Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

special

DEC
27
2017
0

#61 – Section Z

Even if I never found the real Section Z, this early NES title is an intriguing blend of genres.

Plain screen with good music!

To Beat: Reach the Ending
Played: 10/10/17 – 10/16/17
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Section Z Longplay

I never realized just how many NES games are arcade conversions until I started this deep dive into the library. Here we have another one with Section Z. This conversion differentiates itself from many other ports by significantly altering the style of the game from the arcade to the NES. The changes in the NES game make Section Z more suitable for home play as opposed to a quarter-munching arcade experience. Reading impressions from other players around the web gives me the consensus that the NES version is the better game. Let’s take a closer look to see if these changes make Section Z on NES fun to play.

Section Z began as an arcade title released in December 1985. It was both developed and published by Capcom. The game was first ported to the Famicom Disk System in Japan in May 1987. This version of Section Z is also developed and published by Capcom. The NES port was released shortly thereafter in July 1987 in North America. Europe had to wait until September 1989 before Section Z on NES was released there. Many years later, the arcade version was re-released in a few different Capcom arcade game compilations, so you can play it on PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox, or Xbox 360.

Section Z is a side scrolling shoot-em-up. You play the role of Captain Commando and you are tasked with entering the enemy base of Balangool. The mission is to destroy L-Brain, who is located in Section Z of the enemy base. Defeat L-Brain and escape Balangool to beat the game. It’s a shell of a story and premise, but it’s all you really need.

Fly in there and fight!

In the arcade game, you automatically enter the base and begin at Section A. Your character looks like an astronaut with a gun. He can move in all directions but can only fire directly left or right. You use the joystick to move around and you have two action buttons, one to fire your gun and the other to turn around and face the other way. Therefore, you can face one way while moving in another direction. You also drop bombs anytime you fire your gun. Play progresses linearly from Section A alphabetically to Section Z. You find upgrades to increase both your speed and the strength of your gun up to three times each. Every five sections or so you fight a boss, and after that the game scrolls in a different direction for the next set of sections.

The NES version changes things up by having a completely different level structure. For starters, the sections are numbered, meaning there is no Section Z at all in the game! The sections themselves are arranged in a giant maze that you explore via branching paths. The game begins with the approach to the base in what the game calls Section 00. Play scrolls to the right in this and every other section in the game. After this short action sequence, you descend directly into Section 01 for more shoot-em-up action. At the end of this section, you are presented with a pair of teleporters and you decide which way to go. Most sections in the game have these branches at the end, and you don’t know where you’ll end up until you pick one for yourself. Each section is numbered to help you map your way through the maze. Furthermore, the whole base is logically broken down into three areas, each its own self-contained maze.

The controls are almost like the arcade game. You can move your character in all eight directions with the D-pad. Instead of having dedicated fire and turn buttons, pressing B fires to the left and pressing A fires to the right. This is much more intuitive control. You do not drop bombs when you shoot like you do in the arcade version. If you press both A and B together, you will generate special weapons. Start pauses the game, and Select uses a powerup.

It only looks like a standard shooter at first.

The top of the screen displays your score, the current section number, your current energy, maximum energy, and the powerup selection. Section Z utilizes energy in a few different ways, but mostly it acts as your health. You begin the game with 20 energy. Each time you get hit by an enemy bullet, you lose one point of energy. The game is very forgiving when it comes to bullet damage. Also, you may freely touch walls with no issue, and even your character stands on the ground if you land. You die if you get crushed by the screen scrolling, run out of energy, or make direct contact with an enemy. You lose a life and five energy points, but you get to resume at the start of the current section. You get three lives in Section Z, but they are immaterial. At Game Over, you are given the option to continue your game or restart from the very beginning. The only loss from continuing is your score goes back to zero, and Section Z has infinite continues anyway. Dying with no energy remaining is the steepest punishment, sending you all the way back to the start of the current area with 20 energy.

Enemies will occasionally drop powerups when defeated. Regular enemies can drop one of two powerups. One restores three energy points, and the other labeled with the letter S increases your speed. There’s no indication to confirm, but I believe you can increase your speed twice. The weapon powerups come from a specific enemy called a Metal Eater. This looks a metal blob attached to the wall. When defeated, it drops one of three powerups: The Flash Buster, the Megasmasher, and the Barrier Shield.

On the top-right of the screen, you may see up to four letters that indicate which powerups are available. L is for the default laser, and F, M, and B represent the three weapon powerups. Collecting the weapon displays the letter on the status bar and you can arm yourself with whichever one you want at any time. You move the special weapon selector arrow during play by pressing Right on the D-pad, and then press Select to use it. The controls are really bad for equipping weapons on the fly, and you can’t pause the game and select a weapon which seems like an oversight to me. As it is, your best bet is to equip weapons at the end of a section prior to hopping in the teleporter.

Thank you Metal Eater for the gift you will soon give me!

Here’s what the powerup weapons do. The Flash Buster gives you a three-way spread shot, but the bullets themselves are short range. Also, firing another round of shots removes any bullets still on screen. The Megasmasher replaces your normal shot with a large V-shaped bullet. The barrier shield sits in front of you and can absorb 32 bullets before being depleted. You can also get a combination of both the Flash Buster and the Megasmasher, but it’s a bit complicated to acquire. It just seems to happen when you keep grabbing powerups as you play. This is how I believe it works. You must have one of the two base weapons in use, as well as have both weapons in reserve, and then grab a powerup of the other weapon. The combo weapon has the spread and range of the Flash Buster with the bullet type of the Megasmasher. It doesn’t have an official name, but I’ve seen it called the Megabuster in two separate FAQs, so that name seems appropriate to me!

Sometimes the sections have hidden rooms. You have to fire at specific locations to reveal a white warp portal, then fly into it to be taken to the hidden room. There are several kinds of special rooms. You may find a warp room which presents you with two more exits to different sections. An energy refill room looks like the warp room except the teleporters restore some energy. The metal eater room is for finding weapon drops. Finally, you may find permanent upgrades for two additional special weapons in the game. Each of these special weapons is called a Special Transmissions Shell, or STS.

The STS is the special weapon you activate by pressing A and B simultaneously. Pressing the buttons together will display the STS temporarily in the middle of the screen and you must collect it if you want to use it. Collect it first, then press one of the fire buttons to deploy it. Grabbing the STS costs four energy points, so keep that in mind. There are three types of STS. The default one you start with is a Megamissile, which fires a heavy, straight shot. Next is the Flash Bomb which damages all enemies on screen. The last is the Crash Ball that orbits your character for a few seconds and damages everything it touches. You can cycle through available STS by revealing and ignoring the ones you don’t want. I found myself not bothering with STS because of the energy cost and the cumbersome method of equipping them.

Make sure the path you want is unlocked first.

Sometimes at the end of a section, one of the teleporters is a red beam of light instead of the normal white beam. Touching the red beam instantly kills you, so obviously avoid them! There is a generator somewhere in the maze that you destroy to replace the red beam with a normal one so that you can pass. You have to seek out the section that contains the generator and then blow it up. Generators act like a mini-boss battle and halt the screen scrolling when you approach one. They are stationary but fire both aimed shots and tracker bullets that follow you around the screen. With enough firepower, you will destroy the generator, leaving behind an energy capsule that increases your maximum energy when acquired. Backtrack to the previous section with the red teleporter, and if you destroyed the correct generator you will see it transition from red to white and you may now take this new path forward.

The end of each of the three main areas ends in a boss battle. You are awarded with another energy upgrade when you defeat a boss. Exiting this section brings you to a major checkpoint. Here you get a small cutscene which awards you bonus points as well as displays your maximum energy and all STS you have acquired. Unless you turn the game off or reset, you won’t have to go back and replay major areas completed.

Section Z was a game that I rented once as a kid. We had two rental places in my town right across the street from each other, Gentry’s TV and Video and Main Street Video. Gentry’s had moved to the next town over and not long after that Circus Video opened a few blocks further away. I mostly remembered Circus Video for their SNES and N64 games later, but early on they had NES games and I only remember renting just a few of them, including Section Z. I have vague memories of the game, but I know I didn’t understand the game at all and was left unimpressed. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I discovered Section Z was both a shooter and a maze exploration game. This is really suited to my tastes in gaming, and now I can give the game its proper understanding and appreciation. I was very excited about giving Section Z a try with this fresh perspective.

The boss fights are pretty neat, but they do have issues.

My approach before even starting the game was to map out all the paths. Rather than draw an actual map, I drew up a table that connects each exit in a section to its corresponding section. I made sure to revisit each section and take each exit to make sure I didn’t miss any connections. The idea was that I would completely map out the game and take my time exploring, and then go back and figure out the most straightforward way through the game to complete it efficiently on my final attempt. The sections themselves are short and most are not too challenging. The main problem I had was that I ended up going the right way accidentally and couldn’t go back to trace alternate paths. My only options were either to continue on or to run out of energy intentionally to get sent back. I beat the game twice before I felt I had the game sufficiently mapped out, having all primary branches accounted for and only missing a few optional secret areas.

With my completed chart in hand, I traced my complete route and set up to record my final run. I’m really pleased with how my longplay video turned out. I don’t think it’s obvious from watching the video that I was moving through the maze based on just my notes. I beat Section Z without taking any wrong turns and I even beat it without dying. It’s one of the cleanest runs I’ve captured thus far.

My biggest complaint about the game is that the hitboxes for the bosses are incredibly small. You have to be lined up just right to do damage. This is made more difficult in several ways. It is much more difficult to get the necessary pixel precision with both speed upgrades. Missed shots bounce off bosses to neat effect, but it’s detrimental because you must wait for those repelled shots to vanish before you can fire more. The three-way shot makes this even harder. Also, the hitbox is off-center from what you would expect, so you often miss when it appears you are making direct hits. Switching up weapons while dodging enemies or bosses is very cumbersome, and I often chose the wrong weapon by mistake in those situations.

Sometimes the action can get a little hectic.

Section Z has a reputation for being a difficult game, but I would give it an average difficulty rating. Infinite continues, the energy system, and mild setbacks from death ease the difficulty considerably. Keep a map or a table like I did to streamline exploration. Most of the sections are brief and progress from section to section is consistent. Don’t worry too much about avoiding bullets and focus on avoiding enemy collisions. The boss battles are the most difficult part of the game, and much of the difficulty can be mitigated by stockpiling energy and winning through attrition.

Section Z is a neat mixture of shooter and maze exploration that kept my enjoyment throughout my playthrough. I was right that this would be a fun game for me. However, as an early NES game, it suffers from several issues. The boss fights are problematic as I already mentioned. There are graphical glitches that appear visibly in between screens. Sprite flicker is not handled properly, and in some spots the enemies at the end of a long row are completely invisible. These are not exactly minor issues, but Section Z is better in other aspects. The graphics are good for its time, and the music is catchy in almost all instances. There is just a tiny bit of slowdown, but the game performs well even with many enemies and bullets on screen. The boss battles have clever concepts and would be a highlight of the game with a little tweaking.

It’s hard to say if I would recommend playing Section Z today. The NES got a better shoot-em-up and exploration hybrid in The Guardian Legend just under a year later. I can’t decide which aspect I like more: The gameplay or the act of mapping out everything. I do like that Capcom tried something different with the game instead of a more direct arcade port, and the glimpses of quality here paved the way for Capcom’s later NES efforts. What you will get out of the game depends on both your personal taste and acceptance of common quality issues found within early NES games. If any of this sounds appealing to you, I think you should at least try Section Z.

#61 – Section Z

 
FEB
10
2017
0

#35 – Hogan’s Alley

Do you have what it takes to shoot cardboard targets?

Take a shot at any mode!

To Beat: Finish Game A Round 30, Game B Round 4, and Game C Round 10
What I Did: Reached Game A Round 41, Game B Round 6, and Game C Round 11
Played: 10/17/16
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10

Today we have another Zapper game! It’s not just a Zapper game, but one of the revered “Black Box” NES games as well. The game box features a menacing looking gangster that you just want to blast away! Hogan’s Alley is an early game with some surprising history behind it for a game based on target shooting.

Hogan’s Alley was created in 1984 as a standalone arcade cabinet. The game featured a light gun peripheral attached to the machine that players use to shoot at targets. Hogan’s Alley was ported to the Famicom later in June 1984 and was the third light gun game on the system behind Wild Gunman and Duck Hunt. All three of those games were launch titles when the NES was first released in October 1985. Hogan’s Alley was eventually re-released on Wii U Virtual Console in Europe in October 2015 and in North America a few months later in January 2016.

The name Hogan’s Alley originated from an American comic strip of the same name way back in 1895. Hogan’s Alley is portrayed in the comic as a run-down neighborhood full of odd people. In the 1920s, the FBI opened a rifle training ground at the Special Police School and named it Hogan’s Alley. The school was shut down during World War II. In 1987, a couple of years after the release of the video game, Hogan’s Alley was established in Quantico, Virginia and it is used for tactical training by the FBI and other government organizations. This facility was designed to look and feel like a real small town with a huge fake crime problem. The FBI themselves claim that they chose the name Hogan’s Alley because the rough neighborhood in the original comic strip resembles the style of their training area. I’m just speculating, but possibly the old facility was named after the comic strip and they just carried the name over to the current facility. It is also pretty likely that this was the same reason why Nintendo chose Hogan’s Alley as the name for the video game.

Visual recognition is just as important as trigger speed.

Hogan’s Alley is a light-gun target game that requires the NES Zapper. There are three game modes selectable from the title screen. Game A is called Hogan’s Alley and looks like it takes place inside of a shooting gallery. In each round, three panels will scroll into view sideways so that you cannot see the face of the panels. Once all three come into view they will turn and face you. The object is to shoot each of the gangsters and avoid shooting the innocent bystanders. There are six different people that can appear. Three of them are gun-wielding gangsters that you should shoot, and the others are a lady, a professor, and a police officer that you must leave alone. You only get a short amount of time to fire before the panels flip back to the side. Afterward, the next round begins with three new panels. Each successive round changes the amount of time that the panels face you and this timer gets shorter the longer you play. If you fail to shoot a gangster or fire at an innocent bystander, this you get a miss. The game is over when you accumulate ten misses.

Game B is also called Hogan’s Alley but this time it takes place in what I can only assume is the location Hogan’s Alley. Here you face buildings in the alleyway and the panels emerge from the scenery one or two at a time. The objective is the same. Shoot the bad guys and leave the good people alone. After five panels are revealed, the view will scroll forward to reveal new scenery as well as five more panels. Each round has five different sections of five panels each before looping back to the beginning. Just like in Game A, each successive round has a shorter timeframe for active panels, you accumulate misses when you make a mistake, and the game ends after ten misses.

Keep out! You mean keep the bad guys out!

Game C is called Trick Shot and this game is different from the other two. Cans will emerge from the right side of the screen moving to the left while falling. Shoot the cans to bounce them upward in the air a bit. The goal is to prevent the cans from falling down off the bottom of the screen. On the left side of the screen are three ledges. You want to navigate the cans onto one of those ledges to earn points. The top ledge gives you 300 points, the middle ledge gives you 800 points, and the bottom ledge gives you 5000 points. The lower you go, you get more points at a higher risk of losing the can off the bottom of the screen. The cans will also ricochet off the sides of the ledges keeping them in play longer. There is a tiny safety platform toward the middle of the screen that the cans can land on as well but you only get 100 points for that. Each round has five cans. You get a miss if a can falls off the bottom of the screen and ten misses means the end of the game.

Hogan’s Alley does not have an ending in any of the game modes, so this one has an unclear winning condition. There are a range of potential choices. The easiest condition would be to break the high score of 12,000 in one or all of the modes, but that is a rather low bar to achieve in any mode. The most difficult one would be to loop the round counter. The game can go up to Round 99 before looping back to Round 0. I don’t think this is good either since the difficulty flattens out long before getting that high.

The winning condition I chose has to do with the periodic victory messages that Hogan’s Alley displays on screen. After winning so many rounds, the game will play a little melody and display the phrase “SHARPSHOOTER!” on screen. Play even further and you’ll eventually get the message “SUPER SHARPSHOOTER!” to appear. This is the best possible message you can get and you can see it over and over as long as you keep playing. Obtaining the “SUPER SHARPSHOOTER!” message is what I consider to be mastery of the game for that particular mode. To get this message, you have to complete Round 30 in Game A, Round 4 in Game B, or Round 10 in Game C. I wanted to achieve that in all modes.

Shooting an actual can has to be much more difficult.

My family never owned Hogan’s Alley growing up but I do remember playing it at some point during my childhood. My grandfather likes to hunt and he got into playing several Zapper games at one point, so that is probably where I remember playing it casually. I remember enjoying Trick Shot but that’s the only mode I remember playing.

It didn’t take me very long to beat Hogan’s Alley. I had a much easier time here than when I beat Operation Wolf so that experience probably helped. It did take me two attempts to clear Games A and B and I beat Game C on the first try. I ended up playing until I ended naturally. I reached Round 41 in Game A and Round 6 in Game B before failing out. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture the picture properly when I ended Game C and all I got was the high score. I didn’t take notes either and I’ve already forgotten exactly what I did from several months ago. I did capture an image of the end of Round 10, so I can say I made it to Round 11 for sure.

Hogan’s Alley is a fun Zapper game that doesn’t really offer much once you’ve mastered each mode. It was definitely neat for a launch game and having the novelty of shooting the bad guys (or cans) on the TV. Today, it’s a pretty good game as an introduction to using the Zapper, and that’s about it. I guess it could be fun if you want to chase high scores or compete against someone else. At best it is an average game, but there’s nothing wrong with that in my book.

#35 – Hogan’s Alley (Game A)

#35 – Hogan’s Alley (Game B)

#35 – Hogan’s Alley (Game C)

 
OCT
05
2016
1
S.C.A.T. Box Cover

#27 – S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Action Team

You would think this game stinks, but it’s actually really fun!

It's an ordinary title screen, but the introductory cutscene is really nice!

It’s an ordinary title screen, but the introductory cutscene is really nice!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game with each character
My Goal: Complete the game
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 8/30/16 – 8/31/16
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10

This is one NES game that stands out almost completely because of its unfortunate name. It’s also known based on the high price tag a loose copy of the game commands. The going rate in October 2016 is around $120 for just the cart and with NES game prices showing no sign of slowing down that price likely will be outdated in a matter of months. S.C.A.T. fits the profile of a high value NES cart as it is both a late run title and a quality game.

S.C.A.T is interesting in that it has three different names depending on the region where it was released. The Famicom version is called Final Mission and it was released in June 1990. The game was localized for North America as S.C.A.T. in June 1991. The game was renamed once again to Action in New York for its European release sometime in 1992. The game was developed by Natsume and also published by Natsume in both Japan and the US. The publisher for Action in New York is Infogrames. I have found several claims that Action in New York was also released in Australia and published there by Konami, however I cannot find solid evidence to back up those claims. As far as releases go, S.C.A.T also saw Virtual Console releases on Wii, 3DS, and Wii U in both North America and PAL territories.

S.C.A.T is a side scrolling shoot-em-up. The story goes that aliens led by Vile Malmort are planning to invade Earth through an “Astrotube” connected to New York City and the Special Cybernetic Action Team (abbreviated of course as S.C.A.T.) was formed to combat this invasion. You play the role of one of two S.C.A.T members and you can choose either the blue clad Arnold or the red clad Sigourney. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how those character names may have been inspired! Both characters play the same so the choice is just cosmetic. This game has a two player simultaneous mode where controller #1 is Arnold and #2 is Sigourney.

This is my second shooter game with a man that flies around!

This is my second shooter game with a man that flies around!

The game play feels reminiscent of Burai Fighter that I played earlier this year. The player sprites in both games are an armor-wearing human wearing a jetpack and the character can fly freely in eight directions. In both games the levels are auto scrolled and change direction periodically however the level is laid out. Here is where the games diverge somewhat, but this is the general idea of how both games play.

A unique feature of S.C.A.T. is the inclusion of two attack orbs that constantly swing back and forth in half circles, one above and the other below the player. The character’s primary weapon can only be fired either left or right, but the orbs fire their own shots in a wide range of directions both upward and downward depending on where they sit relative to the player. They can fire straight up or shoot at an angle either forward or backward. This is really useful for targeting enemies along walls and in hard to reach spots. Furthermore, the orbs can be locked in place at any time by pressing the A button. You will have to use good timing during combat to lock them to the angle you want. They can be unlocked by pressing A again, allowing them to resume their arcs. The key to success in S.C.A.T. is to get the hang of being able to lock the orbs in the optimal direction so that you can attack any threat in firing range.

There are item pickups that will help power up Arnold and Sigourney. These are represented by gray squares with a letter written on them. The L powerup changes the standard gun into a laser that can be auto-fired by holding the B button. It can cut through walls although not consistently so, limiting its usefulness. The W powerup is a wide beam that shoots a tall but powerful shot that can hit multiple targets just because the shot is so large. The B powerup is a bomb shot that generates an explosion on contact that can deal extended damage to stationary targets and anything that flies into the explosion. You can only have one of these weapons at once, so any other powerup will replace the current weapon. There are a couple of other non-weapon powerups. The S powerup increases the movement speed, and the R powerup restores two points of health.

Two player co-op is always an excellent feature.

Two player co-op is always an excellent feature.

You begin the game with six bars of health. When shot you lose a bar of health, so you are able to take some hits before being killed. However, you can be crushed by the stage hazards or pinned against the wall by the screen scrolling which is always instant death. If you die it is Game Over but you may continue at the start of the stage and there are infinite continues. The screen displays up to eight points of health but it is possible to get more than that with some good dodging and some health powerups.

S.C.A.T. has five levels each with a boss battle at the end:

Stage 1 is the New York City ruins. Despite the theme of a wrecked iconic city, this level is a good introductory level that is not too difficult so you can get the hang of positioning the orbs. The level winds around skyscrapers and such which demonstrates just how small you are. The end of the stage has you blowing up the core of a large battle tank.

This is one of many large scale bosses in the game.

This is one of many large scale bosses in the game.

Stage 2 is the Subterranean Realm. You wind through underground corridors and the enemy attack steps up a bit. One enemy of note is an excavation drone that sort of acts like an arm rising out of the ground that reaches out to you. When you destroy it the pieces fly outward that you also have to dodge. The boss is a large worm that winds around the screen and only its head is vulnerable. This boss happens to be very similar to the boss at the end of Stage 2 in Burai Fighter. It must be coincidence!

Stage 3 is the Astrotube. The level is mostly comprised of a very long vertical section where you fly up the Astrotube from New York up to the aliens. When you get settled into the tube the scrolling goes super fast for awhile and it’s a great effect. The boss I guess is some kind of large enemy base where you have to blow up all the weak spots that also fire away at you.

Stage 4 is the Battleship. To me this is the coolest level in the game. It takes place outside of this gigantic enemy dreadnaught and you fly around the outside of it while destroying all the cannons and enemy hatches that sit along the exterior of the ship. The boss appears to be the back engine of the ship and you need to destroy all of the cores.

This is just a tiny corner of this huge battleship.

This is just a tiny corner of this huge battleship.

Stage 5 is the Orbiting Platform. This level has a couple of nasty gimmicks that set it apart in difficulty from the rest of the game. There are diagonally oriented cannons that intermittently fire off very long laser beams. The shots reflect off of the walls so you have to be mindful of where they end up so you can sit in the safe spots. In some places they bounce several times before eventually landing off screen and in some spots there are more than one to work with at a time. There are also crushers that kind of slowly work their way up and down and you have to fly through when they leave you enough space. They don’t seem like much of a threat since they move slowly, but if you touch the end of them you die instantly. The final boss is Vile Malmort himself.

I mentioned earlier that S.C.A.T. is an expensive game and unfortunately for me it is one I had to pony up and pay retail price to acquire. This was one of the last games I needed to buy to finish off the licensed NES set and at that point stumbling into a copy for a great price was unlikely. I wish I had kept better collecting records, but for this game it turns out I gleaned some information out of some emails with a very good friend of mine. S.C.A.T. was the 12th to last licensed NES cart I bought for my set and I won it in an eBay auction for a little over $80 shipped in March 2015. That was a decent price at that time and in light of current pricing I can’t really complain.

The wide beam rips through enemies like butter!

The wide beam rips through enemies like butter!

S.C.A.T. was a new completion for me. As usual, I had not played it before aside from cart testing. I was aware of the game and I knew it would be one I would like. I wouldn’t say it’s an easy game, but I managed to beat the whole game on my first night with a few continues. I found out early on that the wide beam weapon is clearly the best weapon in the game. Not only does it cover a large area in its path but it also destroys larger enemies in less time than the other two weapons. It definitely helped me beat the game on the first night. I think the whole game took about an hour to finish and about half that time was spent on the final stage alone. Those lasers required some memorization to clear and the last boss is difficult to avoid taking damage. Other than that I found the game to be a romp, but it was fun while it lasted. The ending was pretty cheesy, and that is something I have noticed with a few NES games I’ve done already.

Now for a tiny little spoiler! After I beat the game I checked out the trusty NES Ending FAQ and it states that the ending varies a bit different depending on which character you play with. I figured since the game was short enough it wouldn’t be unreasonable to play through it again to see the other ending. The second time through S.C.A.T. I only died once on the final stage. I’m sure I clear it without dying pretty easily if I wanted to. Back to the endings, the FAQ says that the ending changes again if you beat it in two-player mode. So if you want to see everything you will have to beat the game three time in total. Since I play alone I am fine seeing just the two single player endings. I believe the differences are only in dialogue so it’s not like I missed out on much anyway.

The lasers are a real nuisance on top of the other enemy attacks.

The lasers are a real nuisance on top of the other enemy attacks.

There are some differences between the various versions of the game. The Famicom Final Mission has some significant differences than S.C.A.T. For starters, the game is much harder on Famicom than NES. You start with only three health instead of six, and taking damage causes you to lose your weapon back to the default. S.C.A.T. lets you keep your powerup until either you die or grab a new one. The orb shots are much weaker and they do not automatically orbit the player. Instead you have to aim them by press A and inching either left or right. When you do that they slide behind you a bit and that’s how you set the aim. Press A again to lock them into place just like in S.C.A.T. Final Mission does not show the map screen in between levels like S.C.A.T. does, and Final Mission has both playable characters as men instead of having both male and female players. Finally the introductory cutscenes are different. The ones in Final Mission are much darker as they show the annihilation of New York.

The changes between S.C.A.T. and Action in New York are minor. The characters were renamed Silver Man and Spark, and the team is called S.A.T. instead of S.C.A.T. The title screen was also changed obviously. Other than that the game play is the same as the US version.

S.C.A.T. would be an easy game to recommend if it weren’t for the high price tag. Thankfully it is still on Virtual Console as that version is much more affordable. If you like shoot-em-ups then you will like this game. The graphics, sound, and gameplay are top notch, the difficulty is fair, and you can even play through it with a friend if you are inclined. I just wish they had picked a better name for the US release!

S.C.A.T. Ending Screen

#27 – S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Action Team

 
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