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 Post subject: Under Defeat (Dreamcast)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 7:30 pm 

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Joined: 20 Jul 2005
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Location: outer richmond
If you’ve been playing modern shooters, you might have noticed that they have a certain style in common. Dense and beautiful bullet patterns, bullet scrape techniques, and tricky scoring rules are the flavor of the day. However, Under Defeat is a comparatively straightforward shoot ‘em up. This isn’t to say that it’s a simplistic throwback, but rather that it focuses on survival more than it does on score. Overall, the game is probably going to be compared the most with Toaplan’s helicopter shoot ‘em ups like Twin Cobra-- but leaving it at that wouldn’t do it justice.

A few distinctions make Under Defeat more than just a 3d homage to late 80s arcade games. First, you can turn your chopper to aim. This is not 360-degree aiming like in Zero Gunner 2, but it lets you tilt quite a ways nonetheless. There is no turn button-- instead, your chopper swivels if you move left or right without firing. Second, the game makes excellent use of 3d in the level design. In order to hit targets on the ground, your shots must actually travel downwards. This means that a tank hiding behind a building or under a bridge may be hard to hit unless you bring your chopper around to a different angle and position. Likewise, ground enemies’ shots must first travel upwards to the player’s plane before they can cause damage. Finally, the player’s helicopter can only hit ground targets with the center gun-- it has two smaller machine guns on either side which always fire at sky targets. This makes it possible to hit ground and air targets simultaneously, and some levels had me having RayForce flashbacks.

You also have a choice of three different options (vulcan, cannon and rocket) and can switch by picking up a powerup. Each option has different behaviors, reload times, and cause varying amounts of damage. The angle that you deploy these at counts as well, and sometimes a misfired option leaves the player cornered since in order to deploy these, you must stop firing. The fire-and-forget strategies required to really blaze through the levels reminded me of some of Psikyo’s games. Finally, enemies may also be hit with the options themselves, which does come in handy at times.

Each level features an array of tanks and choppers with a variety of shot patterns, and they’re further distinguished from each other by the setting. For example, stage 2 has the player taking on battleships loaded with insane amounts of weaponry, and stage 4 is an assault on a walled fortress. Each has one or more midbosses which all require different strategies to beat, and each stage introduces new enemies and attacks. Some levels also have friendly units which help you if you can protect them, and some have environmental hazards like snowstorms. And while the game only has five levels, they are all fairly long-- not to mention the second loop. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but the second loop features horizontally flipped levels with different seasons, different intermission graphics, as well as some new shot patterns. What the game does not have are far-out level themes like Zero Gunner 2’s orbital elevator or aerial city-- the backdrops in Under Defeat stick with a pseudo-realistic war theme. That’s not to say they don’t have their share of surprises.

So, this could be the last Dreamcast disc, coming out late March in 2006. Since that makes the audience for this game even smaller than that for most shooters, I expected a bare-bones port. But no, G-Rev came through with a disc that sports an arrange soundtrack (longer tracks, not a full remix), a few different screen modes (with selectable wallpaper in the letterboxed modes), two sets of replay videos, and a practice mode. The practice mode allows the player to start on any segment of the level with any rank and any option armed, as well as the ability to save replays to the VMU. There is also an unlockable art gallery that includes sketches, cabinet art (including the instructions panel), and more. And after the game is finished on any setting with any amount of continues, the second loop is selectable from the start.

But I’ve neglected so far to really talk about the graphics. Visually, the game is beautiful. While the backdrops are pretty plain, the objects all look very nice and the sheer amount of effects is staggering for 1998 (or even later) hardware: smoke billows from destroyed targets, trees sway to explosions and your heli’s downforce, debris and sparks fly everywhere, tanks rock as they roll over uneven ground, objects reflect correctly in water, and an assortment of other effects. With all of this, it still doesn’t slow down very much.

Players looking for a chain-oriented manic shooter may be disappointed, as might players who dislike shooters played from a gently angled 3d perspective. But if you are looking for a fun, solid, well-executed and relatively accessible shoot ‘em up, you might consider giving this a try.

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