Friday 17 April 2015

Red Alarm (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: T&E Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1995

Red Alarm is a wireframe 3D shooter and the closest thing to Starfox on the Virtual Boy.

It consists of six lengthy levels and you follow a linear path shooting down enemies in the air and on the ground. Each level is very well designed and some include huge sub-bosses that guard doors until you manage to defeat them. Once you reach the end of the stage you'll enter an arena to face a main boss but if you die you're taken right back to the start of the level! The 3D effect is very well done and it's fun navigating your way through narrow corridors and blowing up enemy vehicles. Unfortunately the game is let down by its punishing difficulty as even trying to advance on Easy mode is a struggle. This is partly due to the amount of enemies on screen (especially during boss battles) but also the fact that you're required to use so many buttons on the controller to manoeuvre. The draw distance is also poor and the severe pop-in causes issues with boss battles as it will sometimes feel like you're wandering around in the dark trying to locate them! The other thing I didn't like is the Fuel gauge as it constantly depletes with no way to top it up. I know this adds more realism but I found myself having to rush through levels so I had enough fuel left to fight the boss. Although it features wireframe graphics and no textures it's actually a decent looking game. Some people have complained that it's hard to see where you need to go but I reckon they've only played it on a 2D emulator as I didn't have any problems in 3D on real hardware! There's even some nice speech samples that remind me of Starfox and the music is very intense.

Red Alarm is a fun shooter that easily could have been the killer app for the Virtual Boy. However, its issues are so glaring that they can't really be ignored and it's a shame that T&E Soft didn't refine the gameplay so the difficulty level was more balanced.

Random trivia: The game features a hidden debug mode where you can select any stage as well making your vehicle invincible. To do this you must press Select 60 times on the title screen and then press L, R, Select and A at the same time during gameplay.

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