Granada (Genesis) review
"Don't be turned away by the game's obscurity or the tiny blue tank's diminutive size — this remains one of the best games on Genesis, even today. Take a chance."
Once upon a time — I'm pretty sure it was 1991 — there was a boy who loved his Genesis. He bought lots and lots of games. Twelve years later, when this boy had become a hulking beast of a man, he looked back on his past. He had seen all the awesomeness that his beloved Genesis had to offer. After the frenzied Lightening Force, exhilarating Shinobi 3, and mind-crushing Ranger-X... did there remain a single testosterone title worth playing? Lunchtime raids of the local Funcoland yielded a single, depressing answer: "no". The well was dry, the Genesis a chapter in his nostalgic past. Our tragic hero shed a single manly tear, quietly resigned to his fate.
But then this man's world turned upside down. At the nadir of despair, he discovered the world of Granada — developer Wolf Team's legend of tank operator Leon and his mighty beast of burden, a motorized machine whispered of in late-night tales of terror (and in the totally cheesy opening cinematic) as
GHOST OF AFRICA CONTINENT
Granada is not a refined game. When you start this cart up, the music is brash (but excellent), the graphics are muddy as all get-out, and the enemy attacks are immediate and unpredictable. The comfort of rhythmic patterns and rote memorization fly out the bedroom window, ushering in a nightmare of carnage and chaos. You'll really feel like you've been thrust into the midst of a wartorn city, prowling the dilapidated streets in your mighty-tiny STEEL-BLUE TANK, firing machine guns and cannon-bursts at other armored artillery units. Giant rollers zoom across the road, pulverizing your vehicle should you be caught unawares! Tank Generators (shades of Gauntlet!) unleash countless (even if you count, they still keep coming and coming) tanks, each one pelting you with bullets as the DIAMONDS OF DOOM hurl even more death in your direction!
Once you've eliminated all the mandatory "kill these to advance" bunkers, a scaling and rotating boss (in a first generation Genesis game?!) will spin around the screen, pelting you with mortar shells. You've got to charge up that cannon and blast the bastard as it lands... sending it to a fiery hell!
It gets better.
You'll find yourself on an Airship, soaring over the countryside! Yes, your tank actually zips around on top of the airship, a sort of "Windy Avenue" if you will. Don't admire the parallax clouds below, casting shadows across the fresh green fields, but instead just DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY. Blow up the cannons! Tear apart the airship's engines! Annihilate the assault vehicles! But take care not to fall — that's right, you really are hundreds of feet in the air. Aim your cannon blasts with care — should the recoil knock you off the edge, you won't get to see the rest of the game!
And that would be a shame. Because it gets better.
The game hurls you into a decaying cybernetic metropolis — the wide, straightforward frame of the airship gives way to narrow, labyrinthine highways atop a futuristic cityscape. You'll find yourself eluding deadly chasms, eliminating laser cannons, and weaving through pit-strewn highways! Steel machinations hover in the sky, pouring streams of firepower into the screen, constricting your tank's movement that much more.
It gets better. Every friggin' level gets better because the game is never satisfied with doing what it's already done. Aside from the mighty Ikaruga, I've never played a game that took its concept and MAXXED IT OUT quite like Granada. You'll face ingenious bosses (one of them is only vulnerable from behind, so you have to bounce your shots off a reflective wall). You'll encounter frightening bosses, like a giant snake-like beast that fires at you from every which way! And you'll even fight downright awesome bosses, such as the final opponent who looks too damn sweet to even be in a game this old. But the end-of-level leaders are only the icing on the cake, because the real showcases here are the levels themselves. You'll cruise across water and you'll rumble over rocky earth (the screen even shakes!). And yes, the physics vary depending upon the terrain. With each new stage, the mechanized armada spits more firepower at you than ever before, until the final stage has you dodging bullet swarms that belong in a manic Psikyo shooter! In the meantime, you'll be maneuvering through labyrinthine dungeons of rock (featuring multiple tiers to travel on — both an upper and lower level) or blasting your way through forests and across rivers, navigating detour upon detour through the marshy maze.
Since each level forces you to destroy a particular number of targets before you can advance, this game had a potential for error — the potential to wander aimlessly, searching for enemies. That was one of the problems with the overhead scenes in Thunder Force 2. Like Granada, that game also featured sequences where you had to destroy a specified assortment of targets. One of TF2's problems is that the game wasn't in the playing and the fighting, but rather in the memorizing of where to go. Granada takes the memorization out by giving you a radar. From the very start, you know every target's location. But that doesn't mean it's easy or straightforward — Granada still provides you with choice and challenge. It's all up to you to decide which points to attack in which order — the GAME is in preparing your battle plans, then eliminating and avoiding the assortment of obstacles in your path! With the knowledge necessary to slaughter your enemies, now you just need the ability.
Fortunately, gaming wunderkind Wolf Team has provided you — Leon! — plenty of control over the mighty TANK. Your machine gun can pelt enemies as you turn onto hi-tech highways, you can throw up strafing fire while winding and wending through forest paths, you can spew bursts of bullets while retreating down a desert trail — and it's very, very easy to fire off a giant CANNON BURST in machine-gun midstream.
The concept is simple. Drive a tank and shoot stuff. The twist is that Wolf Team took their premise and ran with it until there was nowhere left to go. Rarely, whether it be shooter, platformer or puzzler, have I seen developers take their concept and explore every possibility so extensively, so exhaustively. Granada is the game that made Japan sit up and notice Wolf Team — those guys really could make a great action game! It spawned fan imitations (you can find one as a freebie in X68000 World) and washed away the sour taste of the terribly tame FZ Senki Axis. Wolf Team's later masterwork El Viento was advertised as "from the team that designed Granada!" There's a very simple reason that this game, an adventure based around the elementary idea of "little tank rolls around and shotz everything up real good", could have such an effect. The reason? It's really damn fun.
This review was written while listening to the awesome soundtrack.
CD catalog number: TOCT-5933
Staff review by Zigfried (February 22, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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