Welcome to yet another entry into my never ending venture down memory lane, where I put my rose tinted nostalgia goggles to the test!
It’s hard to believe that this title is now 20 years old. Being the first game I received for the original PlayStation (and one of the two I was pining over) I have a very skewed perception of the game. I absolutely love it.
I remember when I first saw it at Electronic’s Boutique, back when going to the mall was something kids would do. It was after I was introduced to the movie, and it blew me away at the time. The dystopian setting, dark undertones, the obscene amounts of violence... It was like nothing I have seen before. Hoping to dive deeper into the world Shirow Masamune created. Running through the dark streets of Tokyo with Section 9 was something my 12 year old mind wanted.
Well, the game partially delivered.
The game puts you into the boots of a fresh out of training rookie, assigned to the elite Section 9. While you will find yourself in a lot of intense fire fights, it won’t be with a gun, but a Fuchikoma.
Yeah, these little spider tank beauties. Not entirely what I was expecting to run around in, but still fun... I guess.
The game is an action based arcade game, where racking up points in each mission will get your initials on the leader board. It offers a varied assortment of 12 stages, pitting you against all sorts of cybernetics and robotic enemies to plow through. The levels are one or my favorite parts of the game, as they depict both the anime and manga settings very well. You fight through docks, sewers, city scapes, and futuristic buildings alike.
The game features all of the original voice actors from the movie in their respected roles, as Major Kusanagi offers you advice before every sortie. Full blown animated FMV’s occur with the same detail as an episodic story line, giving you the feeling as being part of Section 9. Between FMV’s and gameplay, you are given a breakdown of what the mission area will consist of, giving an eagle eye view of the area through the eyes of satellite survellaince, even in it’s primitive form.
As I stated above, the game places you inside of the spider tanks Section 9 uses, and as such, you are given a pretty omnipotent fighting machine. Your machine guns have infinite ammunition, and if held, you will begin to lock on to enemies to fire a volley of missiles at them. The developers were smart, making it so if hit the lock on system will disengage, making you need to be quick on your feet while fighting.
Obviously the controls are set up in tank mode (up is forward, down is backward, so on and so forth), but to help you maneuver through the barrage of gunfire and missiles, your tank has the ability to skate sideways. By pressing the corresponding shoulder buttons, the Fuchikoma will strafe left and right at a rapid pace. Tired of stomping forward into battle? No worries! Hold down both sides to activate the tanks skate mode to speed across the map with the elegance of a one ton spider tank with the mentality of a child.
The length of the game is incredibly disappointing. Between the 12 mission campaign, I finished the game from start to finish in 2 and a half hours tops, which is about the same run time as Metal Slug or Time Crisis. Sure the game is fun, but only getting a short experience with very little replayability makes it bittersweet. If I didn’t have such fond memories of the series, I would have been furious with dropping $50.
The biggest complaint I have with the game is one particular part of the game: the last mission. Everything leading up to this mission is very clean cut, involving moving through mission areas completing the objective given to you. This mission, however, decides to throw you a gigantic middle finger. It begins simple enough; kill enemies, dodge attacks, and pick up whatever health you may need to keep in the green. But soon you come across this section here.
Yeah, wall climbing through a distorted and somewhat misleading hole in the ground. Not so bad, especially after you realize not to touch the damn fencing that magically sends into a nosedive to your impending doom. That isn’t the real bitch of this mission though, as it soon leads to this.
Who in their right fucking mind decides to throw a small platforming segment into a game with no other portion making an appearance? It’s absolutely asinine! To make the jump, you have to dash jump from the edge of the platform in a leap of faith, hoping that it propels you enough to stick the landing. Lucky enough to make it? Suck it up, because after two more slightly easier jumps, you have to jump across and cling to this wall, which roughly has a 5% of working. I honestly spent 45 minutes of my playthrough just on this last mission, botching this jump all except for 2 times. The last stretch to the boss is pretty simple, just dodging some bosses and killing enemies.
The boss is also a bitch, with a slew of ridiculous attacks covering the whole area. Massive laser swords that some how home onto you as you jump and dodge, cluster fire bombs that pepper the ground, and the ability to phase through the area right as you release a volley of missiles. You finally destroy him, and expect to be praised by Section 9 until... A second wave?
Yup, another curve ball that was unexpected. His life has been replenished, but yours is still in the red... Great. This fight takes place as you plummet to the ground, only giving the options to circle the bastard. His defenses are nowhere near as terrible this time around, but his attacks still home onto you like a crazed person with a fresh can of Raid. The fight is a bit intense, but only from fear as thoughts of that damn jump continued to flash in my mind.
The game finishes with you destroying the threat and landing safely from a fall that would have otherwise killed you. The credits roll by the screen, until you get the options to punch in your initials to show off to yourself 5 or so years later when you feel compelled to play the game again.
Overall, I still enjoy the game with all of its faults and tedious gameplay. It’s broken, short, but it still has that charm... Or the rosey tint of nostalgia. If you happen to find it for $5, give it a shot!
Hope you guys and gals enjoyed the read, and tune in next week where I continue on this trip through the nightmarish 32 bit wasteland.