Snes Shooter Spectacular - Part 2
by Rhete



Strike Gunner: S.T.G.


Released: March 27th 1992
Developer: Athena
Diffiulcty: Low/High


Time for a game that takes place in the far off future of AD 2008! Strike Gunner is a bit of a weird game. It's one where if you saw someone playing it, or say, watched a 3 1/2 minute compilation video, you may think "hey that looks pretty good!". Looks can be deceiving though, while some elements of this game are good, a lot of it is also unbearably bad.

The first stage starts out decent enough. The background, being a forest, is a little simple, but that's ok, it'll change soon enough right? The music is good too, and has a really intense drum beat. The problem? All the music in the game is approximately 15 seconds long, and loops infinitely over and over. And that forest background? There is one river randomly in the middle of the stage, and that's it. It never changes. The stage itself is also far too long, I was pretty bored by the time I reached the boss. On the plus side the boss ended up being quite fun, and I was off to stage 2.

"What the fuck, it's the same fucking background?" Yes, stage 2 starts off looking exactly like stage 1! The music is different, but it's another short loop. Halfway through the stage the background changes to a desert. Thank god! Tank enemies also appear, taking advantage of the new terrain.

Then stage 3... is still the same desert. And the music is stage 1s again. Ugh. I can't understand why they took two stages worth of content, and stretched them out into three stages. Because after stage 3, the stages begin to have more distinct themes! Of course, stages 4 and 5 still reuses the two musical themes introduced so far, but you can't win em all.

The major problem is that the first three stages are so boring, they really ruined any opinion I could have of the rest of the game. The other major problem here is that on default settings, the game is extremely easy. There are only 5 hard parts in the entire game, the bosses of stage 5 6 and 7. It's like math! Boring stages + Boring challenge = Boring game. It is rather funny when after the entire game being tame, the stage 7 boss suddenly goes all Touhou bullet hell on your ass. The game seems to have no middle ground, it's easy too long, and then suddenly bosses take forever to kill while kicking your ass.

Realistically I'd give this game 1.5 socks based on my playthrough, but it does have two features I didn't get to try out much. A difficulty slider that brings stage 1 from piss easy to OH GOD WHY AM I DYING SO MUCH, and a two player mode. Now you can share the misery with a friend!




Super Aleste


US Title: Space Megaforce
April 28th 1992
Developer: Compile
Difficulty: Medium


This game kicks fucking ass!




Parodius Da! Shinwa kara Owarai he


European Title: Parodius - Non-Sense Fantasy
Released: July 3rd 1992
Developer: Konami
Difficulty: Medium


Poor poor Parodius, this is the first of three Parodius games on the SNES. None of them reached America, and only this one reached Europe. As the name implies (hint, it's Parody + Gradius) the game plays almost exactly like Gradius III, but with a few new bells and whistles. Literally, as in addition to the Gradius powerup system, the Twinbee (another Konami shooter series) bells also appear here, shooting bells multiple times to change their color can grant you additional powers like bombs, invincibility, and a giant megaphone. There's also a random powerup roulette, and in a truly evil move, replacing the ! icon from Gradius III, there is now a "!?" powerup... that removes everything you have.

You've got your choice of four different characters this time as well, including Vic Viper and Twinbee, but also including a penguin and octopus. Oh yeah, have I mentioned yet that this game is strange? Like, not even a little strange, completely off the wall "What the hell am I playing?" strange. When I played Keio Flying Squadron last year, I thought surely that would be the strangest shooter I'd ever play, boy was I wrong. Parodius has your character blasting through such strange bosses like a pirate ship with a cat for a head, giant naked women, and an octopus washing his hair.

These bosses, and the stages they're part of all look amazing. The graphics are really top notch here, full of animated characters and tons of bright colors. On top of all this, the game doesn't suffer from slowdown nearly as much as Gradius III. The music department is excellent as well, the musical selection here is a mixture of old Japanese style music, Gradius tunes, and a whole lot of classical music, which just adds to the whole weirdness of the game.

In addition to the slowdown, the game also fixes my other biggest complaint with Gradius III, which was the insane difficulty. Parodius is hard, but not impossible, and much easier to recover from a death in.

Just as icing on the cake, in addition to the main game, there is also a fairly long bonus stage selectable from the title screen, with the emphasis in it being on high score. There's a whole lot to like here, and I'm curious as hell to see if the two sequels coming up live up to the very high expectations this one has set.




Blazeon


Released: July 24th 1992
Developer: AI
Difficulty: Slow


This game... could not... possibly... scroll... any... slow... er. Blazeon once again attempt an idea that never quite works - taking over your enemies. Similar to Gaiares on Genesis, your default ship has a little pod you can shoot out that takes over larger, stronger ships, and you can then fight as them. The problem is that there are only like four ships you can only take over, and even then, they all kind of suck. They're all big mecha too, and once again, having a huge character is annoying, because you have no idea where your own hitbox is.

The main fault here is that the game crawls along at a snail's pace. This is possibly the slowest game I've ever played. There are areas of just nothing happening at all for what feels like at least a minute. This happens a lot. It's just amazing.

Overall, this is the first SNES Shooter so far that I had to quit in the middle of. I just didn't care, this game is that terrible! It's amazingly bad! Words can't express how shitty it is! I doubt it sold even a million copies! Nintendo was a fool to release this! It's not quite at the pure shit level that a few Genesis games reached, so I can't give it a half sock, but it's close.




Phalanx


Released: August 7th 1992
Developer: Kemco
Difficulty: Low


I know this gets said a lot, but seriously... what is with the boxart for this game!?



Phalanx? More like Phallus! Just look at the way it pops out of the background, what were they thinking? And what's with the upside down triforce?

Oh, fine fine, I guess more people are familiar with the American box art. This game could almost be considered the SNES version of Zero Wing, people know the game because of a joke about it, but aren't actually familiar with the game itself.



So there it is, the amazing American box art. A guy and his banjo. Oh and some sort of sparkle in the background that's supposed to be a spaceship. It's a bad box for sure, as for the most part it confuses people, given that banjo guy has absolutely nothing to do with the game. But after playing the game, I can see why they would try to do something to grab a little attention. Phalanx is a game that is just sort of.. there. It's easiest to describe as forgettable, and incredibly generic. So I can see why a marketing department would try something to at least get people to go "What the hell is that?" and pick the box up, because otherwise the game would be lost in the seas of similar shoot em ups.

Ok so let's turn this bad boy on and...


Project... climax? I'm not the only one seeing that as strange...right? Ok then, moving onto the game itself...

The powerup system is pretty standard, collect icons to either raise your overall strength, or different weapons, like lasers, homing attacks, the usual. You can hold three different weapons at once and switch between them. One somewhat unique thing is that you can sacrifice one of your weapons by bombing which will usually clear the screen of enemies or damage bosses greatly.

I always play the games on default settings, but this time the default difficulty setting was low, and it really showed, because the game was piss easy. You can take three hits before dying, you respawn right away when you die, the game is quite liberal with free lives, and there are even health powerups around the stages. It's like they hit every box on the "ways to make the game easier" list. The only way it could be any easier is if you got unlimited continues instead of just three.

The one area where I do have to give the game credit is in the level design, some of them are pretty original. Level 2 has a water stream in the center that messes with your movement speed, and this is cleverly combined with a lot of obstacles that need to be dodged. Level 4 is your usual giant enemy mothership stage, but this time, you actually directly control your movement and are free to fly around the ship any way you please as you take out a few targets.

Ultimately though, there isn't enough about Phalanx that stands out. The graphics are decent, but overly dark with a lot of browns and greys. The music is just passable, none of the themes jumped out at me except for stage 6s. The game doesn't do anything wrong, it just exceeds at being mediocre in every area.






Acrobat Mission


Japan Only
Released: September 11th 1992
Developer: Micronics
Difficulty: High


It's quite sad to see a game that starts off with a lot of promise just kind of fall apart once you hit the second stage. Such is the case with the oddly named Acrobat Mission. Stage 1 is decent enough, but after that, with the repeated enemies, annoying bosses, and lack of weapons, the game shows its overall lack of depth.

There are three weapons in the game, a piddy default gun, a wave beam, and some sort of weird circular beam. The latter two can be charged up to unleash a stronger attack, which you'll be using a lot. The overall variety is pretty poor though.

The most notable thing in the game is that the bosses are hard. Like, really really hard. They attack fast, and several like to get right up in your face before attacking. The fourth stage featured three bosses all in a row which is quite brutal given the 1 hit kill style of the game. Run out of lives and its right back to the start.

The final boss was the most insane of all, it's almost impossible to navigate between his final attack of six spinning orbs, to beat the game you basically have to have a lot of extra lives left in order to simply out last him. Beating the game gives you a hilariously bad engrish ending, barely worth the effort at all.




Axelay


Released: September 11th 1992
Developer: Konami
Difficulty: Medium


Most of the games I'm writing about, I either never played as a kid, or played a few times then forgot about. This isn't the case with Axelay, which was a game I was completely obsessed with for a while. It's hard for me to write about it fairly compared to the other games. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can't, so let's just get this over with.

First off, the graphics. The first thing everyone notices is the games unique approach to overhead stages. Instead of a straight down view above the ship, the "camera" is pointed a bit up, allowing you to see forward towards the horizon. Enemies and scenery appear far away and grow in size as they get closer to you. The effect is quite impressive for a 16 bit system. The game isn't all overhead though, half the stages are side view, and these are quite impressive as well, particularly the lush underwater caves of stage 4. Most impressive is how despite all this, the game has almost no slowdown whatsoever.

Axelay has very huge and impressive bosses as well. My personal favorites are the stage 2 boss, a mechanical walker that looks like something out of Robocop (ok maybe a bit too much...) who slowly wakes up before unleashing hell on you. The rotation effects here as he walks around and rotates his head are quite great. The other memorable boss is the stage 5 lava monster, who emerges from the ground, then you have to blast away at him to reveal his mechanical heart and destroy that. The effects are impressive as hell for a 16 bit system, and it's really rare to see shooter bosses with this much character to them.

The music in Axelay is great as well, lots of catchy and memorable tunes, from the dramatic cresendos in stage 2, to the subtle and moody stage 4 music. My favorite part though is when the theme from the opening cinema begins playing in stage 6, as you battle the same giant spaceships you previously saw destroy your homeworld. I'd say it's close to Super Metroid in its method of telling a story with no words and still managing to be emotional.

Axelay, it's faaaaaaaantastic!




Super SWIV


US Title: Firepower 2000
Released: 11/13/92
Developer: Sales Curve Interactive
Difficulty: Medium


When I reviewed Mega SWIV last year, I happened to comment that the game felt really dated. Little did I know that another version of the game came out 2 years earlier on the SNES. Not only that, but the SNES version is far superior to the too little too late Megadrive one.

Super SWIV is still fairly standard fair though. Top down view, blow up a bunch of planes and tanks in the usual warfare settings like a desert, jungle, in the sky, and... ok the volcano stage is a bit unusual for a game like this I'll give it that. The bosses are a bit unique as well, they're more about figuring out how to dodge their attacks than just straight up blasting them into oblivion.

Where the game shines though is the pace of the action, which besides starting a bit slow, doesn't let up for most of the game. Enemies appear fast and you have to do your best to shoot them all down asap or you'll be overwhelmed quickly. Luckily most of the weapons are up to the task, my favorite for the stages was the screen covering plasma shot, though the laser and flame were also good choices too, for taking out enemies and dealing tons of damage to bosses.




Imperium


Japanese Name: Kidou Soukou Dion
Released: November 1992
Developer: Vic Tokai
Difficulty: Very High


Sometimes, you just don't like a game. For me, that game was Imperium. Instead of saying what is wrong with this game, it would easier to say what was good about it. Nothing. There is really nothing good about this game at all. The graphics are poor, the music is bad, the weapons are bland, the enemies are cheap, and the bosses are annoying.

For the weapons, you've got four of them. Standard straight forward bullets, a big green straight forward laser, a wave gun that spreads out a little bit, and one of those annoying "aims in the opposite direction you move" guns, which as luck would have it, is far more powerful than the others, because it is impractical to use in almost all situations.

Instead of powerups like most other games, you gain exp for killing enemies. Every time you level up, one of your four guns will become stronger. This is kind of neat, but what ruins it is that if you take a single hit while using a gun, it delevels. So you are almost advised to not use your powered up weapons since they will be ruined almost immediately.

One of the most annoying things in this game is how it relies a ton on shots aimed directly at you. But what is weird here is that instead of the shots being 100% aimed at you, the enemies can aim in about 12 different angles, and they choose the closest one. The result is very weird feeling angular bullet waves coming at you that are extremely difficult to dodge. The game likes to attack from all sides as well, including having enemies pop up behind you far more than should be allowed.

The bosses aren't anything particularly amazing, but a lot of the mid-bosses seem to have a very annoying common trait, where they will only become vulnerable briefly during their attack pattern. So not only do you have to focus on surviving, but making sure to be in the right place to hit the mid-boss for the 2 seconds out of 30 he exposes his weak point.

Oddly enough, something unusual happened for me towards the end of the game. It got so difficult that instead of wanting to stop playing because I was bored out of my skull, I received new motivation to finish because dammit, I was not going to let this stupid game win! This game reminds me of Undead Line on the Genesis, simply because it is so difficult that I'm not really sure what the designers were thinking. But I guess because of that, when I finally destroyed the last boss, it was oddly satisfying. But since this was only because the game was so unfairly difficult, I could sort of say the game hit that weird spot where it is so bad, that it becomes good.

As luck would have it, this is a game where there are some distinct differences between the US and Japanese versions. I don't normally check for things like this, but since I stumbled upon these, might as well go into them. First off, the wave beam has been replaced by a homing shot. Kind of weird that they took the best weapon for the stage portions, and replaced it with another weapon that is most useful during the stages, so this is almost a pointless change, but homing guns are always nice.

The graphics have also been upgraded, stage 1 now takes place as night, and looks a lot better.





Stage 2... has random beams above the scenery. I guess it's better, what do I know.



Wait, why the hell am I playing this game again? Once was definitely enough




Flying Hero:
Bugyuru no Daibouken



Japan Only
Released: 12/18/92
Developer: Sting
Difficulty: Curve


I went into this game knowing two things. It was called Flying Hero, and it was only released in Japan. Now thinking realistically, if the game was good, it would've been released worldwide, right? That combined with the cheesy name didn't give me a lot of confidence for this one.

But what I really didn't expect, is that my player character would look like this.



It's some sort of... white kirby with a hat and wings. I don't even know how it attacks. Reeling off this shock, I was even more surprised to find out that the game itself, is actually really good. It's cute and colorful, has great pacing, and a diverse bunch of enemies to fight.

The powerups in the game are a bit confusing at first, not because the game in japanese, but because they don't quite follow the normal standards. Powerups with a cake on them actually raise your shot power, collect three small cakes or a big one to go up a level. There are three weapons, a regular shot, a piercing shot, and short range lightning bolts. If you switch weapons though, they'll always start back at level 1, so I tended to stick to the standard shots. There are also homing missiles, in the form of miniature versions of your character.

While the stages are good, the game really shines with its huge amount of bosses. Each stage has two or three mini-bosses, in addition to the obligatory end of stage bosses. They're all very original and creative bosses too. Despite the amount of bosses, the stages don't drag on too long, the game is paced very well and keeps things moving along briskly.

Despite how the game looks, it isn't a super easy childrens game. It does start off easy, but around stage 4 becomes reasonably difficult, and continues to get harder and harder and harder, until you reach the last boss. At this point, I hit a wall, as his first form was throwing out attacks that were completely undodgeable. About to give up, I discovered something.

Pressing select will change your movement speed.

Somehow I was able to get through the entire game without knowing this, the default speed is fine almost all of the time, though a few of the "chase you around the screen" bosses would've been easier if I could move fasterr, if only I had known! So in order to beat the last boss you HAVE to at least speed up to level 2. I won't say this is unreasonable of the game, but why would they put the speed up command on select when X and A are unused? But when something like that is my biggest complaint with a game, that means its a winner.





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Onward, to Part Three!

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