Galaxy Force II (Genesis) review
"Welcome to the Monotonous Zone"
You likely know one of the following Sega arcade titles, Space Harrier, OutRun, After Burner, or Thunder Blade, but you might not know what visual trickery was used for them. These games belong to the Super Scaler series, where sprite objects scale accordingly as they "migrate" towards the screen, creating a pseudo-3D effect. Even better, they run smoothly; a very vital aspect for fast-paced games requiring precision control. In 1988, Galaxy Force II was released after those aforementioned titles and ran on a more advanced version of the hardware. Taking place in space and on otherworldly planets while piloting a spacecraft in third-person, the game literally throws an army of sprites at the screen, and seeing this in action at arcades was a sight to behold. Visually, it's the most ambitious Super Scaler title, thus making it impossible to replicate properly on home consoles of the era.
That didn't stop a Sega Genesis port from existing.
The framerate has been reduced, along with objects no longer appearing and scaling en masse due to the console's limitations; in place of scaling, the hardware just swaps out different sprites of differing sizes as the object moves closer to the screen, presenting a somewhat choppy-looking version of the game. But there's some good news: the port developers, CRI, still managed to make it run decently within said limitations. The "choppy" look isn't as bad as it sounds and what helps is that, due to this conversion moving slightly slower, the action actually accommodates the downgrade, making it playable. That sounds like an odd compliment, but if this port moved any faster, it probably would have been another Super Thunder Blade situation where the game looked and played awkwardly.
Now for the obvious grim news: the graphical presentation is severely lacking when compared to the arcade original. The fantastical fire planet of Velteor which spits twisty-twirly flames from fiery surfaces? Now a flat striped landscape with two varying shades of red. Or how about the beautiful planet of Malkland, covered with flora that you occasionally dodge as they burst from the ground? Now a flat striped landscape with two varying shades of green. You can pretty much guess what the other stages look like. Even natural tunnel segments now have a weird striped encasement to them. No longer are you witnessing detailed sprites intended to show off a Super Scaler game at its visual best, but instead what looks like an inferior-looking Space Harrier with a spacecraft.
But could this be a solid example of gameplay prevailing over graphics? Regrettably, Galaxy Force II is not that type of game. Minimize the arcade's main appeal, the visual experience, and all that does is put more focus on how generic the action feels, especially when compared to other Super Scaler titles. Space Harrier and After Burner, for instance, are heavily-reliant on quick reflexes due to speedy hazards, thus requiring a greater emphasis on dodging and destroying enemies bent on annihilating your avatar with a single hit. Suffice it to say, the Genesis rendition of Galaxy Force II is slower, along with having a general lack of mayhem happening on screen thanks to the hardware disadvantage. If it wasn't for the gimmick of having to continually destroy opponents to keep your energy meter from being depleted, you could just avoid most enemies with ease.
Trying to crunch Galaxy Force II onto the 16-bit console was... to put it kindly... a "bold" decision. The Genesis was very capable when used appropriately, but this was one instance where, whoever approved this, did a disservice to both the game and the system. The arcade version was just on a whole other spectrum to the point where, years after its release, other home systems with stronger specs still couldn't replicate the game properly. Now you'd think this port would quietly fade into history as a mangled conversion, but the opposite happened. Thanks to digital stores like Steam and compilations, it has now become the most accessible rendition to the general public. H... how wonderful. Regardless, do yourself a favor and just play a traditional shoot 'em up. The Genesis has plenty of them, good ones too.
Community review by dementedhut (August 20, 2021)
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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