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Side Arms (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Side Arms (TurboGrafx-16) review


"Rather than the collection of illegal weapons you thought you would find piled on the counter when you asked for it, Side Arms is a side-scrolling shooting game from Capcom. Radiance Software ported the game over to the Turbografx-16 in a historical move; it was the Turbo’s first third party release. "



Rather than the collection of illegal weapons you thought you would find piled on the counter when you asked for it, Side Arms is a side-scrolling shooting game from Capcom. Radiance Software ported the game over to the Turbografx-16 in a historical move; it was the Turbo’s first third party release.

The innovations for Side Arms help elevate it above the average shooter, which is important considering the shooter lovin’ system that it’s on.

Firstly, you will be called upon to utilize both of the Turbo's buttons to fire. The button on the left fires left, and the button on the right - well, I'll leave that to you. This is a very cool function that adds considerably to the gameplay, as you will be forced to react very quickly to enemies approaching from all angles. A particularly obstinate droid behind you? Turn and fire! And before the wave of crimson crafts kamikaze your back, make a quick about face with the tap of the other fire button. All this alternating button bashing and head turning allows Side Arms to do an admirable job of captivating the player.

Secondly, you don’t fly a spacecraft. Instead you pilot a mech, that sort of resembles a Robotech Alpha fighter. More similarities to that legendary anime abound: you can combine with another mech, in a merging that is very reminiscent of the Alpha-Beta hook up in Robotech: The New Generation (Mospeada). In the arcade version, you and your pal would collect the icon that necessitates the change, and the two of you would become one. One player would fire and the other would maneuver the craft.

Side Arms on the Turbo takes a hit for not being a two-player simultaneous affair (why the hell not?), and as a result of this, the 'hook up' is a little different. But thankfully, the hook up still occurs (what would Side Arms be without it!), it's just that you pull it off by your lonesome. Your other half will fly into view - the onscreen action pausing while this is happening - and combine with your craft, leaving you temporarily invincible during the transition.

This takes us from the best aspect of the game to the worst. Speaking of invincibility, the amount of time that you are impervious to attack after dying is ridiculously short. Once you die, your ship pretty much reappears right where you met your maker, and the game grants you less than three seconds to seek refuge from whatever it was that killed you in the first place. What this amounts to is a rapid succession of deaths should be you be so unlucky as to perish on a single occasion.

When I am successful at Side Arms, it almost always means that I cleared the game using only one ship. When I am unsuccessful, it usually means that I was doing well, died once, and then lost a ton of men trying to reestablish myself. This fault is unacceptable, and would have been so easily remedied (yes, a longer invincibility window!).

The invincibility problem is the Side Arms' Achilles Heel, but it's not the only drawback. The game’s presentation is average at best. The vivid, bright pink membrane-like backgrounds from the arcade version (think Salamander) appear dull and washed out in this home rendition. Also, the varying shades of green that were predominant in the coin-op are similarly muted here, and nowhere near as varied. In fact, the game takes on a pale pink and jaded green look throughout, as if those colours were its theme.

Side Arms doesn’t feature remarkable sounds either. They are typical shooter fare for the early 16-bit era: agile, mostly pleasant, but mostly forgettable bleeps and the like. In the sound effects department, explosions are puny, and weapon sounds are uninspiring.

But as is always the case with shooters, intensity is the number one factor in determining whether or not you'll give it a chance. I found myself playing Side Arms again and again, because it's fairly challenging, and very fast paced. There is no slowdown, and the varied weapons are selectable, which is not the case with its big coin-op brother.

In the arcade version you'd get a weapon and stick with it until a better one came along. In the Turbo version you can pause the game and scroll through choices including a three-way weapon, a powerful laser beam, a fast-firing dual laser equipped with orbiting satellites for protection, and best of all, the S.G. weapon, which fires in a five shot spread where the bullets actually absorb enemy projectiles. Staying powered up with the full power suit and a leveled up S.G. gun, while battling through the later levels is remarkably intense and exciting.

At its very worst, Side Arms is a mostly dull looking shooter with a high frustration level due to inane programming. But at its best, Side Arms is reminiscent of a horizontally-scrolling Aleste game, and considering the velocity and vitality of those legendary titles, you would do well to try Side Arms at least once, based on that comparison alone.

Rating: 6/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 11, 2003)

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