Wednesday 27 January 2016

To the Earth (NES review)

Developer: Cirque Verte
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1989

To the Earth is a light-gun shooter that requires use of the NES Zapper.

Piloting a spaceship your mission is to collect minerals from four planets and deliver an antibacterial agent to neutralise the enemy. The gameplay is unusual in that your life-bar depletes every time you miss; however, successfully hit a ship and it partially regenerates. Shooting several in a row (while at full strength) also rewards you with a Smart Bomb that destroys everything on screen. In Stage 1, the action is non-stop but highly repetitive with only a handful of enemies and projectiles. Most enemy ships move too quickly and are tough to hit so it's not worth risking your health through a missed shot unless you absolutely must. Instead you can avoid ships entirely and only focus on destroying the missiles they occasionally drop; the waiting around makes for some weak gameplay and it's not overly satisfying for a light-gun game! Stage 2 is much of the same but there's a cool part where asteroids fly into the screen and head directly for your ship while you fire at them. In Stage 3 you're expected to be a mind-reader as projectiles launch and hit your vehicle within a split second; there's just no time to react whatsoever and taking damage feels cheap. Things go from the ridiculous to the absurd in Stage 4 with an unstoppable and unavoidable barrage of missiles thrown your way; it's no fun at all as you're too outnumbered to even stand a chance. There are bosses to add some variety but there's no strategy to beating them and simply being trigger happy gets rid of them in seconds. There's only one boring music track but the graphics are mildly appealing with some nice scaling effects.
To the Earth feels like a tech demo that was hastily repeated across four monotonous stages and slapped onto a cartridge to meet deadlines. Some people might enjoy its unique brand of gameplay but for me it's not the kind of balls-out shooter that the Zapper does best.
Random trivia: This was the only NES game developed by Cirque Verte.

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