “cute” shooter. I suppose the developers could only think of so many things to do with raccoons and cats, though. At least the craziness picks up again at the end of stage five, with a long and hilarious speech by Dr. Pon.
The latter stages of the game can get pretty tough. While the game is cute, it’s certainly no pushover in the difficulty department. The game still requires some serious shooter skills in a few stages. In the options menu there is an option to alter the hit detection of Rami and Spot. I haven’t actually seen this in any other shooters before, so it’s a cool option to have. The default is in the middle of the two characters, but you can change it to just Rami or just Spot. You can also adjust the slow and fast speeds for controlling the characters to suit your own play style.
There are a few different weapons available. A forward and spread shot can be upgraded multiple times. Of course, the forward shot is more powerful while the spread hits a wider area. Two Spot Jr. options will appear behind when you’re not firing and will trail your movements. There are also three sub-weapons with ground bombs, throwing stars that shoot in the opposite direction Rami is going, and homing Spot Juniors. Unfortunately, there is no two-player mode.
The graphics are standard 16-bit era visuals, being colorful and visually appealing. There is some graphical flicker in a few stages and a couple cases of slowdown when there was so much raccoon silliness on-screen at one time. The music is appropriately upbeat and matches the odd style of the game. I’ve already stated how great the voices are, but Rami’s one-liners that she says during the stages, right before encountering a boss, are still in Japanese.
In my shooter experience, I would say the only games that are weirder are those in the Parodius series. I’m actually amazed that Keio even made it over to the US. With the exception of the Genesis’ Trouble Shooter, these types of games never see any kind of release in the ‘states. Not even the mighty Parodius has been able to officially tread the water of the Pacific Ocean.
The disc also contains an odd mini-game you can access by entering a code. Called Neko, the game is more like an old, cheap LCD game. It requires you to move the light to highlight four red cats so that they get bonked on the head with whatever is falling down. The pieces fall faster with the higher your score becomes. It’s simple and odd, but a decent time waster.
With the voice acting, crazy raccoons, and girl-riding-a-dragon main character, Keio Flying Squadron has a certain charm to it not found in other shooters.