- Joystick: Use the joystick to move SonSon or TonTon throughout the screen. Press left to make them retreat, or push right to make them advance. Push up to make them jump up to the ledge above them, or push down to make them jump to the ledge below. Remember that jumping from ledge to ledge is not instantaneous, so plan ahead before you make your move.
- Fire: Press the fire button to shoot a bullet from your magic sticks. The bullet will travel a little less than half way across the screen before disappearing. If it hits an enemy before then, it will usually destroy them in one hit, with a couple of notable exceptions. You may fire, at most, two bullets on the screen at one time.
- 1-2 Players: Press either button to start a one or two player simultaneous game.
SonSon and TonTon
SonSon and TonTon are the heroes of this story. They are charged with the mission of rescuing the traveling monk and his other companions by reaching the Buddha statue that they were in search of. SonSon and TonTon must continuously travel to the right through a world with six platforms stacked one on top of the other. They can, at will, jump from one platform to another platform immediately next to them. They can also fire bullets from the objects they carry; SonSon, a golden staff, and TonTon, a pitchfork. These bullets travel a short distance, but they can kill a majority of the enemies you face in one hit. If SonSon or TonTon touch any of the enemies or their weapons, they will be killed. After they are killed, they will return to the screen floating on a cloud. While they ride this cloud, they are invulnerable, and cannot be killed, nor can they pick up any bonus items. You may fire your weapon while riding the cloud. Press the joystick in any direction to dismiss the cloud. If you do not, the cloud will automatically disappear on its own over time. Do not dismiss the cloud or allow it to disappear when an enemy is right on top of you or you will die again instantly.
Deku and Burigan
Deku and Burigan are the main enemy forces that you will meet. The each appear on the screen six at a time, each on a different platform. After taking a few steps, they jump up or down to the next platform in your direction if they are not already on your platform. They jump at regular intervals, so you can safely time your passage above or below them. No matter what happens, try not to allow yourself to get pinned in by these enemies. The only difference between the stone-like Dekus and the Burigans is the spear throwing ability of a Burigan. If a Burigan is on the same level as you for long enough, he will chuck a spear at you and then usually turn around and run away. The spear can be shot down for 30 points. Killing a Deku or a Burigan earns you 150 points, and if you manage to destroy all six from the same group, you are awarded a 1000 point bonus.
Rania and Anbre
Rania and Anbre are two secondary types of enemies that you encounter almost as frequently as Dekus and Burigans. Rania are green piranhas that jump out of the water in sets of four, and Anbres are bats that fly through the stage in sets of four. They follow a very predictable pattern and never deviate from it. They are each worth 50 points for shooting one of them and 500 points for destroying the entire set. The best way to do that, and the fastest way to get them out of your hair, is to occupy the platform where they change direction. For example, the fish always peak on the third platform from the bottom. If you stand there and wait, you can shoot them all very quickly. The bats fly in at slightly different levels each time, so you may need to watch them for a while to find the best level to shoot them from. If you can't shoot at these enemies, the next best strategy is to move far out of their way. If you know that you can attend to the bats, move to a lower platform. And if you can't shoot the fish, or staying on the lower levels will put you in an impossible situation, move up.
Red and Blue Dragonflies
These dragonflies may look similar, but they follow very different behaviors. Four red dragonflies fly on to the screen, sometimes on different levels, sometimes all together on the same level, one slightly after the other. They all fly to a certain point along the platforms and pause. After about 20 seconds, they launch themselves at SonSon's or TonTon's position. It is far safer to take them out while they are frozen, then to try to shoot at them when they attack. By the time you position yourself to fire at the first two, the second two will most likely kill you. Instead, just move out of their way entirely. The blue dragonflies, on the other hand, are a little less of a direct threat. Four blue dragonflies loop on to the screen, flying in a counter-clockwise direction. They fly back to the left a little bit before rising and flying far to the right. They get in a number of loops before exiting the screen. As with the Anbre bats, find their highest or lowest travel point and fire continuously at them to remove all four. Dragonflies are worth 50 points for individual kills and 500 points for group kills.
Skull Walls and Chain
At six points throughout the game (roughly every 4 sections, and repeatedly at the end), the scrolling will pause and you will be forced to shoot down a set of skull walls in order to proceed. The skull walls take quite a number of bullets to destroy, but they are harmless to you. You can even get behind them and shoot them from behind. The scrolling will automatically resume when you destroy every wall, or after you've spent too long trying to get rid of them. Behind each wall stands a Chain who likes to throw bombs at you when you stand on a Chain's platform. Like the Burigans' spears, you can shoot down the bomb for 30 points, and since you're usually already firing at the wall when they throw, they're not usually much of a threat. You only have to worry when another enemy comes up behind you and you turn around to fire at them. If you're not prepared, or unable to turn around quick enough, you could be hit with a bomb, so be mindful of them. Destroy the Skull Walls for 500 points apiece, and destroy the Chains for 1000 points.
Following every Skull Wall and Chain stage, you will be beset upon by the largest enemies found in the entire game; the Great Devils. These are the villains that kidnapped the monk and the rest of your companions. They always come as a set of three, one in red, one in blue, and one in green. They all behave the same, floating up and down on the clouds that they ride. They carry shields and throw hammers at you. In order to kill them, you must first destroy their shields, which takes about as many hits to destroy as the Skull Walls. Once the shield is destroyed, they are vulnerable to attack. One more hit will kill them. However, by the time you wear down their shield, they may already be advancing to exit the screen through the left side. They will happily bulldoze over you if they can't hit you with their hammers. So get out of their way if you are not sure you can destroy their shield and kill them in time. Killing them is not required, but they provide tremendous amounts of points if you do. Destroying one of their hammers earns you 30 points, but destroying their shields gets you 2000. On top of that, if you destroy the red devil, you get 4000 points. The blue devil nets you 5000 points. And if you kill the green devil, you will earn 6000 points for the feat. The trick is to attack aggressively, but to remain at a safe distance from them so that you don't get run over.
At certain points along the journey, you will encounter stages full of Spin Skulls. Spin Skull take a number of shots to destroy (about half as many needed to destroy Skull Walls), and they are worth 500 points each. When you first encounter them, they are motionless (except for spinning in place). Later on, they begin to move back and forth a little bit, creating a tough obstacle course. You have two choices; go through them, or go around them. If you choose to go through them, it is best to pick a platform where they are very spread out. It is not uncommon to come across two clumped together on the same spot, and end up dying because you thought there was only one, and you run into the second. If you choose to go around them, you may still need to take one or two out to create a safe passage. You must also be mindful of the positions of other enemies that attack you at the same time.
The Musashi are very large bees that appear on the stage in pairs from time to time. Out of all the enemies that you face, these are by far the least predictable. They seem to move about the screen a little more randomly than most, and they're not slow either. It is a good idea to focus your attention on them quickly once they appear. Always attack from a distance. They move so randomly, it is easy to be taken by surprised and killed if you get too close. If other enemies present a bigger threat to you when the Musashi appear, take care of those enemies first, and then turn your attention to the Musashi.
Small food is scattered throughout every stage. They appear to be located randomly, but they appear in the same place every time you play. As you get closer to the final stage, the food that you encounter will increase in point value. Aside from the points you earn for collecting the food, they serve as a means to earn even more points. Every six small pieces of food that you collect makes a large piece of food appear. So be greedy, because the more small points you earn, the more big points you will earn as well.
Every time you gather six pieces of small food, a large piece of food will appear. Collect the large food for a fantastic bonus before it disappears off the left side of the screen, but never put your life at risk to collect them. If you are diligent about collecting small food, there will be plenty of other opportunities for big food.
Frilled Lizard and the Skylark
If you are unfortunate enough to miss the chance to collect a large fruit, and it scrolls off the screen, the game rewards you with the chance to earn at least half of what you could have. When a large piece of food (with a billboard behind it, and not otherwise) scrolls off the screen, a frilled lizard will run across the screen from the left to the right. When it leaves the right side, it will deposit a piece of food worth at least half of the piece of food that you missed. So for example, if you miss an 8000 point watermelon slice, the lizard will appear and leave a 4000 point peach for you. However, if the food you happen to miss is the 10,000 point giant strawberry, then a skylark appears instead of the lizard, flying from left to right, and depositing a 5000 point shortcake on the screen for you. The food will not be on a billboard, so if you miss it, it's gone. You cannot interact with the lizard or skylark in any other way.
There are two conditions under which a POW will appear; A planned occurrence in the stage, or after collecting 8 large pieces of food. When you touch the POW icon, every enemy that currently occupies the screen will be transformed into a type of large food. They types that can transform into depends on how many POWs you have picked up. For the first POW, you will only encounter carrots. For the second POW, you will find some carrots and some fries. And so on. Wait until as many enemies occupy the screen as you dare before collecting the POW icon to maximize your point earnings. But don't wait too long, or the food will scroll of the screen.
Bamboo and Yashichi
These last two bonuses can be earned through special means. Bamboo is hidden throughout the stages in the game. They only way to reveal their location is to walk directly over the ground where they are hidden. Walking over the ground and making them appear earns you 500 points. If you collect them after they are fully grown (which takes very little time), you collect 1000 points, but if you manage to pick them up while they are still growing, you can actually earn 2000 points instead. The Yashichi is one of Capcom's trademark icons, making an appearance in nearly every early Capcom game in some form or another, usually as a bonus item. In this game, if you manage to destroy all of the Skull Walls within 20 seconds of their appearance (before the game begins to scroll again on its own), a Yashichi will be waiting for you on the other side of the walls. The very first one that you collect will be worth 4000 points. Every consecutive Yashichi that you collect will increase in value by 1000 points, maxing out at 10,000 points per Yashichi.