Metal Storm
by Polly

Ah, Metal Storm, you crazy little 8-bit wonder, you. You haunted my youth's weekend rentals for quite a time and I came so close to beating you on so many occasions. Much like the original Batman game, though, it wouldn't be until well into my teen years before I finally saw through to the end of you. And what I saw at the end? It was me. my story.

Which is actually a lot more interesting and thought out than most NES game stories. But, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Games like this don't need no fuckin' story and I'm glad they didn't waste their time trying to give it much of one. Games of today should take note of this brilliant method of game production! They'd save so much fuckin' money on cutscenes and talking! GIVE ME ACTION! GIVE ME EXPLOSIONS! GIVE ME...CONTROL OF MY FUCKING CHARACTER FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES AT A TIME, SON OF A BITCH!

Are you really that interested in the story? Okay, something about a giant laser, Pluto, and a big fluffy orange robot being humanity's last chance, blah, blah, blah. There, feel better? I do.

I'm not really much of a graphics whore, but I'll go on about Metal Storm's for a little bit, mostly because it does some interesting things a lot of NES games never did. Firstly, the sprite work in this game is simply top-notch. The M-308 (that's the codename for your orange fluffy wobot) features some of the best animation work done on the NES. From its normal walk cycles, to jumping, and even aiming up and down, the M-308 boasts more frames of animation than any other 8-bit sprite I've ever seen. And its not only tne main character that gets this high-class treatment. Even the dinkiest of fodder enemies have a slick range of movement to them and it goes without saying that bosses are pretty stylin' too. It's easy to overlook that most sprites in the game consist of 2-4 colors, but what they lack in detail, they make up for in being very life-like thanks to fluid animation.

At first, the background work may appear rather simple and bland, but there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye if you're just gonna look at screenshots. Yeah, the normal bits and pieces that make up a stage may not be all that impressive. Everything's very blocky with only a few colors per level to treat your eyes to, but how the graphic engine uses them is what sells it. The NES couldn't natively do parallax scrolling, but the talented minds behind Metal Storm said nuts to that and pulled it off anyway. You'll see many instances throughout the game of this parallax effect, and they really do use it in some very interesting and trippy ways at times. Stage 5's use of not one, but TWO parallax scrolling backgrounds, and Stage 6's almost nauseating mix of constant vertical motion of the platforms and a horizontal scrolling background are only two of the game's graphical highlights. These stages are best seen in motion, so it's best you go ahead and play the game after reading this review or you fucking suck at everything known to man.

Music and sound effects aren't really much to write home about. There are really only a few worthwhile tunes here and they don't really loop for all that long. A lot of the time, you may not even notice a melody or theme being there, as most of the game's sound effects drown the music out. when you can hear them, they're mostly mid-tempo pieces that keep you in the right mood and mindset for the kind of game this is. Just your average Nintendo tuneage. That works for me, though. At least it's not distracting or outright annoying, right?

How does she play? She plays fuckin' awesome, chief. She's got the right amount of new and old and a challenge like you wouldn't believe.

As you may have discerned from the pretty screenshots and my passing mentions of it, you play as the adorable widdle puffy orange wobot M-308 Gunner. It's a versatile little piece of machinery featuring a fun new game mechanic: The ability to switch your gravitational pull to the top or bottom of the screen. All of the game's stages are centered around making constant use of this functionality and there will be many obstacles you CAN'T overcome if you don't master it. Some of the more fun uses of it come when having to do things you'd never done in a platformer before such as walking on the ceiling of a stage and then suddenly having to make rapid shifts between the floor and ceiling in order to stay alive.

Stages are designed in a way that they almost come off as puzzle-like. You have to sorta figure out the right way to do things and just keep trying until you find the right formula. If there's one real flaw with the game, this would be it. Once you've mastered how to pull off some of the trickier areas, there's only a few things here and there that'll still give you trouble. That comes down to the fair bits of the game that are twitch-gameplay focused. Sometimes all it takes is slick timing to overcome any obstacle in your path. The combination of gameplay types makes for quite a fun and challenging experience all around.

If all that "challenge" talk has scared you off, hear me out first. Yes, this game is tough, but you are (not) alone. You're given a decent supply of power-ups you can collect throughout all of the game's stages that increase your odds of surviving including shields, an extra plate of armor that'll let you sustain one more hit than normal, a powered up laser beam, and a cool little doo-hickey that turns your jumps from the top to bottom of the screen (and vice versa) into a deadly flaming fire-tackle kinda move that can take out a lot of enemies in one hit. It won't kill 'em all, but quite often, it'll be the one move you forget about when trying to get yourself out of a shit pickle of a situation, so remember it and use it.

Don't let that cutesy pic of a widdle wobot on the game's cover art fool you. Metal Storm is gonna kick your fucking ass until you DO IT RIGHT, [REDACTED]! Because he's so fluffy wuffy and cute, the M-308 can normally only sustain only one hit before it bites the dust and you get to try the section of the stage you were in over. Dying isn't so bad, because the stages really aren't all that long, so it's not too much of a pain to get back to where you were and try that one little spot over again... until the next one decides to fuck you. And if EXTRA difficulty is your cuppa tea (like it is mine!), then you're sure to enjoy the Expert mode which is unlocked once you complete the game. It features more aggressive enemies, new enemy placements, and enemies and bosses doing things they never did before. Always great to have an intense game become even more intense on another playthrough. Great way to extend the game's lifespan.

Metal Storm is fucking awesome. It's a combination of puzzler and twitch-gamer's delight that anyone who's a fan of challenging and inventive games should give a look. If you wanna ROM it up, by all means hunt yourself down a copy and enjoy a nice quick run through some crazy ass cute widdle orange wobot action. And watch for a very special cameo in stage 6 if you're also a fan of Irem's R-Type games.

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