Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Chase HQ by Taito, original arcade release in 1988.
You really gotta give it up to Taito. For all their hard work and years of serious quality contributions to the overall videogaming scene, they've sort of always fallen by the wayside when compared to contemporaries such as Konami and Capcom, even Sega. This can likely be attributed to the fact that they've never really had their own "Metal Gear Solid" or "Street Fighter" caliber level of game that's been all their own - I suppose you can only cruise so far under the likes of Space Invaders, Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble, and Qix. Though depending on who you ask, those should be more than enough..!
Chase HQ was Taito's big entry into the Arcade Racing arena that was popular following Sega's stellar Outrun. Rather than some typical cross-country rally, CHQ took a unique spin on the whole thing and put in a touch of a Miami Vice kinda vibe, sort of - basically you are driving a souped-up Porsche in hot pursuit of such criminals as "Ralph the Slasher" and "Carlos the Armed Robber."
Starting the game, you have 1 minute to catch up to your intended target - make it within viewing distance, then slap the siren on your roof and stat ramming the fool, (you have another minute to apprehend). In order to do this, you must keep slamming into your quarry and slowly destroying his getaway vehicle with your own. It is quite a thing to see, the first time you play the game (most racers encourage that you don't hit the other cars!)
The game is quite colorful and has lots of nice little touches, as were the style of the period. Though quite popular, it was kind of surprising that the game didn't port to the big cheese of video consoles at the time (the NES). It released on the Japanese unit, but didn't release domestically in the USA.
The game manages an interesting job in the Famicom (Japanese NES) conversion, of course it has suffered a noticeable visual downgrade but the gameplay feels rather intact. They've got some decent digitized speech in the mission debriefing segment (unusual for a Nintendo game!) and there's even an option to use Taito's special Arkanoid rotary controller to steer your vehicle, which is a nice consideration. I always appreciate it when they go the extra mile to put in novel little "fanservice" features like that, it makes you realize that the developer was actually trying to put together a quality product!
Chase HQ is a title which, like its developer, has never really had much of a spectacular legacy, but it is a nice little game with enough to stand out from the pack. It is sad that it never got more reception over here (I think the most we got, other than the original arcade, were some PC ports and a black-and-white GameBoy cart) before the follow-ups released. Still a fun game if you like late 1980s racers, it holds up and is certainly worth a period gamer's "special investigation."