A little different from the titles I’ve written about before, Hi No Tori was a rare gem that, admittedly, I obtained a bootleg copy of in the early 90's.
Naturally, this meant that without a translation or any actual guide, I had little idea of what was going on in this game. All I knew was this character had a big nose, could turn his enemies into blocks and as an action platformer it was fun as hell.
The level design was excellent - each level had it’s own flavor be it prehistoric, futuristic or what have you. They were all unique and interesting to traverse, encountering all kinds of enemies ranging from parrots to weird aliens and even dinosaurs.
Once you reached the end of the level, there was usually a boss who dropped a piece of what I thought was a painting but turns out to be a sculpture. There were 16 of them to collect in total.
What made the game even more interesting and fun to play was the elements of non-linearity. In just about every level, there were hidden passages that could take you to another level that were usually found by destroying parts of the environment to reveal the doorway. I don’t think I ever completed the game, since I think it’s necessary to do the levels in a certain order so you can access the others through these doorways and it was a little complicated for a young’in like me.
It turns out, this game is based on an unfinished manga series created by a man named Osamu Tezuka (most famous for works like Astro Boy, Black Jack and Kimba the White Lion) that spawned all kinds of adaptions, from a live-action film to a feature length anime film. The manga itself was Tezuka’s life work, with this particular game being based on the fifth volume of his epic manga series. Sadly, it’s unknown how the story would have ended because of his passing.
I doubt something like this will ever show up on Nintendo’s NES online service, and I find it unfortunate that such a great platformer didn’t reach a wider audience. I’m even more bummed to have learned that it’s part of an unfinished story, but I do believe that Tezuka’s legacy is incredibly strong within the anime and manga communities.
I guess Hi No Tori wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking or innovative title as far as games of the day go, but it was a solid and entertaining game. What’s more, it is distinctly memorable, from it’s odd, bulbous-nosed hero (or rather anti-hero since he was apparently a mass murderer who found Buddha) it’s catchy, if repetitive, main theme and it’s time and probably dimension-spanning levels.
Did you perhaps play this game? If so, leave a comment! Feel free to talk about the manga or anime as well, I’m rather curious as to whether anyone here has exposure to this franchise.