Tag: taito

150 SNES games reviewed #40: Acrobat Mission

Once again I am doing a review of a SNES game which started out life as an arcade machine before being converted. You would think it means once again I’m going to be talking about things that were left out and changes that were made.

But no, the main difference here is the game I am writing about today is probably one you have never heard of as it was only released in Japan. I can’t remember ever having seen or played the arcade machine so I’m not going to worry about that and judge it based on itself and to a least some degree its competition on the SNES.

When I tell you that the name of the game is Acrobat Mission you will probably say what kind of name is that for a game? Is it some kind of platformer where you are an acrobat? No, it’s a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

The first thing I noticed was that as the game began the story scrolled up the screen and I could read it. Yes, it’s a Japanese game but literally all of the language in it – the options and the story – is in English which makes it pretty cool for importers.

The graphics looked colourful but basic. In fact you could almost believe you were playing a NES game. I pressed all of the buttons and only one of them actually seemed to do anything and that was shoot. The next thing I tried was holding down the button assuming that there would be some kind of charge attack and nothing happened. I carried on playing it not really expecting much from it, then as things went on it hit me this game ran at a nice speed. Even though the player’s ship seems to be a really basic sprite a lot of the enemies seem to be larger and more detailed. Then I began to collect power ups and found not only did they affect the way my ship fired they also allowed me to do charged shots if I held the button. The bombs I collected actually appeared on the ship and disappeared once I worked out the button which you have  to press to fire them (so in the end there are two buttons to use). When you die, which you will because it is a reasonably tough game, instead of instantly exploding or disappearing your ship actually sort of limps along with steam coming out of it. While this is happening you’re still in control and can steer your burning spaceship. In fact you can steer it into something so when it explodes you can take enemies with you. I found this to be a really neat and interesting little idea.

The graphics are not the best but there is a lot of variety. It puts Super Strike Gunner, which I reviewed previously, to shame in this area. It also has large bosses. The first is a large battleship which is so long it is actually about four screens in length and covered in guns. The bullets it fires are larger than your ship and it can be tough because it tracks your movement and shoots at you. Another interesting fact is you don’t die if you physically touch enemy ships. If you run into bullets you’re screwed but you can fly through enemies and get away with it. There is also space debris which can get in the way of your ship and your shots. This is something I like sure it’s another simple touch but the beauty of this game is all of its simple touches.

As for the bad side, by shoot-em-up standards this game has a very limited selection of weapon pick-ups. There is the standard shot and then two or three special shots you can get by picking up letters. Compare this to the tonne of weapons in other shooters at the time such as UN Squadron and it’s a little disappointing.

Another problem some people have with the game is how short it is, this game relies on being very hard after the first two levels to prolong the game. There are only five stages, and when you think that this game was at one point a full priced retail game that seems to be a few short of what I think would be a fair number.

I would give this game a hearty seven out of 10. It’s not perfect but it was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately its not available either as a PAL or US NTSC cart, but with its heavy use of English and the fact it ran on both a modified machine and a very simple converter this is not a bad game for someone who wants to start importing. Or at least it would be if you could find a cheap copy. The only copy I can see online at the moment is £25. I bought this from someone as a package deal – seven Japanese carts for £14, all of which were sports games apart from this one.

150 SNES games reviewed #14: Sonic Blast Man

It’s funny how sometimes all you need to see is a company’s name on a box and it’s enough to get you excited. In fact it’s sometimes enough to make you buy something on the spot with no real research.

Back in the PlayStation days I remember a lot of people would feel totally safe in just picking up anything with the Square logo on it. For me a company who I have always rather liked is Taito. They made a lot of great games back in the day, so the sight of their name on a cart is cause for a hopeful smile.

Some of you who used to go to the arcades as kids might have heard of the name Sonic Blast Man. It was the name of a pretty sizeable arcade cabinet which came with boxing gloves and a punching pad. You would play the game by trying to punch the pad as hard as you could when it told you to. I remember it started with you punching a thug who was trying to assault a lady and if you got to the end you were trying to punch a meteorite away before it could strike the Earth.

I loved this game I would hunt high and low for it in arcades up and down the coast. Apparently, in March 1995 Taito recalled Sonic Blast Man machines due to reports that some players had sustained injuries while playing the game. Although I have to cry BS on this one, you wore gloves and you punched a well padded sensor. Sure I have seen people injure themselves in connection to the Sonic Blast Man machine but these were idiots who were punching it bare-handed and had no real idea of how to punch it or worse. I once saw a guy try to run and fly kick the pad in an arcade, he miss judged it and landed on a very painful part of his body as it made contact with the corner of an old Operation Wolf machine. Yet in the US, Taito had to pay a fine of $50,000 for failing to disclose these “injuries”.

When I heard as a kid there was going to be a SNES verion of Sonic Blast Man my mind went nuts. How could they turn it into a SNES game? It would cost the earth if it came with boxing gloves and a usable sensor pad, plus I could imagine it would be a PR nightmare as one child punched another child while missing the sensor or punched the TV. (What I saw happening in my mind was basically what we all saw upon the Wii’s release with all of the remote related accidents, newspaper stories, etc.) I kind of expected them to go down the old joystick waggling sports games path, where you’d have to bang buttons to fill up a meter or something but then I stopped and thought that would be awful. The arcade game was very short and was fun purely because of the novelty factor. Five levels of banging joypad buttons to fill a meter to punch something would have been an awful Idea for a £40 cartridge based home game.

The SNES version is actually a side-scrolling beat ’em up. Sonic Blastman’s mission is still to save the Earth, but this time it is from all manner of street gangs, terrorists, aliens and robots. The fight starts on a construction site, but you’re soon moving from place to place and it’s nicely varied for a game of its type.

One minus point is the game is only a one-player game much like the original Final Fight was on the SNES. There is only one character as well Sonic Blastman himself which feels a little limiting. As in all scrolling beat ’em ups the game consists of defeating the enemies on the screen before continuing walking to the right to face more until you complete the stage. Sonic Blastman can do all of the usual moves for a game of this type. He can punch, jump, and grab a hold of enemies. When he approaches his enemies, he is able to grab them. From here he can shake them and throw them, or he can unleash a series of rapid punches, depending upon the direction you hold on your joypad.

The bonus levels are an adaptation of the arcade version of the game which is a neat little touch for fans. Obviously they have been converted to be played with your fingers instead of your fists. They’re not bad, though I am still glad they didn’t use them for the basis of a whole game.

The best thing about the game’s graphics are the large sprites. They are big and colourful and will remind you of arcade and Neo Geo games to an extent. The backgrounds are more or less what you expect to see in a background on a city neighborhood, factory and sewer, so they’re functional but not thrilling. But I would argue that as you get further through the game they become more interesting and seem to have more little details hidden here and there.

The music sounds like some kind of fusion of jazz and elevator music but I kind of like it and I think it suits the game well. The sound effects are pretty decent and give it a good comic book feel. You hear Blastman say little soundbites like  “Take that!”. Overall, I think it works.

I would say this is one of the better scrolling beat ’em ups on the system. Sure a two-player mode would be nice and its absence, along with a few other little things, stop me from calling this game perfect. But for me its a good eight out of 10. I think thanks to the big sprites and the simple but fun gameplay this game has aged a lot better than some of the stuff I have been playing. Having a go now I enjoyed it as much as back then.

The game came out in all regions but I have never seen a PAL copy in the flesh in my life, neither now nor back when released. My copy is a Japanese cartridge which I have had since I was young, I am not sure where I got it, I just remember being very excited to get it. Looking around you might be able to grab a Japanese copy for between £10 to £25 if you’re lucky, but every time I have seen an US copy its been ridiculous money like £60 or more, and I am still to see a PAL copy for sale.

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