by sunburstbasser

Trigon is a vertical shooter which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. There is no narrative to indicate this.

Trigon was made by Konami, a vertical shmup from a company best known for horizontal shmups. It was released in 1990 using hardware based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II arcade game. Compared to the Thunder Cross games, this means a generally greater number of colors on screen at once and more sprites without slowdown. It is very similar to the hardware used for Parodius Da! to give a horizontal example.

While there is no narrative in game, letting the attract sequence run shows a space craft crashing on Earth. Apparently due to budget cutbacks, the entire military force of Earth consists of a pair of super jets to fight off the alien invasion. Standard shooter stuff. They are made out of papier mache so even light rapping with your knuckles will cause them to explode.

The two jets are relegated to P1 and P2, and besides a different sprite behave the same. So lets look at some weapons! Weapon upgrades are revealed by downing a group of red jets.

Picking up a V will replace the normal gun with a rapid fire cannon. The shot is very narrow, and not very strong. For the better part of 6 stages, this is OK since most enemies still die in 2-3 shots besides bosses.

Grabbing the S icon adds more bullets to the standard shot. At maximum, it'll cover just shy of a third of the screen. Unfortunately, Trigon has no autofire of any kind except for the V weapon, so each bullet requires a separate button press. Those playing with turbo controllers or using MAME builds with autofire built in should stick with the S, as the damage output is far greater than the V.

Also in Trigon, bombs are available. You'll start with zero, and must collect more. Up to two can be carried at a time.

This looks like a blue laser when picked up. A huge laser is emitted from the jet, doing huge damage, canceling any bullets it touches and completely enveloping the fighter. Colliding with a boss will still kill you.

One of the more awesome bombs in a shooter. Shoot it, and a Chinese dragon made of fire flies all over the screen. It'll loop around itself for a while; if it does this on top of a boss it'll one-shot nearly all of them and the rest will be close to dead. It stays on the screen a while too. The downside is that while it does cancel bullets that touch it, all others will be ignored and it is entirely possible to be killed while the dragon is still on the screen. It's a good idea to keep each bomb in stock, given the chance.

In addition, an optional weapon is available in limited quantities called the TRIGON. The Trigon is a sort of option that rotates around your jet, aiming at enemies and firing with a gun similar to the V weapon. Later levels practically require this, as it can aim all over and tends to do a pretty good job of tracking threats. This is the only weapon that can reliably down homing missiles.

And on top of that, Trigon is one of the few shooters that offers something for two players. In 2P mode, special weapons will cause lasers to fire between the two ships. It's worth turning the other player on just to play with it.

Scoring is pretty simple. Enemies are worth a fixed amount of points with no multipliers or combos or anything like that. Destroy trucks on the ground to reveal stars. Collect stars without dying or missing any and they will go from 1,000 points for the first to 5,730 for the fifth and all subsequent stars. Otherwise, shoot stuff and don't get shot to get the high score. An extend is awarded at 100,000 points.

The music is not very good. Or rather, it is normal Konami fare, but it sounds like stuff that didn't make the cut for other games from the same time. In a word, generic. The sounds used are all classic Konami here, so at least it is identifiable.

The levels in Trigon aren't extremely varied. I only counted about 5 enemy types, plus a few mid-boss types. The backgrounds cover a few different level types, but nothing out of the ordinary (city, base, desert, water, arctic, stuff we've all seen a million times). Some of the backgrounds are also extremely flat, at times being nothing but expanses of sand or water.

After inserting a coin, there is a fairly cool intro sequence with the jet being launched from a ramp. In game that never actually happens and it lazily floats onto the screen.

The first level opens over a completely flat, unanimated stretch of green water. Not a great start, in my opinion. The water ends with a beach, with several platforms holding tanks just offshore. Enemy fighters swoop in from each side. Get used to these patterns, as most of the patterns are variations on those in the first stage. Specifically, the jets that look a little like your own plane will come in, fire a shot, bank off, and either fly off screen or circle around. Watch out for the big tank early on. The pattern is simple but it takes more hits to kill, don't die out of carelessness. Tanks are sparsely dotted throughout the level. Shoot once to take the turret off and they'll explode on their own. My biggest gripe with the Thunder Cross games was the lack of interesting bosses. Trigon doesn't have that problem. The first boss isn't much, just a big stealth bomber looking contraption. Each wing fires a three-way bullet spread, while a center turret fires aimed bullets. Popcorn enemies will also try to attack. These are actually the hardest parts of many boss fights, as suddenly bullets are coming from multiple angles all aimed at one object. While the first boss is pretty easy, get used to having to deal with multiple enemies hiding behind a boss and sniping.

Stage 2 starts right after stage 1. There is no transition screen, just a simple STAGE CLEAR bonus of 10,000 points. This is one of the better looking stages, in my opinion. The start is over a waterfall that is nicely animated, with enemies floating in the foam. Shoot them, and instead of exploding they fall over and fall down the falls. Nice little touch. After the falls, you'll be flying over what looks like a tropical jungle that has had dirt roads carved through it so wide that they can be seen from the air. Eventually the jungle ends at a giant canyon followed by a ruined city (shmup geography!).

The city is where the boss greets you. This boss is a huge-ass tank with gatling guns. Glaring weakness, though: Most of it's bullets will go right past you if you sit at the bottom of the screen lined up with the middle. A few bullets might get you, but besides popcorn baddies this guy isn't much threat. Kill it fast, as like Gradius bosses do time out if you take too long and Trigon does not give much time at all. Either way, right after the boss is another huge canyon separating Stage 3.

Stage 3 starts out looking like sand, and I suppose it is because the stage ends at the ocean. Neither part is particularly interesting, lots of flat colors mostly. By this point, enemy fighters will swing back around and fire at you again if you don't kill them quickly, try the S weapon if they keep ganging up on you. Look for the Trigon weapon in this level.

The boss is composed of numerous pieces that all fly overhead and take pot shots before the main section rises up out of the water. One thing Trigon does very well graphically is sprite scaling, as watching this boss come out of the ocean should show. This boss has homing missiles, lasers, and spread guns but a bomb is available mere moments before the fight starts. The Lightning Sword can take out one side and damage the other, the Dragon Laser is capable of taking out both sides with the right positions. Bosses themselves are definitely starting to get harder.

And after a short jaunt past the tropical ocean Stage 4 is set on an ice cap. Trigon up to this point hasn't been especially hard. A few moments, sure, but nothing practice and reflexes won't take care of. Stage 4 is where Konami starts giving the player an extended middle finger. This stage has destructible homing missiles. In most shooters I've played, destructible bullets are a cheap means of gaining a few points, hardly a real threat. In Trigon, they are narrow and hard to hit, move as fast as the player ship, and they don't stop homing for several seconds. I've had homing missiles leave the screen and turn around OFF SCREEN before I get pounded in the tail pipe like a porno queen. The ships that fire them take a couple shots to kill too, and as yet I haven't found a good way to get around them and end up flying all over the screen chased by 15 missiles.

The boss is an interesting take on the big bomber concept. It launches a little egg in front of it that sticks two energy spikes out of the sides. These spikes absorb bullets, cancel your bomb attacks (the dragon makes a bit of a yelp before it's myriad pieces scatter) and prevent the boss from being damaged. The boss shoots some easy to avoid attacks as well as aimed fruit loops. Once the egg is gone, the boss adds a pink laser that only has to touch one pixel to end the current life.

From ocean to icecap to ocean again in Stage 5. Isn't this geography amazing? This entire stage takes place at sea, with platforms holding ground enemies and little ships taking the place of tanks otherwise. Once particularly cool enemy is a pair of floating platforms each with three gun turrets. Up until this point, these guys take maybe two shots to kill, but here they act as a midboss and are much beefier. They connect together and begin ventilating your papier mache ship.

The boss of this zone is an attempt at a giant battleship. It isn't really that big, and it is almost literally a battleship. The fight starts at the rear, where twin ramps fire fighters underneath you and off screen. They can't hurt you here, but destroying them will stop them from coming back later. Most of the fight seems somewhat Compile-esque, as the ship is loaded with gun turrets and missile launchers while at the front a white totem fires glowing bullets. That totem is the weak point.

All oceans must come to an end, and Stage 6 opens with a seaside rail yard. Some of the enemies are on the tracks, and they follow the tracks when they move so those bullets shouldn't catch you off guard. All the other stuff might. At one point, an enormous satellite dish sits in a clearing. This is the kind of thing astronomers use to study Eta Carinae.

The boss is electrifying. As the fight starts, the grid below comes alive with electricity flowing. The boss itself fires aimed bullet arcs which aren't too dangerous. It also has two lightning guns that are much too dangerous. Each side can be set at one of three angles, charges, and fires. Even with a bomb going, these things will kill you if you get too close. This boss really pissed me off mostly because it would fire bullet arcs, then when it would trap me so I couldn't move left or right it would fire both beams straight at me. The beams can't shoot to the sides, so with the Trigon it's possible to sit on the side and still hit it but the bullet arcs will keep coming and are harder to dodge from the side than from the front. The best way to deal with this asshole is to drop a Dragon Laser, and hope that it twirls around on top of the boss a bunch and does enough damage to kill it or get close enough that just a few more shots finish it off and it doesn't have time to pin you.

Stage 7 is a desert. Not a very pretty one either. Just flat sand for pretty much the first half of the level. Early on a pair of large enemies show up on each side of the stage. They aren't new, but these ones seem to take way more punishment than the earlier ones. They aren't good shots, as sitting in front of them they'll shoot past you. Going to the side and ignoring them makes them far deadlier as they can shoot you from any angle. Remember those damn homing missiles from earlier? In this stage, big bombers shoot much hardier homing missiles four at a time. And they don't stop shooting them until they've nearly left the screen. You'll be forced to deal with three of these bastards in this level, two of them at the same time. And the yellow bullets are the same color as the yellow sand.

Thanks Konami.

The sand peels away to reveal some alien architecture, including a big "fuck you" mini boss. On part of the alien structure is a vehicle that leaves a bomb. Easy grab, right? Well, a fat orb drops right on top of it so grab it fast or get smashed. And once it drops, a bunch of dragon heads fly in from all parts of the screen. The dodging room is practically non- existant; I only made it past once without dying by sheer luck. I didn't feel like dealing with dodging something that leaves no dodging room, so I dropped a Dragon Laser and it handily wiped the floor with this orb.

The boss is another huge ass tank. Stay in the middle at the bottom of the screen and it's bullets will go around you. The homing missiles (about 20 at once this time) will go right for you. Luckily, these missiles don't keep homing for ten seconds and are easier to take care of. They can still pin you; take the S weapon to take them out easier and use either bomb for that extra protection.

Stage 8 seems to be a return to forested areas, though much higher in altitude. The stage includes what looks like the twin prongs of the Vic Viper scaled up to battleship proportions. Along with tons of gun turrets, the name of the game here is BOSS RUSH. Not even new ones; it's just a bunch of the ones you've already smashed once. They are all exactly the same as before, so whatever tactic worked there will work here. The turrets on the sides of the stage can give bombs if needed as well. The actual boss is a roughly hemispherical twin flame thrower. In the beginning, the flames won't quite reach the bottom of the screen. After taking some damage, they will reach the bottom and are very hard to dodge. They move in erratic patterns and are much faster than the player ships. Once it dies, it's CUTSCENE TIME!

Our triumphant pilot flies past a huge volcano, ready to relax after beating back the aliens. All is well and then a huge fire dragon pops out of the volcano and eats him. The digestive tract of a fire dragon is made out of metal. This final stage is short, but has two nasty bosses. The first is a green ship. Remember that stage 4 boss with the egg and energy spikes? Same thing, but more bullets, larger spikes, and two pink lasers instead of one.

And not far beyond that is the true final boss which looks suspiciously like that asshole orb from Stage 7. The thing starts with a bunch of options that must be destroyed. It then summons some pieces from offscreen to form a metallic head which launches homing teeth. These aren't too deadly. The orb will fling all the pieces around the screen and dodging is more a matter of luck than skill. Drop any bombs, hammer the A button, get this thing dead quickly before it does the same to you.

Then another cutscene in which a very surprised looking dragon peeks out of a volcano and explodes.

The ending credits feature the two ships flying over water. Which means that by flying in a straight line, this game's geography is beach-jungle- canyon-city-canyon-beach-ocean-icecap-ocean-railroad-desert-jungle-volcano- ocean.

I really can't recommend this game. The Trigon and two player weapons are pretty sweet, but don't save a game that has some really crappy decisions. Still, Trigon isn't a bad game. One for hardcore shmuppers only. Consider that the same year Trigon was released, we also got Raiden which is by far a better game and Toaplan was putting out several good games. There are far better verts out there.

In the United States, this game was released as Lightning Fighters. It actually removes the Trigon from the one player mode, but it has instant respawn and on each new life you'll have a Lightning Sword (now called a Particle Beam), and can carry many more bombs at once. It seems to be identical otherwise. Lightning Fighters may actually be easier to get into if Trigon isn't your thing.


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