Crisis Force


Review by Rob "Dire 51"



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

By 1991, it was obvious that the Famicom's days were numbered. What with the PC Engine and Mega Drive providing practically arcade-quality games, and the just-released Super Famicom creating an incredible stir, Nintendo's original machine didn't look quite as appealing as it used to anymore. In fact, a lot of companies were pulling out of 8-bit production and starting serious development for the 16-bit machines. The big players, however - most notably Konami, Capcom and Enix - were still making games for the Famicom. A lot of the big name series that these three companies were working on had already switched over to the Super Famicom (Capcom's Mega Man series and Enix's Dragon Quest series were two that didn't make the transition until a few years later), so most of the titles that they were releasing were brand new.

Konami chose that time to release one of the greatest overhead shooters they ever created for the Famicom. However, due to several factors it was never released in the U.S. (the declining popularity of the NES at the time and the amount of cash it would have taken to manufacture the custom chips in the game - especially for a game that was liable to be overlooked - seem to be the major ones). The game? None other than Crisis Force.

The story seems to be your typical SHMUP plot - a force of robots is descending on Tokyo City in 199X and causing havoc. A boy and a girl (sorry, but I never did get their names) take off in their two falcon-esque fighters to stop the threat. From there, you fight through seven stages of overhead shooting madness - and if you choose, you can bring a friend along for the ride, as you have the option of playing Crisis Force as a two-player simultaneous game.

The power-ups are fairly basic. You have a speed up icon, two different kinds of main gun upgrades (your standard straightforward shot and a wave laser), two icons that gives you more power than the standard icons (one for speed, one for weapons) and small blue icons that, once you've collected enough, transform your ship into an invincible powerhouse. This only lasts for a short while, of course, but it certainly comes in handy in a lot of situations. You can also merge with the second player if you're in two player mode to become invincible as well - in that case the two ships become one and while one player fires, the other pilots, at least until the invincibility ends and the two ships split apart. Your ship can also be transformed by pressing the A button. Pressing A once will change from your standard configuration to a second form that has a tailgun (which comes in very handy in a lot of situations). Pressing A a second time will transform the ship again into its third form, which has cannons on all four sides of the ship. Pressing A a third time will change the ship back to the standard configuration. Pressing B fires your main cannon.

The graphics are phenomenal. Crisis Force has often been called "the Axelay of the Famicom", and rightly so. Konami pulled out all the stops this time around... the graphics are at an almost 16-bit level, in terms of multiple-scrolling backgrounds and large sprites. The custom chips that I mentioned earlier made it possible to pull off this kind of feat. The first time I saw it in action, I was shocked... I'd never seen a Famicom game (or an NES game, for that matter) pull off those kinds of tricks. I was reminded of the first time I ever saw Gunstar Heroes (Sega Genesis)... I had never seen the Genesis pull off those kinds of effects before. Aside from the technological tricks that Crisis Force pulls off, the rest of the graphics are very well done... they're colorful, extremely well animated and the ship designs and enemy designs are very interesting and quite imaginative at times. The music is also very good... Konami usually scored every time in the music department when it came to their 8-bit games, and this time is no exception.

One thing I should mention here - if you're familiar with the Gradius series, you should recall that Konami made sure every game had the Moai stone heads from Easter Island making appearances in them in one form or another. Had Crisis Force been the start of an ongoing series, I'm willing to venture that we would have seen Tutankhamen masks and pyramids making appearances throughout the games, as they're out in force here. It's a welcome change... the ancient Egyptian motif has yet to be overdone in video games, IMO. Granted, it's been done more than Easter Island has, but still, it's not something you see every day.

Crisis Force is an outstanding shooter, ranking up there with such great overhead NES shooters like Zanac, Gun*Nac, Star Soldier, and the incredible Recca (graphically it puts all of them to shame, but gameplay-wise it's comparable to those four). If you enjoy a good overhead SHMUP and you have the ability to play Famicom games, then I wholeheartedly recommend tracking a copy of Crisis Force down.


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Last updated: Sunday, December 28, 2003 05:41 AM