Blue Stinger (Dreamcast) review
"I swallowed monsters!!"
Even if people haven't played Blue Stinger, it's still a game that's easily remembered as being associated with the Dreamcast; back when the system was revealed, eager gamers were soaking up any coverage of forthcoming titles for the soon to be released Sega console. Along with stuff like Sonic Adventure, Blue Stinger was one of the early games being shown off with an array of images depicting brightly-colored characters fighting terrifying monsters amongst a Christmas-esque setting. Outside the highly-anticipated launch titles, it was one of the more promising games, especially when compared to the likes of Pen Pen Trilcelon, a weird racing title starring bizarrely-designed creatures.
But was Blue Stinger able to live up to the hype? How did the game actually play? Once players got their hands on a copy and begun the 3D adventure, they realized its mechanics were very similar in style to the early Resident Evil titles. The Japanese version of Blue Stinger, too, had fixed camera angles, which the US release traded for a third-person perspective. Once underway, a melee attack is all the protagonist has, meaning careful thought and movement are a must while avoiding humans-turned-monsters. Weapons like pistols and crossbows are eventually acquired, but having a steady stock of ammo on a tight budget, created from money dropped by fallen foes, is difficult at first. Survival really does play a tricky role early in.
However, the mood changes all too soon due to some adjustments. The most notable one is the ability to switch between two characters on the spot, a mechanic that's introduced within the first 20-some minutes. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but they also have separate lifebars, meaning you can change when one person takes too much damage in battle, diminishing the survival vibe quite a bit. By helping some people and finding ATM cards, collecting money becomes easy, as well, negating the issue of running out of ammo. Simply max out on arrows and kill enemies at a distance with the bow's incredible reach, then switch it out for the equally impressive rail gun late in the game. Most of the monsters you encounter aren't hard to begin with, either, since they're really only a hassle because of the constant narrow corridors the developers loved designing.
Sounds like an average Resident Evil clone? That's because it is one. Really, the only reason this particular title received big coverage is due to it being released on a new console at the time. People wanted to know what kind of power the Dreamcast would pump out in comparison to systems like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. For some, though, being an average product is good enough for them, and will probably want to check this out regardless. To that I say: please don't... I'm begging you not to play this. Blue Stinger may have a mundane battle system, but it's also home to one of the most convoluted, headache-inducing progression designs I've experienced in a game of this type.
See, the game's progress flow is based around unlocking a series of doors, either with a simple key, a card, or a code. So what, right? Ocarina of Time's dungeons have you doing this, as well as Metal Gear Solid, both released around the same time period. But those titles have you doing interesting and fun stuff between all the unlocks! Blue Stinger, along with its repetitive action, does a lot of weird and odd things that have you going "... why?" The best way I can describe it is like, you have a main objective, but then the devs force you to do a dozen or so boring side quests beforehand. With lots of backtracking.
Please bear with me here.
The buffoonery starts almost instantly when you reach the main control room and can't advance farther inland because of a locked door. The solution is to backtrack a bit and head for a bar in a shopping district, to pick up a lab ID. So you head there, but run into a closed barrier that can't be opened. It's recommended to run through the freezer that's to the left of the barrier. But it's locked. So you head to the food market to find the owner of the key. But he's on the second floor, which you can only gain access to if four Pen Pen Trilcelon stamps are found. However, some of the stamps are behind shutters, which can only be opened if you walk all the way to the market's warehouse end and use a pass code monitor. Once you get all four stamps and head to the second floor, you bump into a giant monster in a small room that can kill you with ease if not prepared. Hope you saved.
When you talk to the guy, he'll give you a key... a key to a safe that contains the freezer card. You get the card out the safe and open the freezer door. Inside, you'll have to make your way quickly through a narrow maze or die of hypothermia. You find the exit, but it's frozen shut, so now you have to go all the way to the back of the freezer to heat the area, wasting all health items in the process, while also finding more keys and cards to unlock more stuff along the way. Then, you walk through the now-thawed door... and into a water maze. Expecting nothing less from a 3D game, the swimming controls are atrocious. Plus, there's a fish monster bugging the crap out of you while swimming the tight corridors. Once beyond those hellish conditions, you immediately encounter a boss fight with a mutant bull. It's like the devs were trying to top each bs moment with another, bigger bs moment. SO, you defeat the bull and, after unlocking another door with a pass code, three more passages later, you finally reach the bar on the other side of the barrier.
Assuming you're playing Blue Stinger for the first time and without prior knowledge of events, arriving at the bar will likely take a horrifying two to three hours. The saddest thing, too, is how joyless and unproductive the trek feels. After I finished the task and took a break, I actually wrote down a page-long checklist of stuff that happened, because I knew I wasn't going to remember every detail. Shockingly, even that wasn't 100% helpful, and had to turn to an online guide for this review to jog my memory. I really wanted to quit after that incident, since I was dumbfounded at the amount of times the game kept sidetracking me from getting a damn ID card. Curiosity made me push further, because I found it hard to fathom it could get worse.
Damn you, optimism.
After "running" (more like jogging on the moon) through three to four maps filled with floating orbs that shoot lasers, you jump off the top of an exploding tower (unscathed) and make it to a computer terminal. Here, the objective is to repair broken circuits in an area with about 20 circuit rooms. Graciously, a computer hands you the location of the four rooms with broken circuits. Problem: the items needed for the repairs are sprinkled around the 20-plus room area. So you still need to search every room.
Skip one or two hours ahead, and you're at a research facility investigating why an ample supply of power is being absorbed in a particular spot. Unfortunately, this devolves into another parade of door unlocks. To my complete amazement, this series of events manages to be more idiotic in approach. Since you're entering a "sanitized" location, you have to watch the two playable characters take a bath, then witness one of them put on a Santa outfit, due to it being the only clean size that fits. A little later, the main protagonist succumbs to the monster virus after a brief boss fight, because, in his own words, "swallowed some of the monster vomit". Now, not only do you have to unlock doors, but also find a cure along the way. I guess this was the development team's attempt at drama, but it really comes off incredibly silly, especially when the guy shouts stuff like "I swallowed monsters!!" I kid you not. Before I could process the meltdown this game was having, the guy then gained the ability to climb walls and ceilings like Spider-Man.
This was the point where Blue Stinger broke me.
I tried completing the game, but just couldn't, finally giving up when I was forced to walk through three very, very long corridors to look at some computer data. Then walk through it again, since it was the only exit. AGH. Blue Stinger is an unbelievable bore for the ages, one I wouldn't advise anyone to partake of. We should all be grateful titles like Soul Calibur greeted gamers at launch, because if Blue Stinger and the like was all there were, the Dreamcast would've crashed and burned a lot sooner.
Community review by dementedhut (August 12, 2012)
Tidbit: the protagonist of Umihara Kawase has made appearances in games outside of the series. She can be played in the fighting game Blade Strangers (2018), the puzzler Crystal Crisis (2019), and even as a selectable character in Cotton Fantasy (2021).
More Reviews by dementedhut [+]
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