Seicross (NES) review
"I have no idea what this game is really about. All I know is that of the four games that came with my $2 NES, it was the only one I had never heard of. The label on the cartridge is standard 80's artistry - rides on hovering bikes sideswiping each other on a futuristic landscape. It elucidated little of the mystery within save for rudimentary aesthetic details. Hesitant though I was, I knew it would have to be the first game I tried out. After a short session of rigorously blowing on the pin con..."
I have no idea what this game is really about. All I know is that of the four games that came with my $2 NES, it was the only one I had never heard of. The label on the cartridge is standard 80's artistry - rides on hovering bikes sideswiping each other on a futuristic landscape. It elucidated little of the mystery within save for rudimentary aesthetic details. Hesitant though I was, I knew it would have to be the first game I tried out. After a short session of rigorously blowing on the pin connector and swabbing it with rubbing alcohol, the bold title screen stood before me. I pressed Start with much fear and trepidation.
My other games that came with that NES remain largely untouched. I'm in waist-deep with this game, all wet and loving it. I ain't turnin' back now.
So that it can bait you as easily as it did me, Seicross works your thumbs with breakneck action and high speed from the get-go. Think Excitebike 2050 with palm trees and animal skeletons strewn about the dystopian highways of the distant days to come. You witness the same AI cyclists on vehicles of different colors, but they are less intent on the concept of a finish line than the concept of finishing you off.
You tear through the first level, avoiding rogue turrets and blindsiding your fellow bikers off the green virtual road, never looking back for even a microsecond. You've been collecting points, fuel, and the fat blue men in derby hats along the way. The mossy area you come to is a comforting indicator - the end of the level looms nigh, but only if you can successfully traverse this area that looks like an 18-wheeler carrying peat moss crashed into an 18-wheeler carrying computers. Finally, you make it, and all the fat blue men in derby hats are tallied up and put toward an end-of-level bonus. And all of a sudden, the game almost uncomfortably changes pace.
In direct opposition to the exhilaration of the previous stage, it is now not unlike a brisk morning constitutional in the park. Gone is the mile-a-minute excitement of Level 1, and here in its place is a steady stroll through familiar territory. But why?
Because this was 1986 here. You didn't have graphics with one quintillion polygons per sprite and the like, so you got gameplay and challenge in spades as compensation. Whatever you did on the first level, you have to totally scrap that battle plan and come up with one that adjusts to this new leisurely speed. It throws you off kilter, turns you inside-out, and sneaks in a healthy dose where such spontaneous games usually bear none. Seicross is a harsh mistress, unforgiving and unflinching as it rains down obstacle after brutal obstacle on you. It's no Life Force, but it fits the bill nicely.
Remember the old cartoons where a gigantic boulder would fall from the sky, headed for some poor underdog's fragile skull, and the only defense he had against it was an itty-bitty martini umbrella? It's a lot like that. You're propping up this tiny metaphorical umbrella with a futile plea for help in your pathetically dilated pupils; you're screaming for help but you can't open your mouth, all the while waiting for that unstoppable rock to flatten you out of mercy. The best you can hope for is to peel yourself off the pavement and have another go at it.
Thanks to the rock-solid controls, I've survived more close shaves than logic normally allows for, but by the same token, my mighty transport has been felled a million times and one more because a few pixels on the tail end of my bike got an unwanted sampling of the kill zone. The grid that you race along is a system of subtle genius; if at the game's harried rate you can see that all objects line up with the bottom of a square, you can make the game look like cake by making cool and calculated passes through the smallest of spaces every time. Weaving around the constant stream of bullets is nothing short of an adrenaline high. Your heartrate will never stay constant for long, or even briefly. The game is so packed with testosterone and beefy goodness that merely playing a few levels will cause hair to grow in previously bald areas of your body, regardless of your biological sex. (Let's not get into what happens when you come close to beating the game!) There's so much to chase after that the human brain, as miraculous a thing as it is, simply cannot process it all. Like lightning, though its general look never changes, it's never the same twice.
When looking at this game, it sort of actually seems like you're in a computer of some kind. From the moment the double doors open and usher you into a world where the people have no concept of a brake pedal, you get the feel of a sort of twisted version of Tron. Along with the usual props, you see a melange of objects that don't belong in a place such as this. Palm trees doused in neon green paint? Skeletal carcasses of some hyper-evolved quadruped? Multi-colored rock structures? Say what? And it's all crazy enough to work, because it moves by before your mind has a chance to dwell too long upon it. In and out of the shadows, the multifaceted coloration contributes to that loose sense of fun that makes this game a supremely one-of-a-kind experience.
It is said of many things that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Not true with Seicross; you can see everything that makes it so great, and it is clearly evidenced in everything as you play it. The whole is the sum of its parts. There is no mystical ''whatsit'' that rocket-launches the game to a new plateau of excellence that mere tangible details alone cannot attain. It is all there in plain sight for you the gamer to see, and it is actually that consummate craftsmanship itself that is so mystical. There is no excuse for not playing this game once if you are anything of an NES fan, and if it turns out you don't like it, well, fine, to each their own, but this is one of the special few I'm going to end up shacking up with in the bomb shelter when nuclear war decimates 80% of the population.
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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