Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Battle Ace

Retro Game of the Day! Battle Ace

Battle Ace by Hudson, released for the NEC SuperGrafx console in Japan in 1989.

The SuperGrafx was the follow-up to the PC-Engine, known in the West as the TurboGrafx-16. The early king of the 16-bit generation, at least in Japan, the PC-Engine was actually an 8-bit console powered by some special chips. The SuperGrafx was intended to be a further evolution of the line, although it was still technically an 8-bit as well. Battle Ace was the initial offering designed for the system.

As such, Battle Ace should have been a strong showpiece to convince people to buy this new system. Unfortunately, the game had a strong introduction but a weak follow-through. Looking like a stripped-down rendition of Sega's After Burner, played through a cockpit view similar to (the much more detailed) Air Diver, Battle Ace tried to mix it up with a slightly more fantastic presentation (including end-of-level bosses) recalling another Sega classic, Space Harrier.

Quite a mishmash between all of those games, then - and yet, not really as good as a single one of them. Battle Ace has some fans, but most will regard it as a stark, lonely blasting experience with a little flair but not much to get excited about. The game is nicely broken up into different environments, with unusual environmental obstacles, yet always feels very disconnected, vacant.

It is a game I will always remember, however - the peppy name, the stylish boxart, the whole idea of the SuperGrafx, all of this was announced just as the 16-bit wars were heating up. Not much information was known about SuperGrafx following its introduction, but it sure looked like it could give the competition a real run for the money if they played their cards right. The other games it ran were graphical powerhouses (an arcade-perfect rendition of Ghouls 'n Ghosts being the crown jewel) and manufacturer NEC was very powerful and dedicated in the Japanese console market.

Additionally, NEC was no slouch in the gimmick department - a bit of noise was being made about the "Power Controller," an attachment which would interface with the SuperGrafx console itself to give you an immersive experience unlike any other.

This was many years before Capcom's Steel Batallion controller for XBox was even a glint in any designer's eye; the concept was fabulous and pictures like these were enough to get any teenaged gamer whipped up into a frenzy about where gaming was going. Sadly, the SuperGrafx was too little and too late to arrive to the market and it got quickly swept away by the more powerful consoles (a serious lack of support from it's developer didn't help either). An exciting footnote from the early days of 16-bit.

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