Space Manbow - Konami

Space Manbow
System: MSX 2
Developed and published by Konami in 1989

Reviewed by Shatterhand

Recently I've been in a MSX fair, and there was a Turbo-R running Space Manbow. In the fair, there were people who was away of the MSX "scene" for more than 10 years, people who never had seen Space Manbow before, and people used to modern gaming. And all those people were instantly hypnotized by the game, there was a real crowd there too see and play Space Manbow. And just to prove that the real star there was Space Manbow, and not the Turbo-R, when they changed the game and put "Androgynus" , all the crowd went away, and no one was interested in the Turbo-R anymore. I think this kind of effect on people is really nice, considering Space Manbow is already 12 years old.

The plot goes something like that: In the year 189 S.D. (whatever S.D. may mean), danger threatend our galaxy. And as always, you are called to save the galaxy's ass. Nothing new here.

The game itself is a horizontal shmup, with a bit of vertical and horizontal scroll in later levels. You have two different weapons, that can be changed when getting their respective icons. The "N" icon gives you the "Normal shot", and the name says all, it's a normal shot, with a good fire rate. The "W" icon gives you the "3 way shot", and the name says all again, it's a 3 way shot, and the fire rate of this one isn't too good. Usually you'll want to use the 3 way shot for the levels, and the normal shot for bosses.

You can power up you weapon getting the red cells. It can powered up to sixteen times, and the power of the weapons is shown in the top of the screen. From time to time, you'll lose a point of power. This way, even if you have full power for your weapon, you'll still need to keep getting those red cells, as the weapons get weak with time. One nice thing is that you don't lose any firepower when you die, or when you change your weapon. making things more fair than the usual Konami shmup. If you use continue, you'll lose two points of power.

You can get smart bombs, that work a little different than in most games. After getting the blue cell, your next shot will be the smart bomb. So, sometimes you may want to run the risk and dodge an easy pattern of enemies without shooting, just to use the smart bomb in a harder pattern that comes after. This add some strategical thinking to Space Manbow.

There are Options pods too, you can have 2 of those, and they are attached in the sideways of your ship. Press the second button, and you change the direction of the shots of the options (Front, behind or sideways). You can also get "S" icons for Speed-ups, and "M" icons for missiles (they work pretty much like Gradius' missiles)

Graphically, the game is superb. Excellent use of the MSX pallete, making it look like there are more colors on screen than really are. The sprites are nicely designed and very colorfull too. The sound is great too, maybe the game that makes the most of Konami's SCC chip. Although it's not my case, most MSX users rate Space Manbow's soundtrack as the best one ever done for MSX, and that says something. The sound effects do their job very well too. Technically the game is fantastic, with a very smooth scrool, and no slowdowns ever, no matter how crammed is the screen.

The difficulty is well balanced. While the stages are pretty hard, the game gives you unlimited continues, and a fair number of restart points. There are points in the game where memorization highly needed, but you never get frustated, and progress do come with time and practice. The fact you don't lose your power when dying also helps to keep the game well balanced. Most players won't take too long to beat it using lots of continues, but I bet even the most experienced players will take a long time to beat it without continues. And that's great in my book.

The only fault I can find in this game is the idiot level 7 boss. I really can't find others faults in this superb game, everything is just done greatly. It's undoubtly one of the finest games Konami ever produced, and would be no exaggeration to compare it with all time classics like R-Type or Pulstar. And they don't get more recommended than that.

Technical note: While Space Manbow is playable in most MSX emulators, it suffers of a few bugs. The scroll is very slugish, and the main ship keeps flickering all the time. This doesn't happen in a real MSX.


You can destroy those big ships in level 1 shooting them in the big red circles, but is much more fun to just pass below them.

The first boss is rather easy, his arm has a very limited range, and you can destroy his missiles. Just shoot his red eye like hell!



That's just the beginning of level 2, and things already are crowded here. Those cannons look a lot like the cannons from gradius, doesn't?

Those big cannons shoot triple shots at a scary rate. It's a good opportunity to test your dodging skills.



See the generator with a red laser below it? It creates a red laser wall that goes up and down. Destroy the generator to get rid of the wall.

That's the hardest section of level 2. You're in a shaft, going down, and there are lots of those elevators coming down faster than you.

You need to use the small holes to avoid the elevators, but as you can see, they are crammed of enemies. Good use of the options are needed here.



This is a variation of the laser wall you saw 2 screenshots ago. Here the generator is sticked to the laser, and it keeps moving up and down while shooting at you. Destroy the generator, and the wall is gone.

Level 2 boss is a kind of a git. As you can see in the screenshot, you have to stay in the middle of him. While he shoots at you, he also uses those laser walls to get you.

There's a small blue bright to tell you where and when those lasers appears, so get out of the way of those blue brights !



Level 3 is set in those space caves. The gradius' cannons are present here too.

See the cannons in the ground and the roof, parallel to each other ? Each one shoots at the same time pairs of generators, that move into the middle of screen. Then they shoot a laser to each other, making a quadrangle. Those lasers soon become those small grey balls. Needless to say, hit one of those balls, and you're history. And they take 4 shots to completely disapear, and as you also need to avoid other enemies here, you can see that's not very easy.

To learn where and when those quadrangles appear is essential to get past of this section.



Those organic rocks shoot 4 bubbles at the same time at you. And the bubbles have the irritating obsession of hunt you, Avoid or shoot them at all costs.

I don't know exaclty what is level 3 boss, but I like him. He as those 3 eyes, and when he opens them, one shows his brain, while the other two cannons.

Obviously, those cannons shoot at you, and then he closes the eyes again. Each time he opens his eyes, the brain is in a different position.



Level 4 music sounds very gradius-ish . This level is marked by those walking robots (again, they look like the robots from gradius), and those ships I like to call "coward ships".

They keep hiding behind the walls, so you can't shoot them, and when you aren't looking, they go down, shoot at you, and hide again.

In level 4 there also lots of those big mechanical stations. They shoot what I call "red fans" at you, and they keep moving vertically.

When you destroy them (by shooting the central yellow circle), instead of blowing, they just stop moving and shoot, so take care of where you destroy them, as you may have your way blocked.



It looks like R-Type ring, doesn't? But if you get in the middle of this one, you are instant dead, as they shoot like hell. Shoot them before getting to close.

The robots suffer of suicidal syndrome here, as they jump in this big hole to hit your ship. Again, good use of options are needed here. (I.E : You are screwed if you have no options)



In this section, the screen is scrolling vertically, and the big stations move horizontally. You have no idea of how much I HATE this section of the game, it's damn hard, you need to avoid the robots, the station's shots, the station themselves, and be careful to not block your way out.

Look, lots of coward ships !. Like most Konami's shmups, Space Manbow has lots of enemies coming from behind with no warning.

At least in Space Manbow, if you have options, you can shoot backwards to get them.



As you can see, I'm dead at this screenshot. Here you need to be very carefull, as there's only one way out, and it's not a very wide way, so you can easily block your way if you destroy the stations in the wrong time.

Level 4 boss is a giant mechanical crab. He shoots lots of small blue balls in your direction from his claws, while his cannons are used to fire his lasers.

The lasers come with NO warning, so stay away of the direction of the cannons all the time. He also moves into all directions, trying to hit you and reduce your manouvering space. And yes, I died the moment after I got that first shot.



This is the only restart point of this level. It's excatly into the middle of stage, and then we are into...

the 2nd section of the stage. The plataforms here divide the screen in 3 "lanes". There are 2 kinds of enemies here, those circular shaped enemies, that move vertically.

The other one is this ship, there are lots of them, and they appear in all lanes. They move all the way to the left, and when the get to the end of the screen, they change direction, and go into the direction of your ship.



This is the hardest boss in the whole game. He always moves in the direction of your ship, so the best way to deal with it is moving in a circular way. Problem is he shoots those fire balls in the 8 main directions at a wickedly rate. Set your concentration level all the way up.

Level 6 is huge, and it starts exactly here. Those walls will appear in the whole level, blocking your way. Shoot them to move them away, or if you shoot them enough, to blow up.



This shot pretty much speaks by itself. There is an "S" icon. And a few blocking walls. And mechanical bees.

Look, there is a mess of power-ups to get here. Those mechanical bees are pretty stupid, and won't be much of trouble.



I like the graphical style of this level. Actually, I like the graphical style of the whole game.

What are those things? One-eyed monsters with a big mouth and some scary teeth? Whateve it is, they appear from the ground and the roof, they shoot a lot, and need a lot of shots to die too.



Timing is critical to get past of this section. Weirdly enough, here the game scrolls diagonally, backwards and down.

Level 6 boss isn't too hard. He keeps spinning his arms, and from time to time, he will open his mouth put his "tongue" out, and shoot a blue ball at you.

The blue ball is easily avoidable, as it goes in a straight line, and his weak point is that red circle in his tongue. If you have 2 options or a missile, you'll be able to destroy it pretty quickly



Level 7 is very short, it starts with this narrow and difficult section, and it goes to...

... this section, where those insects come from holes in and into the ground and the roof. They move in set patterns, and they don't die very easily. Learn their moving patterns, and you'll get out of here soon



This is maybe the lamest boss I ever saw. His weak point is that blue thing in his head. He shoots blue balls that bounce in the roof and the ground.

But those balls are easily destroyed by a single shot, he shoots them at every 5 seconds or so, and they come from his weak point, exactly the point where you'll be shooting most of the time. Pretty stupid.

Like most Konami's shmups, level 8 is the last level. There are no restart points in this one, die and you're sent back to the start of the level. There are only 3 kinds of enemis in this stage, those small ships, those indestructible big rocks, and....



...WHOOSH! This giant laser. The laser will destroy all ships in its way, and it comes with just a small and quick warning, making nearly impossible to avoid it, if you're into his direction. This seems very unfair, until... notice the laser only destroys ships, and not the rocks. All you have to do is stay behind the rocks, and you're fine. Not that easy when the rocks keep moving, and you have ships shooting at you. Learn when and where the lasers are shot also helps a lot.



Space Manbow's last boss isn't too hard. He keeps moving up and down, and from time to time, he will shoot his big laser (a small blue bright will appear before this), and all you have to do is dodge the small rocks, get away from the path of the laser, and shoot his red circle 'til he's finished. Seemed very easy, but..

...After beating that ship, you'll be sucked to its inside, for a final battle againt the alien controlling it. This one is hard, there are lasers coming from the scenary, blue bobbles that goes back and forth hunting you (They can be shot), and when the alien opens his eye, showing his weak point, he shoots red bubble that moves pretty fast in a straight line.

There are no winning strategy here, just shoot, dodge, shoot, dodge and SHOOT.



The ending is nice, in spite of being too short. You've saved the galaxy once more, you see the alien ship blowing, and you fly through its wreckage while seeing the credits.

Then it's back to level 1 again!!

Wow! I had no idea this game existed! Is it just me or does it look incredible! Thanks a lot shatterhand for this in-depth review, and er, sorry it took so long to put up :) Must go hunting and play it for a bit! - malc


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie