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Cannon Spike (Dreamcast) artwork

Cannon Spike (Dreamcast) review

"While it has played host to some great shooters and some generic shooters, the DC has really had a ridiculous amount of ''shooters with a twist.'' Realistically, every shmup developer claims their game has a collection of unique elements that makes theirs better- thing is, every now and then, it's not rhetoric. Such is the case with Psikyo and Capcom's Cannon Spike, the best ''twist'' shooter on the DC. "

While it has played host to some great shooters and some generic shooters, the DC has really had a ridiculous amount of ''shooters with a twist.'' Realistically, every shmup developer claims their game has a collection of unique elements that makes theirs better- thing is, every now and then, it's not rhetoric. Such is the case with Psikyo and Capcom's Cannon Spike, the best ''twist'' shooter on the DC.

To start, and to quell that gasping thirst you must now have for the inside info, the major gameplay innovation is its ''tethering-'' type system. Remain thirsty for just a minute though, as that's Psikyo's involvement. Capcom's must be discussed first.

Capcom brings to the game its basic coding and a couple of familiar faces. The foundation for Cannon Spike is laid out by the Street Fighter house and the roots are indeed firm. From what I can gather, the noble Power Stone engine fuels this bad boy, just like it does with Giga Wing 2 and several other marquee Capcom titles. Also generously donated are a handful of Capcom characters, including Mega Man, Cammy, BB Hood, and an unrecognizable version of Sir Arthur. Psikyo grabs the reins here, tosses in some of their own character designs, and begins to make Cannon Spike into a real game.

A real shooter, that is. Versatile and intense, Cannon Spike delivers its ingenuity and playability with top notch results, and this game is a profound statement of what they can do with some of their ideas.

And now back to that most notable idea, the tethering system. Gameplay takes place in what basically amounts to a series of large rooms called ''levels,'' where you clear out a smattering of bad guys before you attempt destruction of the level's boss. The tethering comes in when you use the lock-on mechanism: lock on to an enemy, and you can rotate around him, as well as in and out, shooting or punching/kicking until the target's toast and it's time to move on. Meanwhile, he'll be shooting back- this concerts to form a series of intense bullet-weaving and shooting sessions the likes of which are truly memorable.

In fact, playing out the game using the lock-on mechanic is absolutely dynamite. Control of the characters couldn't be better when doing this; complete and utter complacency is felt as you deftly maneuver around enemy fire while delivering back retaliation of your own. It is here where Psikyo succeeds, and succeeds well.

The problem is, they also stumble very noticeably, and it takes the game down a notch where it could so easily have been fixed. The hitch to which I speak is the game's length- more specifically, the length of the levels. Since levels are really just a screen or two big, and enemies come out in small waves about three times apiece, the game zips by in no time. You'll have beaten the game in about 10-15 minutes and you'll be left holding the controller wondering where it all went. Psikyo needed to lengthen the game. They needed to give it the kind of levels we're accustomed to in a shooter. Hell, they needed to just give it some damned area to cover. But they didn't, and what's here will seriously leave you feeling a little empty.

But you'll gain a little back due to the ingenuity of Cannon Spike's general shooting conventions. Bosses are often multi-faceted and emit excellent bullet patterns; dodging these is really fun and can give you a true sense of accomplishment. Many will reek of that trademark Psikyo smell; regardless, it's their best implementation of them (at least, on the DC).

The character designs that aren't as familiar as Capcom's hall of famers are mostly good. Everyone scoots around on rollerblades and has some sort of appropriate projectile. Animation in the game is excellent, but that's a no-brainer considering the source code. In fact, consider the code, that of Power Stone-

-And you can get a good picture of Cannon Spike's visual impact. It looks like Power Stone turned into a shooter. Characters have that brightness to them that is a little more pastel than the backgrounds they trudge along. Not to say that this is an eyesore; it's not. It's merely a stylistic thing, and they kept it the same for this game. It gives the game a sort of cartoonish apocalypse look to it, fitting well the adaptations the characters underwent in their transition to this game. Textures are great, it runs at a solid 60 FPS, and the heroes, while a little lacking in personal detail (compared to, say, Shenmue), are rounded and fluidly animated models for sure.

A little more forgettable is the music, which is pretty ho-hum. Decent for the backdrop of a game so solid in other areas, but this type of lame Japanese music is really best left ignored. It's a combination of some techno beats with some whiny synthesizer stuff, and it all has that generic Japanese game music feel. The sounds of gun fire are better captured and expressed, but Cannon Spike is not an audio showcase piece.

Rather, it relies on its gameplay. It's a gameplay showcase piece. Hell, that's all Cannon Spike has, for better or worse. You'll love it while you get to play it, but you will just crave more. Cannon Spike needs more enemies, more levels, more of itself... its brevity really cramps it from achieving greatness. As a concept, and and executed idea in motion, Cannon Spike is on its own level. Its shooting and dodging are unique and masterful; it falls short, literally, though, in being a complete package for the game player. Shooters are usually as short as it gets; Cannon Spike takes that somewhat undesirable trait and magnifies it to the point of unavoidability. They've given us a hell of a game, but not a lot of a game.

ethereal's avatar
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)

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