Insert Disk collects Keio Flying Squadron (慶応遊撃隊) for the Sega CD.
Today’s retro game review is Keio Flying Squadron (慶応遊撃隊) for the Sega CD. This retro gaming classic has become a rare retro game in recent years. Keio Flying Squadron sees you take control of Rami in her quest to return a sacred key from the evil genius racoon Dr. Pon. This cute ’em up shooter is one of the better games on the Sega CD, it’s rarity has made it a game that some collectors are willing to part with large sums of money for. Keio Flying Squadron’s Japanese art style, great sound track and lovable characters make it a hidden gem well worth tracking down for your retro game collection.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today I’d like to share with you a hidden gem from the 16-bit era of gaming. Today we re-discover the joys of playing Keio Flying Squadron for the Sega Mega CD. With a release year of 1993 in Japan and then the following year in Europe and North America Keio Flying Squadron is somewhat of a forgotten classic. The early 90’s were somewhat of an awkward time if you were looking to buy a new console. Particularly if you were a collector of the Sega consoles. The Mega Drive / Genesis was the bread and butter of the Sega gamer at the dawn of the 1990’s but it was only a matter of time before CD based technology placed a spanner in the works. For the Sega collector there was a dilemma. The Sega CD was released in Japan in 1991, North America in 1992 and finally hit Europe in 1993. Add in to the mix that Sega’s ill-fated 32x was on the horizon for 1994 for Japan/NA and 1995 for Europe.Then on top of this compound the situation by the forthcoming release of the next gen Sega Saturn in Japan 1994 and NA/Europe the following year.
So picture yourself, it’s 1993 and you own a Sega Megadrive or Genesis. Do you make the leap to the Sega CD? Well, in truth few gamers did. Despite the system delivering CD quality audio and full motion graphics the timing and capabilities of both the Sega CD and the Sega 32x created a lost generation of Sega games. It was a true no-man’s land of technology. Trapped between tried and tested 16-bit systems and the next true 32-bit generation of Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation many gamers were happy to keep the status quo and save their pocket money for the next true upgrade. As such some Sega games released between 1993-1995 fell in to a lost generation. This lost generation of games has become particularly interesting to collect for as the production runs were typically very short, many games never left the shores of Japan and those that did had to be adapted to fit the regional CD hardware differences. Heap on top of this that the technology was cutting edge, so developers wanted to invest in making best in class games to make the new formats a success. As you might expect, this was the perfect storm to create hidden gems for future game collectors.
This leads us back to Keio Flying Squadron for the Sega CD. I’ll lead by telling you that this game is considered rare in all regions. If you have this one in your collection it is well worth holding on to. The game opens with a glorious animation introducing us to the back story. It is the 8th year of the Keio period japan is nearing the end of its feudal period. New technology shared by America and Japan is changing warfare and the world. An old couple and their grand-daughter Rami are the last descendants of the gods. As such it is their task to protect the Treasure of the ancient gods. All is not well though as a flying wooden ship controlled by Dr. Pon appears to steal the key to the treasure that will help him build his Racoon empire. For no reason at all other than… well… Japan. Rami changes in to her bunny costume.
We’re then treated to the explanation as to why the absent-minded Rami hadn’t been protecting the key. There’s something really enjoyable about this opening sequence. Already this feels like an adventure that we need to be a part of. Rami is sent off to fight the evil Racoon empire and return the key. As you can tell from the gameplay here the game is very much a typical side-scroller in the style of a cute ’em up. Rami can use her pet dragon Spot in a variety of ways. The player can choose the speed of the flight but also the formation of the dragons as they follow. Add in to this special power ups such as a spread shot, bombs and projectiles, Keio Flying Squadron sets its stall out as a real contender for a decent shooter. The levels are filled with cute racoons amongst other woodland creatures. The levels are surprisingly bright and varied. Add in to this the amazing soundtrack and all of a sudden you’ve got yourself a game that feels very cheerful and bouncy whilst at the same time retaining a level of credibility. It will put many gamers very much in the mind of the earlier Parodius games. Keio Flying Squadron does feel different though, unusually for a shoot ’em up there is an actual story to follow rather than a generic set of bad guys to shoot down.
Whilst the game is and always will pander to the fans of cute ’em up style graphics there is something special about this game. It’s got a very real heart and soul about the execution.
Sadly as I mentioned at the top of the episode Keio Flying Squadron, had the misfortune of being released on to a failing format. Let’s take a look at the UK PAL edition. All regional editions of the game are reasonably similar other than language variations and that the US edition was sold in the long box format. The game comes in a standard Sega double CD case. The manual is short and sweet and manages to capture some continuity with the feel of the game overall. The front cover is a real classic in my eyes. It’s got that friendly Japanese animation style to it and conveys depth, fun and a solid outing for the series.
So, how much is Keio Flying Squadron going to set you back? Here in the UK expect to pay anywhere from £60 for a used copy but a near mint collector condition can run anywhere up to £160 on the auction sites. At today’s exchange rate that is pushing the $200 US dollar mark. For a Japanese regional edition look to pay around the $120 mark but expect a range of prices based on condition.
Now if there are any American collectors watching please steady yourselves. If you want to put the long box US NTSC edition of the game in your collection I have recently seen this game hit the $1400 mark on the auction sites. So, yeah… good luck with that.
The issue here is that we have a really decent game that managed to fall through the cracks of collecting for many. By chance I bought my copy for around £13 here in the UK, that’s easily under the $20 at today’s exchange rates. When I bought Keio Flying Squadron some years ago I had no idea that the price would escalate. Back in the late 90’s Sega CD games were not really deemed collectable. I purchased this one as a curiosity as I’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese shooters (and that I was that guy that owned a Sega CD). If it’s any consolation to US collectors Keio Flying Squadron did see a re-release on the Japanese Sega Saturn. Expect to pay around the £70 mark or under $90 for this re-worked version of the game.
As you can probably tell, I’m an avid fan of the game and would of course recommend it as not only a collectable but also a game to actively play. The price tag though, well that’s another story. Would I spend $1400 on it? Absolutely not. The price has escalated in the US market to the point where only the very serious collectors will touch this one. For the $120 mark to get the UK edition? Well, perhaps. It’s an old favourite and I could just about justify collecting now if I cut done on my Sega Saturn collecting for a few months… and paying my mortgage… and eating and stuff. What’s interesting about Keio flying Squadron are the little extras that make it fascinating. On the main menu screen if you enter a short combination of button presses you can access a hidden game. The super-catch mini game. It’s very reminiscent of those cheap LCD handheld games of the 90’s. I’ve always been bad at this type of mini-game but it’s an interesting extra feature to investigate if you have a copy of the game.
Why else do I enjoy Keio Flying Squadron? Well not only do you get a variety of ways to set-up the game. You are also presented where the hit-box is on Rami. For those of you that watch the channel regularly you will know how frustrated I get by not knowing where the player hit box is. What’s more you can actually adjust where you want the hit box to be as an option. This is just fantastic as it shows that the game developers really had a good understanding of shoot ’em up gamers needs. Keio Flying Squadron, you score big bonus points here from me. As for the main action, there’s a very solid engine under the hood of the game. It’s the simple things. It’s the moment when you encounter a new sub boss. The moment the action descends vertically. And of course the moments when you take on the level bosses themselves.
Keio Flying Squadron is fun, creative, challenging and a real hidden gem. The low production run may mean that this game has been buried deep in gaming history but those that own a copy will continue to cherish it.