Monday, 16 May 2011

Truxton II

Still not quite Cosmic Carnage.

Here on my little blog, I like to review games I can't play, witter for a few paragraphs and give a meaningless final verdict which both fails to attract new players and fails to impress the veterans. But rather than break the trend here's TRUXTON II (a.k.a. Tatsujin Oh!), sequel to Truxton (Tatsujin). It's a vertical shoot-'em-up by Toaplan, first released into the arcades in 1992, and if you ever needed a good definition of "hardcore gaming" this should do you quite nicely.

I read the other day that Sony, during their early PlayStation years, heavily discouraged developers bringing 2D games to their system in the west. 3D was the way forward, apparently, despite the fact 3D in 1994 barely constituted for more than fancy a tecnical demo. Mind you, I may criticise this tactic now, but it must have worked - the Saturn's complicated hardware almost enforced to opposite and look what happened to that outside of Japan.

But obsessing over the third dimension meant that tons of 2D arcade games released in the early 90s never saw a wide release. Truxton II is one such game... almost. I'd like to pretend it was unloved and spent its short life in Japanese arcades gathering dust, but it managed to see an international release and a port for the Japanese FM Towns Marty. That's more than can be said for most of these things... but it's not enough. Case in point; you've probably never played it.

Truxton II is very much like Truxton I, though benefits from half a decade's worth of technical improvements and is a noticeably more modern package overall. No stone was left unturned in the upgrading process - I can't find one thing that Truxton II does worse than the original Truxton other than having an uglier title screen. And that's mostly a localisation issue. Whereas Truxton may seem like it's aged to some people, Truxton II looks just as fresh as it did nineteen years ago... again provided you're not looking at that hideous title.

It's still a fairly standard set-up - one button fires, the other launches bombs which can wipe out all of the enemies on screen. There are three types of weapon, indicated by red, green and blue respectively and each can be upgraded for maximum damage. Oh and there's a speed powerup. Hurray. But the average man isn't deemed worthy of their usage so they're not really worth explaining.

Truxton II is one of the hardest shoot-'em-up games to be thrown out of Toaplan's office, and from the moment it was conceived it hated you. It hated your family, your friends, and wished nothing but torture and suffering on everybody you ever knew or cared about. Inserting money into its coin slot is taken as a direct insult by Truxton II, and it will quickly make sure that the credit counter returns to zero once more.

Only the clinically insane would sit and play Truxton II to the end. Only the critically insane could get to the end. Though I would say Truxton II pre-dates the "bullet hell" era, bullets still play a huge roll in your inevitable downfall. In fact, in many respects Truxton II is worse than the bullet hell shooters of the later 1990s - success in bullet hell shooters often have the player remain static, making only slight movements as the spread comes closer to the bottom of the screen.

Truxton II punishes those who stay in one place for more than two or three seconds, so you have to employ a more dangerous tactic. It sends ships up from the bottom of the screen as well as from the top, sides and from bunkers in the middle so nowhere is safe. Unlike other shooters, the turrets don't just shoot downwards - they'll turn and blast you from behind until the screen devours them from below. You can't afford to ignore anything.

Getting your weapon upgraded is a rare sight because death is very common and powerups aren't carried over. In some cases, like the first boss for example, it's not even a good idea to upgrade said weapon. Damaging but not destroying parts of the boss will prompt it to start firing more frequently, so if you're hitting each part of the boss at once but not throwing everything you've got at each section, you'll actually struggle more than if you're conservative with your ammo and aim for one place.

But don't take this as some sort of innovative new feature that Truxton II brings to the table - this is common stuff. It's just as westerners, you don't get to enjoy it without resorting to emulation or by dishing out cash for imports. And don't get me wrong, this is an enjoyable game - it requires more skill than the average man but it's a blast while it lasts. Toaplan didn't typically make bad shooters and Truxton II does not break this rule -  it's just crushingly difficult.

But crushing difficulty is something that I feel that many new games lack, a view shared by many "serious" gamers these days. Nintendo hold your hand while you play, occasionally choosing to play the game for you. Toaplan make you work, and work hard. It's exceptional value for money for an FM Towns Marty game - you'll get a lot of hours out of this if you destined to see the ending, it's just a shame you need an a FM Towns Marty or a full blown arcade cabinet to experience it. Perhaps if we'd been fed difficult games at a young age some of the triple-A blockbusters might put up more of a challenge.

Truxton II is, as you might have noticed by now, a much better looking game than its predecessor, addressing almost every flaw from the original game (and I didn't think Truxton looked too shabby in the first place). My only complaint is that it's too pretty for its own good - enemy bullets blend in with yours, and you really don't want that in a frantic shooter. I suppose you could argue it's unavoidable if you want to maintain detailed graphics, but it's a game too difficult for me and I need something to blame other than myself!

The music is sadly, a bit average. It's no better or worse than the original Truxton, but I found the original's soundtrack to be a bit catchier. Truxton II's set fits the game a little better though, even if it's still a tad out of place. This may be helped by the fact the "skull" theme is a little more diluted in the sequel, creating a more generic space ship shooter. In a bustling arcade you may not actually hear the music so may not be a concern, but it's never going to reach the top of the Squirrel video game music chart.

But music aside, Truxton II is a worthwhile package. Now granted, I'm not overly familiar with the world of arcade shooters outside the fact the world exists, but this strikes me as one of the better games. It's not a visual nightmare, it's not instantly forgettable, I could barely get past the first level and I'd have never touched this series if if weren't for Classic Game Room, but hey, it's Truxton II, and it's great.

1 comment:

  1. Gah, screw MAME. It seems that one in five ROMs I download for it don't want to bloody work, so there'll be no Truxton 2 for me tonight.