Thursday, March 5, 2009


Laser Soft / Telenet

Like Psychic Storm, Avenger is a vertical shooter that I've played through more times than any objective analysis would warrant. I'm sure that many people don't bother with it at all because of how primitive it looks in screenshots, and I can't say I blame them. It's as archaic as PCE CD shooters come, visually.

It wouldn't seem to bode well for the game that the first thing that comes to mind for me when it's mentioned is Rim (of Cosmic Fantasy fame) making a surprise appearance (if the player presses Select at the title screen). I tend to recall the music next; most of it is so-so stuff, but the rich, catchy tunes featured in the first and second-to-last stages are definite winners.

When I finally think about the gameplay, the strange control scheme Laser Soft implemented is the element that stands out most in my memories. You need to "lock" your gun into place if you want it to continue firing in a specific direction as you move about; otherwise, it shoots at an angle determined by the direction you're heading in. The game feels sort of like an overhead run-and-gun title in this regard. Sadly, the lock button is also used to trigger limited-quantity auxiliary weapons, so you can be sure that unintended "special" shots will be fired in the heat of battle.

The funny thing about Avenger is that even though it makes an awful initial impression, it actually does contain a heck of a lot of action. The enemies are small and ugly, but they're very fast and aggressive--like pesky, annoying insects--and they fire plenty of projectiles. The weapons system has you decide on armaments to use before each stage, and strategy does come into play during the selection process.

Unfortunately, the nice action is practically offset by the horrible, antiquated visuals. I'm not a graphics hound, but having to look at crap this primitive in a 16-bit shooter is truly off-putting. One stage features a massive vehicle that rumbles along with you for the entirety of the level, firing spread shots and releasing additional enemies at certain points. This should've been an awesome stretch, but instead, it's rather mundane, as the vehicle and the surrounding landscape look absolutely awful. Also, the ending is extremely lame.

Still, the action and the decent soundtrack have been incentive enough for me to revisit the game a number of times. But I doubt that most people will be willing to overlook the poor graphics in order to discover the title's merits; and again, I really can't say I blame them.

She's the star of the show... although, technically, she's not even in the game.

Avenger may not be the most impressive PC Engine game graphically...

...but it actually doesn't slack when it comes to action.

You earn weapons by completing missions. You'll build up quite a set by the end.

The stage-long showdown with a massive vehicle represents a lost opportunity, and not even the decent-looking, action-packed city level can make up for it.

Some of the enemy designs had potential...

...but only the intermediary stills are visually striking.

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