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Space Raiders
  opened by paleface at 05:13:52 09/13/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=GC; cat=Shooter_Vert; reg=JPN]
Finally a worthy follow-up by Taito to their classic Space Invaders, it may look like a 3D adventure game from the screenshots but it is, in fact--get ready for it--a vertical shooter! YESSS!
Just like Space Invaders you move your character side to side at the bottom of the screen, dodging behind destructible barriers and shooting upscreen at strafing enemies who in turn shoot back at you. A bonus ship flies across the upper part of the screen every once in a while, dropping a bonus item if you manage to hit it. You can block enemy shots with your shots but they can do the same to you. Certain of the enemy sounds are reminiscent of the old game and one of the characters has a stylized version of one of the old pixelated Invaders on the back of his jacket.
But the similarities pretty much end there, thankfully. Now the enemies dance back and forth in unpredictable patterns and may even approach right up to the bottom of the screen, then fall back. If they get near the bottom they can shoot sideways at you, darn hard to dodge. Fortunately you've got left and right combat rolls for such occasions, as well as a very limited supply of grenades and super weapon shots, each of the three playable characters having their own unique super attack. Instead of merely giving you points, the powerups can boost your speed or firepower for a limited period of time, give you more super weapon ammo, or even freeze time briefly (now there's an oxymoron for you).
That's right, three different characters. You see little bits about them in very high-quality cinematic clips before getting down to shooting. Each handles differently: there's the slow heavy firepower guy, the average guy, and the fast but weak woman. Boy no cliches here, eh? But the game is so tightly orchestrated that these old standbys offer a considerably different experience from each other.
Yeah, it's hard. And there doesn't seem to be any difficulty options, so buckle up, me buck-o. In Story mode you pick one character and go shooting along through waves of attackers, boss fights, etc. Yep, bosses, and they--well, the first one anyway, since that's as far as I've got yet--pack a wallop. Besides the barriers (oil cans in the rubble-strewn alleyway that is first stage) the environments have other interactive parts (exploding wrecked car in the alleyway) that can help you out a bit if used correctly but of course it really comes down to some hardcore shooting, strafing, and probably a healthy dosage of combat rolls to dodge particularly thick clusters of shots.
In Survival Mode you can play two players simultaneously (you can pick the same character for each player, in which case one has a different outfit) in what the back of the box calls "endless survivor" but which has looked exactly the same as Story mode to me in the early going, aside from the two player thing. Players knock into each other a bit, sort of like Ikaruga, so this could be interesting--they'll also be competing for powerups.
The detailed graphics shine as much as they can in a game that neglects to offer progressive scan support (boOOOoo!), with lovingly detailed stages, handsome character models and the aforementioned high quality cinematics. Sounds don't lag behind and the suspenseful music deserves mention as well. As does a second compatibility shortfall: no digital controller support, unfortunate since the game feels like it wants to play on an arcade stick. Still the wacky GC controller works pretty well here since your main action buttons are fire (big A button) and the two shoulder buttons for combat rolls.
Cool, heavy action in this one. If the running demos are any indication, later stages get pretty insane, which is of course all to the good... once I get good enough. Space Raiders, however, promises to be well worth the effort.
  paleface 05:19:46 09/13/03
Forgot to mention a slight oddity: once you've started Survival mode one-player, the other player cannot join in on the fly--you've got to end the game and start a new one from the beginning.
  paleface 05:26:10 09/13/03
Worth mentioning that the GC version is really hard to find. The game also came out on PS2. I wonder if the difficulty may be related to the game's intro having a city destruction scene rather reminiscent of the September 11th terrorist attack in New York?
  paleface 03:49:06 02/03/04
The sound in this game is annoying enough to make me subconsciously shy away from it, I think. I'm still really bad at it.

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