Most retro game enthusiasts who play Saiyuuki World will quickly realize the game is just Wonder Boy in Monster Land dressed up in Journey to the West references and motifs. On its own, this fact isn’t likely to arouse much interest. Much like Dragon Ball before it, Saiyuuki World is more interested in using those motifs to lend the game a distinctive character than it is in perfectly translating the original Journey to the West into video game form or even letting its motifs inform the plot in any meaningful way. Still, the game’s existence and the history behind it both point to a much larger trend that does around interest.
Despite its reputation as a genre brimming with high school anime romance, visual novels didn’t originate with romance stories. Those only became popular in the mid 90s or early 00s, when dating sims began exerting a real influence on the genre. Before that, players knew them as a reliable source of murder mystery stories. So many of them focused on murder cares, and so many of them included that exact phrase in their titles, that Capcom released a game of their own lampooning the trend. This shows that while the market for early visual novels was saturated with many similar games, developers at the time were willing to push at the boundaries not only of visual novels, but also the narrow field of murder mystery visual novels.
Is there any modern equivalent of the maze game? The nearest equivalents I can think of, like Bit.Trip Runner and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, are too different from the genre to be called proper maze games. So we can safely say that outside ports and maybe a few reimaginings, the genre that birthed games like Pac Man, Burgertime, and Clu Clu Land has remained dead in the ground for years. It’s not hard to see why. Either developers thought there was no more headway to be made with these games and proceeded to abandon them; or players lost interest with them as more complex titles started to appear on the market.
However, just because either side effectively gave up on maze games doesn’t mean the genre ran out of things to offer its audience. In fact, Yuu Maze demonstrates just how much further these games could have gone, and it was made as late as 1988. Not in gameplay terms, mind you; Yuu Maze still sees you navigating a series of halls, avoiding swarms of enemies, and collecting every last trinket on the map. It’s the tone that separates this game from others. Far from replicating the innocent fun its peers were known for, Yuu Maze comes across as a despondent slog of an experience.