| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Shooter_Vert; loc=JPN] |
|G.rev's previous arcade shooter ported to DC, "Border Down" (see entry 346), brought sterling craftsmanship and some innovative weapon systems to the traditional horizontal shooter genre. With Under Defeat, they tackle the vertical shooter, kicking a few new tricks into what otherwise feels like a very old-school, technically impressive shmup.|
The old-school aspects include very Raiden-ish (see entry 218) heavy military themes, fast, scattered shot patterns, and revolving powerups. Also, your main weapon doesn't really change throughout the game. There's a tiny bit of a combo system, but really this game is all about blowing stuff up, and surviving each stage to accumulate a high score.
The newish touches come in the secondary weapon system, and in the aiming. The powerups you collect are three flavors of secondary weapons, and of course bombs. The secondary weapons have a re-use timer, so you have to wait a bit after triggering one to fire it again, and then they have a warm-up timer, so you have to stop shooting your helicopter's main gun for a few seconds before you can trigger the secondary weapon. This fairly simple mechanic keeps you watching your timing, and getting into a rhythm to maximize your opportunities to use the secondary weapons.
The three flavors of secondary weapon are Rocket, Gatling, and Cannon. When triggered, a little option pops out of your chopper, and shoots. The Gatling one flies along with you, blasting its gun away in the direction it was initially launched. The Cannon pops off a series of heavy cannon shots that can really chew through a good number of armored targets. I pretty much stick with the Rocket, though: it shoots off a single homing missile that causes a massive explosion. Oh so satisfying.
Plus, the explosion can destroy multiple targets at once, kicking in a bit of a combo bonus. It doesn't seem like you get a whole lot from comboing like that, although I haven't watched it closely. Still, in a score-based shooter like this, every little bit helps.
The aiming system(s) are pretty keen, too. First, its subtle, but you'll notice that your shots aim either more or less level, to take out air targets, or downward, to hit ground targets. This is almost completely transparent to the user, but you can see where your gun is aiming by a little red crosshair, and the detail of seeing your shots going downward or forward adds a nice realistic touch. Enemy ground-to-air shots have similarly detailed trajectories.
The main aiming system of not is the rotation of your chopper. You have the option of having your chopper rotate with your sideways movement, ie aiming left as you move left, or having it aim the reverse direction, ie right as you move left. I don't know if one is inherently better than the other, but currently I'm preferring Reverse. Furthermore, when you get a firing angle you want to hold for a while, holding Fire will keep it locked for you as you move around. The firing arc is only about thirty degrees to either side, but again, a simple mechanic adds up to a lot of possibilities for flight and shooting patterns as you try to take out as many enemies as possible while avoiding their loose shot formations. The helicopter rotation hearkens back to another great DC arcade shooter port, Psikyo's "Zero Gunner 2" (see entry 803), but the limited arc of rotation keeps Under Defeat firmly in the vertical shooter genre.
Vertical screen modes and VGA are fully supported, and the game looks darn nice on a rotated VGA screen. You can tell they really put a lot of effort into the massive explosions, which look incredibly realistic, and carry a huge, epic feeling. There's a certain joy in launching a screen-filling bomb, for instance, and then watching the grey smoke plumes billow out from the impact sight, as bits of shrapnel leave pretty little splashes in the water below. The screen shakes, the speakers boom, the action slows down to a crawl, and the explosion fills your screen with a huge fireball. Kablooie! Few games do it as well as this one.
Even aside from the explosions, the game looks good in the DC. The enemy ships, tanks, and aircraft are well animated and bursting with detail; just check out all the intricate, independently rotating gun turrets on the stage 2 flagship, for instance. Enemy formations are well timed and scripted, and the boss battles sometimes take you on carefully arranged flight paths around the huge target. In a quirky touch, you can pause the action at any time, then rotate and zoom the screen to check out your surroundings in higher detail.
Under Defeat is simple, and simply kick-ass. It's good to have a shooter where you don't have to worry about memorizing interlocked shot patterns, or combo chains; you just go blast stuff, and watch it blow up so pretty.
Under Defeat shipped in a DVD case, unusual for a DC game.