The ole adage "You gotta be at the right place at the right time" certainly rang true for me in February 2003. I found a guy posting a for sale ad on his complete copy of Taromaru. I was a huge Saturn fan then, but was unfamiliar with this game by and large. I just knew it was touted as extremely rare (word has it, only 7,500 copies) and very very expensive. I sent him a private message, figuring it wouldn't hurt to just ask. As I was writing the private message, my offer was $100. But, one of my video game "rules" was to never send more than $100 on any one game. So I changed it to $75 at the last second. I knew it was a low-ball offer, yeah. Still, I figured why not?
Imagine my thrill the next day when he replied "Let's do $80 shipped and it's yours"
I remember coming home from school that fateful day of February 28, 2003. I checked my mail box and found a pink slip. Based on the routine of the mail lady, I knew she would be coming around here in about half an hour. So I changed into my basketball gear and shot some hoops in front of my house waiting for her to come by the bend
Finally, that white delivery truck came into view. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I ran toward the vehicle. We made the exchange and before I knew it, Taromaru was spinning inside my Saturn! I was about to play a rarity spoken only in hushed tones... all by chance of sending a simple "Eh what the hell!" private message!
Being one of the most expensive Saturn games, as well as one of the rarest, you almost expect this game to cook dinner. Well, maybe not quite, but you probably wonder if this is the holy grail of gaming, right?
Weeell... that it certainly isn't. Taromaru is good, but there are too many flaws preventing it from being a top tier title. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty solid action title for your Sega Saturn, but at its going rate ($180-$250) is it really worth it...
The enemies and boss characers are delightfully demonic, bizarre and do much to evoke the Japanese-y ghoulish aura of the game
The bosses really steal the show. In all, there are roughly 25!
Here's one of my most favorite boss battles of all time
The mutant frog sheds tons of blood
After a while he swallows you and you enter his acidic, worm-filled belly!
Totally disgusting, but awesome
A very gorgeous mix of 2D character sprites and 3D backgrounds. Lovely explosions, very convincing fog effects, etc. In many places the graphics are good, in others they're splendid. I wish Shinobi Legions looked like this! While the character sprites may lack intricate detail (due to their rather small stature) the bosses are huge and extravagant. Some parts will make you say ''wow.'' Oh yes, there's blood, and plenty of it. When the final boss dies, it gets pretty gooey...
Even THESE guys bleed!
Who knew dry skeleton bones could?
I seem to like this game's music/sound more than anyone else. Yes, the enemy death cries pretty much sound all alike, and yes, that can get annoying. But the music fits the onscreen action well and as you might guess, Japanese-esque tunes fill the air. You'll hear the cranking sound of giant rotating wooden sticks, the roar of the raging current, the ominous tune that accompanies the worms in the frog's acid-filled stomach... the music's just creepy in certain spots. And the sound adds to the atmosphere perfectly, especially when you first hear the eerie chanting of the demon creatures...
You attack via an on-screen icon; you direct the icon onto enemies and zap 'em. Two flaws though:
The icon tends to betray you from time to time (you want it to go here but it goes there)
No auto-fire! So the constant tap-tap-tap gets really annoying and gives your hand a major cramp. Consider that foot soldiers take some 5 zaps to die and zombies 10... now imagine many on-screen at one time, and the icon occasionally betrays you. Not cool
Now you may be thinking the game to be a chore to play, right? Not quite. If you have a controller with auto-fire, I suggest you use that. Auto-fire transforms Taromaru from a rather frustratingly repetitive game to a fun delightful excursion into the bizarre. I know auto-fire is cheap, but for me it increased the game enjoyment ten-fold. And that's what it's all about: having fun
The game is linear, you walk constantly to the right and there's always something going on as you tackle ninjas, priests, zombie monsters, headless demons, a bull stampede, an army of spiders; you almost have no time to catch your breath
Speaking of enemies, the bosses really steal the show. There are over 25 and some are especially memorable! In this sense, I found Taromaru similar to Radiant Silvergun: lots of lengthy cool boss battles (if you don't use auto-fire that is). Not to mention both games will cost you an arm and leg to buy!
I cannot stress how cool the bosses are. Here's a skeleton spirit deep in the forest of forbidden mist, complete with a tee totter to play around with
Giant snakes abound....
....... And more skeletal forces!
These boss monstrosities take me back to the glory days of 16-bit gaming, where they ruled your living room and left you utterly satisfied when finally dethroned
There's no set number of stages. There's virtually no loading time once you set the game up. When you defeat a boss you just march on to the next warzone. It's non-stop action in this sense. With auto-fire, you'll finish the game in 45-50 minutes. Without auto fire, hour and change. It's quite lengthy, and again, over 25 bosses... their energy bars are long, like the energy bars of Radiant Silvergun's bosses. You have a smaller energy bar, and a couple lives (and continues). Along the way sushi can be eaten to regain a small portion of health. A 2-Player option is thrown in for good measure
Here is the control layout:
A is to turn an enemy (only some qualify) into your personal lackey, but their attack is slow and almost useless. However, you can press X to discard him, and he'll explode damaging any on-screen fiends
B is your zap attack. Hold B to unleash a stronger zap attack, but if you play auto-fire obviously this attack becomes void
C is jump
Down+C is to slide, you can also jump and slide forward in mid-air
Y or double tap down sends a protective sphere over your guy. This move is critical and mastering it is key to your success
I have came back to this semi-consistently. I've beaten it probably at least 20 times. I know where all the enemies are and the bosses' strengths and weaknesses yet I still love breaking this game out at night on occasion. Once you beat it a ranking mode is unlocked
SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE at your service...
Most commonly referred to on the net as Psychic Warlock Assassin Taromaru
Sadly, this is a game few Saturn owners will ever play, mainly due to its scarcity and high cost. Truth be told, you're not missing out on a WHOLE LOT, but it's really a shame this wasn't a mass-produced game that fetches around $25. As it stands, only the craziest gamers will strap on those sandals and walk a mile in a warlock's quest to save a kidnapped girl from the vile clutches of demons and other malpracticed forms of evil
I finally parted ways with my copy when I eBay'ed the thing in early September 2006. Walked away with about $150. Of which I used $90 to fund another rarity, Super Famicom's Rendering Ranger: R2
No regrets. I enjoyed Taromaru for a healthy 3 and a half years... and actually turned a $70 profit on it. In a way, it was like someone PAID me 70 bucks to play the game for over 3 years. Not a bad gig...