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CONSOLE: PSP DEVELOPER: Irem PUBLISHER: Atlus
RELEASE DATE (NA): April 7, 2009 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Swing that hammer like your life depended on it!

It's surprising that although the Hammerin' Harry series — a group of games that features solid 2D action starring a hero who, obviously, wields a giant wooden hammer to desecrate his enemies — has been going in Japan since 1990, North American fans were repeatedly denied access to it. Europe was marginally more fortunate, having received the NES port of the original arcade game. It's a shame, though, because the gameplay has always been very accessible. Just think about Castlevania except with a hammer instead of a whip. The series had many releases across the arcades, the Famicom (the Japanese NES), Game Boy, and Super Famicom (SNES) consoles before entering a period of dormancy, reviving it mostly to have its visage plastered on pachinko machine all over Hokkaido. In 2008, Irem brought back its beloved hero for one more wild ride on the PSP, and in a remarkable twist, Atlus localized this strange beast. Stateside fans finally got their hands on the tales of Hammerin' Harry — known in Japan (and in this game) as Gen — and quite frankly, this game is pretty funky.

Hammerin' Hero puts you in the shoes of Genzo Tamura (known simply as "Gen" to most), a carpenter from the Edo town of Beranme. After the Kuromoku-gumi — led by money-loving magnate Hyosuke Kuromoku — enter the territory and cause havoc with their damaging construction practices, Gen makes it his business to whip out his hammer and take down the Kuromoku by force! Of course, there's more at play here than simply a greedy millionaire trying to fatten his own wallet. Other members of the Kuromoku-gumi step in to cease Gen's meddling, such as Dan Happa, also known as "Dynamite Dan", and Mika Kawatari, or "Chainsaw Mika". Luckily, Gen has Kanna Kirishima on his side to provide moral support and delicious sushi for her brave manly hero.

On the surface, Hammerin' Hero is little more than your average platformer of yesteryear. And who could blame someone from thinking so? You're just a run-of-the-mill blue collar worker with the will of the warrior, moving from left to right, bopping silly enemies with an oversized hammer before arriing at a boss for a final showdown. That sounds like the status quo to me, not that there's anything wrong with that. But what could possibly make this game stand out amongst the many other action titles?


Gen's resume must be sparkling.

One thing is that it appears as though Gen is a walking employment centre. At the beginning of the game, Gen is solely a carpenter, but as you progresses, more of Gen's innate abilities will magically unlock. Want to become an awesome baseball player? Gen's got you covered. Sushi chef? No problem! DJ? ...Sure, why not? Comedic performer? Ummm... wow, actually, yes, this is here, too. Nothing's off limits for Genzo! And if you complete the game on higher difficulty levels, you even get to play as Kanna or Mika. Which is odd, considering Mika is your enemy. Not sure how that plot point pans out. Each job also boasts its own special attack, initiated with the triangle button. The sushi chef, for example, can toss a giant frozen tuna. ...Yuh-huh.

To add to the flexibility, some enemies drop ingredients that Kanna can use to make special bento lunches for you. The rolls found within can instantly transform you into a different profession on the fly. That's a spicy meatball sushi!

Hammerin' Hero takes place in a variety of different settings, and although completing all twelve stages won't take very long (a decent player can whip through this in a couple of hours), the game more than makes up for it in character. Every stage is loaded with charm and humour. Gen visits many places, including a busy sushi restaurant, a baseball stadium, and a rokuro stage performance (where he gets to tell bad jokes). He even gets to go into outer space! Sadly, along the way, he also meets some rather disheartened individuals, identified by balloons of sadness over their heads. By hitting them away with the right tool, you can make them happy and earn extra rewards in your storage album.

As a sidenote, developer Irem sure wanted us to know that they made this game. The baseball stadium stage is plastered with the Irem logo as its sponsor. Equally obvious (at least to Irem fans) is Hyosuke Kuromoku's ship's strange resemblance to the one from R-Type, their other classic franchise.


Looks like there will be some mad beats...on someone's head!

The visuals are 3D models and simply reek of comical madness. The worlds are very colourful, though not as much as the characters who reside within them! And I do give credit for making some levels deviate from the "left-to-right" norm. Though it is a side-scroller, the camera angle does sometimes move depending on which way Gen's path turns. A notable example is the baseball stage, where Gen actually follows the lines of a baseball diamond; the camera turns eery time he takes a base. There is a fair amount of slowdown in Hammerin' Hero, however, so if you're expecting a non-stop thrill ride, be prepared for life in the slow lane sometimes. The voice acting also deserves mention. Everyone seems to have been extra peppy during the recording sessions, providing some much-needed energy to the conversations. Gen is quite determined, as told by his voice alone.

For a quick action-packed thrill that harkens to the simpler platforming days of olde, Hammerin' Hero definitely has you covered. The short length may be a downside, but having to replay the stages in multiple difficulty levels can offset this aspect, especially considering the higher difficulties can be extremely taxing on the brain and will require Sisyphus-type patience for quite some time. I'm glad Atlus finally brought this series Stateside, though it's a shame this also appears to be the last of the Hammerin' Harry games. Enjoy what you can, folks.

Hmmm... wait a second... What does that say on the back of the packaging?


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