Friday, 11 July 2014

MAME Hidden Gems - S is for...

A quick run down of the nearly men before I get into the top 3 for 'S'...

Space Fury is a vector shooter in the asteroids style. It has a cool powerup system and looks great, but not only was it released as an unlockable on one Sega's myriad collections, but it also stops calculating the score after level 4, which annoyed me.
Suprise Attack is a game in the style of Rolling Thunder but set in space. Again it has some pretty neat power-ups but doesn't really do enough to stand out in the glut of this type of game.
Super Cross II is a very simplistic isometric motocross game, a little too simplistic to make the cut unfortunately. But it does offer a fun few minutes diversion and the sprites are impressive considering it's age.
Finally, Shock Troopers - 2nd Squad is another game that has seen fairly recent re-release. This evolution of the Commando/Ikari Warriors style shooter is definitely worth a look if you're unfamiliar.

Now, if you're anything like me you'll look at the screenshot below and think:
"That looks like a rather smart late 80's racer, got to be worth a look!"

This game is called Slipstream, just 150 prototypes were made by Capcom and it never entered full production.
According to the very helpful this makes it one of the rarest arcade machines of all time.

It's fast, fun, features three game modes and a neat boost gimmick based around staying in an opponents Slipstream. So what went wrong?

It was 1995.

To put it in perspective, that's a year after Sega Rally came out, 2 years after both Ridge Racer and Daytona USA first saw the light of day.

On the day it rolled off the production line, Slipstream was already old-hat. The spite scaling graphics rendering it an impossible sell to a market into which Sega and Namco were unleashing some of the most exhilarating driving experiences the arcades have ever seen.

However, playing the game now, unhindered by juxtaposition to such behemoths, its four brilliantly realised tracks, 9 cars, and OTT boost mechanic make for a game that has aged very well and is a joy to play.

When I played The Super Spy I didn't make it as far as this boss...

So I can't tell you if it's supposed to be a woman or a guy in drag, although looking at the size of those hands...

The Super Spy is an example of a lifeline that has helped me out of a spot with these entries more times than I can remember - A Neo Geo game.
There always seems to be something a bit mental about games on SNK's wildly expensive hardware, and that makes them a perfect fit for this blog.

This particular effort could lazily be described as Operation Wolf with fewer guns, but it reminded me most of the Aliens game released for ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad, and the like back in 1987.

As with Aliens, you control the movement from the first person perspective and move predominantly sideways, only occasionally being able to move 'forwards' through doors.
However, in Super Spy, you eventually come to a lift and entering it takes you, literally, to the next level. 

Each floor is crammed with an array of bad guys for you to despatch in a variety of ways.
You start with a pretty effective knife, however the power of this weapon reduces with each use.
You can also pick up a pistol that will despatch most enemies in one or two shots, but uses ammo very quickly. 
At some points a rescued hostage will even give you an insanely powerful but limited use machine gun.
The initial weapons, though, are you hands and feet. And this is what earns The Super Spy a place on this list.

The game features an incredibly in depth combat system that almost seems out of place alongside some of the other, somewhat rudimentary, elements.
It allows you to bob, weave, throw jabs, hooks, uppercuts, straight kicks, and knee bombs. It even has a timing based block mechanic.
It may not sound like much when described here, but when you take the time to fully understand the minutiae of the system it becomes immensely satisfying.

Luckily for me, following its arcade release Sōkyūgurentai made its way to some of the 6th generation consoles, but never outside Japan. 
Sometimes it feels churlish to be grateful that so few people have played these games - particularly when they s wonderful as this... but I'll get over it.

Often described as a spiritual successor to Rayforce, Sōkyūgurentai is a sprite based v-shmup that features a version of the lock-on mechanic that is synonymous with that series.

Considering the lack of true 3D the game has an incredible sense of depth. 
It's in view of this that the lock-on targeting system on each of the 3 available spacecraft is cone-shaped, each slight variation capturing all enemies that pass through it no matter their location on the pseudo 3D plane.

In the vein of the very best V-shmups, of which this definitely an example, the game features some deeply beautiful set pieces and some incredible boss battles.
During the latter, the unusual 4:3 display zooms far away from the action, just so that you can see the enormity of the foe you are trying to take down.

I understand if you're a bit burnt-out on schmups but this one is definitely worth your time. 
Moreover, if you prefer your shooters to be more about the shooting than avoiding a million brightly coloured bullets - then you won't be disappointed here.