Saturday, April 4, 2009

AAA looks at another handful of Namco arcade titles

Xevious is one of the first 2D shooters to offer both ground and land-based enemies. A little crosshair for bombing is always set a little ways out in front of your ship and is your only defense from radars, cannons, and the mothership which appears about four times over the length of the game(though like most other older arcade games this one continues to loop even after the "final" stage). Bombing is also necessary to get the secrets like flags(1ups) and sol citadels(which are worth several thousands of points). The similarities to later titles like Dragon Spirit are quite obvious but I think Xevious is the better game. It's simpler sure and not as graphically thrilling(due to the older hardware) but your ship is not a huge target thus making it much easier to dodge enemy fire. 

Galaxian like the original Space Invaders is considered a classic among arcade fans. I however think Space Invaders wasn't really all that great and Galaxian is just poor all around. It's essentially Galaga except more basic and you can only fire one shot at a time. Galaga introduced a lot of neat ideas like particular ships being worth more points as they get closer to your ship when you destroy them. Galaxian however just feels dull and not worth bothering with. 

King & Balloon is an interesting spin on the Galaga formula. You're a couple of soldiers(who move as one) with a massive harpoon defending a king from a bunch of balloons. Though you can be killed by enemy bullets or by colliding with a balloon you have infinite lives. The trick however is that the King doesn't. If a balloon reaches the bottom they'll capture the king and attempt to take off with him(with an audible "HELP"). If you shoot that particular balloon it'll release the king as he safely floats down to earth. However if the balloon gets away you lose one of your three kings(with an audible "BYE BYE" that caused me to literally bust out laughing). Depending on the colors of the balloons some will combine to form large ones that are worth many points if you destroy them. It's an interesting curiousity and worth at least one play.

Super-Pacman is absolutely terrible. I talked about Pac & Pal in an earlier post and I assume this game was a prequel to it. Essentially you grab keys that open doors where you can grab fruit. There's really no rhyme or reason to which key opens which door and the nonsensical level design has no flow or control. The "Super" in the title refers to special pellets you can pick up which cause Pac-man to grow very large(which is supposed to give off the perception that he's flying and thus far above everything else on the screen). With this power Pacman can fly over doors and ghosts(but not fruit which I guess is a good thing but it doesn't make any sense, even in Pac-mania if you jump over a pellet you'll have to turn around to collect it). So yeah this game is absolutely terrible.

The first time I actually played Tower of Druaga was the Mystery Dungeon game based on its world(for the un-familiar: ) . After playing the arcade game I can honestly say everyone is better off sticking to the Mystery Dungeon version instead. Essentially you're tossed into a maze where you have to find the key and the exit while fighting or dodging various monsters. Fighting however consists of holding down an attack button and running sword-first into creatures. Your score is almost entirely determined by how much time you have left at the end of each stage so combat really isn't worth bothering with. There are apparently several hidden items to look out for as well but ToD is just not an interesting enough game to be worth the trouble. The pacing is positively glacial and every stage feels like an eternity to get through.

Galaga 88 is what I would have liked to see future itinerations of Galaga build off of instead of Galaga Legions. While Pacman CE maintained many of the rules that helps maintain it's identity Legions felt so different compared to previous Galagas it may as well have been an entirely new game. 88 however keeps the staples that we're all familiar with. Movement is limited to either left or right, particular enemy ships can still capture your fighter(and thus can be destroyed to retrieve the fighter for double the firepower), and enemies still fly into formation. 88 changes things up rather often(new formations, areas where you fly through asteroid fields, etc) but the fundamentals remain the same so its identity is preserved well. All in all it's excellent update well worth your time.

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