Monday, March 29, 2010

AA Look - U N Squadron

Capcom is at it again with more of those 2D shooters. This time it's based off an anime I think...something called Area 88. Never watched it and probably never will but it's enough of a reason to deny a re-release of this game today. For once this isn't a huge loss cause UN just isn't that great. It's got some neat ideas but the execution just isn't there.

First off the player selects from three available ships. I always go for the token female character because I'm just that kind of guy and I seem to have more trouble with a game when I play as a male. Afterwards we're introduced to the shop. Here we can purchase weapons that are useful for the current stage as well as the ability to have a slightly longer energy meter as well as shields. Yep here we go again with those health meters in 2D shooters. Thankfully this isn't a common practice cause developers never seem to get it right. It's never really consistent as to what does how much damage and the odd-shaped hitbox(it's a rectangle as opposed to a square) makes dodging shots fired straight ahead much easier than anything approaching from an angle.

The real issue with every player-ship is the cruddy main weapon. While it can be powered up it seems to be more for looks than anything since it doesn't seem to make any difference aside from a slight increase in range. What really bugs me about the weapon is that while I can hold the button down for rapid-fire after a couple seconds it stops and I have to depress the button to resume firing. This is a real nuisance in the middle of firefights cause I forget to press the button again and collide with a kamikaze ship. The range also doesn't amount to much when it only fires straight ahead. The secondary weapons are helpful but I tend to get mixed up when trying to fire them while making sure my main weapon is firing.

As far as the levels go they're unremarkable fluff. It's the standard collection of tanks, enemy placements, and things that fly and there's little in the way of enemy firepower flooding the screen. Most of the damage is going to come from unexpected objects from the back. The bosses are just a mess really. Their patterns are incredibly simplistic and take all of a couple seconds to figure out. The difficulty balance is also kind of all over the place as the second boss turns out to be a bit harder than most of the others. This is more due to the bad placement of its weapon system as its missiles are so close to the player that when they can finally see them it's hard to avoid damage.

There are a few bosses like bases and battleships that the player must make multiple passes at to finish off once and for all. Neat idea but again the execution falters. There are spots where the player can't do anything as they can't reach any of the weakpoints. Thus the only solution is to sit around helplessly and dodge bullets until another pass can be made. Having some kind of standardized bomb weapon would be nice as like Darius and Gradius it would provide a reliable means of taking care of enemies on the ground. One of the characters actually has their main weapon set up like this but it's very poor since the damage is effectively halving, making even one-shot enemies take more than one hit to destroy. It doesn't sound like much when you're firing 60 shots a second but it makes all the difference when out on the field.

Even with all this in mind UN Squadron isn't a terrible shooter. It is however not really worth the effort as there are other games that more effectively use their various subsystems like Capcom's own Forgotten Worlds. Maybe if the level design wasn't so pedestrian, the weapons were better balanced, or if minor things like the hit-box were tightened up we'd at least have something worthy of merit. All in all it's forgettable, just forgettable.

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