- Joystick: Use the 8-way joystick to make Kagekiyo run (if he is in his smaller form) and walk (if he is in his larger form) left and right, crouch, and hold his sword high in the air (if he is in his larger form). On Overhead Mode stages, Kagekiyo will run in whatever direction the joystick is pushed.
- Attack Button: Use this button to make Kagekiyo swing his sword at the enemies. In his larger form, by holding up while attacking, Kagekiyo will perform a downward cut instead of horizontal slash.
- Jump Button: Use this button to make Kagekiyo jump. He can jump to the same height (regardless of whether he is in his smaller or larger form).
- 1 or 2 Player Buttons: Push these buttons to begin a 1 or 2 player game.
Taira no Kagekiyo (平景清)
The protagonist of the game. Having fallen at the battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, he has now been resurrected by prayer's alms (read: player's credit) and has to make his way over the Imperial Regalia of Japan while fighting enemy characters based on actual people such as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Saito Musashibo Benkei, and Minamoto no Yoritomo on his travels.
Kagekiyo will be travelling through ancient Japan consisted by three types of stages.
- Small Mode stages: Kagekiyo will need to pass through obstacles without falling into the pit.
- Big Mode stages: Kagekiyo will encounter strong enemies. As a result, he is able to use more moves during these stages.
- Over Mode stages: There are only a few of these top view stages, but most of them are very important. In this mode Kagekiyo cannot jump over enemies, but he can jump over certain obstacles or reach some enemies.
- Numbers: The numbers used in game's score display, along with sword and Zeni counters, are in Kanji numerals instead of Arabic ones, which were later reused in Mirai Ninja for the eponymous protagonist's life meter. For those who cannot read these, here is what they mean: 〇 = 0, 一 = 1, 二 = 2, 三 = 3, 四 = 4, 五 = 5, 六 = 6, 七 = 7, 八 = 8, 九 = 9. (You should remember it).
- Sword power "Ken": This value shows Kagekiyo's attack power and sword durability. Kagekiyo starts with seven points, and can increase by collecting purple orbs or buyable swords, up to a value of 99. However, if he cuts anything too hard, his sword point may decrease, unless he has the Kusanagi Sword. If his sword power drops to zero, his attack power will decrease, and his sword will be shown as broken in Big Mode.
- Money "Zeni": Kagekiyo will need to buy some items, or escape from the pit via blood pool, with Zeni. Collect this from enemies, up to 99.
- Life candles "Inochi": Kagekiyo's life bar is shown as candles, each representing up to 10 life points depending on length. If Kagekiyo loses all life points, it is game over. Kagekiyo starts with 50 life points (can be changed between 40 to 70 with hidden switches), can recover with blue orbs and tawara, and can extend life capacity with candle or brown orbs pickup, up to 100. When Kagekiyo enters a torii, he will recover to 40 life points if lower than the value. However, if Kagekiyo falls into the Pit, he will lose all life extends and start the stage with less than 20 life points. During a boss fight, the lifebar of the boss will be shown as purple candles.
- Sacred items: Kagekiyo must collect all three items in order to defeat Yoritomo. Items collected will be shown on screen.