Tuesday, 29 July 2014

MAME Hidden gems - U & V are for...

Have you ever noticed how American TV shows tend to have 'themes' in each episode?
One entry may have every character, no matter how unrelated, dealing with issues regarding 'Trust', still another may centre it's weekly adventure around the theme of 'Death'.

Well, today's blog update is bought to you by the letters U and V and the theme of 'Detail'.

I wanted to included Vindicators in this selection. It would have provided the perfect opportunity for me to bang on about how I feel the layout I designed for my MAME cabinet’s buttons allows me to use the top four as a pseudo-dpad – facilitating great control for games such as Atari’s rather smart dual stick tank game.

Unfortunately, with multiple ports and re-releases under its belt, it’s just too well known.
Give it a look if it did manage to pass you by.

So instead I’ll begin with Undercover Cops, a brawler from Irem, the company most famous for the classic shooter R-Type.

Although the usual genre tropes are all present and correct (Three characters, walk right, pick up weapons, etc) Undercover Cops will immediately put anyone that plays it in mind of the Metal Slug games.
The style here shares that series’ distinctive, drab coloured, ultra detailed sprite and background design, so it was no surprise at all to learn, during a little research, that it also shares some creative team members with that series’ too. 

I’ve probably said before that with brawlers the inventiveness of levels and bosses is really brought to the fore.
The first level boss in Undercover Cops is a prime example of this. After you have knocked off about half of his energy bar he moves towards a giant stampy, crushy, factory machine thing - and attempts to get you under it. Brilliantly, if you turn the tables on his plan, you can terminate him in a single well timed attack. 

There’s only so much you can do with jump, kick, and an 8 way stick (hey, that rhymes!) but Undercover Cops shows just how much taking care of the details really makes a difference and elevates this brawler from just another Final Fight clone to a contender for best in genre.

Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer (I can’t stop reading that as Cow-gazer) is a fighter that excels with a single mechanic.

If you remember Bloodstorm, the game was marketed as a ‘Mortal Kombat Killer’ by Strata in 1994 you might also recall it’s one interesting feature – the Passable Power – whereby an ability could be taken from a defeated opponent and used by the victor.
Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer, an anime styled fighter released a year later, takes this idea and improves upon it – Mainly by implementing it in a game that isn’t utterly, utterly terrible.
It’s not the only reason to recommend Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer though. It’s a great looking game too, and one that benefits from not trying to re-invent the wheel with its move-sets.
It also retains a respectable level of balance, quite an achievement considering the aforementioned attack borrowing mechanic.

So we've had a brawler and a fighter so far - exactly zero-points for guessing what genre Viper Phase 1 comes from.

This V-schmup comes from the Raiden Stable is is pretty recognisable as such for anyone vaguely familiar with the series. 

As with all of my personal favourites in the genre, this is a game with a focus on shooting stuff first, and avoiding stuff second.
It gives you such beautiful stuff to shoot too. The intricacies of the designs are exceptional and, as you’d expect from a game with this pedigree, it plays like a dream.
It’s worth noting that there are two versions available. Purists might want to stick to the original but the imaginatively named ‘New Version’ features a better power-up system and, for me, that’s all important.

I’m going to squeeze in a quick forth entry with Violent Storm.

As I’ve already had a brawler that excels through its use of detail in this selection so I’ll be brief.
Violent Storm isn’t as pretty as Undercover Cops but a screenshot would never do this game justice even it was – because the music is completely amazing.
In true arcade style this is a game that must be played with the volume up.

During my brief research into the game I found this write-up from VG Junk – It’s a fantastic piece, and does the game far better credit than I ever could.

And, as I'm finished here for now, you can go read it.