Big Sky Trooper (SNES) review
"Do you believe in aliens? Do you think that there’s a whole other race of intelligent beings somewhere out in that endless void called the universe? The entertainment industry certainly thinks so. Over the last few decades, we’ve been introduced to a wide variety of beings that look nothing like anything from our planet. We’ve met Wookies, Vulcans, Ewoks, and whatever the hell E.T. was. But for all of those beneficent races, there are always more than enough evil ones, such as the ones from I..."
Do you believe in aliens? Do you think that there’s a whole other race of intelligent beings somewhere out in that endless void called the universe? The entertainment industry certainly thinks so. Over the last few decades, we’ve been introduced to a wide variety of beings that look nothing like anything from our planet. We’ve met Wookies, Vulcans, Ewoks, and whatever the hell E.T. was. But for all of those beneficent races, there are always more than enough evil ones, such as the ones from Independence Day, Space Invaders and its countless clones, the Borg, and Marvin the Martian, that always want to wipe out mankind for some undisclosed reason. Despite getting thrashed around for a while, mankind will usually get off its primitive ass, take the fight to the evil extraterrestrials, and emerge victorious regardless of the odds. The entire concept horribly cliched, but sci-fi geeks and movie aficionados can’t seem to get enough of it. Sadly, not even pop culture can save Big Sky Trooper from itself.
Welcome to the future, when mankind has finally progressed far enough to start wandering through the outer regions of the galaxy. Unfortunately, traversing the cosmos isn’t purely for scientific research and exploration anymore. One of humanity’s interstellar neighbors is blazing through space and conquering every planet they come across. Things aren’t looking to good for planet Earth, either; the military has suffered far too many casualties and is spread too thin across the solar system. In fact, they’ve gotten so desperate that they’ve recruited you, some random kid that has absolutely no training or combat skill whatsoever! Not only that, but they’ve sent you to work on the Dire Wolf, a spaceship that is headed for the frontlines of the war and to its likely destruction. How’s that for job security? You won’t have time to lament over your apparent doom, though; you’ve got a war to (hopefully) win.
Your mission is simple: eradicate the enemy and regain any lost planets and territory. At least, that sounds simple. After you’ve plotted a course and arrived at the nearest enemy-occupied planet, you’ll find yourself besieged by a few enemy spaceships. Instead of charging up some photon torpedoes and other typical tools of the trade, you’ll be forced to pilot the Dire Wolf in a small mini-game akin to the old Asteroids arcade game. This usually involves staying in one spot, slowly turning the ship in a certain direction, letting loose a few pixels that supposedly represent missiles, and annihilating anything that drifts into your line of fire. Once you’ve completed this easy and frequently annoying task, you’ll get your chance to beam down to the surface and fight a few baddies head on. You’ll even be granted a special battle suit that makes you look like a cheap Samus Aran knockoff. But hey, you get to kick alien slug ass, and that’s what really matters!
Too bad the gameplay is too bland for it to really matter. You’d think that liberating an entire planet would involve massive battles, countless spare infantry and tons of intense action everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite; once you’ve gotten down to the surface, you’ll simply have to wander around a top-down world map, squash a few aliens or look for a certain item for your ship. This will involve toddling around a small and enclosed area, whipping out your handy blaster, burning a few new holes into your foes, and wandering into the next area. There’s nothing particularly engaging about this gameplay; even the enemies from the crappy Asteroids mini-game put up more of a fight then these lackeys do. However, the unresponsive controls tend to balance things out fairly well. Once any sign of evil has been exterminated, the planet is yours! At least, until the slimy little bastards return to take it back while your back is turned. In order to ensure the safety of your newly acquired world, you’ve got to leave something behind to ward off any potential enemies. Thus, you get to pull out the most lethal weapon in your entire inventory: a fast food franchise! Yeah, you read that right. These intergalactic slugs aren’t worried about nuclear holocausts or giant death rays, but abhor high cholesterol. Apparently, there’s nothing that strikes fear in the hearts of evildoers more than some chicken nuggets. Who knew?
Okay, Big Sky Trooper gets an A for an original (albeit utterly ridiculous) idea. Unfortunately, that’s basically all it has going for it; not only is the gameplay repetitive and downright dull, but it’s not easy on the eyes, either. Unlike the detailed and colorful lands of Super Mario World, A Link To The Past and Super Metroid, this not-so epic space adventure is filled with repetitive levels with little in the way of eye-catching features. Aside from the notable exception of the Dire Wolf’s interior, many of the areas are nothing more than flat areas separated into different hallways and sections, with fairly linear paths sprinkled with baddies. For an alien race held bent on destroying humanity, the space slugs aren’t exactly fearsome; their mind-numbingly slow attacks and idiotic AI make them a breeze to annihilate. Let’s not forget our valiant intergalactic heroes either; you’ll get to choose the gender of your character, be it the gawky teenage dude or the generic blonde girl. Regardless of who you choose, your character will look like a big mound of multicolored pudding with gigantic eyes and stupid grins plastered on. At least their armor is semi-cool, but hardened veterans of the Metroid series and other space adventure games won’t give it a second glance.
You know what the sad thing is? This game could have worked. Big Sky Trooper had a few good ideas, but implemented them horribly. There’s something epic about traveling the cosmos, visiting tons of different planets and bitterly fighting against countless enemies and incredible odds. Hell, even the mandatory Asteroids mini-game could have been awesome, if they had just upped the difficulty a bit. The same could be said about the on-foot missions; saving these worlds could have been a whole lot more fun if they just included a wider variety of enemies, larger levels, and some semblance of challenge. At least the game teaches us a new way to get rid of dangerous alien invaders. So the next time you see an evil space mutant coming for your blood, put down your little phaser thingy and keep your missile reserves stocked up. Instead of blasting it in the face, walk up to it, offer it an Extra Value Meal, and ask, “Would you like fries with that?” Who knows, it just might work.
Community review by disco (June 25, 2006)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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