Retro Game of the Day! Crisis Force
Crisis Force by Konami, an epic shoot-'em-up released for Famicom (Japanese version of the NES) in 1991. This was never released domestically. Much to my consternation!
First, some business to get out of the way - yesterday's review was a tongue-in-cheek callout to an old joke. In an old issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, I think it was actuallythe first "real" issue, they'd adopted the Famitsu (famous Japanese game review mag) style of "4-review-crew" blurbs per game, superimposed over each reviewer's 1-to-10 rating of the title in question. This was quite a novelty in US gaming press, and this drama was punctuated by one of the reviewer's blurb about a game called Flying Dragon - the entirety of which was quoted in yesterday's review. So, there's the joke. Some people got it, some didn't. Moving on..
Crisis Force was a late entry into the Nintendo Pantheon of space shooters, so late that it actually never saw release outside of The Homeland. For what reason, I am not sure - it was a graphical tour-de-force with plenty of engaging gameplay for the style of game it was ("vertical shmup") and it featured 2-player simultaneous action. Ohh, that sounds dirty! The point is, the NES was never known for being able to push these types of games (fast-moving shooters with tons of detailed characters on screen) so this was absolutely a remarkable accomplishment.
Even more so considering the amount of special FX going on. Pick up the game and the player will immediately notice similarities to 16-Bit titles like M.U.S.H.A., with several levels of detailed parallax scrolling trying to distract you as enemies fly in to destroy your fighter.
There is a lot of depth to this game (configurable ships, merging with the second player, mutitple weapons systems, etc) and the challenge can be quite daunting. Since it was such a late-day presentation, relatively few people knew it existed and therefore it never achieved the popularity of a Contra or Life Force. That's a shame, as this game was truly a labor of love and absolutely a testament to what the NES (errr, Famicom) could do when put through its proper paces.