Magnum Kiki Ippatsu: Empire City 1931

     The 'early 20th century detective shootemup simulator' genre is an often neglected area of gaming. And rightfully so. Most the them ranged from awful (The Untouchables) to the terrible (Dick Tracy) to the truly despicable (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). At least two of the above were plagued by lousy 'errand-running' style plots, and all three of them had lousy controls.

     Magnum Kiki Ippatsu: Empire City 1931(an AWESOME title, isn't it?) forgoes the whole 'investigation' aspect of detective work and tosses you straight into a bad part of town with nothing but a gun and presumably a tan coat and hat (the game is in first person, so you really can't tell.) Actually, one of those orange Mount Rushmore looking things on the opening screen may be him. It's hard to tell; everyone, and I mean everyone looks alike in Empire City. Of course, if you've ever watch an old gangster movie, you'd realize how accurate that is.

     The secret, 5034, makes little sense and has less significance. The game takes place in 1931. It couldn't be a password since they only give you this screen once in the game as far as I know. I can only assume it's an address or maybe some Sidehackers inside joke. Which, considerig how few people know about Sidehackers, would make ANY Sidehacking joke an inside joke. But for the rest of you out there, Sidehackers was a movie featured early in MST3K history, and it was about some guys who rode motorcycles with a little platform glued on the side. The movie itself was about some revenge-murder-re-revenge crap. Why bother inventing a sport only to have it as a backdrop?! Anyway, there was an oily hired thug who told a joke for about half of the film's running time about how jokes in prison were given numbers so inmates could yell out, say, "Numbah FIVE!" and get the whole cell block going. I know this is a long way to go to explain a half-assed comment about a miniscule part of an obscure video game, but frankly, I wanted to pad out this article a little. And, as Joel and the Bots sang, during Sidehackers--"Only love pads the film."

     Basic gameplay: Move the crosshair around and hit the A button when living things are in front of it. Hitting the B Button seems to cause some sort of ricochet shot that kills you, or might not. In any case, I do know that it makes the screen flash a picture of some guy being hit in the face with fireworks or something. Basically, you hover the crosshairs around the screen, waiting for a flashing triangle to point to where the next bad guy is hiding, move the cursor that way which causes you to float sideways until some guy with a tommy gun pops out, virtually begging for sweet death. The machine gunners all seem to have graduated from the Cobra school of sniper training, as they fire randomly to the right of the screen while a timer counts down from three. Fail to shoot them in time, and you're dead. The game doesn't let you feel too bad about it, by enthusing you should "NEVER GIVE UP!" but after three shots to the head, the game just sort of loses faith in you. And it should.

     The thing that sets it apart from Dick Tracy and the other titles I mentioned before is the blood splatter factor. Shoot a guy successfully and the walls get little red spots on them. You can blast the guy repeatedly after he's dead if you like- you get more points. The defining experience of Magnum Kiki Ippatsu has to be in the first level, after deciphering the controls, when you pan left to a cathedral and blast the man in the tower repeatedly. It almost evokes fond memories of Cowboy Bebop... almost.

     After a few levels of shooting people in broad daylight, it gets dark for a level. There are a lot of parked cars in the night stage, probably because those then-trendy detective hats (popular among criminals as well for some reason) and high-collared coats made it hard enough to drive in the daylight.

     All in all, not really that bad a game. I might compare it to the NES version of The Punisher, where you could shoot almost anything in the backgrounds. Ah the childhood memories of hooking up Game Genie for infinite bullets and chewing the scenery, literally. The destruction in magnum is a tad less extreme: Any non-living thing you shoot gets a cracked-glass sort of effect on it, which vanishes after a few seconds. Ignore the fact it's a gunshot impact sprite painted white. It beats the heck out of the BANG! flags the enmies use to kill you (not kidding.) And what other games give you the chance to see a Nintendo man being shot in the groin before falling out a second story window? Therefore, I give Magnum Kiki Ippatsu: Empire City 1931 II The Revenge of the Return of the Joker and Rebirth of Evangelion the Bayou Billy Award for Outstanding 8-Bit Groin Injury.

There's an arcade adaption of this.

Multiple blood splatters are a fun side effect of lazy sprite removal.

Handcuffs? A donut? Fingerless gloves?