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Phalanx (SNES) artwork

Phalanx (SNES) review


"The generic shooter elements are all here; changing ship speed on the fly, the unimportant story, four weapons that can each be powered up several times over, and the necessary ‘weapon twist’, which is what separates one shooter from any other. R-Type has it’s Force Device, Gradius has its selectable avenues of powering up—Phalanx has a sort of ‘limit break’ where you can use your current weapon on a pumped up level, only to lose it after the laser fire subsides. "



Remember Lagoon? The same guys made THIS!

I might have known. The good people at Kemco are partially to blame for necessitating my writing this review, or warning, you might say. Their cockhandedness was indeed at the fore in the upchucking that other Super NES classic, Lagoon. If you have had the misfortune to play that action RPG (or good fortune depending either on your sense of humour or degree of sadism to which you subscribe) you might have a good idea of what Phalanx has in store. Because Phalanx does to shooters what Lagoon did to action RPGs--infused a popular genre with a ‘me-too’ game that prompts our response, ‘no, not you.’

Another telltale sign of a poorly executed 2-D shooter is when the cover of the box is graced with Uncle Willy playing a banjo on the front porch. This is the truth, believe it.

Yes, Phalanx is a truly frightening game that really stretches the limits of your incredulity. It tries hard to be good in several departments, but ends up being as dull as the reddish-brown and flat gray themes that dominate its uninteresting countenance.

The only really visually outstanding bit still cannot escape a team of painters who insist on etching their reddish-brown signature on nearly every screen. The final boss, in all his bubbly beauty, is a monstrosity of shooter end guardian excellence. But the colours that have so depressed you throughout with their indelible, ubiquitous presence do not disappoint, and show up to mar the game’s only moment of visceral strength.

There might be a good explanation for all of this. I have heard talk of a ‘palette rationing program’ (PRP for short) that saw a brief uprising at about the time this game was released.

Moving onward and downward, the music in Phalanx is nondescript at best--there is not one tune that is worthy of humming while on the toilet (rest assured that this toilet reference was included quite randomly).

Beyond the obvious lack of audiovisual auspiciousness, there lies buried the husk of average gameplay. The generic shooter elements are all here; changing ship speed on the fly, the unimportant story, four weapons that can each be powered up several times over, and the necessary ‘weapon twist’, which is what separates one shooter from any other. R-Type has it’s Force Device, Gradius has its selectable avenues of powering up--Phalanx has a sort of ‘limit break’ where you can use your current weapon on a pumped up level, only to lose it after the laser fire subsides.

Although you can simultaneously carry multiple weapons onboard, it won’t likely be enough. Phalanx is quite difficult, even on the easiest setting. The enemy projectiles are tiny, and often the choice of hue to colour them is exquisitely bad. Tiny red bullets will ensnare you at times, and you won’t know what hit you. The game also demands extensive prior knowledge of many of its most difficult sections. Suffice it to say that if you dislike R-Type for this ‘Concentration’ style combat, you will detest Phalanx.

I think of Phalanx as a shooter with the stoic R-Type II’s tedious, heavily memorization-based gameplay, that tries desperately, but vainly to be flashy.

Quite in keeping with this game’s theme of inanity are the load times between levels. Yes, our programmer friends have allowed us a few moments to catch our collective breath and flex our fingers before continuing on. The pictures that we are presented with are anime styled shots of the hero, Wink Baufield (yes, that’s actually his/your name) but they are an ironic microcosm of the game. They present a flashy idea, but execute it so tiredly that they shouldn’t even have bothered. But, alas, Kemco give us something to look at as they--quite brilliantly--anticipated the Sony Playstation and its loading problems in all their forward thinking. Indeed, load times on a SNES cartridge--what will they think of next? Speaking of loading, after finishing this game, the urge overcame me to finish it off, with a revolver.

Rating: 3/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)

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