Saturday, June 13, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Space Megaforce

"Spaaaaaace Megaforce!! Presented by, Toho." I will never forget the first time I plugged this cart into my Super Nintendo back in 1993 and the voice read that cheesy, cheesy name at the copyright screen. The name of this game was so cheesily horrible I knew it would have to present a pretty good arguement to convince me to part with sixty clams, but hey - they had a rightfully airtight pedigree. It's Compile, dammit! Most folks don't know what that means, but if you were a fan of these styles of games back in those days you'd be hard-pressed not to. Compile built Blazing Lazers (another name for ya!) back when TurboGrafx-16 launched in the states, which exposed me to their world/style in the first place. They followed that with Musha on Sega Genesis a couple beats later (yeah... you see a trend with these endearingly terrible names!) which I had to have and so when I heard an iteration was releasing on SNES, there was pretty much no way I would NOT buy it--

The game really delivered. If you know anything about Compile, you know the Aleste series, you know Zanac, you know Power Strike - what this all adds up to is vertically-scrolling shooters with TONS of weaponry. All their games involved powering up a wide variey of weapons to obscene proportions, in nearly all of these games you'd evolve your ship into a nearly unstoppable Killing Machine - and it was quite a rush! You'd get these crazy bendy-homing lasers, or screen-filling bombs, or huge flooding wave cannons (whatever that means) - you get the point.

There was some concern whether SNES could handle a Compile shooter with it's 3.58 MHz processor (compared to Sega Genesis, which was.. I dunno, twice the speed?) SNES had an edge in colors and all of that, but Sega could much more easily push tons of sprites quickly around the screen - shooters just never flowed as smoothly on SNES, lots of slowdown (see the beautiful but extremely choppy earleir effort, Super R-Type). Compile stepped up and made it look easy - this game is hectic, the screen fills with enemies, projectiles, and effects, and it never skips a beat.
Space Megaforce gets a lot of flack from the modern-day shooter crowd "too easy" bah, just crank up the difficulty you pansies! This game is a beast on the harder levels, like I said you can beef up your weapons but if yougetspanked in the higher levels, you're in for a real fight. It's never to the point where it'sa drag, if your reflexes are sharp you should be able to get a few bosses to kiss the pavement.. we'll see...

Space Megaforce takes full advantage of the SNES capabilities, it's one of the most colorful games I have seen (again, a lot of Sega Genesis shooters had their much more limited color palettes, so a game like this REALLY stood out at the time). They went a little wild with some Mode 7 fancy effects here and there (never to a ridiculous amount, but enough to make you think "hey that's actually pretty cool!" Aurally, the game has a very strange soundtrack to it - so many shooters at the time had the 80s metal influence in their soundtracks, this game had some weird techno-goofy sounding thing going on, but it really actually worked. The game really sounded good and the soundtrack still fits it perfectly, holds up to this day. The sound FX were quite complementary as well, with heartily booming explosions - very satisfying when you took out a big baddie.

Gameplay-wise, it's pretty standard Compile stuff as described above - risk lfe and limb to power up your weapons. I think each weapon could go 6 levels deep or so, and there were eight different weapons that could be picked up (plus missiles, options, or shields...) To top it all off, they utilized a modifier system, you could press a shoulder button to activate the current weapon's ALT mode, this was actually quite significant and made the game quite fun - it made you feel like you were being creative in "arranging your weapon" in a way.

This beast is one of the best Shooters I've ever laid my hands on and one of the best SNES games, ever. Period.

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