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Trouble Shooter (Genesis) artwork

Trouble Shooter (Genesis) review

"Trouble Shooter is a horizontal shooter. More importantly, Trouble Shooter is a horizontal shooter for girls. "

Trouble Shooter is a horizontal shooter. More importantly, Trouble Shooter is a horizontal shooter for girls.

Instead of a space ship armed with lasers, missiles, or bombs, you’ll control two jetpack-propelled teenage girls wielding laser guns. Instead of fearing oncoming projectiles lest your ship should explode, you’ll merely tolerate them, since the aforementioned teenage girls can endure numerous bullets before dying. And instead of having to brave the gut-wrenching challenge that typically accompanies games of this genre, you’ll simply have to stomach Trouble Shooter’s monotonous, unchallenging grind.

Blackball. The name doubtlessly instills fear into those at the mercy of his ostensibly motiveless plot. Having kidnapped the eminent Prince Eldon, the menacingly named villain threatens King Fredrick of the Majestic Republic to consider his “proposition,” of which we never learn anything about. Clearly sensitive to the delicacy of the situation, Colonal Patch, Fredrick’s military advisor, hires two teenage girls, Madison and Crystal, to rescue the prince and foil Blackball’s schemes; he insists that they do it “swiftly yet silently.” The reality of Blackball’s nebulous threat hits home when Crystal reports that the central line shopping plaza is under attack.

Despite having slyly claimed that “swiftly yet silently” is her middle name, Madison responds to the emergency by speeding off in her red car with Crystal, launching into the air, and sweeping the plaza with fully automatic laser fire!

After choosing one of four special weapons (none of which are particularly useful) and beginning the intolerably easy first stage, you’ll find that, contrary to Madison’s supposed “middle name,” the action actually proceeds quite slowly. At snail’s pace, Madison and Crystal advance automatically, leaving you to control their vertical and horizontal positioning on the screen, either for the sake of directing your sweeping laser fire toward a new adversary or evading the generally slow-moving incoming projectiles. Power-ups appear to provide your “chassis” with the beneficial alterations necessitated by the “increasingly challenging” opposition. The aforementioned special weapon can be discharged in times of “crisis” with “devastating” effects. Bosses and mid-bosses will periodically and limply test your horizontal-shooting “mettle.”

This is scarcely deviant from other horizontal shooters, and for that reason, though Trouble Shooter is not an enjoyable game, it remains a perfectly playable one. It’s just too simple and too easy. Shooters don’t typically entail convoluted thought or anything like that, but they generally strike some balance between intricacy, intensity and difficulty, which act in synergy to effect that challenging shooter experience. Trouble Shooter is hopelessly deficient in all areas; in some attempt to perhaps streamline its mechanics for the target audience (probably girls), the developers have severely overcompensated, creating what can most favorably be described as a shooter tutorial.

If you fuck up while playing Trouble Shooter, that’s perfectly okay! A certain degree of forgiveness is welcome in all games, except those designed for sadomasochistic gamers, but in Trouble Shooter, your mistakes never have severe consequences. In fact, so long as you hold down the fire button throughout the game, nothing else you do really matters.

Consider what happens on the off-chance that you actually sustain damage: you merely shrug it off, and be more careful not to lose the remaining three hit points you have left. Fucking hit points. Teenage girls are more resilient than interplanetary space ships, but should you somehow find yourself running low on hit points, heart power-ups are often available throughout the game’s six stages; even more hit points are awarded upon the acquisition of arbitrary point values. Admittedly the teenage girl hitbox seems considerably larger than that of a typical shooter space ship – but after garnering three stages worth of hearts and points, eighteen hit points seems pretty ridiculous, especially considering anyone with a modicum of skill can plow through Trouble Shooter quickly and nearly flawlessly.

Controlling both Madison and Crystal at the same time may sound unwieldy, but you actually exercise direct control only over the perpetually forward-facing Madison, who provides the bulk of your laser output. Crystal’s actions and movements mimic Madison’s, with the exception that she can be directed to fire forwards to unnecessarily supplement Crystal’s already adequate forward fire, or backwards to tickle those few assailants that approach from the rear. In practice, Crystal’s presence matters little; the game hardly necessitates having her constantly switch directions. You can have her facing backward the entire game, with no real detriment to your forward fire, or you can have her facing forward the entire game, simply waiting for those enemies that approach from the back to come around to the front (which they inevitably will).

In fact, Crystal’s existence is entirely nonessential. From start to finish, you’ll be picking up power-ups that enhance the girth and power of your forward shot. The maximum, which you can expect to attain by the third or fourth stage, creates a wide sheet of fire that covers virtually half the screen, negating the need for those special weapons, and making facing the easy opposition even easier.

Of that opposition: it’s never too troubling. The first stage, which has Madison and Crystal clearing that shopping plaza, takes the concept of easing players into the game to an extreme. Blue and purple robotic formations advance slowly from the left and right, setting a slow, predictable collision course for Madison and Crystal – easily destroyed before they even come close to their target destination. A few slow-firing turrets line the ground, which are also easily destroyed, but perhaps more surprisingly, they’re even more easily avoided altogether – they’re that harmless. Stage two ups the ante by pitting you against saws and gears that are literally waiting to be simply shot at, since they can’t actually do anything else. Regardless of what they are, from stages one through four, the usual opposition can generally be described as such: if it can even move, expect it to move slowly and non-threateningly; and if it can even send harmful projectiles in your direction, expect those to move slowly and non-threateningly.

Expect Trouble Shooter’s bosses to provide no haven from the game’s usual emptiness. In its first phase of its attack, the giant red robot of the first stage only laughs at you, which, unsurprisingly enough, has no tangible adverse effects on Madison or Crystal. Stage two concludes with yet another harmless robot. The battle opens as it shoots what initially seem to be large pink homing lasers, but they eventually turn out to be nothing more than artificial walls that constrict your movement without causing any actual damage. It has one other “attack”: dispelling the walls.

At least stage five is somewhat interesting. Having saved Prince Eldon from the illustrious Blackball at this point, the prince joins Madison and Crystal with a laser cannon of his own. Like Crystal, you exercise no direct control over him, but unlike Crystal, his actions mirror, rather than mimic, Madison’s; that is to say that if you direct Madison toward the top left of the screen, Prince Eldon will occupy the bottom right.

This new mechanic isn’t the only redeeming aspect of stage five: as you race through the sky, for once, Trouble Shooter manages to present you with interesting obstacles and foes. A volley of five indestructible missiles rain down from the top of the screen in quick succession, and just as you begin to feel safe, a sixth comes down unexpectedly. Enemies actually begin to move quickly and present actual danger. For once toggling Crystal’s orientation is meaningful: at one point enemies from the back and the front sweep the screen with hazardous energy walls that span the width of the screen. The boss of this almost-decent level requires you to use the new prince mechanic: its initially vulnerable parts are inaccessible to Madison and Crystal, so you need to make them retreat to the back of the screen while the prince pummels it up close. Following that, the boss proceeds to launch volleys of bullets moving at respectable speeds, while simultaneously attempting to smash you with a difficult-to-avoid claw. Stage five is memorable.

Or at least it would have been on a more developed shooter engine. Even with the potential for fun, Trouble Shooter is ineluctably hindered by the developers’ attempts to streamline the game. Finally enemies with a reasonable capacity for inflicting damage upon you present themselves – but they’ll have to inflict said damage fifteen times consecutively before you even have to worry about using one of Trouble Shooter’s two continues. Realistically, anyone with even casual gaming skills will never to worry about that. Realistically, anyone with an interest in horizontal shooters shouldn’t search the depths of obscurity only to find Trouble Shooter, when they could easily pick a better, more recognized title.

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Community review by radicaldreamer (April 29, 2005)

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