Released in 1999 for the NeoGeo MVS, side-scrolling action game Ganryu thrust players into control of Miyamoto Musashi.
It was reminiscent of games such as Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, challenging players to make their way through levels while overcoming environmental obstacles and troublesome enemies. Though Ganryu also featured a second protagonist, Suzume, whose abilities varied from Miyamoto Musashi to give playing as her a distinct feel. Unfortunately such an option isn’t available in Ganryu 2, a sequel inexplicably released in 2022.
After the events of Ganryu, in which Miyamoto Musashi defeated the evil Sasaki Kojiro, the legendary swordsman thought he might finally be able to get some rest. But then one day, while meditating, he hears the spirit of Kojiro taunting him. And so, once again he must spring into action and travel to the island of Ganryu-jima. This time, he can hopefully put an end to Kojiro’s machinations for good.
The gameplay is wonderfully old-fashioned, with you in control of Miyamoto Musashi as he moves through five stages, each split into a duo of acts. And while you’ll be predominantly moving from left to right, slashing at everything in your path or throwing kunai from a distance, there are numerous sections that mix up the formula, keeping things feeling fresh.
There’s a mine cart section, for example, where you need to jump from one mine cart to another due to the destruction of the tracks. And another stage will find you moving upwards. It’s the bosses that provide the most variety though. While most require you to go toe-to-toe, you might find yourself playing what is essentially a side-scrolling shoot ’em up to finish a stage, or facing off against a giant machine while running at high speed.
Another thing that Ganryu 2 has in its favour is that it looks fantastic. Its retro-styled visuals are colourful and wonderfully animated, and each act looks different from the last. Along with its enjoyable soundtrack, you can tell a great amount of care has been put into its production.
But as good as Ganryu 2 plays, looks and sounds, there’s one aspect of it that will put some players off: it’s rather challenging. There are no difficulty settings here, and no save states. You simply start the game with three lives, and once those are gone you can retry from the beginning of the stage you’ve reached, or quit. There is one lifeline, however; you can start at the beginning of any stage you’ve previously reached the next time you play.
Other than that, the only problem you might have with Ganryu 2 is that even when playing the PS4 version on PS5 it can’t hold a solid framerate. There’s nothing too problematic, but you might encounter a bit of slowdown when a lot is happening on-screen, just like old times.
If you’re up for a challenge and fondly remember classic action games like Shinobi 3 or Strider, you’d be wise to pick Ganryu 2 up. It looks and plays great; aside from some bouts of slowdown and a dearth of options, there’s nothing really to complain about. And best of all, it’s available at a price that won’t break the bank.
Ganryu 2 Review – GameSpew’s Score