Monday, June 8, 2009

Genesis look: Trouble Shooter

Here we have yet another 2D shooter for the Sega Genesis. Trouble Shooter stars two lady bounty hunters and involves them destroying the bad guys and rescuing the prince. Despite the fact there are two main characters this game is only one player.

This is a horizontally and vertically scrolling shooter that takes place over six stages. It's an odd game with lots of strange robots to face off against. It's rare that you'll see the same enemy twice(even the regular foes) so every stage is quite different than the last. Instead of ships you actually play as the ladies themselves as they fly about using jetpacks. This is similar to games such as Forgotten Worlds(although you can't fire in all directions).

The interesting concept to this game is that you take control of one heroine while the other follows behind and provides support. While facing forward she's a good supplement you'll mostly find her usefulness is in watching your back. This is accomplished with a simple tap of the C button. B button fires a main weapon which gains in power as you collect related items. The A button uses your special weapon(you can choose one at the start of the first four levels) and it recharges quite often...too often in fact.

The six stages vary in length and design. The first is your standard introductory stage that shows off the basics and generally gives you pointers on how to play through the proper placement of enemies. Second stage introduces quite a few traps and is entirely vertical-scrolling. The third stage is your typical "battle-ship" stage that has made its way into many a popular shooter(take R-Type for example). Fourth stage takes place inside the battle-ship while the fifth and sixth stages mix things up a bit. While there's not much to the designs of these stages the variety of enemies in each of them help give them their own appeal.

Like a number of similar shooters walls won't kill you in this game(unless of course you allow yourself to get crushed by one when it scrolls off the screen). In fact barring that minor detail the walls can be beneficial to your strategies. Your partner follows your every move but she can get seperated from you and sort of work independently. This is a neat feature as it can be handy for a couple encounters. Unfortunately it's clear that the design was accidental and there aren't really enough places where this "feature" can come in handy. Still it's an interesting showcase of mechanics and provides the game with a lot of identity.

One thing that bugs me mechanics-wise is that the playable character has a fairly large hit-box. I didn't really notice it at first(since for the most part it's fairly obvious when I took damage) but as it turns out her hit-box is practically her entire body. So if she were to get shot in the foot it would still count as damage. I guess it doesn't matter much in the end put I would have preferred the hit-box was shrunk a bit. It's simply too large for anything serious.

The most unfortunate aspect of this game is it is perhaps the easiest shooter I've ever played. You have a health meter that can take about four hits before you're killed off. Where the game falters here is that health is extremely easy to come by. Health items are scattered throughout the levels, you get a health bonus for achieving a certain (tiny) amount of points, and so on. The second most unfortunate aspect is that for scoring there's no point. Sure you get more points for completing a stage with as much health as possible but none of that matters because when you reach the last boss you can effectively "milk" him. That is by not hitting him and just shooting his projectiles you can max out the score. Since extra healths are so plentiful you'll find that there's really no point to playing this game for skill. Heck even if you try to play through it without getting hit you'll find that even on the hardest difficult that wouldn't be a problem. Many enemy bullets can be canceled by your own firepower and once you've memorized certain trouble-spots they cease to be a threat(don't forget your special weapon which recharges far too quickly).

For whatever reason the sequel to Trouble Shooter(or Battle-Mania if you're a Japan-fan) never saw release in the West. To add to that Battle-Mania 2 is one of the most expensive titles on the Mega-drive. To further add to that apparently this sequel is much improved over the original both in difficulty and scoring. It figures that Vic-Tokai's first game would be little more than an experiment while the sequel is stuck with picking up the slack. While Trouble Shooter is well-made and entertaining there's a couple major issues that prevent it from even approaching greatness. I'd still recommend checking it out though as it still has some merit(It's also quite cheap).

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