Tag: Shoot ’em up

150 SNES games reviewed #36: Super Strike Eagle

Super Strike Eagle for the SNES was both developed and released by MicroProse. Yes, that MicroProse.

MicroProse was a US video game publisher and developer, founded in 1982 by Bill Stealey and the one and only Sid Meier. It developed and published numerous games, many of which are fondly remembered either to this day as groundbreaking or as titles with huge cult status, examples being the Civilization and X-COM series. The majority of its internally developed titles were often either vehicle simulation games or strategy titles.

The name MicroProse still exists today but it has basically nothing to do with the original company, all of the big names and talent from the original MicroProse left and formed Firaxis Games in 1996. The name MicroProse was acquired through the original company having been bought up when it was struggling and the people who brought it at Hasbro have since sold the rights to the name and various other assets which have been sold on and on till they ended up in the hands on someone who wanted to use it.

The basic story behind this game is that you are a fighter pilot flying for the United Nations whose overall objective is to bring various governments around the world back into cooperation with the UN basically by blowing the crap out of them. Yes this could be termed as diplomatic negotiations James T Kirk style, or at least it could be if there was a mini-game involving sex with hot alien women, but I digress.

The game uses three different perspectives. When you take off the game starts you off in third person, utilizing its Mode 7 graphics to give you an interesting interactive take off. Then once you’re up in the air the view switches to an overhead world map, where the plane can be moved between objectives. In this view you can see enemy jets and missiles and if you can keep your distance then you’ll stay in this view. When enemy planes get close to you the game switches briefly to a first-person cockpit mode. This is kind of like Wing Commander, in that you chase the planes and try to get them in your sights. This is kind of the most realistic looking part. When you find yourself near to mission-critical targets (ones which you have to bomb) then the game again switches view, this time to an overhead bombing mode, this is where the game uses its Mode 7 scaling and rotation abilities the most.

I find the game fun. It kind of just leaves you to it though and doesn’t hold your hand much which is either a good thing or an awful thing depending on how you like your games. Also the switching of views is something which some people will probably like, others will probably be confused by. In my opinion though this is one of the things that makes the game really interesting and different. Some of the graphics are amazing for when this game came out but they are a little bit dated now. There is a real sense of effort with this game though, like they tried to throw every trick in the book at it in order to make it stand out. Back in the day I remember this game getting a lot of 65%-type ratings. To me there seemed to be a general attitude of this game not being the kind of thing that belonged on a console. Now days though we have seen just about every type of game possible both on PC and on console. Yes, some might lend themselves to one slightly better than the other but I always feel the need to salute people who try to get a new trick out of an old dog, who try to break convention. For this reason I give this game seven out of 10. Back in the day If I had played this game I would have scored it even higher than that I believe.

I bought this game specifically for this review because I managed to get a US copy boxed with manual for £6 including postage, and at that price I have to admit I am incredibly happy with this game. There are a few copies online now knocking around the £8 to £12 figure for boxed US copies. As for UK PAL versions though they seem to be few and far between with people asking up to £25 for a cart alone. This game is an easy import it played on my modified machine and through a regular cheap converter with no issues at all so it might even be cheaper to get a boxed copy and a cheap import converter rather than go PAL.

150 SNES games reviewed #35: UN Squadron

U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooting game which came out in arcades in 1989. It was programmed by Capcom and released for use on their CPS arcade hardware. I won’t explain what this was but if you look back at my Final Fight review there is an explanation there.

The game was released in Japan under the name Area 88, the same name which was used for the Super Famicom (Japanese version of this game).

The game is a typical side-scrolling shooter, unlike many of Capcom’s other shooters around this time such as their 1940 series which are vertical-scrolling shooters. It was based on a Manga series Area 88 which never really came to these shores. But the game has a nice intro which explains the rough idea behind the story.

Unlike some shooters which are one hit and you’re dead this game is a little different. If you’re hit then your plane is damaged but if you can keep it safe from harm for a little while then you’ll be fine. This actually adds to the excitement, you will find yourself going: ‘OK I have got to keep away from the enemies as you keep trying to dodge incoming fire and hold on’. When you manage it you will thump the air in triumph, and when you fail you will curse yourself for not having quick enough reflexes but the main thing is it always feels like any failures are down to your own lack of skills.

Before starting a level you get the option of purchasing special weapons or added defense options from the shop. As you shoot down enemies you gain cash and at the end of the level any special weapons you purchased and did not use get converted back in to funds and added to your cash reserve. This is a great little addition as once you get better at the early levels you can try to challenge yourself with the added benefit of an easier time in later missions by trying to complete the earlier ones on a strict budget allowing you to hold back enough money to kit your plane out with lots of special weapons for the later missions.

If you were a big fan of Capcom then the SNES was definitely the machine for you to get your arcade fix on back in the day. If you have read my Final Fight review then you might be asking what has been dropped from the original arcade version?

Well the SNES version is not an exact replica of the coin-op. Yes, it is a port and yes, this port does have certain things missing and disappointingly one of these missing things is once again the two-player mode. Some of the game’s levels are different or modified from the arcade version but it is not always in a bad way. It’s not really a worse version. it’s more of a slightly remixed version. In this case they didn’t just strip things from the game, there are actually a few additions including some more weapons and the chance to purchase different aircraft. Ignoring the missing two-player mode this game is no worse than the arcade machine, it’s just a little bit of a different version.

With bright graphics, enjoyable music and epic action it is hard to see what this game could do better. The end of the level will see you meeting some kind of large end of level boss which you will have to defeat. At this point you better hope you have held something back to save the day.

I would have to give this game eight out of 10. It’s a darn good scrolling shooter. The only thing it is really lacking which would make me bump the score up would be a two-player mode, at this point some of you must be wondering if Capcom ever managed to bash out a high-quality SNES game which catered for more than one.

If you want to try this game you will most likely be paying £15 minimum for a cart of it. I managed to get one for £10 but it took a heck of a lot of looking around and waiting. Capcom have actually made quite a few of those classic collections but U.N. Squadron has never seemed to make the cut, and this is probably one of the reasons it holds its price.

150 SNES games reviewed #31: Alien 3

Alien 3 was developed by Probe Entertainment and Eden Entertainment Software, published In North America, Europe, and Japan by Arena Entertainment, Acclaim Entertainment, LJN, and Virgin Interactive.

It is half-based on the film Alien 3. I have to say half-based because it’s set on the prison planet from the film and Ripley is shaved bald, but then there are a lot of differences between the game and the film. In the film there is one alien and no one has any weapons. In the game this is completely altered. Ripley, the main character, has all the guns from the previouis film in the franchise Aliens and there is a never ending amount of xenomorphs. I guess it is easy to see why they did this. After all, a game where you spend your whole time running away from one super powerful creature with nothing much to defend yourself sounds a lot harder to get right than a game where you spray lead at a never ending assortment of alien scum.

In fact it looks like it has taken until now – almost 21 years later – for someone to have a crack at a game which is based around the idea of being stalked by one single alien from the Aliens films. I am of course talking about Creative Assembly’s game Alien: Isolation, which delivers exactly that kind of experience and it has done a fantastic job of it. It also made DLC based on the original movie Alien, and maybe with its similar one alien killing people set-up it might one day make Alien 3 DLC. Maybe a game that would have followed the film Alien 3 more correctly and still be good and not cost a fortune in research and development just simply wasn’t possible back then – still, I digress.

Graphically, the game is pretty good for the time. Ripley’s sprite is large and for the most part it’s not bad at all. The clothes look right, the basic shape is right but maybe it’s just me but there is something almost alien about her neck and the lack of facial features makes her look a little like Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. There are lots of little cool touches though, like how her gun swings by her side as she’s climbing the monkey bars so I guess maybe I am being a little harsh. The backgrounds are multi-layered for that 3D style look, they are also very detailed. The backgrounds are overly used though with five or six repeated again and again. Add to that there are bits of scenery in the foreground that you can’t see through. Sometimes there are aliens behind these and this means that you need to either run the risk of being harmed or shoot just in case which wastes your sometimes limited ammo.

There is not a lot in the way of sounds but what is there is good. The gunfire sounds great and so do the screams of the aliens you kill. The game has pretty darn good presentation, a nice opening, I also have to tip my hat to the bits where you log into a computer. They do a pretty good job of making you feel like your chracter is actually using a real computer in the game’s universe and the game over failure screen is also suitably awesome.

What about the gameplay though? Well I find the game enjoyable in small bits but I definitely don’t think it’s a classic or anything. The controls are very good and everything works just as it should which you would think would make this a good game. But sadly there are other issues with the gamplay. I think one of the things the game is lacking is it needs a more detailed map you can easily bring up. Yes, there is a mini map radar thing which lets you know when something is approaching you, but this is more to help keep you from getting hit and doesn’t really help you get around easily. I think what the game really needs more than anything though is a bit more variety. Everything looks the same, you’re always killing the same things, mostly in places that look the same. This game is very time consuming, and can at times be very difficult. It’s easy to get lost and some of the missions seem more complex than they need to be. There are a few alien bosses here and there but they aren’t too hard. The problem is it all starts to feel a bit like a chore at times which is not how a game should feel. I think the maze like quality of the game, coupled with the mission structure, just didn’t quite work in total honesty. I think it would have been better to have strayed even further from the film and offered up something a little more arcade like, something a bit like Konami’s Aliens arcade machine which was primarily a side-scrolling shooter but also had third-person rail shooter parts. Yes, that game possibly soiled the source material even more by introducing blue zombies and other such things to the game but sometimes you just have to say to hell with the plot, let’s roll out the fun boys.

All in all Alien 3 is pretty much an average game so I feel I should give it five out of 10 and simply say it’s not really worth bothering with unless you’re a die hard SNES collector and want every cart you can get, or your a die hard fan of the Alien film series and all of its spin off media. If you’re more of a casual fan of the Aliens universe and you want a good fun retro Alien related game I recommend you get Aliens Trilogy on the PlayStation. It’s a first person Doom-style shooter but it’s brilliant, fun, fast and wrapped in movie sounds and neat touches.

If you do decide you need to own Alien 3 then there are plenty of PAL carts of it about online around the £8 to £10 range with boxed copies starting around the £15 mark. There are several complete copies of Alien Trilogy for PlayStation on eBay at the moment for around the £5 mark including postage. If you own a PlayStation I’d go for that instead for your Aliens retro fix. Oh and if you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One then seriously give Alien: Isolation a try, it’s an excellent game.

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