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Chain Dive
  opened by paleface at 05:32:03 11/13/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Platformer; reg=JPN]
Semi-unique and stylish total action game, a good thing indeed. "Semi-unique" because your mysterious character's magic, glowing-green bungie cord thing could be taken as inspired by Bionic Commando and so forth, but the way you can use your momentum to sling yourself nearly into orbit, and double-jumping and hooking floating green crystals to get around monster-ruined cityscapes isn't something you'll have experienced before in a game, and it's well worth the trip.
Controls seem unusual at first, but so is the action, and pretty quickly it becomes second nature--before you know it you'll be whip-jumping around a giant crablike creature on a falling bridge like it was a walk in the park, spiralling down from high above to freeze chunks of his exposed backside with your ice-blue sabre, then whip-cording into them at high speed to break the brittle ice and bust off his shell, exposing the vulnerable meat beneath. Sounds complicated but it all happens quite easily, thanks in large part to the strictly 2D movement that still somehow looks appropriate on a 3D background, and never feels restrictive--the camera helps in that, too, as it zips around you, giving dramatic zooms as you launch yourself through the skies.
Now what, you may ask, is my motivation for all this sweaty-sounding business? Well aside from it being fun and even exhilarating, your man soldier is constantly rescuing inordinately chesty young women from the clutches of their weird mutant/alien monster things. These obviously aren't the brightest women, since they're still around while the rest of the area has been evacuated (at least, nobody else is around--maybe the girl ate everyone), but they faint prettily when you rescue them or something, then you, being the strong, tongue-tied type, clad in your jagged "Shark" suit, skedaddle away before you have to talk to them. Sometimes though you have to carry them along on your Spider-Man-like cord swings through the city, and you can even practice throwing them up into the air at the peak of your swing, then catching them on the way down. They love it! Don't drop them too much, though, or they die on you.
In between the fierce action stages (oh yeah, to recover health you freeze a bunch of guys in a row, then break 'em all at once to get a big long combo, which heals you for some reason) you're treated to very odd abstract story slideshows. These are voiced and in Japanese, and I have little idea of what's going on, but it's usually two or more of the enthusiastically-modelled women going on about something. Start button to skip comes in handy once again.
Whip-cording at near sonic speeds over, under and through the city should not be missed by zoomy action fans. I'm not sure how long it'll last (the stages can go by pretty quick once you get good with using your position and momentum to sling yourself huge distances) but there are, to judge by the menus, time and score attack modes to unlock, a nice touch. You get rated on various categories at the end of each stage, all old-timey-arcade style. And in many respects this game is a whip-lashed throwback to the days of simple action games, but done in umistakably modern, stylishly subtle tones and razor-sharp bursts of speed. More like this, please.
  paleface 05:36:45 11/13/03
Download added: combo_coming.jpg (16017 bytes)
  "Setting up for a combo by freezing a string of baddies."
To explain that previous shot a bit more: that's the player in the foreground with the bright two-bladed swordy thing, facing out toward the giant boss, who is a ways down the street that recedes into the background as you move across the picture to the left.
  paleface 11:40:46 04/26/05
I asked for more of the nice racing, comboing and grappelling action, but unfortunately the designers seem to have become restless, and in later levels make you do other, rather less amusing things. Perhaps it would have helped if I could have read the sentence of so of Japanese that flashes on the screen at the beginning of certain levels, but as it was I found many stages to be very unintuitive: some have force fields blocking progress until you kill certain enemies who aren't indicated in any special way; many levels have you pressing a series of relatively small, dark and hard-to-spot switches on the ground, scattered widely around a level filled with, of course, endlessly respawning enemies; in several frustrating sequences you have to keep knocking detonating, blobbish enemies off of friendly aircraft while the pilots keep screaming over and over at you on the radio--the particularly annoying part being that you can't see most of the area you're supposed to patrol, so you just have to keep running around in the hopes of spotting the enemies before they explode; a bunch have you forced to carry one of your girlfriends over your shoulder through a level (again filled with endlessly respawning enemies), and you can't attack while you're carrying them, oh and you drop them down the inevitable bottomless pit if you get hit; and then there are complete gameplay grotesqueries like the snowboard level (I kid you not) that highlight the limited physics engine in unfortunate ways, and throw sudden chasms at you that you can't possibly avoid the first time you encounter them, completely unexpectedly.
I've saved some special spleen to vent on the final boss fight. At least I think it's the final boss fight: I haven't been able to beat it, even though I tried for at least two or three hours. The level is completely empty except for grapple points and the boss, who is just as tiny as you, pitch black against the black space background, faster than you, much stronger, can fly, is usually invulnerable for no apparent reason, has a number of attacks which he can use at will that completely override the priority of your own attack, which seems suddenly neutered, and whenever he wants he can zip straight across the cylindrical level and fire swarms of seeking rays at you that paralyze you until he comes over and whacks you. Oh, and if you actually do manage to take a fair chunk off his life meter, he goes into a "comet mode" (my own fond term) where he turns into an invulnerable spinning ball that rockets in from offscreen and hits you two or three times.
A fitting end, then, to a game that got increasingly frustrating. The cutscenes also seemed to get worse, or maybe it's just that they continued to be incredibly longwinded and boring, with the same slideshow characters talking slowly back and forth ad-nauseum.
It's a shame, because there are many very inventive elements, and a few of the later levels return to the nice straightforward grappel-rushing across vast levels. But these are short, brief oases in a sea of bad gameplay decisions. I actually found myself cursing after completing some of the stages, muttering things like "wow, that was a stupid level," hoping that it was the end of the game. And I hate to leave a boss unbeaten, but I don't think there's a real trick or strategy to beating the final boss here: he's just a complete cock, and fighting him isn't fun.

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