Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Veigues Tactical Gladiator

Victor Musical Industries / Game Arts / NEC

Back when I was in junior high, I had a friend with whom I would frequently get together and play this sidescrolling punch-and-blast game. We seemed to be the only people in the world who liked it. Magazines ripped on it, and our other friends made fun of us for playing a game in which the bosses actually run away after certain amounts of time. As the years went by, I came to look back on it as a mediocre product that I liked for my own idiosyncratic reasons, so I wasn't expecting much when I got around to revisiting it. As it turns out, I underestimated the title. Veigues tends to plummet in my esteem when I spend some time away from it and then impresses me more than ever when eventually given the chance.

The graphics stand out at once: the game boasts lots of colors, lots of parallax, and lots of large sprites. The music is also appealing, reminiscent of R-Type's during its melodic bits but rocking at certain points to a greater degree than any R-T tune.

The typical knock on the title is that it's a decent effort superficially but a sloppy dud when it comes to gameplay. I assert that taking a couple of sessions to get accustomed to piloting the initially clunky mecha would be worthwhile, as there's a lot to like about the play system. Veigues comes equipped with chest-mounted artillery and a mighty arm cannon, and it can pummel its foes with a devastating punch-attack. While the tactical gladiator seems graceless at first, it can pull off a rather slick "turn-around" technique that enables it to dodge enemy fire. Should Veigues fail to evade enough of that fire, parts of its body will be blown apart as defeat draws near. Points are awarded for kills and are used during strategic post-stage distribution sessions to strengthen the mecha's weaponry and armor. Make good use of those points, utilize your radar, and figure out the best weapons to use and spots to occupy for each leg of the adventure, and the gameplay will actually start to feel smooth.

Put in enough practice and you'll eventually get to enjoy a really cool ending, certainly one of the coolest HuCard finales I've witnessed (don't stop watching when the credits start rolling...). Heck, there's even a "fake ending" cinema before Veigues takes off for the final mission. I can't think of many other instances where developers put so much effort into cinematics for a chip game--or into presenting a truly unique experience augmented by extremely impressive aesthetic elements.

Veigues deserves praise for a great many things. I can only recommend that people stick with it beyond initial sessions that are sure to be rough; I think they might end up pleasantly surprised.

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