Target Earth (Genesis) review
"Whenever you think you understand how Target Earth plays, it always seem to do something to slap your ass back to the title screen."
Whenever you think you understand how Target Earth plays, it always seem to do something to slap your ass back to the title screen. It doesn't wait to make that point, either, as you'll likely die once or twice in the very first stage. You're plopped on the surface of Jupiter, inside your assault suit, and your first instinct is to begin moving right in this side-scroller. You then get warnings of invasions, pick some weapons, and go charging headfirst into danger. Thinking this is going to be a breeze, you stick to your default weapon with infinite ammo and start attacking the Zaku-wannabes.
Seconds later, you're dead.
What happened? I mean, you only took some hits from the green suits, the air bombers, and what appears to be a green Metal Gear. Yeah, you did, but those shots took one hell of a pounding on your health bar. Oh yeah, the explosions from their destruction also hurt you. It's like killing an H. R. Giger alien, only to get hit in the face with its acid.
You get the point, though: don't rush into a deadly group with a pea shooter. Restarting the stage, you learn to rely on your other two weapons, and to use them at the right moments. This is something you constantly have to do throughout Target Earth. At the beginning, there's only three to select from, but as the game progresses, you receive more as points are gained, both by defeating a lot of enemies, and by quickly accomplishing stage objectives. An example is the first stage boss, a giant space warship that pops up on the other side of the map; the faster it gets destroyed, the bigger your end stage loot will be. The catch with collecting all these weapons is how only some can be equipped at the start of each mission, which means you'll have to do some experimenting before sticking to selections that fit your style.
This is one of Target Earth's unique features, the ability to customize your assault suit for battle.
However, another "interesting" aspect of the game is that it can be amazingly hard. Those first stage antics are just a small demonstration of that. Skip to stage 4: you've escaped Jupiter, survived a space battle above earth's orbit, and now you're ready to raid an enemy base on the planet. You're starting to feel like you're getting Target Earth, again... then stage 4 actually begins. Falling through the sky, your assault suit will have to dodge both rockets and aircraft missiles that easily knock off a huge chunk of that sensitive health bar. Make it to ground level, and you'll be greeted by a welcoming party that's eager to give you more than cake and punch. They are much more aggressive than previous foes, and simply running away does more harm than good, since they can easily catch up, both in the air and on soil. Your best bet is to shoot everything that gets in your path and hope for the best. Hell, you might even find one or two "resting" spots to regenerate your health, at the cost of wasting ammo to fend off the bastardly fiends.
Let's say you reach the base, watch your little buddy blow up the entrance hatch, and jump in. Mission complete, right?
Plot twist, motherfunkers! There's more stage to suffer through!
With half your arsenal depleted of ammunition, you're now forced to travel downward into a base filled with turrets and electric traps. One wrong turn will even drop you into a pit with a combination of both! Now, say you make through all this... you still need to destroy a reactor guarded by an array of turrets. Not that it needs the protection, since the machine itself fires a trio of projectiles that can follow you. The worst part about this boss fight is that, if you actually destroy it, the mission continues for an extra 2 seconds. This is deadly, because the bullets and projectiles can still harm your suit, and should you lose all health, the game will send you to the start of stage 4 instead of acknowledging your victory.
That's right, there are no lives, nor any checkpoints. Once you get blown to pieces, you're forced to retry the stage from scratch, and you only have 2 continues to work with.
I'd like to say this is as hard as Target Earth becomes, but stages 6 and 8 prove otherwise. They're basically "Stage 4 x This is Getting Stupid = Supreme Frustration" and "Stage 6 x Supreme Frustration = Why Am I Still Playing This".
Target Earth's main problem is that it wants to be a strategic action title in the same cartridge where waves of restless enemies pop up at random and kill you within seconds. It's just not going to work, since both aspects cancel each other out, and what you're left with is a game of annoying luck. There's no true sense of challenge, no sense of accomplishment, because there's always that dreadful thought of dying, especially when you really, really do your best. Thankfully, Target Earth wasn't the last of its kind, as the development team would later create a refined, streamlined successor for the SNES. The game is Cybernator, and where Target Earth failed, it makes up for it tenfold.
Community review by pickhut (March 27, 2011)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
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