Image Fight (NES) review
"Image Fight is a vertical arcade shooter that saw life on the P.C. Engine as well. Common to both installments is the title's obscurity, but only the PC Engine version is actually fun to play. It's hard enough, looks and sounds good enough, and plays tight enough to merit a recommendation. By no means is the Nintendo Image Fight a horrible game - it simply lacks the glorious shooter pain and panache to be worth your time."
In the overcrowded world of old school 2D shoot-em-ups, the best games elevate themselves from the rest of the pack through their levels of intensity. It's what we play shooters for. It's the way a shooter plays the perfect host, welcoming you cordially and considerately, before gradually, almost imperceptibly turning mad on you, torturing you like Home Alone's Macaulay Culkin - much to your delight. Scorching intensity is the difference between the next R-Type or Gunhed, and the next generic, disposable offering. Unfortunately, while Image Fight was developed by Irem, the R-Type people, it still falls in the latter category.
Image Fight is a vertical arcade shooter that saw life on the P.C. Engine as well. Common to both installments is the title's obscurity, but only the PC Engine version is actually fun to play. It's hard enough, looks and sounds good enough, and plays tight enough to merit a recommendation. By no means is the Nintendo Image Fight a horrible game - it simply lacks the glorious shooter pain and panache to be worth your time.
But you're not convinced! Yet. We'll examine the basics because that seems like a logical place to start examining. You are placed in control of a very small ship equipped with a generic twin blaster. Green power up containers hold either tiny wingman units, or powerful front ends for your spacecraft.
The units come in two types: the rotating variety and the fixed variety. Both will augment your firepower, and curiously, they will absorb enemy fire and can be used to ram enemies to death (it's curious because in the PC Engine version this doesn't happen). The first you earn will sit off to your left wing, the next, to your right, and finally, if you're lucky enough, you'll earn a third that will sit behind you.
The rotating red units are usually more useful than the fixed blue ones because they rotate and fire inverse to where you point your ship. Tap to the left, and find your collection of units firing to the right. The blue units simply fire forward, all the time, making them the ideal boss killing assistants, but little else.
The front ends fit the nose of your ship like metal gloves. One gives you a powerful dual stream cannon, one gives you a bubble gun, and still another gives you a Y-spread weapon. My favourite front end creates a pair of small arcs that shield the bow of your ship from enemy fire, and even weaker foes attempting to kamikaze you.
The wingman units are essential to your success, especially later on when more enemies see fit to approach you from the rear. I find such scenarios troublesome in real life, and in the game it is no different. The front ends can be smashed off if you hit an obstruction head on, or if you take a bullet. In this light, they can be seen as a shield, or a second chance at life. What is a bit irritating, is that in order to upgrade from one front end to a preferable one that you've uncovered, you have to purposely smash the current one off your ship. Other than that bit of inanity, Image Fight hasn't many gameplay annoyances to account for.
What it does have, are concessions, and I'm not talking about lemonade or caramel corn. On the surface, the gaming experience of the NES incarnation tries to remain faithful to the better versions: tiny blue planes descend to clash with you, as well as larger mechs that fire homing missiles, bending lasers and fireballs. The levels from the original are all here, from the one featuring all the giant battleships to the final level highlighted by a glowing alien backdrop that is cliched, but looks great (it's actually by far the best the game has to offer visually). The cosmetics are all well and good, but no one puts up a fight!
Even the bosses, all large and menacing, don't play quite like they should. For example, the guardian that fires blue laser arcs should fill the screen with his cumbersome projectiles, forcing you to seek refuge inside them. But in this version of the game, you can actually just hide out at the side of the screen and completely avoid them. Boss compromises such as this, and the all-absorbing wingman units such as they are, make Image Fight a lot easier and more boring than it was supposed to be. But hasn't Irem given us the ability to change speed on the fly, and afforded us tight control with little slowdown or flicker? This is pretty admirable, is it not?
Ironically, all of that may be due in large part to the fact that the graphics are so flat and banal, the tunes so minimal, the bullet and enemy count so severely limited. As cleanly as this plays for an older title, it may just be because not enough is going on. Consequently, the game's challenge takes another serious hit - don't look for intensity here, it has left the building. What we're left with is an overly easy, bland-looking shooter that is very easily forgotten after a few plays. If you were to play Life Force - for the same system - before playing Image Fight, you'd not play the latter for more than a minute. And if you were to play Life Force just after your time with Image Fight, you'd want that time back, precious as it is.
Staff review by Marc Golding (November 26, 2003)
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