Friday, April 10, 2009

Spiral Wave

Media Rings

This is a really interesting little game and a bit of a sleeper. In the spirit of Cyber Knight, it begins by having you utilize menus (the main commands of which are in English) to travel via starship to different worlds and solar systems. You'll encounter plenty of strange beings--some friendly, some adversarial--during your voyages.

The game typically eschews its role-playing elements and requires you to play through an "into-the-screen" shooter sequence a la Space Harrier and After Burner II once you reach a selected destination. You'll have to blast up waves of enemies as well as the occasional minor or major boss machine.

To be successful, you'll need to acquire lots of energy units and make prudent use of them. Energy is necessary for practically everything you do outside of the action scenes, from traveling to other planets to upgrading your ship, and the only way to obtain it is by annihilating your foes.

You can pass most of the early shooter stages simply by dodging your opponents and the projectiles they fire, but if you utilize such a tactic, you'll eventually end up stuck in a sad, energy-less plight.

The shooting action gradually picks up and becomes surprisingly intense as far as speed and number of enemies and missiles go. But one problem that afflicts the opposing armies is that, while the troops you fight change in physical appearance, their patterns largely remain the same. And once you've earned some nice lasers and shields for your ship, you'll probably be able to zip right through the levels, as your adversaries wear out their attack stratagems early on. The sequences are fun but mindless and repetitive.

Repetition strikes the background graphics as well, as all of the action scenes take place in outer space. You orbit many different planets but never actually head down to visit any of them. The backdrops look pretty good, actually, and change in tone as you travel around, but various shades of vacuum can't rival actual environments.

Quality music makes up a bit for the repetition in other areas. The tracks are catchy and reminiscent of the spectacular audio in Sinistron. But even the tunes are stretched a little thin, as there are so many action scenes they need to cover.

As mentioned before, the ship menu is in English, but folks who can't read Japanese may still experience some trying times and at some point find themselves warping around aimlessly. The last system in particular can be difficult to navigate. I've written up a mini-guide to ensure that players will be able to focus on the enjoyable action and not end up bumbling around the universe.

Spiral Wave could've been something special had its designers provided level settings other than outer space and given the enemies a little more to do. But they certainly deserve credit for producing something different and achieving a fair amount of success with their efforts. SW is a fun game with good music that can be had on the cheap, and it's definitely worth experiencing.

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