The Game: The five who act as one – well, minus one character who doesn’t appear in the game – get their marching order from Dr. Nambu – get out there, infiltrate enemy bases, defeat enemy mecha, and kick as much ass as is deemed necessary. In practice, the game is exceedingly simple – advance upward through enemy territory, take out as many of Berg Katse’s masked men as possible, and live to face a huge mechanical boss. Four missions of increasing difficulty are included. (Bandai, 2002)
Memories: A nicely dressed-up scrolling shooter – think along the line of Taito’s 1980s coin-up Front Line – is at the heart of Gatchaman: The Shooting, one of an almost infinite number of similarly budget priced licensed-character shooters churned out by developers D3 Publishers for the Japanese market in recent years. Aside from the game’s simple but nicely-drawn and animated 2-D characters, the only real Gatchaman-specific content is a gallery of character artwork and some non-animated intro screens which appear between levels.
The game itself is amazingly simple – blast everything in sight, grab power-ups, and do your best not to die. Each character has a unique weapon – Ken and Joe (or Mark and Jason, as Stateside Battle Of The Planets viewers know them) fire straight up only, while Jun’s bladed yo-yo (I’m not kidding here) can take out enemies to the side as well, so long as they’re in range. Each level is divided into two parts: infiltrate an enemy base on foot, and then take on an onslaught of enemy forces in the character’s unique vehicle (Ken flies a jet, Joe a race car, Jun a motorcycle, and so on).
The bosses in Gatchaman: The Shooting are magnificent monsters, and you shouldn’t expect to survive the level 2 through 4 bosses on your first try at all. (The first level’s boss is deceptively easy.) Fortunately, there are power-ups that come in very handy during boss fights – one power-up calls up four holographic decoys around your character, each of which can fire its own weapon as the same time as the actual character. Another power-up comes in very handy from level 3 onward, calling in airborne reinforcements to bomb any enemies on the screen back to the stone age (without harming you in the process). Still, I have to hand it to the game designers here – the bosses are true to the series’ mechanical monstrosities in both appearance and behavior, and they’re not easy to beat. While some parts of the game seem easily swappable with other elements depending on the characters licensed for an individual title, the design of the game play itself wasn’t phoned in. You’ll be spending some time with this one.
So, with all the hubbub around the comics revival of Battle Of The Planets in the U.S., why hasn’t anyone licensed this game and localized it for the English-speaking market? Surely Casey Kasem could use the voice work.