Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Toaplan / Taito

It's funny. Look at Tatsujin reviews on the web and you'll find that every bit of text boils down to "It's motherfuckin' HARD" and is accompanied by a screen cap showing the game's famous skull-bomb attack. Of course, there is good reason for the ubiquity of these whiny complaints and skeletal blasts: Tatsujin, especially in its PCE incarnation, is indeed a very difficult shooter; and the only recourse for unskilled babies who hope to survive it is bombing away.

But there will always be goofballs who like to puff themselves up and spit out the oft-heard, seldom true "I like a good challenge" line. Well, look, if you're thinking about obtaining Tatsujin for the sake of playing it and not just to add a somewhat rare and expensive HuCard to your collection, then be honest with yourself. If you're driven to hollering by Super Star Soldier's "intensity" or if you're pained by Nexzr's "rigorous" memorization requirements, then Tatsujin is out of your league. In fact, unless you're as tough and as good as the Duomazov brothers (which is highly unlikely, as the Duomazovs are stout, crazy bearded men who honed their Turbo skills while serving long sentences in the Siberian stockades), then chances are you aren't hard enough to make it anywhere in this game, and you should keep to the safe confines of the Soldier/Gunhed quadrants.

It's not that Tatsujin will constantly wallop you. Segment-by-segment examination of the game reveals many stretches that non-Duomazovs can get through, provided that they remember to watch out for enemies who attack from behind (cheap bastards whom Tatsujin employs many of).

The main sources of trouble are the mini-boss bands. They send plenty of projectiles your way, and said projectiles hurtle across space at speeds that make them almost unavoidable. And since there are typically four or five mid-stage demons to deal with at once, there isn't a whole lot of room for doing much evading anyway. The end-of-level bosses don't even need to bring friends along to present similar problems (nevertheless, the assholes are often aided by small henchmen and cannons). Hope is not allowed here.

Still, live long enough to power up your weapons and you may actually begin to feel a little confident. The blue lightning gun produces a cool-looking pyramid of obliteration when strengthened, allowing for easy progress through strips populated by standard enemies. It proves inadequate during encounters with the dreaded mini-bosses, as it's rather weak and tends to lock in on fools you have no desire to target, but such battles are what the full-fire green energy weapon is for.

Of course, even if you're skilled and fortunate enough to build a weapon up to its optimal capabilities, odds are still slim that you'll be able to maintain that level of firepower for long. Sure, after a while, you'll develop a feel for the stages, and you'll be able to remember which weapons to use at which points, and you'll know exactly when to expect cheap ass-rammers to sneak up on your tail. You'll realize that defeating the mini-lords and end-bosses comes down to doing as much damage as you can before they launch their assaults and then baiting them into sending their entire bullet load at a spot you'll quickly vacate. But you're going to have to maintain that level of unwavering concentration and that perfect timing as the game continually comes at you with cheap enemies and fast-moving bullet storms. And if you stumble for just a single instant, say farewell to your built-up speed and mighty armament.

The safe, economical thing to do if you're considering a high-cost purchase of Tatsujin is to acquire and play the much cheaper Genesis rendition, Truxton, before making a decision. Sure, the PCE version is better, with nicer-sounding music and a larger playfield to work with. But Truxton presents a package similar enough to give you a good idea of whether or not you'll enjoy its HuCard counterpart. It's significantly easier, too, so if it happens to kick your ass, do yourself a favor: stay away from the rough side of town. Save your money and avoid a great deal of pain. Don't buy Tatsujin.

You'll be cruising along and thinking to yourself, "What's that guy talking about? This isn't hard!"

Seconds later, a flock of mini-bosses will annihilate you.

Sure, you can try the ol' skull-bomb baby method of damaging the fiends... and watch in horror as they sidestep the attack. These guys don't mess around.

Neither do their large end-of-level allies.

If you're going to destroy the "bulbs" in this screen, you'd better be ready to dodge the super-fast spread bullets they'll release.

You can breeze through boss-free segments with full-power lightning...

...but the emerald energy weapon represents your best shot at rockin' the tough guys.

Lightning works quite well against the last boss, however, as it allows you to home in on his weak spot while maintaining your distance.

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