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U.N. Squadron (SNES) artwork

U.N. Squadron (SNES) review

"U.N. Squadron is a phenomenal shooter, bearing very impressive visuals and challenging gameplay (with emphasis on challenging). Though there are some very specific battle flaws (if flaws is the proper word in this case) that'll surely frustrate many a player, the good manages to greatly outweigh the bad, leaving U.N. Squadron with a tremendously positive mark. "

U.N. Squadron is a phenomenal shooter, bearing very impressive visuals and challenging gameplay (with emphasis on challenging). Though there are some very specific battle flaws (if flaws is the proper word in this case) that'll surely frustrate many a player, the good manages to greatly outweigh the bad, leaving U.N. Squadron with a tremendously positive mark.

The background behind the game may escape some players. U.N. Squadron is actually based off the anime, Area 88, by Kaoru Shintani. (The Japanese release retained this name.) Contrary to what the title may suggest, the United Nations has no bearing in this game whatsoever, leaving many to wonder just whose ass the title was pulled out of. Rather, the characters portrayed are actually mercenary pilots that spend the days flying the skies against an oppressive foe known solely as Project 4. Badass!

As the game begins, the player has the choice of three different pilots. Each of them boast their own advantages. Shin Kazama, for example, can master the default vulcan cannon much quicker than the others, rendering him the most desirable if the player prefers the firepower of the main gun over special weapons. Mickey Scymon, on the other hand, does not level as quickly as Shin, but can use a number of special weapons simultaneously. The last of the bunch, Greg Gates, does not bear any noticeable skills but is the most durable out of all three. Depending on one's playing style, one character may seem like a better investment than another. I happen to prefer the overall durability of Gates, but it's all preference.

There's only one choice for the first mission, a land-based battle involving the first of the enemy bases. After completing it, the path the player can take widens. Different selections becomes available, allowing the player to choose which way to go first. Some missions may be best suited for a later date, due to insufficient weapons or incompetent aircraft. Mission types can encompass sea battles, land excursions, and of course, air-to-air combat.

To claim that U.N. Squadron has no variety would be nothing short of fallacious. Battlefields differ extensively from one stage to another. Not often (if at all) will players see recycled landscapes or textures, thus making every mission a new experience. Whether it be a furious battle at sea, a heated dogfight above the clouds, or a hazardous trip through a cave, each stage brings up something new. Bosses, too, are awe-inspiring in their girth. A battleship the length of a football field, an enormous F117A stealth fighter, and a massive forest fortress only embody a few of the tough bosses players will come across. Said bosses will need a considerable amount of effort to take down. Trust me, there's nothing more frustrating than finishing a pain-staking level only to have your plane blown to bits by an oversized submarine.

Then again, shooters like these just wouldn't be fun without the seemingly indomitable missions. Stretching over a campaign of 10 full-length missions plus a continually repeating bonus mission, finishing this game is nothing short of painstaking.

Money is obtained with every kill the pilot makes. Yes, each and every bit of cannon fodder destroyed in the air will be rewarded with a good deal of money. Obviously, smaller enemies only rake in about $300 while bigger targets give greater sums. The money obtained from missions can be used to purchase new planes or buy special weapons for the next day's missions. Therefore, it would be in the player's best interest to kill as much as possible to generate as much capital as he can.

Every aircraft features a life bar situated at the bottom-left corner of the screen. Every time the player takes a hit, the bar is a depleted and enters "DANGER" mode. At this point, any following hits will destroy the plane. However, after a few seconds, danger mode will disappear, revealing a somewhat depleted life bar. From here, a hit won't destroy the aircraft, but will provoke the same thing again. Every time the plane recovers from the danger mode however, the life bar will slowly deplete until it finally comes to the point where it stays in "DANGER" mode indefinitely. Obviously, any further hits will obliterate the aircraft, no questions asked.

Players will find, as they progress through the game, that they would enter "DANGER" mode more often then they'd like. The chaotic sequences that make up the missions involve hails of bullets and screens crowded with enemy fighters and ground units. In many cases, it would seem almost impossible to escape death because there would simply be too many bullets and too little room to move. The problem here is the lack of space to really maneuver anywhere. As enemy fighters come flying in, half the time, they don't fly off until they are destroyed. Now, when a player is too busy concentrating on larger targets, those little fighters can really begin to add up, leaving less room to evade shots, greatly inhibiting progress. Considering how quickly the bullets themselves move (even on Easy mode), getting raped in these kind of situations is common. Frustration, of course, will quickly stack up.

Beyond all that though, U.N. Squadron is a rewarding experience. The graphics are gorgeous. Skies are beautiful to look at, surfaces are smooth and polished, and textures appear clean and detailed. The atmospheric effect of each level really stands out, whether it be a dusty desert, a dank cave, or the open sea. In the heat of battle, enemy fighters are demolished in vibrant explosions as the realistic sound effects echo through your speakers. Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

U.N. Squadron is a shooter that will be remembered for years to come. Its battle flaws however, can really make the game a bit too difficult at certain points. But when the game is finally overcome, the victory will definitely give you something to brag about.

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Community review by redemption (July 22, 2006)

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