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Space Megaforce (SNES) artwork

Space Megaforce (SNES) review


"I would be amiss if I didn't mention the kitsch factor that fits unusually snugly into Megaforce's makeup. The bosses are very creatively conceived. They are mechs yes, but their appearance and varying attacks must be seen to be fully appreciated. But that isn't the best part; they talk to you! When you encounter the first level guardian, he will mumble, Welcome to the Underworld! You will pause, and find yourself thinking, 'this actually sounds funny.' Bordering on the riotous, is the second level boss' cry for mercy, Give me a break, will you?"



Super Blazing Lazers?

Goodness, yes. It's Blazing Lazers. Only better.

This is what I thought the first time I took to task the feel good, vertical shooter legend that is Space Megaforce for the Super NES.

It's got more levels, more enemies, more weapons, and more effects than the game that I compare it to. And more.

I was quite slow in finding all this out. A publication to remain unnamed, showcased their picks for the 100 all-time greatest games. That list included Space Megaforce. They indicated that it was actually Toho's unofficial follow up to the aforementioned Blazing Lazers, the Turbografx-16 overhead shooting smash hit (insofar as any Turbografx game can be called a hit). Sadly, on the Super NES, a system with no shortage of ‘big name sensations’, this game seemed relegated to the ranks of ‘sleeper hits’ with cult shooter status.

Skeptical at first, I managed to hunt down a copy, and the dividends it paid were enormous. If you have even the slightest interest in the Aleste series of vertical shooters from Toho, Space Megaforce will be your holy grail. Power Strike I and II, Guardian Legend, MUSHA, and even the mighty Blazing Lazers, are all outdone and outshone by this, their brightest of vertical shooter lights.

Megaforce looks good. Not spectacular mind you, but don't let any screenshots that you might have seen put you off. They do not, and cannot do the game justice. Colourful backgrounds--enhanced with Mode 7 effects used to dazzling effect--will whiz by, all too often flat out ignored by the oblivious player. The task at hand simply requires too much attention to do much site seeing. Even on the normal difficulty level, the unique and brilliant synthesizer-driven soundtrack will serve only as a requiem for fallen enemies and often, yourself.

Still, if you manage to cheat a good look or listen, you'll observe your spacecraft zipping about aided by in-game speed controls, over canyons that twist this way and that, miles below. One level has the programmers using the Super NES hardware to effect an undulating, psychedelic finish to what would have been a typical space backdrop. You would do well to keep your headphones on as well, with the volume up, particularly during level eight's heights of excitement. Rest assured that when you reach the sunshine and give the thumbs up through your damaged canopy, it will be all worth it, the graceful ending music chiming in agreement.

While things don’t seem to happen as fast as they did in Lazers, there are a lot more things happening. Foes can drop to the bottom of the screen and explode into rings of death. Others will use shields to protect themselves, and in some areas, (such as that same, inimitably intense level eight) firing on certain adversaries will cause them to extrude debris in your path.

So rejoice! There are twelve levels of this--not seven or eight. Alongside many shoot ‘em ups from this ‘16-bit era’, Megaforce will seem quite the marathon. When you’re finished this game, your eyes will most certainly need rest, so you'll close them, and take the opportunity to sit back and truly, retroactively take in just how good the experience was. The pacing, for instance, is unique, and it is flawless. You will generally play one level, and the mission that follows it will take the difficulty level up two notches and have you really bearing down in order to get through alive. Then, following those most difficult levels, Toho has thoughtfully inserted point and power up building areas (levels three, six and nine) where you can take stock of your losses, and try to get back on your feet. While they are shooter pit stops after a fashion, if you aren’t alert, you will still die playing these stages.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention the kitsch factor that fits unusually snugly into Megaforce's makeup. The bosses are very creatively conceived. They are mechs yes, but their appearance and varying attacks must be seen to be fully appreciated. But that isn't the best part; they talk to you! When you encounter the first level guardian, he will mumble, Welcome to the Underworld! You will pause, and find yourself thinking, 'this actually sounds funny.' Bordering on the riotous, is the second level boss' cry for mercy, Give me a break, will you?

Indeed, Space Megaforce doesn't take itself too seriously with those voices, the oddly appealing keyboard music and the relatively simplistic, though vibrant colours. But even if you are only a casual 2-D shooter fan, don't you make that mistake.

Rating: 10/10

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

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