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Ranger X (Genesis) artwork

Ranger X (Genesis) review

"It was the 90s. Everything had an X in their name."

Your protagonist pilots a mechanized suit of armor. It's capable of flying briefly through the air, has motorbike support which you can stand on or merge with, and occasionally, there's a ship aiding in the sky.... shaped in the form of a handgun. Your default weapon is a visibly huge rail gun, and your special attacks range from a flame thrower and double lasers, to an absurd, screen-filling projectile blast that requires your entire special meter. This is the menacing power of the mecha you control in Ranger-X, a side-scrolling title that pits you against an invading army of robots and machines, big and small, menacing and formidable. Sounds like the game has all the makings of something you could hop right into and blast everything in sight.

Except that's not really how Ranger-X operates. Dashing into any situation and firing off one or two shots against an enemy won't defuse the threat; instead, you'll look like a flailing fool as the health meter drains away. Despite controlling an impressive piece of machinery with devastating weaponry, the game encourages a very cautious, steady approach to combat. Opponents often require multiple shots to destroy, and more times than not, you'll have to back up or fly away to dodge their counterattacks, which is a challenge when dealing with multiple threats. Ranger-X really wants to show it's a strategic title, and this becomes really obvious when you realize the main objective isn't to reach the end of a stage, but to search and annihilate specific targets within each stage using a tiny radar.

Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a tactical-based action game. Shoot, that sounds awesome for a Genesis-era product. But Ranger-X goes about it in an often weird, clunky, and downright experimental manner, to the point where it seems like the devs were making everything up as they were programming the game, stage by stage. Each of the six stages have a different approach and flow, and while variety is nice in a video game, these feel more like "What If?" scenarios. Stage one: what if the game was about moving in a straight, linear path? Stage two: what if the game was about exploring maze-like environments? Stage three: what if the game was all hectic action? Oh, and that aspect about finding objectives with a radar? More times than not, you're still moving in a linear path, so the radar is mostly a useless gimmick...

This could have worked, because the biggest problem about the structure is not necessarily the concepts changing after every stage, it's that the devs quickly abandon these concepts before they're fleshed out. Doesn't help that some stages conclude alarmingly fast. Stage one and three are the biggest offenders in this regard, because they're literally straight paths with no restrictions or detours concerning your movements... In a game where a jetpack is one of your main abilities. Ranger-X is one of those titles where an additional segment for each stage would have gone a long way, because what's there just isn't enough. Or just have multiple concepts in each stage, so everything feels more organic.

It's irritating thinking about this stuff, especially since the game hits its stride during the penultimate stage. Everything before wasn't bad, average in execution at best, but stage five is my favorite due to it actually feeling like a fully-realized stage; you need to dodge searchlights to avoid releasing security bots, enemies are placed in intentionally awkward spots that demand quick evasion techniques, and main targets are legitimate threats because they move around and toss a barrage of projectiles. It's the most normal video gamey stage up to that point in terms of design, gets better with the subsequent final stage, then abruptly ends like this paragraph.

Ranger-X is definitely an impressionable beast, from the piercing box cover, to its eye-grabbing visuals that does a good job enticing in screenshot format. And when you see it in motion, it subtly performs neat effects to make the overall presentation look grander, such as a violently wavy lake, objects moving to and from backgrounds, and even 3D wire-frame maps at the beginning of stages. But when you actually spend time with it, you''ll likely think, "Huh... thought there would be more." Shame the team never made a follow-up before being bought by another company. You'll get about a solid hour on your first completed playthrough, but with so many other, higher-quality Genesis titles capable of giving you a more fulfilling experience in that same amount of time, repeats might be few and far.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (July 10, 2017)

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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 10, 2017:

Except for Mazinger Z, who was too cool to put an X in its title.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 10, 2017:

Oh, and good review too. I'll admit that you almost had me sold on this game at first. I think what bumped it down my "eventually check out" list was the deal with the jetpack in a mostly linear game. WTF, just let us fly!
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pickhut posted July 10, 2017:

Thanks for the read! Considering the game has a jetpack, it would have been nice if there were some shoot-em-up segments or stages where you just flew around a huge map. Stage three is the closest it got to that mindset... but it felt more like a demonstration than anything concrete.
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Nightfire posted July 10, 2017:

X-ceptional review, dude.
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pickhut posted July 10, 2017:

X-celle... Oh, oh no.

But in all seriousness, thanks for reading, too!

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