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Wolf Fang: Kuhga 2001 SS (Saturn) artwork

Wolf Fang: Kuhga 2001 SS (Saturn) review


"Vapor Trail has a sequel called Wolf Fang. Let's focus on the more pressing issue first: Vapor Trail managed a sequel."



Vapor Trail has a sequel called Wolf Fang. Let's focus on the more pressing issue first: Vapor Trail managed a sequel. This in itself is insane because the game is honestly a forgettable vertical shoot'em up, released when the genre was pooping out games on a daily basis. It's a competent, playable title, but Vapor Trail just doesn't stand out, with probably the most notable aspect being its catchy in-game main theme. However, your head will asplode when you learn what Data East did with the sequel; you go from a vertical shoot'em up aircraft title with Vapor Trail to... a horizontal run'n gun game where you control mechs. Considering the bizarre change of pace, I thought this was an Internet hoax at first. But then I saw images, read the sparse info on the web, and watched some gameplay footage. It exists. I was blown away. I wanted it.

It's a very bold move going in a drastically different direction with a sequel, which made me worry would blow up in the developers' faces. But the folks at Data East apparently had more than just confidence, as Wolf Fang turns out to be an enjoyable action shooter. Even though the game is structured like a run'n gunner, once you experience it firsthand, it doesn't conjure up memories of Contra and the like. Surprisingly, the tempo is still very much in common with a shoot'em up, where the screen scrolls of its own will, power-ups and helpers are collected from destroyed ships, and dodging projectiles from sudden appearances of enemy formations still require cat-like reflexes. But there's a catch, as, though the majority of foes can fly without a problem, Data East has intentionally gimped your mobile suits, prohibiting flight.

I like it.

The handicap actually makes the action much more frantic than it should be. There will be plenty of times where you'll watch your mech hop around like crazy dodging bullets from armored soldiers, mobile suits, and APCs. You'll start out with a hefty life bar, but it quickly disintegrates within seconds if you're not careful, forcing your soldier to abandon the mech and fight with one hit away from death. You'll get plenty of help from the usual assortment of goods to prevent this from happening (hopefully), like back-up soldiers that latch to your machine, a special attack that needs charging after every use, and the various power-ups. The spread shot is always a fan favorite in these games, but the others also pack a punch, like the slow but powerful stream of grenades or the eye-pleasing laser beam. I should mention you can move around the screen freely temporarily, to help relieve some tension, but only whenever a ramp or hillside show up in the background. It's almost like Data East is teasing, as if they're saying, "Look how easy the game gets if we did this everywhere!"

For a 30-some minute action game, Wolf Fang is fun enough as it is, but there's still a good amount of replay value left over thanks to some other additions. The developers have not only allowed you to pick among four mobile suits with differing skill sets, but they even allow you to make up your own customization, similar to the Edit Mode in Gradius games. It's not unnecessarily excessive, striking that simple balance for a straight game, which is something I can't say about another mech title for the Sega Saturn, Assault Suit Leynos 2. The devs also force branching paths by making you choose either easy or hard stages at every level select screen. Don't panic, the easy levels still maintain an energetic vibe to them, it just means you'll get more bite with the harder stages. Regardless of where you travel, there's always something different to witness in every path. One particular road eventually places you in an aerial battle where your machine is on top a carrier as you try destroying a giant aircraft with turrets galore.

But my favorite path involves penetrating an underwater base in an attempt at stopping a devastating missile from launching. The second to last level has your mech at the bottom of the sea, blasting away mobile suits, subs, and avoiding very tricky mine formations appearing from all corners. After defeating the freaky submarine claw boss, your mech retreats into a green sub, where you assume it'll rest for now...

The following stage immediately starts where you left off, in a now speedy sub launching rockets that destroy the outer shell of the base. But there's still a wall protecting the actual insides. Now weaponless, your badass sub rams through the wall and spits out your wreaking machine into a den of mechanical horrors. Mechs, tanks, and bullets try their best to lay waste to your metal exteriors, all while a kickass rock soundtrack blazes in the background! Not one for breathing room, the stage also makes you fight two Zakus (not kidding) at once, where it becomes a struggle to bounce over and dash around their beam swords. This all culminates with a duel in front of the launched missile, against a towering robot that fires everything imaginable, even its arms. Once you defeat this beast and knock it into the missile, you watch as your mech makes a daring escape from the now exploding base. Even the damn Silph plane from Vapor Trail pops in to lend a hand!

Now that's how you make an awesome final stage.

After experiencing Wolf Fang, I'm almost at a loss for words at how it's 2012 and I've become fully aware (I'm sure I've seen it in passing before...) of the title within the last two or so years. It's almost like I'm playing one of those best kept secrets that accidentally got leaked. It actually felt that way for a while, since, for some reason, tracking down a copy of the Sega Saturn version proved rather difficult, since the usual places like eBay and known import stores haven't had copies of the game in eons. Worse, when I finally snatched a copy and plopped it in to play, my 15 year old Sega Saturn finally died on me. Since PuLiRuLa was the last game to work in the system, I personally blame it, its absurd imagery, and its inept gameplay for killing the console! But I didn't give up, and with the power of MAGIC... and the aid of a six year old computer, I was still able to spin the disc. Stress was quickly subdued with happiness as I went through the game for the first time, which I guess is a testament to how fun Wolf Fang is.

Vapor Trail might be forgettable, but I'll give it credit for inspiring the creation of a great sequel.

Rating: 9/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 01, 2012)

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zippdementia posted May 06, 2012:

Awesome, Pickhut. This review comes together in a very satisfying way. I got excited to play the game.
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pickhut posted May 07, 2012:

Oh... took me a while to find this! xD

Thanks for enjoying the review. Glad it made you excited.

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