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 Post subject: Under Defeat (Dreamcast)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:18 am 

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Joined: 23 Apr 2005
Posts: 449
Location: Fender Telecaster
note: Im not consistent in my writing, but this is what i have done so far... PM me your qualms in my grammar and about the review itself... and also, i tried to make this write-up undestandable from a Casual Gamer's POV, that's why im sort of "re-introducing" the genre as well as the cult console, the dreamcast.


Title: Under Defeat
Manufacturer: G. Revolution
Release Date: March 23, 2006
Platform: Dreamcast
Genre: Shooter - Flying Vertical
Players: 1-2

Fans of the genre rejoice at G. Revolution’s latest offering. The small company has gained a cult-following due to their past productions, the solid horizontal bullet hell Border Down and the versus mech-action shooter Senko no Ronde (Which is due for the X360). Both of course were only released in Japanese arcades. It was inevitably the same case for Under Defeat, its getting a good run in 100yen arcades all around Akiba, and the of course the major Arcade establishments by Sega and Namco. And so naturally, overseas fans were overjoyed when announcement of a Dreamcast port of Under Defeat was to be released last March 23, 2006. The power of importing truly does works wonders, the game has sold over 10,000 copies in just two weeks, and considering this is a game from a fairly small and unknown company, released on a fairly dead console, it is indeed quite a feat. Now, the hype is dying down, yet still, to each new owner of this game, you would instantly hear nothing but praise for this humble gem. A‘revolution’ indeed, albeit a quiet one.

The game is set during a supposed war, and based on the radio dialogue, you are playing as Germans (?). You control a not so typical Helicopter, and you’re out to battle it out in a one-girl army war against endless streams of tanks, cannons, battleships, planes, and of course, fellow heli’s as well. As many have said, the story isn’t that important when it comes to shooters, but indeed it does add to the atmosphere. Luckily, UD doesn’t rely on deep storylines to get the atmosphere right. Under Defeat succeeds in taking the “War/Military” tone and mood of the game by giving us something, we have seen before, but never fully experienced. Unlike other War-based shooters, UD tried to be more “down-to-earth” minimizing the appearances of “fictional” elements such as Mechs/Robots and bizarre over-the-top weapons, it goes for that basic yet detailed look of tanks, airplanes, battleships would look like, making everything feel as if they were based on real military artillery. So war is the theme, does it look like a war? Yes, does it feel like a war? Yes.

Under Defeat is hard, in a way that it takes time to get used to its little details. First off, if you noticed, Helicopters don’t really move sideways in a straight manner, they turn a bit, making a bit of angled direction. This is why you have to choose between “Normal” movement and “Reverse” movement. This first choice here will definitely affect the way to handle the game. Normal mode is simple, when you move left, your cockpit moves left, facing the left side, and vice-versa, basically, your craft faces the same direction your are moving to. But in Reverse mode, it’s reversed, when you move left, your Heli’ faces the opposite direction, basically, you face the opposite direction you craft moves to. Of course these come into effect because the angle and direction you shoot depends on where your cockpit is facing. These selections have their own advantages, Normal more aggressive because you are forced to approach the enemy wherein Reverse acts as a more defensive way of playing for you are forced to keep away from the enemies and shoot from a distance. Personally though, I prefer Reverse mode. Anyways, the handling of your craft is well done, and it has one of the better hitbox dimensions in shooters.

Now another important part in a shooter’s gameplay is its weapon system. Under Defeat steers away from gimmicky lasers and powerups that other shooters have, and goes for a more basic yet flawless approach. You main weapon is the typical Vulcan, and you cannot “improve” it nor enhance it. It doesn’t level up or increase in strength; it’s just like that all throughout the game. I think this aspect helps in making the game seem more “realistic” because in real life, you cannot really “power-up” guns, or “enhance” its range. Ok, so it’s all not that realistic, because aside from you main weapon, you have helper Options/Pods/Bits. These little fellows serve as your sup-weapon and it helps in not only killing enemies but also in gaining higher points. They come in 3 varieties, the Vulcan, the Cannon, and the Rocket. The Vulcan acts as double of you main weapon, the Cannon is a series of hard-hitting shots, and the Rocket is an explosive yet single shot missile. And most importantly, these pods automatically lock-on to the nearest enemy. I may be up to personal preference on which type of pod to equip, but they do serve different purposes on different occasions. These Options are not abuse able though, you need some strategic timing on when and where to use them. First of all, they cannot be used all at once, on the screen you would see a small gauge which fills up automatically, once it fills up, you can use the Pods, but only for a limited time, once the gauge below runs out, they will self-destruct, and you have to wait for a the gauge to fill up to use them again. And as I’ve mentioned, these pods are also the path for a high score, because each time a pod kills an enemy, the point it usually goes for is doubled, for example, a tank you destroy goes for 100 points, but when your pod kills it, it would double up to 200 points. And of course lastly, the Bomb, a.k.a. the Panic Button, the bomb in Under Defeat is different from other games. It’s not powerful, still not entirely useless, it only kills smaller or weaker enemies, and of course eliminates the bullets on screen, it serves as a “sweeper” instead of the big damage inducer, heck it doesn’t even do damage in Boss battles. Personally, I think it was meant for strategic uses. Okay, overall, the weapons in the game are fairly basic yet it does have its deep moments.

Overall, the gameplay is still the old vertical shmups we know, with a few toned-down twists. It still proves to be a solid engine. There are minor quircks such as the invisible borders on the sides of the screen which makes it a bit hard to avoid bullet barrages but it doesn’t seriously detract from making the game any less fluid. And to note also, this is one of the shooters you cannot credit feed, first of all, you initially have limited credits and second, when you lose all you lives and continue, you don’t respawn immediately on the exact location, you start over at a certain point, actually requiring you to improve you game, it's a fine balance between the old school shmups, which require you to start from a certain part each time you die, and the modern shmups which allows you to respawn instantly. As for the scoring, im not really fond of score attacks, maybe that's why i don't care for the multipliers and chains and such. But based on other's impressions, i'd say the scoring system in UD is pretty neat. Simply said, Under Defeat is surely one of the best examples of how the shoot-em-up genre truly evolves.

Of course, like many modern games, visuals can either make or break a game. Fortunately, Under Defeat doesn’t need to worry about that. If there is one thing to say about the Visuals in UD, it would be the sheer attention to Detail. Everything was taken into consideration, from trees swaying when explosion occur nearby, to how huge Biplanes fall apart first before actually exploding. It may not have a big polygon count, but the crafts, tanks and ships look nice enough, the textures are all in their anti-aliased glory. The backgrounds are well drawn and are convincing enough to get that War feel. Again, the in-game elements are well detailed, craters are created when something blows up, buildings are damaged when tanks blow up and chunks of snow on trees are shaken off when explosions occur. Speaking, of explosions, arguably, these are some of the best particle effects in a Shoot-em-up game, more so, one of the best Dreamcast graphics you’ll ever see. The Explosions are well detailed, from minute sparks to chunks metal flying off; everything is well placed amongst the chaotic blurs of orange. And most of off, you must see the Bomb attack, it’s simply mesmerizing. The smoke effects are also well drawn, it actually look real from afar. When it comes to special effects, Under Defeat delivers.

Music is another factor which helps bring atmosphere into a game. And the music in Under Defeat does help. The tunes are mainly synth-rock based, typical of Japanese anime and videogames. The compositions themselves aren’t that notable, but in a way, it fits. You can select from Arcade and Arrange BGM’s, both are fairly identical but of course the Arranged Tracks are enhanced version which uses real instruments and added some extensive guitar riffs. If there is one thing that the music reminds me of, its 90’s videogames, but still it doesn’t feel dated at all. Again, it simply just fits the game. The sound effects also fitting and they actually enhance the game. The explosion sounds are nice, as well as little things like the German radio dialogue during the game, the rustling of the trees, and the windy sound of the snow. You hear what you have to hear, in a way, it is well polished. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of an Attract/intro screen Music/BGM. Personally, i like watching those, espcially after what we've seen in BorderDown, it can add a bit more flavor to an already tasty game.

Finally, the unique thing about Under Defeat which separates it from the countless numbers of shooters is its Dramatic Execution and Detail. Everything was taken into consideration here, from the doves in the beginning of the 1st stage, the Rain fall at the end of the 2nd stage, the delayed destruction of the 3rd stage boss, the breaking down of the 4th stage boss, to the silent sentimental melody in the start of the 5th stage. These small things add personality to this somewhat shallow genre. And it is spread all throughout the game as well, the way a tank is burnt to a crisp before actually exploding, the way you bomb attack sweeps through the screen in a delayed manner, the way Aircrafts actually fall to the ground and not just explode midair, the way shrapnel falls off you Helicopter when you shoot, and the way Your comrades take part in the action only to get destroyed when you don kill the enemies in time. Everything is well executed and gives the game a feeling of completeness and refinement. Truly little things like these helped in making the game stand-out from multitudes of Shoot-em-ups.

Now the Dreamcast port, it certainly is a decent package. So the game only has 5 levels, but completing them with limited credits is hard though, and to make it harder, they decided to add in some Remixed levels. Basically these are still Levels 1-5, but enemy patterns are inverted and they have more attacks at an even faster rate. Disorienting, yes, but that’s that point. Not to mention, the Stage’s Seasons/Time have changed, in the normal level 4, it occurs during Winter time, but in the remixed Level 4, it takes place during Autumn. Also, aside from unlocking more credits, you can unlock Galleries to look at the fancy artwork the game has to offer. And last, but not the least, they provided Replays of perfect runs of the levels; you can see flawless superplays of the stages in both survival and score oriented sequences. You can also save your own Replay if you want to. The DC port is sufficient, being an arcade game, it doesn’t really have to offer that much extras, because its longevity is within the game itself. It is also one of the few DC games to come in a DVD case, and it looks pretty spiffy too.

Under Defeat is a great game. That is what many have been saying. Lovers of the genre praise this game, and I think it deserves it. With games like these, G. Revolution has proved to be one of the most promising developers in the industry. Their main staff of 8 people truly is dedicated to their craft, and it shows in Under Defeat. It may not be a popular game, or a best selling game, but to those who have picked them up are very satisfied, I know I am. With games like these, you can see why Microsoft picked them to do the X360 version of Senko no Ronde. That is how much they deserve attention. I can only hope for more good things to come from this small humble company. Also, this may just be one of the last games for the Dreamcast, if it is so, then the DC is going out with one hell of a bang, a worth Swansong for the little console that could. In conclusion, Under Defeat one of the best examples of a hidden gem. I’m sure many of you would never even bother to play this game, But for us who had faith and dug deeper, all I can say is that we are holding a treasure, and it truly is rewarding.

Rating: 9.8/10
-0.2 for its lack of Attract screen music.

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