Story/Characters: The story is a legendary take on the invasions of Japan by Kublai Khan in the 13th century, but also involves Benkei and Yoshitsune. I’m not sure that Benkei and Yoshitsune’s roles in the story really justifies the title, but I guess Benkei’s name sells more copies? Overall the story is interesting and the pre-modern Japan setting is unusual for even Japanese games. The characters are relatively cookie cutter, as you would expect of a game from this era.
World: You start in Japan and then move to China later. The world map is based on the real world and the towns are roughly in their real places. There’s an attempt to evoke the pre-modern feel with very few Western loan words and monsters based on Japanese and Chinese mythology or folklore.
Game Flow: Overall this is fine. The biggest problems I had were figuring out where to go next — often the game isn’t very clear about this. When you just have to move on to the next town that’s not so bad, but sometimes you have to backtrack, and I wasn’t always sure after looking at the walkthrough how I was supposed to know what to do.
The boss of the first part is a grinding wall, which then makes the next part really easy.
System: It’s a basic RPG with a Japanese-themed skin. My biggest complaint here is that in the second half of the game, just using buff spells and regular attacks is much better than the damage spells, and Tokoyo’s sword techniques become nearly useless. In many cases for me they did less damage than regular attacks.
Side Quests/Optional Content: There’s a hidden town in China with a weapon store but that’s about it.
Interface: Not as smooth as it could have been. I don’t know why you have to first pick “examine” in the stores to see the power of the weapon/armor, and then buy it and have no idea how it compares to your current gear. Dragon Quest V did it right — can’t all the other games copy off of that?
We’re also back to not having a unified “action” button so you have to choose “search” from a menu. At least there’s no inventory limit.
Graphics/Sound: Both have an Asian feel. The music is Japanese-sounding in the first part of the game and then changes to a more Chinese sound when you go to China. The monsters are detailed and interesting, and being able to see your characters slash their swords on the bottom is a little more interesting than just text.
Overall an average game from this era; nothing particularly special.
In the PC Engine Benkei Gaiden game to which this one is a sequel, Benkei has a larger role and is a full-fledged party member (at first I thought he was the main character, but apparently in the PC Engine game Oniwaka and Benkei are two different characters, rather than Oniwaka being Benkei's childhood name)