Friday, March 6, 2009

Final Zone II

Telenet / NEC

I gave Final Zone II a try as soon as I'd obtained it, completed it during that same first session, and didn't bother with it again for ages. The vertically scrolling run-and-gun action wasn't wholly unsatisfying, but it was lackluster, and I decided I'd rather participate in message-board discussions mocking the silly songs, horrible voice acting, and dopey cinemas than actually experience them again. I've paid the game another couple of visits since the lengthy moratorium, and I'm never very happy with how it starts off. The first two stages are quite ugly, and the stop-and-start gameplay they feature (take a few steps, kill a few soldiers, stumble forward another few steps...) doesn't do much for me.

The worst doesn't come until Stage 3, however, when FZ2 decides to indulge in shoot-'em-up tomfoolery. The strip is unbelievably slow, dull, and primitive looking.

But then comes the turning point.

Upon reaching Stage 4 and being given the chance to do so, I always choose to play as bald, oafish Hansen (one of a number of playable characters that can be used over the course of the affair). His goofy theme music is so hilarious and absurd that it actually makes me laugh. Plus, the action, while still not thrilling, actually begins to pick up a bit. By Stage 5, there are plenty of bullets to dodge, and even though the game is still very easy, it at least keeps the player active.

Also, some of the music is actually pretty good, and I don't mean as a target of mockery. Main-character Bowie's theme is solid, and the memorable boss tune is a number that would fit right in on one of Telenet's high-quality Valis soundtracks.

However, while the second half of the adventure contains some respectable action sequences and the soundtrack is always entertaining, the game never actually threatens to become good. It's simply deficient in too many areas: it's way too short and easy, the first few levels are wastes of time, the graphics are poor, the lack of real power-ups means lack of variety, and there are too few "true" bosses.

Also, most of the voice acting is atrocious. Some of it is acceptable, though. My lost cousin Zigfriedovich once expressed the belief that the character Hanna was voiced by the same VA who did Robotech's Lisa Hayes. I'm pretty sure he was right about this, and I think that Hansen was voiced by the same guy who did George Sullivan for the RT episode "Star Dust." Strange that NEC got decent actors for Hanna and Hansen but a complete bum for Bowie, the hero of the affair.

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