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Over Horizon (NES) artwork

Over Horizon (NES) review

"One of the best 8-bit shmups, if not an original one."

Over Horizon (NES) imageOver Horizon (NES) image

The 8-bit consoles were a market rife for shmups. Easy to program and easy to pitch; who couldn't figure out how a shmup works? Despite this, it took a long time to make shmups that were polished in design. Sure, Gradius had the variety, and R-Type had the aesthetics, but all these were built like extortion-by-quarters arcade games intentionally trying to waste the player's time. One-shot kills deprive you of power-ups so you get killed some more! Game design! It's hard to appreciate the environments and setpieces of the likes of R-Type Delta when you're worried that you're gonna die and get sent back to the start. These flaws are found in horizontally-scrolling shmup Over Horizon, but some quality-of-life improvements set it a bit above its competition.

The gameplay of Over Horizon is as intuitive as you'd expect. You got a ship. Your ship can shoot. There's three power-ups. Two options, too. Press select to change speed. Typical stuff. However, a few distinguishing features make gameplay here unique. For instance, you can shoot backwards! A lesser game would use this as an excuse to spawn enemies from the side of the screen players are likely to stay in, but Over Horizon uses this chiefly as a means for players to engage enemies instead of camping out at the left side of the screen. Perhaps more important is how the options are used; by holding both fire buttons simultaneously, one can adjust the position of your extra firepower drones in relation to your main ship. This allows for more ways to approach combat, as well; do you stay at a distance and let your options chip away at the enemy, or do you concentrate your fire to take out enemies quickly? Having more ways to approach combat means you can find your own means to play, instead of having to jump through the developer's hoops the way they want you to.

Over Horizon (NES) imageOver Horizon (NES) image

One last feature is the "Edit Mode." This allows you to tweak values relating to power-ups, but more interesting is how it allows one to alter the positioning of one's options, letting you put the options as far away from your ship as you like. It's a nice feature that adds a bit of replayability to a game from a genre deprived of it. There's a test mode for these features, too, allowing one to practise his skills and understanding of the mechanics in the levels. Shmup developers should adopt and refine mechanics like this to make their games more accessible and replayable.

Over Horizon's gameplay is like its aesthetics; it's hard to miss obvious inspirations, yet it's all decent. Space jungles, space deserts, space glaciers! You've at least of few of these in Gradius, but they look nice here. And the music isn't especially unique, but it is certainly good. Over Horizon may suffer from the flaws typical of shmups -- one-shot kills, losing power-ups, et cetera -- but the sprinklings of originality make it worth a look from the 8-bit shmup fan and a gate of entry better than most other games in the genre.


Follow_Freeman's avatar
Community review by Follow_Freeman (March 24, 2018)

When he isn't in a life-or-death situation, Dr. Freeman enjoys playing a variety of video games. From olden shooters to platformers & action titles: Freeman may be a bit stuck with the games of the past, but he doesn't mind. Some things don't age much.

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