Friday, 8 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - K is for...

Bloody shooters, I'm sick to death of them...

Well, sort of... Obviously I'm not that sick of them because I keep highlighting the damn things here.
It just seems to be the case that when all else fails you're still likely to find a relatively obscure gem in the Horizontal or Vertical shooter categories.

That's certainly the case with the letter K, two of of today's three picks fall into these genres. Each of them with a little extra something to make them stand out.

Breaking with tradition I'm going to go with the best one first:

Kingdom Grand Prix has the potential to be the best known of these game too. It's the middle part of a three game series from the very well respected Raizing Studios.

I love a hybrid game. They're often akin to a developer taking two completely mismatched jigsaw pieces and pounding them with his fist until they somehow mash together. But that usually gives them a special kind of charm in my eyes.

KGP is a hardcore V.shmup mixed with a racing game - it really shouldn't work - but it really does.
The core is very much v.shmup. There are masses of colourful enemies spewing masses of colourful bullets on every level and a boss battle at the conclusion of each.

Unusually for a shmup there's a nice array of characters and craft to choose from, 8 in total, and you can use them to play each level for speed or for points - a combination of the two works, but doesn't seem right somehow. It may be the best way in truth as being first to the finish won't get you many points but shooting everything that moves won't win you the race.

Each of the 7 characters that you don't choose will line up along side you for the race, the do shoot the

enemies but don't expect them to stick around and help you out. You can't shoot them and bumping into them has no real effect - which is also true of most of the enemies in the game - but you can slow your rivals down by hitting them with you special bomb.

Otherwise the racing is fairly simplistic. If your craft is in the top half of the screen you speed up - in the bottom you'll slow down. You can also get an extra boost by holding down the fire button - although obviously this mean you won't be shooting anyone.

As far as I'm aware this excellent and very difficult game is in a genre of one, that on it's own makes it worth a play. But the fact that the unique premise is attached to such excellent gameplay makes it very easy to recommend.

Providing a breaking from the shooting action is Kyukyoku Sentai Dadandarn - known in the west as Monster Maulers.

Yes it's a bit of a cheat to use the Japanese name to squeeze this into the K bracket, but there wasn't a lot to choose from. Hopefully I don't regret it when it comes to list out the Ms.

This is another hybrid of sorts - the first but not the last game you'll see that combines elements of fighting games with those of the boss battle in a brawler.

You choose one of three characters, as per most brawlers, and choose one of twelve locations to do battle against the huge boss character that resides there. The option is there for 2 players simultaneously and if you plough into it with a friend you get access to an extra tag-team move.

The mechanics fall somewhere between the two genres too.
There are a greater array of moves than you'll find in the vast majority of beat-em-ups but it's still pretty restrictive when compared to your average fighter.

The whole thing is capped off with the kind of great Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe that you just don't see enough in videogames anymore.

Back to shooters, the horizontal variety this time, with Koutetso Yousai Strahl.

Yes, that's another Japanese name - but no, I'm not cheating again.

Koutetso Yousai Strahl translates as 'Steel Fortress Strahl' but as far as I can tell the game was never released in the west.

That's a bit of shame really as it's a great H.Shmup that, environmentally at least, put me immediately in mind of the recent Sine Mora from Digital Reality & Grasshopper.

I really am running out of ways to introduce shooters now, but you know the drill: You fly left to right, you shoot bad guys, at the end there's an bigger bad guy - so lets highlight by exception shall we:

Koutetso Yousai Strahl offer you a choice of weapons at the start of each level. You choose one of three main, chargeable weapons, one of three direct-able sub weapons, and one of three bomb types.
The direct-able fire on the sub weapon is neat too. A turret on either side of your ship rotate from front to back in five stages and is activated by pressing the bomb button whilst holding the main fire trigger.

The levels are nicely designed so that any configuration will work, but if you know what to expect you can choose your configuration to optimise your chances.

Graphics are a high standard and bosses are big and impressive as you would expect but I think it's the variation in level design that caught my attention first with the game though.
Each is beautifully drawn and most genuinely add to the experience. Moreover, the level shown in the above screenshot features six, count 'em, SIX levels of parallax scrolling.

#Gaming #Retrogaming #Mame #Arcade