Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: PC Engine CD (a.k.a TurboGrafx-Cd)
Developer: NEC Avenue / Capcom
Release date: December 14, 1989 (Japan)
Three years after the coin-op debut of Side Arms, NEC released Hyper Dyne: Special on the awesome PC Engine CD. As per the original, the home incarnation opens with the words ‘The battle for survival has started!’ Never has a truer phrase been uttered.
Alongside the impressive, if cheesy, 80’s synth-pop red-book CD audio the game earns its ‘Special’ tag through the availability of the unique ‘Before Christ’ (BC) mode in which Side Arms masquerades as R-type, replete with mid-stage reset points, a chargeable beam canon, support weapons pods, and enhanced graphics.
In BC mode the weapon upgrade POW icons no longer switch type in response to incoming fire, instead they periodically cycle through the available options, whilst bobbing lazily around the playfield. Multiple user-selectable weapons are also eschewed, requiring careful consideration when approaching power-ups.
Both original and BC modes feature tight risk/reward gameplay, placing the upgrade you really, really need to survive for a further five seconds in the thick of the alien flak; succumb to temptation and death swiftly follows, ironically leaving you with less weaponry than before.
Manoeuvring your protagonist demands pixel-perfect precision, precision which is sadly unobtainable; The Mobilesuited Lieutenant Henry moves like he’s been knocking back Red Bull, resulting in awkward staccato movement (usually head-on into an alien projectile).
In standard mode the alpha/beta ‘combination pow’ of the original is present, granting full 8-way firepower. Obtaining, and more crucially maintaining, this power-up is absolutely critical; with a fully upgraded exoskeleton you will carve through the enemy hordes like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Lose your upgrades and you may as well be facing the enemy Bozon onslaught with a pea-shooter.
As is to be expected from the 8/16-bit hybrid powerhouse, the PC Engine faithfully reproduces the arcade progenitor’s visuals, although some graphical differences are present; most disappointingly the spectacular level two rotating wheel lacks detail and background graphics.
With the wonderful audio enhancement, smooth near-arcade-perfect visuals, and highly original alternate play mode, the PC Engine CD outing of Side Arms should be the best version of the title available. Sadly the game is hobbled on a number of fronts.
Alongside the aforementioned twitchy, unwieldy controls, Side Arms Special suffers from outrageous difficulty; the selectable ‘normal’ and ‘easy’ modes must surely be named purely to taunt to the player.
The final nail in the coffin is the Scrooge-like credit availability – three are granted, with no option to ‘continue’ in the offing. How about resorting to cheat modes? Once again those present seem designed solely to taunt: monochrome or slow motion action sound inviting to anyone?
Unfortunately, despite such promise, these fatal flaws sadly result in an endurance test of a game for single-credit hardcore shooter experts only.
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