Mahou Daisakusen - Raizing

Mahou Daisakusen
Raizing - Arcade - 1993

Reviewed by Malc.

Raizing. Probably my favourite shmup company in the world. Creators of the ubiquitous Battle Garegga, the under-rated Battle Bakraid, Soukyugerentai, once upon a time they didn't exist. 1993 is when they started, and Mahou Daisakusen was their debut shmup.

This was also the last Raizing title I acquired, completing my Raizing/8ing collection, and it quickly became a real favourite. Bearing in mind this is 1993, shooting games were shooting games. No medals, no fancy techniques, very few secrets. Just shooting and bombing. But what Mahou offers is incredible variety and detail throughout its 7 levels, and really stands as a landmark game in the genre, being the first title from Raizing who went on to stamp their own particular brand of shooting on shmup fans worldwide.

Alright, I've nailed my fanboy colours to the mast now, what exactly about this shmup makes it so special? Let's start with the theme, which is simple in concept, but was very fresh at the time. Instead of yet another space shooter, we have a combination of fantasy and technology and magical weapons. The story involves an underground Goblin army, led by the human King Gobligan, who have a vast array of magical technological devices at their disposal. Now, King Caudwener (he's the goody) didn't really like this much, so he sends his warriors to attack them. And they don't come back, so it's up to our four selectable characters to have another try. This is where we come in.





There's Gain (who has a monkey on his shoulder, seems slightly insane), Chitta (a young witch who wears blue), Miyamoto (A Samurai dragon) and Bonam or Bornnam (A necromancer who can't decide how to spell his name). Choose one - or two if you have a friend handy, and help defeat the evil Gobligan Army. Although if you ask me, it was Caudwener who attacked first!

This theme is carried on beautifully into the graphics. Lots of dragons, orcs, goblins, winged harpies, various assorted monsters - all coupled with magical technology, and laid on top of very varied backdrops. Some levels even change theme 3 times through their length, going from forests to castles to underwater in just one level. I sometimes wonder what the point is describing graphics when there's tons of screenshots below so go and look at them instead.

Ok, you can't see the animation, so let me tell you about that. Tons of little details abound in the background, people waving and orcs running about scared - which I always find funny. Even the attention to detail on your ships is excellent, with the side weapons spinning around the ship if you reverse direction rapidly, and the actual ship itself doing a full barrel-roll. Absolutely polished to perfection, and setting a standard for every other Raizing game to follow.

Soundwise, you've got your usual explosions and tinkles and blasts - efficient but unremarkable. But the music - just play it and listen to level one. Isn't that the best level one music you've heard for ages? Maybe with the exception of Tatsujin 2 I suppose. Every level features really catchy little hummable tunes, and for me, this raises the level of enjoyment I get from it a lot. It's almost like the old c64 days when certain people bought games based on who did the music for them. Yes, I was one of them. Mahou's music rounds off the package perfectly.

Well, I've already hinted that this is a straightforward shooter. It isn't by any means worse for it though. Players weaned on Raiden Fighter's medals, and Dodonpachi's chaining will still find a lot to like here. The frills come in the form of great navigable scenery elements, tons of variety in enemies and their attacks, as well as a good choice in upgradable weaponry.

Basically each character has a normal shot, which isn't very effective really. But collecting P powerup coins from coin bags and certain other objects will raise this normal shot to be very powerful and wide. It takes a lot of practice to efficiently grab the falling coins, and you need quite a lot of them to get maxxed out - so make it a priority to practice collecting them. Later on in the game its very hard to survive without a full gun.

As well as this, there are generous amounts of bombs available, a good player could even get up to double figures in their bomb stock without trying too hard. Bombs help clear the immediate vicinity of bullets, but do NOT make you invincible while they explode. If a bullet is about to hit you, it will still kill you. So be careful!

Oh I nearly forgot about the secondary weapons. These come in the form of [], [] or [] book icons. I believe F is fire, W is water and H is homing, but I prefer to think of F as Frontal attack and W as Wide attack. Each character has differing secondary weapons, but they all function similarly. F weapons are strong and don't have a large spread - and fire forward rapidly. W weapons have a much wider spread, but aren't particularly powerful. H weapons are all homing variants, less power but they do help very much in tight spaces and shooting 'round corners'.

Collecting a secondary weapon icon adds two little multiples to your ship, and collecting the same icon several times in a row powers it up. You only need a few of them to get these weapons fully powered though, unlike the main shot which needs plenty P's.

Strategic selection of weapons can be vital depending on the level situation and what enemies are coming up. This is where the gameplay transcends the simple shoot and bomb mentality. Certain levels give you cramped, tight spaces to fly through, and while touching the scenery won't kill you, large moving pistons and shifting background blocks will squash you. Many modern vertical shmups don't feature navigable scenery at all, and focus purely on bullet avoidance. It's quite refreshing to play this decade old shmup and have this extra level of complexity. These are the days before masses of pink bullets became the norm you see - so we're talking aimed shots, lasers, feathers, homing blasts, rockets and lots of other attacks to avoid here.

Two player mode is surprisingly good fun, requiring nifty co-operation, and item stealing is well implemented, causing a fair few sharp elbows in the ribs. This is how 2 player is supposed to be - physically hurtful!

Now, I know almost every game I've reviewed in the last wee while has scored highly. Well, I am reviewing my favourite shmups just now, so it's unavoidable. I'm not going to give this a 5 just for the sake of variety. It's a 9. A classic shmup from a mighty company that feels fresh and lots of fun today. Malc


Alright, it's orange. And it's only orange because its being shot at. (It's standard shooter rules). This dragon typifies the whole graphic style - technology married to fantasy. You'll notice that each character plays distinctly differently, speeds vary wildly and their weapons sometimes trade strength for wider shots compared to the others.



Nowadays we're used to having squillions of characters to choose from, but in 1993 it was pretty smart to have a selection. Here's your gang. Raizing hadn't progressed to secret ships yet, so this four is all you will get. Mind you, these guys pop up regularly in later Raizing games so this is where it all started.


He's not heavy, he's my bruvva - I tend to NOT shoot the two top turrets until the head appears, because if you do, you get three lower turrets which are much nastier to deal with.

We're using Gain here, and his quite rubbish homing attack. Chitta on the other hand has a really good firey homing attack that's much more powerful.



After crossing the sea, in fact while you're crossing the sea, a huge floating castle appears, as it does. Unfortunately you can't shoot the kids, which would have been nice. Instead, the place has been overrun with goblins - shoot this mid sized baddy for an extra bomb. It's quite likely you will end up with nearly 10 bombs at times - the game is very generous with them. Makes dying with a huge stock of them strangely disturbing though.


First appearance of this red knight character, who dogs your progress every so often as you play. This form is pretty simple, just avoid the blue blobs which turn into large explosions. Staying in the middle of him, you'll be quite safe. Shoot him a bit and he will limp offscreen. Those tanks are probably more difficult, as Mahou point blanks you - there's no safe no-shot distance when you get close.



Probably the only secret in the game - position yourself just above this water tower for a lot of powerups when you shoot it. Your main weapon is very puny, but after collecting a lot of Powerup P coins it becomes really powerful. Yes, you lose it when you die.


Level two now, which begins with a fast scrolling ride over dark rainclouds, which suddenly clear and show this huge battleship. I love the attention to detail here, lots of little goblin crew running about panicking.

There's a coin bag, shoot it to reveal a few Powerup coins - which can be tricky to collect as they drop quickly.



Level one's boss and not that difficult really - as long as you watch out for the fire breath attacks - there's a warning flamey burp for about a second before they do it, so keep well out of the way.


If you die, Mahou encourages you to continue by popping up this SPECIAL fairy which drops loads of powerups. Not that I'd ever continue of course, outside of reviewing purposes. Forget the fairy then, and look at the Bomber up icons, you get four of them just for shooting the row of barrel things here. Overgenerous maybe?



Time to start using some of those bombs now, I usually lose a life attacking the large turrets. As well as blasting large fireballs, they have a spread of bullets to catch the unwary player. Is it just me or is that camouflage design cool or what?


Level 2's boss jumps out of the battleship, and is your first real challenge. Normally I avoid all his shots easily enough, but his grabbing handies and rushing attacks will splat the daydreaming shmupper.



On first visit this seems like the boss, but it's not. Just a large turret really, make sure you clear all the small guns quickly as the whole thing will blow up quicker if you do.


Level three! And what a brilliant level it is - lots to do, lots of variety! Starting off with a fast approach over woodland, and flying bugs and harpies throwing gunge and feathers at you.

Then, a fortress entrance appears with two baddies guarding it, which I didn't take a pic of - I wish I did because I had a brilliant "Enemies at the Gates" caption for it. Hmph.



Easy to avoid if you have a fast craft. Miyamoto is the fastest - I think he's my favourite. Chitta here is doing fairly well, the blue shots get spat out, and suddenly home in on you. A simple up and down avoiding technique will see you through!


Look, just bomb them, ok? It's a mess in here and avoiding the big flying guy's blasts in the middle of all this isn't that easy. Don't be afraid to bomb regularly as you do get loads of them so you might as well use them.



Don't bother shooting them - squash them instead! Just break the red laser, and blocks will come out and splat them for you. I love this kind of interactivity in a shmup. Unusually for a vertically scrolling game, the background is navigable, although you don't die by hitting it.


Once again, he's limped off waving his fist and vowing to return, and pulled the plug.

The screen fills with water, lots of sploshing sounds ensue, and yes, its still level 3.



Alright, here's the bastard again. This time he has new weapons attached, a couple of vicious spinning blades and a rather cool blue twisty lasery thing, which attempts to wrap round your ship. It's easily sussed though, but onlookers will be impressed with your skill and cunning :)


Bomb time again - deal with these snake dragons quickly, as they zoom in and out of the screen and WILL catch you napping. The amount of times I've been here fully tooled up and one of them has popped up underneath me - gahhhh.....



This is where you'll notice the difference between an unpowered up main weapon, and one which has had lots of Powerup coins fed to it. Fully powered up, this is a breeze, just a few shots to the greedy faces and they fall apart. The blobby things don't kill you, they just slime your ship and make it slower.


Always on the move this guy. Now he "walks" down the screen (kind of like the big bellydancer in Parodius but not as cute) and waves his thingy at you. I can't help but snigger as he does this. Scoot quickly above him as he lifts his leg.



Level 3's Boss - and I adore him. Cuddly, squishy and wobbly in all the right places. Without a fully powered main weapon, you have to defend yourself a lot more from this attack - just sitting still and shooting won't work as you aren't powerful enough to catch everything that comes your way.


Level four, and the little game you thought was a walkover in earlier levels begins to bite back hard. Using Bonnham or whatever his name is here was a mistake I think, he's slow and I don't find him much use at all.



I'm not sure which bit you have to shoot to kill him really. Is it the middle red blob, or the knob on the end of his waving willy? No matter, he's in his death throes now, and thus ends a very satisfying level three.


Not very gobliny, you think? Its a very military themed level this, if you leave off shooting the helicopters a bit lots of goblin men parachute out of them.



He does have a nice pink homing shot though, handy for thes machine gun guys who shoot fast without asking questions first. Reminds me a lot of Dodonpachi colouring in the backgrounds.


Shit! We've run out of background tiles! Kind of a shock when we suddenly end up in space! Very horrible fast moving small enemies here which throw many aimed shots, try not to die as you NEED to be fully powered for the boss!



These just look simply great - flying wing type planes look totally normal until they split and a mechadragon's head gobs fireballs your way. Dealing with two at once is not nice.


Now this is ridiculous, check out those shoulderpads. The missiles are easy to avoid, but be very very careful for the blobs which appear along with some fast green spread shots.



A massive rocket appears from behind, stay out its way! The capsule breaks off, makes a few half-hearted attempts to kill you, and burst open, and guess who appears. Yup, Red Guy.


Hahahahaha die you motherfunker! Lots of bombs will finish him off - aren't they pretty? Some bosses can be a bit too tricky, so if you can't be bothered with their antics just bomb them to death instead.



Yes, and be careful of this too. Go anywhere near the green lasers, even when they are fading, and blammo. The attention to detail is fab, each time it blasts the laser gun ejects little empty cartridges.


Nasty hare lip, if he's causing trouble just call him Vagina Face. Names won't hurt him though, but sticks and bones will. Quite easy, but STAY at the bottom as he swirls about madly.



Level 5, and this is about as far as I can get on a credit normally. Level 5 is a kicker, literally. The Buzz Lightyear guys will kick the floating castle blocks to the side if you let them, so, don't let them.


Incredibly good fun blowing up all the parked tanks, so much so that it's easy to get obsessed by it and forget to avoid the enemies.



Arrrgh I hate these!! You really must have a homing attack here, as the side turrets will point blank you dead as there's no room to move about when the fire guys start their thing.


This is the remix level, which you'll encounter in many later Raizing games too. Many of the bosses in previous levels are in dry dock, but they don't pose a problem - it's the floating castles which do.



Get here with a weedy weapon, and the streams of dancing enemies here create a screenful of arrows and shots which is very hard to survive in.


And this is where the pics stop. Level 6, and 7, I'm only going to show you this. These levels have lots of great surprises, and I'm damned if I'm going to spoil it for you.

This is the start of level six, where you're in a huge arena, fighting lots of large (and small) sub-bosses. Terrifically hard by now, and very very exciting!



Here comes the boss! Wait a mo - a tiny wee wizard dude appears. Pathetic!

Then, he gathers some toilet paper, sticky tape, string and bobbins and becomes this rather cobbled together looking thing. On a very lucky day, I'll kill him. I don't know what it is, but even with plenty bombs, very careful playing, and 3 lives in stock - I find it very hard to get past him.

At the moment I'm playing the game constantly to try and clear these last couple of levels. Not bad for a game which doesn't have any tricky techniques or medal collecting systems. Good old fashioned shooting all the way!! Unfortunately, apart from an X68000 version Mahou Daisakusen never got a home release, so it's mame or the pcb if you want to play.

There are two other games in the series, Shippu Mahou (aka Kingdom Grand Prix), and Great Mahou (aka Dimahoo). Shippu is the strange one, with a not very intuitive racing element, but it does give you multiple choices of the next level to attack. It's very similar to this game otherwise, and did actually get a home release on Saturn.

Dimahoo, on Capcom's CPS2 system, returns to roots, but features absolutely tons of secret items to collect - but collecting them all is probably way beyond any normal mortal's abilities. And the music in all of the series is just simply brilliant too. I think Shippu's second stage music is probably the best tune I've ever heard in a shmup.

If you want more info on the back story, the characters and artwork, then you must go visit The Sheep's page on Mahou Daisakusen:


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie