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"My spread shot is full power, so now it shoots in missile mode too."
As with their to-PS2 arcade port, XII Stag (see entry 305), Triangle Service brings us a shooter with crusty-looking graphics, minimal presentation, dated play mechanics (you could call them "old school" if you wanted) with a new twist that doesn't quite manage to make it feel fresh. This does not mean, however, that it isn't fun in its own modest way.
|And I have to admit that I've been having slightly-more-than-modest fun with Trizeal. It really is refreshing to have a new shooter that's not all about manic dodging/buzzing/reflecting of huge impenetrable slow bullet clouds. Your hit box is relatively large, the bullets come relatively thinly-spread, but rather fast, and the enemies come in all shapes and sizes: big fat cruisers taking up most of the width of the screen, platoons of tanks wheeling around far below, fast squadrons of fighters zipping past from the top or sides of the screen and, of course, the huge bosses.|
Ah, the bosses. While low-poly and clunky-looking by modern hardware standards, somehow that doesn't matter much as these hulking behemoths go through multiple bullet-spraying forms. Ulgy and unoriginal, they still have an epic weight, and demand to be remembered.
Less can be said of the stages themselves. The first is mere flat cloud plane and, later, ugly dark mountains far below. The second gets even uglier, with concrete platforms suspended over a dull, inert liquid surface. Fortunately, things perk up a bit on the third stage, with a truly massive battle cruiser trundling along miles over repetitive but detailed and even sorta pretty dark cityscape.
Low-poly as everything is, the amount of slowdown here is surprising. I haven't seen anything I could call unplayable, since the single-digit range is only hit while big things are blowing up in their death throw, but things could certainly be more brisk in most intense firefights.
I've become more fond of the weapon system. You flip through the three weapon types (spread shot, tracking missiles, lasers) at will, and each powerup you get powers just the current weapon one notch; each can go up to five. When one hits four or more, it will fire, in a slightly lesser way, while you are in either of the other two weapon modes; so, once you've powered up two weapons, your third packs a nasty tripartite punch. Each also has a definite use: spread for taking out swarms, missiles for punching away at a single target, especially while dodging, and lasers for zapping multiple vertically-stacked targets at once. The balance works well. Oh and yes, you have the typical supply of screen-clearing bombs.
Scoring has a gimmick, if an unoriginal one: when killed, enemies drop a medal worth points, and the medals (and their corresponding point values) get larger as you catch a succession of them without letting any drop offscreen, sort of similar to Battle Bakraid, only the medals fall really fast without much of a delay, and cap out rather quickly, so it's as if you aren't really meant to be able to chain them all.
The port starts you off with only three credits per play, but more unlock as time goes on. You can also unlock a stage for Score Attack mode play by beating it in Arcade mode, and the Score Attack menu has two other unlockable goodies: "Lifting Game" and "Omake." I've yet to unlock "Omake," so I have no idea what's in there, but "Lifting Game" is this weird sort of minigame sliced from the second stage, in which you score by bouncing off the hull of your ship a little brown thing thrown up into the air by a robot. The nebulous collision and physics make this difficult, as do the huge towers and fleets of tanks shooting at you, but it's a cute little sidelight nonetheless.
|While single-player is pretty fun, two-player has some real problems. For one, the framerate that was already not-so-hot in single-player takes a nosedive in co-op, so that you're really playing in single-digit framerates for large parts of the game. On the plus side, this makes the game a whole lot easier, because enemy shots move really, really slow. On the minus side, it just feels like poop.|
The other nasty problem is that when one player moves left or right, it forces the screen to pan a little, since the active area is wider than the screen, but the second player doesn't pan with it, so in effect, when one player moves sideways, they shift the other player a little way in the opposite direction. With both players dodging around this just feels like you're tossing in a ship at sea, which really isn't what you look for when trying to dodge lots of incoming bullets.