Saturday 12 February 2011


Not quite Cosmic Carnage.

It's TRUXTON, for the Sega Mega Drive, one of many shoot-'em-ups by Toaplan before the company were... "shot up" by bankruptcy... or something. It's a fairly forgettable shooter by today's standards but this blog is king when it comes to forgettable shoot-'em-ups. Or at least a member of the forgettable shoot-'em-up royal family.

Truxton is a classic, allegedly. Sure it might have taken 20+ years for me to realise it exists, but it's apparently one of the best Mega Drive shoot-'em-ups money can buy, and a good friend to many Sega fans. Toaplan initially released Truxton (or Tatsujin if you're Japanese) into the arcades in 1988, before converting it to the Sega Mega Drive in 1989 and the PC Engine in 1992.

Back in 1989, the Japanese hadn't decided to hate the Mega Drive yet. They weren't fond of the Master System and SG-1000 family which came before Sega's third meaninful attempt, but Sega were fairly hopeful that their lean mean 16-bit gaming machine would attract a Japanese fanbase. I'm not sure what exactly was going on at the time, but this seemed to result in a frightening amount of third-party shoot-'em-up games within the system's first couple of years.

The genre isn't my forté, but I've been told that Truxton was one of the hardest home shoot-'em-ups of the era, if not the hardest. With so many Arcade, Super Nintendo, Mega Drive, PC Engine and FM Towns releases I couldn't say exactly where the story went from here, but I do know that Truxton was one of the last ridiculously hard shoot-'em-up games to officially reach British soil before the genre was all but abandoned by the British consumer. We were all too interested inn the third dimension to give a damn about bullet counts, and that just so happens to be one of the reasons the Sega Saturn failed to impress us. But I'll leave that story to another day.

I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure what makes Truxton that much better than its rivals. It could be that its popularity comes from a time where lag and flicker where all too common (and if that's the case, it's understandable that Truxton stands out for suffering from neither issue), but it's not one that can be marked as revolutionary... at least not in my mind.

Truxton follows the same "three colour" pattern seen in all sorts of shooters. Red, green and blue powerups dictate which type of weapon you'll using, and each is upgradable for maximum damage. Enemies attack from all sides and though Truxton is not quite a "bullet hell" shooter, as I've said, it's no walk in the park.

Both the graphics and audio give the impression of a first generation Mega Drive title, and though this is no crime because it is a first generation Mega Drive title, it does make the arcade version feel like a more complete package, and it does mean we're not seeing the best of what the Mega Drive has to offer. That being said, it's only aged poorly in some areas - as you can see from the screenshots on this page, some bits look very nice indeed.

Though I can't say the graphics are mind-blowing when compared to other shooters on the market, the music is certainly catchy and I can't claim that either feature is "bad". Purists of the genre will favour the arcade original however - this is more of a Sega fan's game. Truxton on the Mega Drive also stands as the best home port - I don't suspect the PC Engine version is up to much, it's just by 1992, NEC's machine was a console of choice for the Japanese public. It's not miles behind the arcade version either - everything takes a hit but if you're not used to spotting minor differences like I am, this might not concern you.

One thing I will say, despite it possibly being controversial, is that in my opinion, the music never really matches the atmosphere set by the visuals. There's a lot of skulls and creepy looking spaceships in Truxton, yet the music has a very happy tone to it, which seems a bit out of place.

But aside from that, there's very little that Truxton does which can be considered "wrong". It was probably an excellent looking shooter in 1989 and although I don't think it quite holds up to the standards of today, the cheap price on eBay tends to reflect this and it still ends up being a great deal second hand. But I think Truxton is a great investment, and although it won't win any Squirrel awards, it's not one that should be tossed aside either.

1 comment:

  1. cool post - Truxton is top of my arcade shooter list. It required many hours of playing to get good, but once you had that sweet spot figured, the game took on some real fun challenges. Truxton was mostly about knowing what was coming up and you had to be prepared, whether it was enough bombs or the correct weapon for the area. I certainly enjoyed this game. it gets a 9 out of 10 from me :-)