Sunday, March 15, 2009


Radiance Software / Capcom

SideArms didn't make a good first impression on me. I was immediately put off by its drab visuals and impractical weapon-selection scheme (you must pause the action to choose a new gun to wield). Those issues certainly didn't dissolve when I finally bothered to delve deep into the game, but I discovered that it's actually a good, tough, fast-paced shooter in spite of them, a product far superior to the more widely lauded and fundamentally similar Spriggan mark2.

While its music is nice and its adversarial forces never let up, SideArms' trademark element is its alpha drone, a craft that connects to your power-armored warrior to produce a veritable machine of obliteration. As you soar about in combined form, your standard blasts will be accompanied by devastating eight-way spread shots. However, the added girth of the drone will make you twice as vulnerable to enemy fire.

Equip the shotgun and you won't feel so susceptible to attack, as its bullets can annihilate enemy-fired projectiles. It's by far the most useful of the five obtainable weapons, though the laser cannon can down most varieties of oncoming craft with just a single shot.

By offering a plethora of offensive options and sending out foemen in droves, SideArms redeemed itself with me after its inauspicious start. Still, there are a number of things I don't particularly like about it:

It's kind of ugly. The background colors look washed out, and there isn't a single impressive enemy to do battle with. The graphical shortcomings don't bug me much these days because I'm so focused on the action when I play, but they put me off back when I first tried the chip.

The bosses are pretty weak, and you're forced to face some of them numerous times. This particular ship definitely wears out its welcome by the end and is a pushover once you figure out which gun to use against it.

This wheel thing, too, is guilty of making gratuitous repeat appearances, and you can crush its dual-laser-firing form just by employing a simple trick (notice where the player is positioned in the screen cap).

It's cool that you can stock a number of different weapons, but having to pause the game to switch between them can be a real pain in the neck.

I usually don't support the employment of checkpoints, but this is one game that really needs them. As it is, after you die, you reappear at the spot of destruction with only a very brief period of invulnerability; and as your foes tend to swarm, it's easy to lose lots of lives in mere seconds. The fast, relentless, snake-like enemies are extremely dangerous in this regard. The solution, of course, is to practice to the point where you simply don't die, but the learning process can be more arduous and discouraging than it really needed to be because of the frequent occurrences of successive quick deaths.

The game maintains the long-standing TurboChip shooter tradition of horrible "endings."

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