Banpresto always boasted a healthy lineup of anime and manga licensed video games. If you had a favourite series, there would be a good chance if there was a video game counterpart made for your video game console of choice, it was probably released by Banpresto. Of course, getting a western release was easier said than done. Importing was the only option, and it was a risky one at that because of import retailer's high price tags, but also because there was also the chance the game was just a quick cash-in with little gameplay value or worse: a masterpiece made unplayable to western a gamers due to heavy usage of in-game Japanese text.
Hyper Iria finds itself in a sweet spot closer to the latter. Based in the universe of Iria: Zeiram the Animation and featuring its characters (but not the plot itself), the game puts you in control of female bounty hunter Iria, out to make some cash by taking on missions that require a bit of muscle. There are five to tackle, making the game a bit on the short side, but sheer attention to detail and impeccable presentation make this stand out - not all that shocking when you consider this is 1995 Super Famicom release, and a certain level of polish was perhaps to be expected.
At first, you might find that Iria controls a bit sluggishly. This feeling subsides after playing the game for a bit and you will be able to control Iria with precision when you hit the correct pace. You can walk, run by double-tapping a direction, jump, double jump, punch, kick, perform a couple of very very useful running attacks and shoot enemies - all the classic platforming and run'n'gun moves, in fact. Sadly at the beginning of your adventure, your gun is incredibly weak and unsatisfying, leaving you to resort to fists and feet to dispose of the many mutated abominations (more often than not at the cost of part of your health bar) that populate the dystopic wasteland.
At the end of each mission, you will be rewarded with credits according to your performance, so don't go running away from baddies unless you're low on health. You can trade those credits for weapon upgrades, equipment and several types of grenades, all of which come in handy when dealing with certain enemies and platforming sections. There is just enough variety in the missions to keep you interested, including a daring Super Metroid-style escape from a laboratory with the self-destruction clock running out, and even a horizontal shmup level using Iria's flying contraption you get to briefly pilot in every mission prologue.
What one would not expect is that the great presentation isn't limited to the game's intro. During missions there is constant dialogue between Iria and Bob, a bounty hunter partner who was fatally wounded by the alien Zeiram and had his consciousness downloaded to a computer. This dialogue really enhances the experience, with Bob often helping Iria navigate the maze-like structures she has to tackle on her missions. If you are not fluent in Japanese, Dynamic Designs and Matt's Messy Room have released a complete English translation - make the most of it in your RetroN 5 or Retro Freak. It is not essential to complete the game once you figure out what the menus do, but without understanding the detailed instructions from Bob, the levels will take quite longer to overcome.
Special mention should also go to the clean user interface, which not only shows Iria's health, inventory and ammo reserves, but also displays enemy health bars so you always know when you are about to deliver the killing blow, and a radar that will allow you to prepare for incoming off-screen enemy threats. Options to change the difficulty level and number of continues also help players customize their experience.
Hyper Iria might be short but it is very sweet. It takes a while to get used to the somewhat sluggish controls, but once you do, it becomes much more appealing and enjoyable. Licensed anime video games rarely hit this level of quality during the 16-bit era; Hyper Iria is a solid platformer on its own, even if you've never watched the original Zeiram anime. This is certainly one to consider for your Super Famicom collection - even more so if you're a fan of Banpresto's licensed video games, and you get extra points if you're familiar with the series on which the game is based.