Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Super Air Zonk (CD Denjin)

RED / Hudson Soft
Super CD-ROM

I knew when I acquired this game that just about everyone considers it to be much worse than the original Air Zonk, so I was prepared for something inferior to the awesome chip shooter, but what really came as a shock was the drastic decline in graphical quality. AZ looks a hell of a lot better than its successor, which can boast of only one brief stretch of backdrop (featured in its sixth stage) that's even remotely impressive visually; the rest of its strips are incredibly flat and not even very colorful. The game flops when it comes to audible elements as well: the soundtrack is awful at times, and even during its best moments, it can't touch its predecessor's sweetest melodies. And the action just kind of lollygags along, as there's plenty of dead space. Don't be surprised if you one-credit this the very first time you play it, with plenty of lives to spare.

It's a shame that the graphics, music, and action took such hits, as some really good ideas went into the design of the game. The new charge attack, which surrounds your avatar with a ring of bombs, is quite handy and enjoyable to use. Chums come under attack and make funny pleas for help before teaming up with you, and they perform admirably in the stages they appear in. Abilities can be developed via a new "level-up" system, and collecting smileys is a blast (as always). A couple of tunes (particularly the TV Stage theme) are indeed nice, and the game actually seems a little less sloppy than Air Zonk (partly because you can really get into a rhythm with your charge attack... but also because there usually isn't all that much onscreen that actually threatens to hit you).

The bad stuff is more obvious off the bat, and I didn't like the game at all initially, but it grew on me a little thanks to its positive aspects. I still consider Air Zonk a much better game, of course, as will most other players. And this probably isn't something you want to spend big bucks on, so go with the JPN version unless you absolutely must have every US release that's out there.

The game feels way too laid back for a shooter, and while not all of its backdrops are unattractive, most of them are disappointingly flat and simplistic.

There's actually a lot going on in the Stage 6 background. Unfortunately, the activity isn't evident in this screenshot, and there's still hardly anything happening in the foreground, which is kind of the important part.

Mmhuh. Statues are nice and all, but this guy would probably be even more "revered" if he had put together a respectable army. He certainly doesn't intimidate anyone on his own... least not when he dresses like this.

You can still team up with buddies to evolve into cool new forms, and mini-Zonk makes his triumphant return.

While most of the bosses here are tame compared to Air Zonk's cool, crazy giants, some of 'em can hold their own.


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