Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keeping the Thunder Rolling.

There are so many interesting games coming out at the end of this month. Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Mass Effect 2. People are cutting people in half with Travis Touchdown's beam sword in No More Heroes 2. I still haven't even had a chance to play the full version of Bayonetta. So in order to not be so depressed about my lack of coin for gaming, I decided to take a little trip backwards. Yes, we're going back. Wayyy back... Back into time. To 1986 where Namco had just released an arcade game that will go on to influence other arcade games and future titles we hold dear. Yessir, I'm talking about Rolling Thunder.

Cue video, please.

Rolling Thunder was just a different game from the standard platformers that preceeded. It had everything including the "go into rooms to avoid enemies, and find powerups" mechanic from Elevator Action, and a "super jump" that allowed the main character, Albatross, to jump up to the second floor in a single bound. There were other factors that really made this game fun as well including the anime aesthetic teamed with well animated sprites , which made the characters and environments exciting, and the cut scenes of your fellow Agent's capture and torture. Now I'll be the first to admit to see the torture of a woman in a videogame in the pre-Night Trap/Mortal Kombat era go largely unnoticed was a bit odd, but it really was there to motivate Albatross to put foot-to-ass to get his comrade back, and put the dreaded terrorist cell, Geldra in it's place.

The game is broken up into two parts. Story 1 is just to get you used to the ebb and flow of the game, while lobbing a multitude of hooded badguys with guns at you. Of course the questionable design of the Maskers would lead people to believe that it would be completely satisfying to be able to shoot them in the face. For some reason I can't disagree with this logic, though it vaguely reminds me of what Comedian, Dave Chappelle said when he aired that skit about the time haters going back in time to shoot the plantation owner. Digressing again, sorry. Story 2 is the real test, as it changed everything you knew from the first go-round: more enemies, more danger, more mutants. Even with all that the game still maintains a simple premise of being easy to learn, yet with enemy patterns that are difficult to master, but this time the story ends with the final confrontation with Geldra leader, the Namekian-looking Maboo.

I wonder....




The controls are tight. You jump, you shoot, you hold up to go into rooms, then you hold up to inhumanly jump over the railing to the second floor, then back over the railing to fall down to the first floor. You can even go into caged in rooms to get to ammunition rooms and deal with Panthers. Which was pretty awesome to do in a game. These features carry over into future games like Sega's Shinobi series, and Capcom's Codename: Viper, which aside from the graphics and a few tweaks and powerups , follows Rolling Thunder almost religiously. Including the former, few games have covered interactive background elements like Rolling Thunder has Gaming enthusiast, Syd Lexia even goes into detail explaining this in his breakdown, comparing this with Super Mario World's fence climbing/flipping and how few games have ever further explored it's uses. (the article was published before NSMB Wii.)

The negatives are kind of few in number with this game. Yes it's hard to get around with bullets whizzing about your head, and the enemies and trap placements get downright aggrivating, but the real issue is the lifebar which is so damn deceptive, it hurts! Despite it's size you can only take two hits from enemies and one hit from bullets and lazers before dying. Sad, I know, but this forces you to really get into a rhythm of memorizing patterns and taking calculated risks to finish stages. A interesting feature from a bygone era. (le-sigh.)

Of Course, I had to enjoy this game again through the use of Mame, which sucks, because I want the arcade cabinet. However, if it makes it any better I do own the unlicensed Tengen version for the NES. Anyway. If you can find a copy of either, I suggest that you do so. The game has aged fairly well despite a few artistic flaws (the rubbery animation of Maboo laughing and Leila's 15 foot wingspan spite during the final battle .) The game is a definite must play for any arcade gaming enthusiast. This won't be the last time you hear me reference this game, as I'm working on a little side project that will hopefully be instrumental in keeping the thunder rolling.

- Game on.

Source: Syd , KLOV

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