Tag Archives: Rail Shooter

Star Fox (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD & Argonaut Software

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Katsuya Eguchi

Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto

PEGI – 3

Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura, Star Fox, or Starwing as it was known in Europe due to copyright issues, Star Fox launched yet another successful Nintendo franchise, with the game receiving commercial and critical acclaim upon release, including an award for best shooter of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. As a kid, I thought much less of this game, but after revisiting it a few times over the last few years, my opinion of it has improved vastly, and I consider it a must-have for anyone who may own a Super Nintendo.

Graphics – 8/10

The first Super Nintendo cartridge to make use of the revolutionary Super FX chip, Star Fox was the first 3D video game I ever laid eyes on, and as a kid, it at least captivated me in this respect. As I alluded to earlier, I would also go on to learn about the various references to Japanese folklore that are present within this game. The four main characters are based on four well-known Japanese stories, which I wrote about in greater depth in a previous article.

Gameplay – 9/10

The objective of the game is simply to get from A to B like many others, but it plays out much more different from the archetypical 2D platforming games that took precedent at that time. It was a rail-shooting game, which required players to fly through a multitude of different dangers and obstacles, shooting down as many enemies as possible to accumulate as high a score as they possibly could. Though it took me too much time to realize what a positive change from the norm it was for the longest time, I would eventually come back to it frequently after religiously playing its sequel; Lylat Wars.

Controls – 9/10

Though there isn’t anything wrong with the game’s control scheme in the conventional sense, what weighs it down significantly is the extremely slow frame rate, since that the Super FX chip was inside the cartridge, the console still had difficulty running it. Giving it about the same frame rate as Bubsy 3D; though the controls of that game were far more annoying, and harder to get to grips with. It all depended largely on how much was on the screen, and how much graphical information the console had to process at any one time, which was usually a lot.

Lifespan – 7/10

Though one playthrough can take up to an hour tops, multiple playthroughs can present multiple challenges, since the game is actually non-linear to a certain extent. Players have the option of changing course depending on their preference of difficulty, giving the game a fair bit of replayability, making it last slightly longer than what the average was at that time.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game follows the members of the Star Fox team, Fox, Peppy, Slippy, and Falco on their mission to free the Lylat System from the Venomian army, and their leader Andross. Though the basic structure of the story was extremely typical of most other video game stories at the time, it was, of course, kept fresh by the conceptual design of the scenery, style, and design of the characters themselves, as well as their dialogue-driven displays of personality throughout. These principles would be carried on and further developed in further games, but it was in this era where it will have stood out most, I think; especially as the idea was extremely new at the time.

Originality – 8/10

Most of everything about this game is original, from the conceptual design to the gameplay to the graphical rendering techniques to the basic story structure. It was a shining example of Nintendo wanting to extensively innovate as they did throughout the third and fourth generations of gaming, which would go on to inspire the creation of many different games in the future, leaving behind a long legacy about to be renewed by the upcoming Wii U title.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Star Fox is undoubtedly one of the greatest games on the Super Nintendo, and I would highly recommend it. Though I believe the sequel would improve on this to a massive extent, it served as more than a mere template for greater things to come.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Enemy Mind (PC)

Developer(s) – Schell Games

Rating – N/A

Released on Steam following an immense success Greenlight campaign, Enemy Mind is a 2D side-scrolling shoot ‘em up developed in the same vein as games such as R-Type, Gradius, and Abadox. It received critical acclaim upon release from both reviewers and gamers alike, finding much favor throughout the Steam community, and being hailed as a classic in the genre for its unique gameplay, and beautiful visuals. To me, it’s acclaim is well earned, as I’ve played a lot of these kinds of games, but few have managed to impress me as this title has.

Graphics – 7/10

Enemy Mind makes use of 8-BIT graphics reminiscent of the NES days, along with conceptual design, which is interestingly reminiscent of the Alien saga, along with an intricately composed soundtrack put together by renowned Internet composer Rainbow Kitten. More than the 8-BIT art style, I was most impressed with the great amount of effort the developers evidently incorporated into the title, and the narrative going on in between each level corroborates on this. It’s the kind of game that could eventually have extremely extensive mythology behind it if the developers chose to build on what they already have with a possible sequel.

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is a 2D side-scrolling shooter with a difference. In it, players can switch between other ships on the battlefield in order to either replenish ammo depleted from previous ships or to clear the field more efficiently. There are over 20 ships to take control of, and 8 levels in all constituting to 70 waves of enemies. In addition, alternate game modes can also be unlocked, such as a Flappy Bird style game mode, which gives the game virtually unlimited playability. To have this much variety in a game like this is extraordinary, yet most welcome. It provides an accessible amount of challenge throughout all game modes, as well as a multiplayer mode, which adds even more.

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme presents no problems unless playing it on a keyboard, which the developers strongly object to from the main menu with a disclaimer. Of course, with the added features in this game that have never been seen in any other game like it beforehand, additional control options, of course, had to be devised to make it work, and the developers did a seamless job of doing so. They added their own set of features without presenting any unnecessary complications to players, and for that, I have to commend them. It can be a risky process to innovate in gaming, but Schell has managed to do an exceptional job of this in Enemy Mind.

Originality – 7/10

After first impressions suggested to me that a series and/or mythology could evolve from this game, I began to see just how unique it is the more I progressed into it. It has its own unique visual style, mode of gameplay, and an unprecedented amount of variety. Certainly, if Konami doesn’t release another entry in the Gradius series, which seems unlikely given their current financial situation, then a game like this could easily eclipse the popularity of it if worked on further; which indeed, I hope happens.

Happii

Happii

To sum up, Enemy Mind is the first in what I sincerely hope is developed into an entire series of games. It’s unique, enjoyable to play, excellent-looking has a stellar soundtrack, and is guaranteed to keep players busy for an extraordinarily long time.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Abadox (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Natsume

Publisher(s) – Natsume & Milton Bradley

Programmers – Kimiya Sasaski & Seiichi Tajima & Koichi Dekune

Rating – N/A

Released at around the mid-point of the third generation of gaming, Abadox is an exceptionally difficult rail-shooter, standing out for the fact that it may possibly be the most violent game ever developed due to its compellingly disturbing settings and individual level designs. Most critics have gone on record praising this game for its visuals but criticizing it for its almost complete lack of accessibility. After playing, I think I’d have to agree.

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals are the best aspect of this game. The settings are indeed disturbingly detailed, as the majority of them are made up of things like disembodied eyeballs and pulsing intestines. Even in long-since obsolete 8-bit graphics, it’s clear that Nintendo was willing to carry mature games on their consoles as they always have been, contrary to popular belief that their products are exclusively for kids. Some of the boss fights were also quite well thought out in terms of individual concept, making me personally more curious about the mythology behind this game.

Gameplay – 4/10

The game is an exceptionally hard rail-shooter, coming with all the inaccessibility of many other popular classic NES games, such as the original Mega Man series and the original trilogy of Castlevania games. To master it requires practice and awareness of individual enemy attack patterns and level structure; even during the game’s end sequence. It’s time that I am personally unwilling to put in; especially as it is an exceptionally short experience, even for an NES game. The only consolation is that there are checkpoints throughout the game.

Controls – 10/10

Since rail-shooters had long-since come into prominence at this point, there are no problems with the control scheme of this game, at least. Movement is somewhat stiff, but that is what adds to the challenge for those who may actually be looking to put their skills to the test; to those players who like to play games that have been made hard for the sake of them being hard.

Lifespan – 2/10

The game can be made to last much longer than a standard playthrough, but for the wrong reasons given the nature of its challenge, but one playthrough for experienced players can take merely 20 minutes to complete. No incentive is offered throughout the game, except for those who may have cared about having the highest score, and may have been in competition with one another. There were games released at the time, which would combine elements of both rail-shooting and platforming, such as Robodemons, so to me, this is a classic case of there being limitations in not technological advancement, but developer imagination.

Storyline – 4/10

The story involves the Galactic Military’s best fighter, Second Lieutenant Nazal, on a mission to defeat an alien organism called the Parasitis, who has eaten the planet Abadox, and rescue Princess Maria, who has also been consumed by the alien. There isn’t a great deal of the story element in the game itself, with the exception of two cutscenes, since the story would most often be detailed within the instruction manual at this time. But even so, it’s essentially just another variation on what the story of Super Mario; the hero defeating the villain to save the damsel in distress. At this point, that entire story arc had already been thoroughly exhausted, but we had games like this to rub salt in the wound, it would seem.

Originality – 5/10

The most unique thing about this game is how well the settings stand out from most other games of the time, and even most other games of today. In terms of both gameplay and story, however, it doesn’t stand out at all; and if it’s level of challenge can be used as a catalyst to differentiate it from other games, then it would be entirely for the wrong reasons in my opinion.

Angrii

Angrii

Overall, Abadox, whilst having disturbingly well-designed visuals, is far too inaccessible for any one player to derive any entertainment out of it for any extended amount of time. It is challenging to the point of it being nigh-on unreasonable, and whilst the conceptual design made me care somewhat about what back-story there might have been given a bit more imagination on the developer’s part, the main story did very little to pique my curiosity.

Score

33/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)