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Soukyugurentai (Arcade) artwork

Soukyugurentai (Arcade) review


"Soukyugurentai veers dangerously close to the prototypicality trap that made its technically flawless but hopelessly average ST-V sister Shienryu worthless. Raizing's creativity jumps out at you like the narrative in a Calculus textbook; I suppose the turrets and turbojets on display are about as exciting as they come, but that doesn't change the fact that they're the same turrets and turbojets you've been plowing through since Raiden II. Level backdrops are equally benign—c..."



Soukyugurentai veers dangerously close to the prototypicality trap that made its technically flawless but hopelessly average ST-V sister Shienryu worthless. Raizing's creativity jumps out at you like the narrative in a Calculus textbook; I suppose the turrets and turbojets on display are about as exciting as they come, but that doesn't change the fact that they're the same turrets and turbojets you've been plowing through since Raiden II. Level backdrops are equally benign--cool as it may be to see the support cables of a Golden Gate-esque bridge scroll by in the city beneath you, it doesn't change the fact that this probably isn't the first time you've shmupped things above some generic metropolis.

Awkward transition: despite sharing its most crucial flaw, Soukyugurentai is no Shienryu. Unlike its dullard sibling, Souky is intense. MAME ran the game at about half its normal speed until I tinkered with it, and it honestly took me a few levels to even notice that something was up. It didn't feel the slightest bit too easy. At normal speed, things are fucking insane. It's got the bullet count of a newer v-shmup, but unlike in those games, none of the enemies are firing in preordained patterns. They are shooting at you and they want you to die. They hope you burn in hell. If somebody claims to have one-credited this game despite not wearing a pit-stained black Akira t-shirt, he (or she, all the chicks dig obscure Japanese arcade games) is lying.

Adding to the insanity is the simple but amusing lockon system. Nothing particularly fancy: holding down the fire button for a second switches to a neat-looking vector-graphics lockon mode that can work in a couple of different ways for each of the three selectable ships. The one I use, which I have lovingly dubbed THE RED SHIP, can target enemies surrounding it with weaker lasers and bigger bruisers ahead of it with big blasts of fire. Getting the most points mandates locking on to the most enemies you can at once, so between that and just not getting torn to bits by the dozens of bullets darting about the screen, for-score players will more than have their work cut out for them.

THE RED SHIP will also have to plow through a half-dozen bosses, each of which is crazier than the last. The first level's foe is just a simple take on the “big plane” motif (though the way it bombs passenger jets on the tarmac below is awesome), but the third and fourth guardians stand out in my mind as some of the genre's best. Level three pits you against an enormous tank with fire-spewing arms; you're forced to get in between its torrents of flame and then, with precious little room to maneuver, dodge the missiles and bullets it throws your way. In the stage after that, a flying mech so enormous that the camera has to zoom out ambushes you in an asteroid field. Were I playing this game on an actual insert-quarter arcade machine, its intricate bullets sprays and enormous laser cannons would have me bankrupt and doing unmentionable things for another fifty-cent shot at victory.

Soukyugurentai is far from essential. Intense, yes, but so are many other shooters, and a good number of those other shooters go for more than the generic Raiden look with their art design. It's also looking pretty rough these days--I'm sure the pseudo-3D sprite trickery was the bee's knees back in 1996, but Souky has not aged gracefully and is now at best an eight-beers-and-a-paper-bag case. If you've got a modded Saturn or want to throw down the cash for a new arcade board, though, you could do much worse than the frenetic, kinetic Soukyugurentai.

Rating: 7/10

mrhappy's avatar
Featured community review by mrhappy (November 15, 2006)

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