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Zero Wing (Genesis) artwork

Zero Wing (Genesis) review

"Instead, letís all listen to people who have never played the game quote the Ďhilariousí intro until the urge to club them with a half brick becomes too strong. "

Very well; letís get this over with:

Zero Wing asset

Now, letís all have a good laugh. Haha, itís all mistranslated and none of it makes contextual sense! See how the phrases are taken directly from a dodgy Internet translation program -- letís all make it into a huge meme, print it on T-shirts and quote it in chatrooms. Thatíll make us cool and edgy. Why, once, I said ďAll your base are belong to usĒ in the local pub, and the only logical thing that could happen did. Chaotic orgy. I still recall the monstrous chafing.

Mistranslations donít amuse me much. Iím above that. What does give me a sly smile now and then is how much is made of this game based on a half-arsed intro because, without that, Zero Wing would be a non entity. Itís not a good enough game to laud, and isnít a bad enough one to tear apart. It exists; it displays some good ideas and some poor implementations and thatís it.

You can tell that it wants to exist in the same vein as Iremís opus R-Type series, in that it plods along at a manageable pace, making the level layouts as much of a danger as the variety of enemy craft it throws your way. Itís not a fast and frantic scrolling shooter, but one that wants to be a little more cerebral. Like R-Type, it places awkward gun mounts in hard to reach places, allowing them to spit plasma at you seemingly unanswered. Like R-Type, wide open screens will often become claustrophobic and confined, cutting down your room to dodge, and prompting a threat of collision.

Unlike R-Type, itís not very well implemented. Zero Wing is unable to define where the line between challenging and unfair really sits, so spends most of its time staying as far away form it as it can. Every now and then, it tries to make up for playing it safe. It overcompensates.

The gameís unwillingness to break genre tropes has to take a lot of the blame. As usual, you're a single craft against an evil, mistranslated alien empire, this one with ridiculous hair and eerie cyborg eyes. Your single craft, the mighty ZIG, has various upgrades available, including a pair of flanking satellites that offer a second (and third) stream of attack, and three differing bullet types that I would cycle through, but two are made crushingly obsolete by the mighty green homing missile attack.

Awkwardly placed turret?
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Rapidly manufactured enemy craft?
Zero Wing asset

Weird pinkish skull thing with a flamethrower in its mouth?
Zero Wing asset

Letís cut to the quick; in the opening stages of this game, the only deaths I had came from weaving around the screen like a loon trying desperately to avoid accidentally picking up the other variants of power-ups that would stop me from comfortably sitting in the top left corner and destroying everything the second it even considered scrolling on to the screen. Arm yourself right, and large sections of Zero Wing are sluggish journeys where you fly in a straight line and press fire to win. Sometimes a dying enemy will release a starburst of bullets your way youíll have to dodge and, in fact, this tactic quickly becomes the gameís ace-in-the-hole. If a mid bossí constant strew of fireballs seems too easy to dodge, throw a starburst in there. Itís Zero Wingís answer to everything.

Then, as youíre about to give up hope that anything of interest will come along, something like this pops up:

Zero Wing asset

Scary Neon Plasma Zombie Whale is a prime example of the things Zero Wing does right. Sitting in the top corner spamming homing attacks will win you no points with Ahabís futuristic nightmare as it spits out glowing rings of violent death that follow random, unpredictable paths. They will flood the screen and find a static target in very little time. Scary Neon Plasma Zombie Whale has no time for your pussy tactics.

Most levels are cakewalks, filled with numerous power-ups, staggered checkpoints that will mean hardly ever starting from the very beginning of a stage and a level of architecture that desperately wishes it was borrowed from Iremís stash of deadly blueprints but really, really isnít. Boss fights seem to have been jerked from a different game all together. Some still suck, like Stage 3ís god awful moronic hopping Blue Mech, which takes part in a stage that custom builds the perfect hiding place by taking out a chunk of ceiling in the top left hand corner. It lets you sit there and, you guessed it, plough NEVER CEASING STREAMS OF HOMING MISSILE into its face. Or Stage 4ís lame gyrocopter contraption that offers about as much offence as a damp kitten (but has that all-conquering back-up of a constant starburst weapon!) Then youíll come across a screen-sized engine block, ploughing out non-stop plasma while a gravity-mocking space-snake slides in and out of the gears, chasing you, almost playfully, around the screen while you do your best to dodge both it and the wall of bullets coming your way.

As such, itís hard to label Zero Wing a complete failure. Itís not like it didnít have itís own ideas, like a cool tractor beam feature that lets you trap smaller enemy craft to act as a kind of shield, to either absorb a hit for you, or to be thrown back in the faces of its former allies for kicks and giggles. It simply spends a great deal of its time being a paint-by-numbers scrolling shooter, and asking you to invest a lot of time plodding though its poorly paced stages to catch glances at what could have been.

Perhaps it could have been remembered as one of the better 16-bit shooters on the market, but that wasnít to be. Instead, letís all listen to people who have never played the game quote the Ďhilariousí intro until the urge to club them with a half brick becomes too strong.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 18, 2012)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted March 18, 2012:

Hey, wow, someone who has actually played the game! Thanks for writing this review, EmP. I never did play the game but attempts to actually find someone who has usually end with making my time. And no great justice.

It's a good review, too. Entertaining (I laughed several times) and informative. Now onto the grammar stuff. I didn't dig through with a fine-toothed comb, but this one stood out to me, early on:

" It exists; it displays some good ideas and some poor implications and thatís it."

Do you mean implementations? Check the next paragraph, too, first sentence has an "as" missing.

EDIT: I am aware EmP's review isn't the first of these on Honest Gamers, but seeing as he had a hand in the creation of one and was mentioned in conversation concerning the other, it makes him a kind of zero wing authority.
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overdrive posted March 19, 2012:

Pfft. I was doing reviews of Zero Wing SEVEN YEARS AGO!
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zippdementia posted March 19, 2012:

Pffft. Seven years ago is just passe.
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Masters posted March 21, 2012:

I'm pretty sure my review was the first up on the site. ^_^ But anyway, Emp manages to do a fine job despite being up against Real Shmup Review Heavyweights.
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EmP posted March 26, 2012:

Overdrive was doing plenty of things seven years ago. Like celebrating his 70th birthday. And complaining about the young 'uns on his lawn.

This really was a last minute scramble of a review after I had to scrap my plans for covering Zone of the Enders after the entire thing turned into a bitter rant. Well, more so than the bitter rants I try to dress up enough to turn into reviews, anyway. I'm glad it can hang with the rest of the content we already have for the game because what we already have is pretty killer.

Thanks, guys!
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Masters posted March 26, 2012:

If it weren't for the OD dig, I would have assumed someone hijacked Emp's account, what with the complimentary and gracious tone...
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Linkamoto posted April 02, 2012:

Awesomely funny review. Loved the way you describe the mindless boss fights and asinine level structures. Also, your last sentence is simply WINNING!
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EmP posted April 03, 2012:

Thanks -- and it's nice to see you back again.

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