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Acrobat Mission (SNES) artwork

Acrobat Mission (SNES) review

"Of all the shoot emí ups on home consoles that have never seen a US release I was surprised to find out that the Super Nintendo had ported 95% of all the Shmups made for the system; the only games that never made their way to the states included three cute emí ups including Cotton, Parodious Da and Cho Ainki and only two of the serious kinds of space shooters (with Dezeamon falling somewhere in between) consisting of Rendering Ranger and Acrobat Mission, the latter of which possessing such a won..."

Of all the shoot emí ups on home consoles that have never seen a US release I was surprised to find out that the Super Nintendo had ported 95% of all the Shmups made for the system; the only games that never made their way to the states included three cute emí ups including Cotton, Parodious Da and Cho Ainki and only two of the serious kinds of space shooters (with Dezeamon falling somewhere in between) consisting of Rendering Ranger and Acrobat Mission, the latter of which possessing such a wonderfully ludicrous name for a shmup I instantly had to own the very cartridge of the game (even if it did cost me near $80).

Acrobat Missionís plot is nothing short of uninspired, but it at least tries something different. in the year 2100 Earthlings wasted all the natural elements of Earth and left it behind on a rather successful mission to terra-form Mars as evidenced by a bounty of healthy looking trees surrounding an otherwise red, barren wasteland.
Sooner or later the Bio-Computer they set up to look after and restore the Earth turns sentient and evil and generic to the point of realizing what mankind did to the Earth and decide theyíre the pollution problem and thatís the entire plot. Itís one of the many, many, many rip-offs of the Terminator, Human Duplicators and other shooters questioning manís ability to make sentient machines and nature, but thankfully the presentation isnít too bad seeing how the game executes the tired man vs. machine plot in a slightly unique direction. I just wish the Bio-Computer center didnít resemble a giant Basket Ball.

While the game is straightforward in controls and game flow, there are some surprising new additions to combat and strategy involved that make Acrobat mission stand out from most vertical scrolling shooters of its time. For one your ship, the 2TV-00836, can load up to two bombs under its wings that actually serve as shields that flank the shipís sides: every time an enemy shot hits one of the bombs it blows up and provides temporary cover for you while you can also drop your bombs at will. The ship also has this very groovy looking jet-propulsion move that emits a second-long burst of flame in the opposite direction you move in. Not only does it look sweet, but it can also decimate nearly every form of enemy fire and harm nearby enemies and objects.

The ship gets up to two different weapons aside from its single-shot default weapon including the Hurricane Shot which consists of a swirling, area based weapon and the Wave shot which is like an over-sized laser-like Vulcan shot that spreads out when you shoot it. This all sounds pretty basic especially considering how you can power them up for destructive potential, but the real catch is that you can charge each weapon up, no matter what level itís at and fire a powerful ball of energy with the Hurricane weapon and a short range, laser beam for the Wave shot that I personally like to call the ĎKill emí all Shot.í
Amazingly, the plus-sides donít end with the arsenal: For one, your ship is invulnerable to nearly everything except enemy fire which is a godsend considering how many times enemies, asteroids and space junk youíre forced into in the game and for every other time you do get hit your ship has about three seconds to spiral out of control into a crowd of enemies or a large enemy before your ship explodes which serves as a sort of last-second kamikaze attack.

The only grease stain that gets on the gold medal for Acrobat Missionís innovative combat and game play is the gamesí shameful lack of a rapid fire button which wouldíve helped immensely in uncountable areas which put my right wrist in a whole new level of pain on Semipro mode after constantly mashing the Y Button as my only form of attack and dying anyway. Also, the lack of 2 player action serves as yet another example as why the Super Nintendo / Famicom was never quite a shooter friendly console; donít be fooled by the other reviews or screen shots of the arcade version, they blatantly cut out any and all activity from the 2nd player controller and have blatantly cut out the use Nova and her cooler ship color scheme! Funny enough, the manual actually omits the named pilots from the arcade original which sort of adds to the old school sci-fi charm in that they both look like members of some hard rock electronica duo. At least now itís up to our imagination.

The course of the game actually presents the action really well, it comes close to capturing the common epic feel of virtually every classic shooter right down to the gameís opening scene (I donít mean the opening prologue of course which rivals Zero Wing in being hilariously misspelled). Almost every level serves to boostís the gameís presentation value as you get fancily introduced to the beginning of each new level with a different approach each time. Some of the levels arenít half bad either, with my favorite being the terra-formed Martian landscape consisting of bleak Martian deserts and dense forests, but the levels do end up falling into generic space shooter fare and occasional laziness rather quicly.*

Speaking of which, the enemies look really nice too in that most of them look like they were manned by machines and each enemy and boss are designed so distinctly that itís nearly impossible to mistake them with any other enemy from another game. Of course, the enemies do have a kooky side to them as the second level boss looks like a cross between a samurai helmet, a suction cup dart and a Zippo lighter, the third level boss is nothing more than a fancy looking square and the fourth level walker boss has these hilarious trundling legs that are simply flat saucer feet with no visible limbs.

While Iím on the subject of the bosses, Iíd like to say that itís very satisfying watching them die and as morbid as that sounds, itís actually an important aesthetic in Shooters because when youíre playing a game in which you have to spend 100% of the time shooting everything around you and blowing stuff up, the last thing you want to encounter are repetitive, anti-climactic explosions. Thereís something almost kinetic about the deaths of each boss in the game as one boss plummets to a fiery grave and another is literally decapitated by the final blow and considering there are actually more bosses than there are levels in the game itís gratifying to know that youíll have morbid fun watching each boss get eviscerated.

The sound department shares an equal portion of being unique and unmatched while simultaneously being annoying and uninspired. For the most part youíll hear a wide variety of explosions, your super-powered/charged shots convey their strength and the sound that emits every time you hit an enemy carry the feeling of shooting robots with laser weapons, but the distinct noises of your own weapons are incongruous and in some cases painful to hear. The Hurricane weapon when fired as a normal shot is so loud and constant it practically drowns out every other noise in the game (as well as the music) and the Wave weaponís normal shot doesnít match the weaponís strength as it sounds like... like... well I donít know what I could compare it to, but having someone say ďBehí into a microphone or making a noise that sounds like someone saying ĎBehí into a microphone and calling it a weapon noise is forerunning for earning a ĎI Worked on a Crappy Sound Department Team for a Video Gameí Award that involves getting taken into an alley and flogged into a concussion by a foot long rubber dildo, an award the sound department for Silent Hill 4 still needs to endure.
Even worse is the ĎGoing Downí noise that comes up every time you get hit... it almost rivals the ĎGoing Downí noise in D-Force, but itís not as laughable or as painful.

Like many obscure or mediocre shooters however, Acrobat Mission earns its excellence in musical composition. To hear the music as it is may make you wonder, but hear the music as you play the game and youíll hear what makes it so good. Part of the fact is that the music literally compliments the action. Every time a boss comes up, the music matches the physical and strategic threat that each boss introduces and the level music combines a sense of danger with adventure that rolls into a sense of unpredictability for virtually every level.

The level music is actually borderline epic sometimes. The first level in particular has this sort of ĎWe may never be coming back from this mission, but by God weíre gonna make it as awesome as possibleí feel to it. Needless to say what wonít match the action and what wonít feel epic will most certainly be catchy, even the ending theme which accompanies one of the most atrociously bad endings Iíve ever seen for a Shmup (at least this one actually had credits).

The graphics are actually pretty good on a technical stand point. True, the game rarely uses Mode 7 (only for the Level 3 boss), the electrical static that emits when you hit an enemy looks weak and the final explosion at the end is cheesy as Hell, but the backgrounds are designed with a nice texture and sprite pattern that doesnít scream ĎBeginner at Mario Paintí; the trees on the Martian surface are lush and thick and the mechanical backgrounds look menacing and shiny, but beyond those the backgrounds commonly lack variety.

On a technical standpoint however I have to say that Acrobat Mission is surprisingly good graphically because thereís absolutely no Slow-Down and even better NO Sprite Break-Up!

I repeat: No slow-down and no Sprite-Break up... for a Super Nintendo Shmup. Damn.

This is very good for a shmup because no matter what the Shmup, things are ALWAYS going to get hectic and the last thing you need is for the enemies and shots to disappear on you.

Acrobat Mission is one of those strange obscure shooters that has me stumped because no matter how much I curse myself for spending so much money on the game, how many times I hurt my wrist playing it and noting its flaws and no matter how many times Iíll admit the game was wasted potential as an arcade port, I have to say that I really like this game; itís not the best shooter on the Super Nintendo/Famicom and itís got quite a few flaws and lacking in replay value, but despite its blandness I keep coming back for more of its action.
Acrobat Mission is an undoubtedly mediocre title, but it presents itself well enough, the graphics are functional and the combat is unique and innovative enough to warrant a personal investment, though Iím still not sure if itís really worth more than $20.

*: Go to Wikipedia and read the gameís introduction... hilarious.

newalone4's avatar
Community review by newalone4 (June 30, 2008)

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Suskie posted June 30, 2008:

Might want to fix the line breaks in this review, i.e. make sure all of the paragraphs are separated by two spaces instead of one.

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