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|Reference added: 577|
"Spriggan and Spriggan mark 2 are quite different beasts, both excellent."
The romanization of the Japanese name is "Seirei Senshi Spriggan."
A highly impressive and innovative vertical shooter from Naxat Soft and Compile, impressive in terms of sprite activity, framerate, and character/stage design, and innovative in the unique weapon system.
The setting seems to be a sort of steampunk mix of technology and mysticism, indeed the Spriggan armor itself seems to be powered at least as much by willpower or inner strength as by any sort of chemical power source. Big floating cannon barges float by, flying armor knights fly up with laser guns, drone ships shoot past in long formations, bosses hold lazer bazookas in place of lances, and so forth. Cool stuff.
This game cranks--Naxat knows how to get lighting performance out of the PCE, and they put that knowledge to good use here: even with dozens of good sized sprites zipping around onscreen over an animating background, the framerate stays lickety-split. Sprite flicker, on the other hand, shows up fairly regularly, but usually not severely enough to prevent you from seeing what's moving around you.
As in the sequel Spriggan mark 2 (see entry 577), your friends and allies come in from time to time to fight by your side. They don't stick around long, generally, and they don't talk as they do (and how!) in the sequel--they're all business here. Story, in fact, is pretty much limited to the intro cinematic and then short little slideshows between stages and, well, it's generic enough so far that I can't really tell what's going on. Somebody did something, that's for sure, and now you've got to kick a lot of ass.
And kick it you will with the help of the fantastic weapon system. The Spriggan armor can hold three power balls, for lack of a better term. These come in different colors from kindly hot air balloons, and maybe from some dead enemies. Anyway, you collect 'em, and the combination of the three most recent, whatever it is (blue blue blue, green blue red, orange blue red, etc) determines the form of your attack. Bloody freaking brilliant, and it allows for such variety! Also, you can have less than three power balls equipped, and the weapon is again different but generally weaker. Three-ball attacks without fail cover a goodly portion on the screen with mean energy.
Now, say you have three balls, and here comes another one that you want to collect. You could just pick it up, losing the oldest ball in your armor, but you can do better than that: jettison the old ball as a bomb, then pick up the new one. Free bomb! Brilliant, simply brilliant.
The bosses are huge and although the first two went down very quickly under three-ball power, the third stage (before the boss) kicked my buttcakes. And that was on Normal--you gotta respect a game whose difficulty can be cranked up to "Unbelievable." I'm scared to try that one, actually.
Not only do you get all that, you can also do "Challenge" modes: Time Attack and Score Attack, quite similar to those seen in Naxat's "Summer Carnival" shooters (see Alzadick, entry 543, and Nexzr Special, entry 534), which themselves were cribbed from Hudson's "Soldier" series (see Soldier Blade for instance, entry 527). In fact, Spriggan came out the year before the first Summer Carnival, so it is really Naxat's first major experiment in the tournament shooter mode. And it does fairly well, with a new, long point and tile-filled level level for scoring nirvana. It doesn't have all of Soldier's score combo systems, it's more of just a blast-fest, but a fun one.