Ages ago I took a quick look at a rather strange period in European computer gaming – that time in the early ‘90s when Super Play, Manga Mania and Anime UK were our entire window on Japanese entertainment and having an amazing anime collection involved owning a single Bubblegum Crisis VHS tape and if you were lucky recording half an episode of Tenchi Muyo off Channel 4 at 2am. One of the games I mentioned in that previous blog post was Apidya, yet another shmup on a computer already heaving under the weight of countless other similar arcade ports and home-grown exclusive titles. Doesn’t sound too promising, does it? Well, Apidya had a rather novel little trick up its sleeve…
Like developer Kaiko’s other Amiga release, Gem’X, Apidya was designed to hoodwink European gamers into thinking this was a port of a hidden Japanese arcade gem – and at the time it was generally considered that they’d done a pretty good job! After all it had an anime intro, Japanese (ish) text on the title screen, and a green-haired lady in it – just like my Japanese animes! But that was a long time ago - what I was really interested in finding out was was whether Apidya could stand up as a decent game in its own right now the novelty of being a “Japanese” game had worn off over two decades ago.
Things don’t start off too well – the introductory art, writing, animation and well… everything look and feel rather amateurish: by the time Apidya had been released in 1992 the Amiga 500 had already been around for five years and was clearly capable of something far more polished. Thankfully as soon as our hero, Ikuro, magically turns himself into a wasp/hornet/whatever picnic-ruining insect he’s supposed to be the graphics improve dramatically and we’re presented with a tough but surprisingly reasonable (for the era) Gradius/R-Type inspired Euroshmup with a unique garden setting.
Wait, garden? Yep, that’s right! Ikuro’s epic quest to defeat an evil lady-poisoning wizard takes you through such epic locations as… some tall grass, a pond, and a sewer - complete with discarded cigarette packet. Along the way the forces of darkness manifest themselves as moles, snails, giant trout, ghostly butterflies and other similarly terrifying creatures. Later on you briefly become a robo-bee and go through a techno-themed level accompanied by what is possibly the most 90’s music track ever to be committed to floppy disc. It actually all works better in practise than it sounds written down here, and while the intent was to create something distinctly Japanese the end result is actually unmistakably European, in the same way that Secret of Evermore was Squaresoft USA’s stab at making their own “Japanese” Mana-like RPG.
Shmup classics Gradius and R-Type were clearly the inspiration for the gameplay, and as such Apidya has a similar charge shot system to Irem’s famous R-9A Arrowhead while also benefiting from a bomb/shot/option powerup menu like Konami’s Vic Viper. Pleasantly when you die (and you will die) the game only reduces your firepower a few notches rather than immediately stripping you back to your original pea-shooter, and checkpoints also exist throughout each stage to lessen the frustration. Having said that the game still contains more than a fair few “gotcha” moments to rob you of your precious lives and it also features one of my shmupping pet hates, instant death on collision with any and all scenery.
Thankfully those issues are just a small annoyance when considering the game as a whole, which features some large boss sprites, secret levels, and some clever little gimmicks to spice things up a bit.
Apidya is a tough game but it does on the whole feel “fair tough” and not, well, “’90s Amiga tough”. The anime-like sections are toe-curlingly awful but everything else, while definitely dated, holds up well for a game that’s twenty three years old. It may not be the long-lost arcade classic it tried to make out it was and ultimately isn’t as good as the games the designers quite rightfully revered, but if you’d like to try something a little different as well as a shmup that encapsulates the Amiga scene of the time then Apidya is a game that simply cannot be missed.