"The Nintendo Entertainment System is not regarded as having a plethora of quality shooters. This lack stems partially from technical difficulties: the NES just cannot handle the amount of action a good shooter requires. But the main reason is game makers just did not concentrate enough resources to produce a truly great title, choosing instead to manufacture platformers and the like. Through all this, Naxatsoft manages to bring us Recca, an almost unheard of title released in 1992, deep into the..."
The Nintendo Entertainment System is not regarded as having a plethora of quality shooters. This lack stems partially from technical difficulties: the NES just cannot handle the amount of action a good shooter requires. But the main reason is game makers just did not concentrate enough resources to produce a truly great title, choosing instead to manufacture platformers and the like. Through all this, Naxatsoft manages to bring us Recca, an almost unheard of title released in 1992, deep into the NES' twilight years. The word ''Recca'' translates to ''conflagration'' or ''raging fire'', and I cannot think of a more appropriate title for this game.
Recca is a vertically-scrolling space combat shooter with three modes of play. Generally the format is standard: collect power-ups, kill minions of lesser enemies, vanquish worthy mini-bosses in the middle of stages and mighty bosses at the end of stages, increment the level by one, and repeat in a slightly different setting. The two alternative modes, Time and Score, add a bit of variety by offering slightly altered stages while imposing time limits and score trials. Overall, the two extra modes are identical to each other and are only a slight variation of the normal mode. What Recca lacks in originality it compensates with style.
The main problem with previous shooters is how they derive challenge. All too often, you will become frustrated because your craft is atrociously slow, has an unrealistically large damage area, or fires with ineffective artillery. Adding to this are the problems of non-automatic fire characteristic of many NES shooters (what fun is button mashing?) and being locked into ''level 1'' power-up schemes which make the game unnecessarily difficult to complete should you perish anywhere past the second level.
Recca solves many of these irritating problems by giving you a nimble craft with five levels of adjustable speed, just three levels of easily obtained weapon upgrades, and exceptional auto-fire. You will be spending all your time out-maneuvering enemies and slaughtering worthy foes instead of wrestling with that piece of junk ship they gave you to save the universe. You are still quite vulnerable after death, especially during boss battles, but the game throws you so many power-ups that this is not a major concern.
Many shooters employ a strategy where the game begins with a barrage of easy-to-kill power-up yielding enemies. The player kills these foes, collects the power-ups, and putzes around for a while until the real game begins about ten minutes later. Not Recca. From second one you are assaulted with relentless squadrons of enemy fighters, far more than the feeble NES should be able to handle. Recca won't let a minor thing like weak processing power stop it from trying to kill you with everything it's got! And kill you it will: Recca is a tough game. Even stage one will be quite a challenge for the casual gamer.
Fortunately, you have some capable weapons to take out the murderous enemies. Armory comes in five types of each primary and secondary cannons. Fans of Raiden will find familiar weapons in the spread and homing laser cannons while other weapons include the forward-firing blaster, the all-directional weapon, and another type of laser which eventually gains homing ability. Secondary weapons are fired by ''nodes'' which hover around the craft. Each type of secondary weapon fires the same shot, but different shot patterns are available depending on the type of power-up selected.
Highly adding to the strategy factor is the fact that you can charge an energy shot when conserving fire from the primary weapon. The charge takes shape as a glowing orb in front of the ship; in this state it can absorb small enemy projectiles. When released, the charge transforms into a large blast which covers approximately one quarter of the screen. The blast kills most stage enemies on contact and neutralizes all projectiles, making it the only line of defense for most bosses.
Recca is strictly a vertically-scrolling shooter, but good level design makes play a bit more interesting with elements such as wavy, hypnotic backgrounds and bi-directional flight (yes, you fly downward, too).
After some time you will find a combination of weapons and strategies to suit you, and the game becomes standard practice of memorization, timing, and evasion. Recca is difficult but not impossible. After mastered, Recca will likely lose its luster, but if you are the type to quickly forget patterns and such you may find Recca fun once again if you pick it up six months later. Otherwise there is not much to do once you beat the game. The two extra play modes extend Recca's life somewhat, but don't count on them doubling the lifetime of the game.
A benefit of release so deep into the NES' time line is having access to a near decade's worth of programming tricks that help get the most out the system. As a result, Recca hardly looks or sounds like an NES game. Craft are sharp, detailed, and colorful as well are the backgrounds. Great palette selections abound with excellent shading. Explosions are excellent (and plentiful!). Bosses are especially impressive, completely shattering whatever impressions you once had about how ''big'' foes can get in action-oriented NES titles.
Another breakthrough is Recca's music, which probably makes the most use out of the NES' obscure PCM (digital audio) channel of any title. Normal square wave music is mixed with well-placed synth hits and drums for a unique techno sound, a refreshing break from the normally prosaic sounds characteristic of this system. Sound effects are actually a bit disappointing: gun effects are a bit loud and irritating while explosions are subdued. Some actions don't yield sounds though it seems they should.
While Recca is not the best shooter ever made, it is quite enjoyable and almost certainly the best the NES has to offer, albeit from ranks of unworthy alternatives. Being confined to Japan, Recca is a hard find, so this game is not easy to own for Westerners. That aside, a game of Recca should be a requirement for all fans of shooters and the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)
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