Saturday, June 20, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Cobra Triangle

Cobra Triangle was a title released by Rare for the NES back in 1989. Rare was a, erhm, different place back in those days (yesirree bob!) Then again I guess it's been 20 years (ulp) what do you expect... Anyway for the uninformed, at the time when Nintendo games were largely produced in Japan, the story goes that the men at Rare got their hands on the hardware and reverse-engineered and, and then began producing games for it (as opposed to going through the direct route of going through Nintendo to get setup with kits and such). I suppose it was something political or other, as those things go - don't quote me on it. WHatever the story, apparently Nintendo was impressed by rare's work and they eventually become a licensed developer. And a good thing, too..

Rare's games in the NES days were a treat, I will say that much. They never had the cool, polished style of something released by the heavyweights the likes of Konami or Nintendo themselves, but they always had their very distinctive "rare-ness" about them - similar graphical style, music, the way their engines felt - and often quite difficult to play. It was an acquired taste, this European style of Nintendo game as opposed to the Japanese style - but they put out some excellent games which hold up well today. Cobra Triangle is no exception.

This game placed you in control of a little speedboat, at first glance the game looked like a boat racer (perhaps a nautical version of their earlier remote control car hit, R.C. Pro-Am) but as soon as one picks up the controller, that notion goes out the window. Oh sure, there's racing - but there's also bomb-defusing leves, rescue levels, survival levels, boss battles - you name it, Cobra Triangle had it..

A difficult game to classify, I guess you'd sum it up as a "variety action game." You picked up power-ups in a manner similar to Gradius or Lifeforce, in that you had a meter at the bottom of yoru screen - pick up powerups to advance through the meter and increase your speed, activate missiles, get a force shield, etc. It was weird to plop that system into a game like this, but it worked very well.

Cobra Triangle is one of those games where screenshots won't do it justice - it just looks garishly primary colored and kinda goofy, and the perspective seems a little whacked. This is a game which deserves to be sat down with and given a little room to flex. It's a hugely-fun game which I wouldn't expect modern gamers to appreciate, since it's kind of abstract and asking you to put in some time to "get" it. Moreover, it's just a very difficult game - sometimes unforgivingly so, and games made back then didn't hold your hand and help you through each section like some babysitter. No way, man - you want to see your way through Cobra Triangle, you're gonna have to earn it..!

Overall, Cobra Triangle is another largely forgotten game from a time long gone - we'll not see games like this again, and though it's a shame, it's also encouraging to dig through the back-catalogs of studios like Rare and realize there's titles like this which made them so great. If you're curious and you have a little patience, maybe give this game a run-through - you may hate it, or you may find yourself enamored with it's different, weird, welcoming world..!

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