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Heavy Nova (Genesis) artwork

Heavy Nova (Genesis) review

"The collision detection kills any possible entertainment value. Even the reviled Rise of the Robots, for all its flaws, got that part right. When someone appears to kick you onscreen, IT HAD DAMN WELL BETTER HURT. But in Heavy Nova, it doesn't."

Street Fighter style fighting! Sidescrolling platformer scenes! A super stereo soundtrack! With ROBOTS!

Micronet sure was hyped on their own game. They were so excited about Heavy Nova that, when the US Sega CD was delayed by a year, they couldn't wait to release it... so they ported the code over to cartridge format for the North American release! Micronet must have had some super-secret compression system to fit an entire CD onto an 8-meg cart. Sadly, we'll never know their secret now that they've gone out of business (for unknown reasons).

Although CD to cartridge sounds like a downgrade, North Americaners actually came out ahead. Owners of the US version are only missing two things -- loading times and shrill vocalics. Everything else, from the AWESOME music to the sparse cinematics to the boring levels to the god-awful combat, is fully intact. Yeah, that's right. Aside from the cool soundtrack, Heavy Nova sucked on CD... and it still sucks on cartridge.

The basic layout is this: you control the IDAR robot for the United Space Defense Force. Your purpose in the Defense force is to attack your enemies. More specifically, this means treading through a sidescrolling stage (similar to the labyrinth levels from Last Battle), followed by a one-on-one robot-to-robot encounter.

The sidescrolling stages are pretty damn boring. Sure, there will be hopping robots that try to run into you. Just kick them. And there will be landmines on the ground. Just lying there, in plain open view. The challenge to these mines (and other obstacles) aren't based on ingeniously evil game design, but rather on poor controls -- due to the ridiculously intricate jumping scheme, it's easy to miscalculate the distance of a leap and land on an explosive. There are also a few situations where you're expected to jump onto a platform above you. Let's suppose there's a missile-spewing mech sitting there. This is a routine and ordinary obstacle... in most games. In Heavy Nova, this simple encounter becomes a monumental ordeal. Due to the enormously large size of your main character, it's nearly impossible to jump without being shot by a missile. And when shot, you will fall down. And jump again. And be shot. The key to victory is to repeatedly jump up and down until the evil mech just kind of disappears (due to glitchy programming). Then you can safely leap up to the next platform.

After evading such ingenious obstacles as "bad control" and "poor level design", you get to fight a boss.

Imagine Street Fighter 2. Shotokan master Ryu on the left, flashy Ken Masters on the right. Now imagine Ryu running from the left side of the screen to the right, running right through his opponent, as though Masters were just part of the background (like that bike rider from Chun Li's stage). Now, Ken Masters does his Dragon Punch move. You know, the one where he leaps across the screen, spinning in the air, fire blazing from his fist? Well Masters does his move... so Ryu jumps. Now, visually, Masters spears Ryu right in the gut with a fist full of fire. But the hit doesn't "register", so Ryu remains unharmed, and then turns around and kicks Masters in the head. But the kick doesn't register, because Masters is crouching. After all, when you crouch, you're invincible.

That's not how it works in Street Fighter 2. But that is how it works in Heavy Nova. Well, except for the cool spinning fire animation part. That's not in Heavy Nova.

If the boredom of the slothlike movement weren't deadly enough, the collision detection kills any possible entertainment value. Even the reviled Rise of the Robots, for all its flaws, got that part right. When someone appears to kick you onscreen, IT HAD DAMN WELL BETTER HURT. But in Heavy Nova, it doesn't. There are even times when both robots are standing face-to-face on the ground... and one performs a leaping kick through the other's chest. Without causing a dent.

The original Mobile Suit Gundam anime made slow, lumbering, robotic combat cool. It did this by placing an important focus on likable characters, military strategy, and stylish cinematography. Remove the characters, strategy, and cinematography, and you've got Heavy Nova -- slow, lumbering, robotic. And busted.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (April 24, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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