Sunday, 15 November 2015

Vertical Force (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1995

Vertical Force is a scrolling shoot 'em up and the only game of its kind on the Virtual Boy.


You control a ship called Ragnarok and your mission is to destroy Mittgard, a corrupted computer that has declared war on humanity. Three power-ups are available (Laser, Shield and Wide-Shot) and they can each be upgraded three times for more potent attacks. Up to three A.I. Drones can also be acquired which you can launch into battle at any point; the nice thing is that you have full control in terms of pulling them in/out of battle, deciding how they should attack or even blowing them up to damage enemies! The game's main gimmick is that you can change altitude on the fly; this is an excellent idea and it cleverly comes in handy when trying to avoid a barrage of incoming bullets. It's most effective against bosses and some of them (such as Stage 3's boss with its spinning boulders) actually require you to do so to survive. It does cause a few issues when things get hectic though as it's not easy to quickly spot the necessary height you should be in as bullets fly from all angles. Thankfully the game is much more forgiving than a lot of other shooters as you have an eight point life-bar (no one-hit kills) and unlimited continues. The controls are solid, responsive and not oversensitive which makes for some enjoyable shooting action; most of the bosses are fun too (especially the final one with its multiple forms) and the weapon system, coupled with the A.I. Drones, open up many gameplay possibilities. The 3D effect is minimal but what's here is well done, in particular Stage 1's stone columns that reach up into the foreground. The level design is pretty lacklustre though with mostly plain backgrounds and no truly memorable areas. With just five stages the game is also dreadfully short so it won't take long until you've seen everything it has to offer.

Vertical Force is a decent shoot 'em up but it doesn't really do anything outstanding and the action is over far too quickly. Still, the gameplay is well designed and seeing as it's the only game in this genre on the Virtual Boy it's definitely worth a look.



Random trivia: A debug menu can be accessed by patching the original ROM file which gives you a Level Select option and Sound Test. Find out more here.

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