Shippu Mahou Daisakusen Kingdom Grand Prix (mercifully known outside of Japan as just Kingdom Grand Prix) is my favorite game by Raizing. It’s the sequel to their earlier 1993 release, Mahou Daisakusen, and although the first game in the series was good, it simply isn’t on the same level of the sequel.
Kingdom Grand Prix takes the atmosphere and bright graphical splendor of Mahou Daisakusen and makes it, as far as I know, a truly unique experience among the history of video games. For, you see, Kingdom Grand Prix is a hybrid racing/shoot-em-up, and it’s just as ridiculous and awesome as it sounds. Apparently the King of the realm has decided that to celebrate the one year anniversary of winning the war (in Mahou Daisakusen), a race will be held across the Kingdom, filled with exotic locales and dangerous perils. The winner gets a huge chunk of money and “anything they want,” which makes the huge chunk of money part kind of redundant if you ask me, but whatever. After selecting one of eight characters/ships (up from the four selectable in the first game) you’ll embark on a multi-stage race fest.
There are two objectives to Kingdom Grand Prix. First, like most shoot-em-ups, is to defeat enemies, score points, take down bosses and survive to the end. Even as a Raizing game, that’s actually the easy part. Your second goal is to win the race, which is considerably more difficult and, in my opinion, a monumental feat, because in this game, just like in real life, to go fast you have to take risks. The closer you fly to the top of the screen (providing less maneuverability), the faster you’ll travel. Also, holding down the fire button (which stops you from shooting), boosts your speed but allows enemies to pile up around you. Getting shot by enemies will not only cost you a life, but impose a hefty loss of speed. Most of the time, only enemy fire can destroy you; walls and enemies themselves won’t usually destroy you (although they can slow you down or knock you into said fire.) You can bump fellow racers into enemies to destroy them, or even use the limited area of effect bombs to knock them back quite a ways, but as the race proceeds, the competition gets difficult. Each stage awards points, Mario Kart-style, for where you place. If you don’t place highly in the first two stages, you can probably forget about winning the race and getting your character’s true ending. I freely admit I have never won the race without massive cheating; even if I start out strong, I always get hung up on bosses while the other racers somehow zip by.
The graphics for the game are pretty much on the same level as Mahou Daisakusen—vibrant and detailed, although still on a small scale. Things are a little more hectic at times, especially when you get other racers on the screen jostling for position, which makes the safe bumping rules quite welcome. The soundtrack is catchy, but with individual themes that are sadly on the short side. After each stage, you even get to choose the next level from two possible options (three for the final stage) which throws some variety in alongside the multitude of selectable characters. Shoot em-up fans looking for a challenge or just something different owe it to themselves to try their hand at possibly the craziest arcade race in existence.