Monday, October 19, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Air Diver

Air Diver by Seismic/Asmik, a very early 1990 release for the Sega Genesis 16-Bit system.

When the Genesis released, a new generation of gaming was upon all of those in VideoGameLand (sounds like a Fairy Tale, right?) Everyone was excited because, at long last, the enormous gulf between the audiovisual quality of arcade game units and those played on home consoles was finally becoming much, much smaller. Not many people expected it to be an overnight change - and when the very first titles released on Sega and NEC's machines, they looked alright - but we all knew we were in for much, much better things. When Air Diver was initially shown off, shortly into the system's launch, it looked as if those days were going to be coming much sooner than initially expected.

Air Diver was a remarkable looking game. There was no way one would confuse a title like this for one running on an "underpowered measly 8-Bit processor," the screenshots were absolutely gorgeous. The gimmick in this case was the highly detailed cockpit interior, as evidenced in all the pics shown here. This looked like an arcade game - and it sounded like we were finally going to have our adrenaline-junkie flight combat fix the along the lines of After Burner, home at last!

Unfortunately, when the game did finally release, any hype about what was to come ended up being rather diluted by a sub-par gaming experience. The gameplay, while not bad, was far less interesting than that of it's peers. The whole "beautiful graphics" schtick ended up being "oh wow, the cockpit is incredibly detailed and colorful!" but tempered by "oh wait, the actual background graphics are quite bland, and the cockpit is uninteresting anyway after the novelty wears off." As well, it's been noted that the game strangely never makes the player feel as if he is flying some stealth fighter, but stuck in a grounded terrestrial vehicle somehow. The controls don't "feel bad" but they are not as liberating as one would expect an aerial combat game to be.

Air Diver is not bad, in fact it was fun to start off with and although it seems rushed, one gets the sense that the developer had bold aspirations in it's production. Perhaps the supposed SNES sequel measures up better (Super Air Diver 2, a game I have never heard of until now!) In the meantime, I still recommend giving this game a spin as it's fun for a stint, and it brings one back to those very early days when 16-Bit was new and fulled with promise, tethered by just a biiiit of disappointment.

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