The story of Guwange is set in Japan during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). A time when the people honored nature, believed in ghosts, and feared the darkness of the night. In a village near Mount Gokumon, the shamans predict the outcome of the day's fishing harvest based on the voices that echo from the mountain. If the howls of foxes are heard, it foretells a fruitful catch. If cries of "guwange, guwange" can be heard, it portends an ill omen. As none who went to discover the source of the eerie cries ever returned alive, the villagers thus came to worship the unseen creature as a god, referred to as Guwange-sama.
Spoken of in whispers are spirits known as "shikigami," demonic spirits who take up residence within a mortal vessel, granting supernatural abilities to the bearer but also consuming their life after one year. Those who are cursed with the presence of a shikigami are often shunned and feared by their own kind due to their dangerous power. A legend exists, however, that it is possible to free oneself from the curse of the shikigami. To do this, a person must travel the land in search of five elemental talismans, cast down the gods that hold them, then use the talismans' power to throw open the gates to the underworld at Mount Gokumon. If the god of the mountain is felled, it is said that the curse of the shikigami will be released.
A thirty-year-old man. Bearer of the shikigami Rikiou. Rikiou commands Shishin to consume human flesh, and in exchange, allows him to live beyond the normal one-year lifespan of a shikigami user. Driven mad by his suffering and left with no choice but to comply, Shishin speaks no words and conceals his true face behind an oni mask. Performing murderous deeds befitting his demonic mask, he has earned a terrifying reputation among local villagers. One morning, Shishin is visited in a dream by a beautiful goddess, who tells him to journey to Mount Gokumon. There, she says, he will find liberation from his curse, as well as his long-lost daughter.
A seventeen-year-old girl, born to a family of demon hunters. Bearer of the shikigami Yatsuhisha, with whom she has become close friends. Exiled from her family home until she frees herself of the shikigami's curse, she sets off on her journey towards Mount Gokumon. Unlike most shikigami, Yatsuhisha holds no ill will towards mortals and knowingly assists Kosame on her quest, even though it understands that it will ultimately lead to its own demise.
A fifteen-year-old boy and pharmacist-in-training. Bearer of the shikigami Kirinmaru, an exceptionally violent and merciless tengu. Inflicted with the shikigami curse due to a grudge against his family, Gensuke takes up employment as a bounty hunter to channel Kirinmaru's bloodthirst away from innocents. Extremely careful not to reveal his true intentions, Gensuke maintains a single-minded focus on finding a way to free himself from Kirinmaru's bondage. One day, he learns of a bounty on a mysterious blue-eyed girl being held at Mount Gokumon. With Kirinmaru still none the wiser, the two set off towards Mount Gokumon...
Guwange is primarily controlled via an eight-way joystick and two buttons, though three buttons is preferable.
- A button: When tapped rapidly, shoots the character's main shot. When held, summons the character's shikigami.
- B button: Fires the character's bomb. If the B button is held, it can be aimed in any of the eight directions.
- C button: When held, shoots the character's main shot. When held, pressing A will summon the shikigami more quickly than if the C button is not used. (For this reason, use of the C button is highly recommended for serious play.)
When the shikigami is deployed (holding A), the shikigami will appear on-screen and can be moved in any of the eight directions via the player's standard movement controls. During this time, the player character will only move left and right to match the directional inputs, and cannot move up or down at all. Moving the shikigami near an enemy will deal damage, and moving it near enemy bullets will slow the bullets down. If it kills an enemy, all enemy bullets nearby will disappear and turn into coins.
- Chain system: The basis of Guwange's scoring is the chain system. At certain times, such as killing enemies with the character's main shot, attacking large enemies with the shikigami, or slowing bullets with the shikigami, the chain meter (represented on-screen by a row of ten skulls) will fill up. If nothing is done, the meter will empty steadily over time. The key to high scores is to keep the chain going as long as possible: with practice, it's possible to keep the chain intact for the entire game, from beginning to end.
- Coins: Coins are what actually grant points. Valuable coins are generated by killing enemies with the character's main shot. Cancelling bullets with the shikigami also produces coins, albeit somewhat less valuable ones. When the chain value is over 1000, attacking enemies with the character's main shot will also produce a steady stream of small coins which aren't worth much in the way of points directly, but instead increase the value of the chain counter, which is very important for scoring nonetheless. When the chain meter is more than half full (flashing gold), more valuable coins will be produced.
- PCB: ATC05
- CPU: MC68000 (16-bit; 16 MHz)
- Sound: YMZ280B (16 MHz)