Thursday, May 21, 2009


Namco / NEC

Meet Dr. Tomari, a brilliant scientist and an ace pilot in the guise of a four-foot-five fat kid. When he's not busy building "colossal nuclear reactors" (blame the back of the box), Dr. T likes to hop into his Jetsons-esque "space car" (with the top down, of course) and cruise around the world in search of abducted princesses. Rescued royalty has no appreciation for the efforts of our blue-collar hero: newly freed lasses are often caught looking back longingly at their former captors as Dr. T escorts them to safety. That's fine; the good doctor is so slick that he ditches these damsels when all is said and done, opting to spend his evenings with his best male buddy, one "Sunday Chin." The two chums stare at starry skies for hours on end, relishing life's simple pleasures.

All of this nonsense is covered during the "cinemas" of Ordyne, a TurboChip that's more entertaining as a biographical documentary than as a sidescrolling shooter. It tries to be "cute" by emulating the timeless Fantasy Zone, equipping Dr. T's craft with forward-firing cannons and bomb racks and offering additional weapons for sale in "shop ships" that occasionally waft by. Don't expect to find pretty pastels or oddball adversaries, however, as Ordyne tragically travels a more traditional (read: primitive) route than its outstanding forerunner. While Fantasy Zone's mechanics are mimicked to perfection here, its distinctive color and charisma have been forgotten.

The problem is that the amount of effort put into Ordyne's visuals was insufficient considering that the apparent aim was to craft a shooter with personality. It's extremely difficult to think of an enemy as "cute" when you're at a loss to describe exactly what the hell it is. Weak-kneed fiends appear in droves, firing the odd bullet here and there but never performing any funny or memorable antics. Even the bosses come up lame: strange hunks of machinery can't hold a candle to the crazy snowmen and leaf-spitting tree stumps of Fantasy Zone fame.

Making matters worse, these bums inhabit a world that's even blander than they are. While other 16-bit shooters made famous spectacles out of their "fire levels" with incredible canvases of swirling lava and raging infernos, Ordyne is content with big, slow, donut-shaped things for its rendition of a magma storm.

The game is a complete dud superficially, which is unacceptable considering what many of its "cute 'em up" peers hailing from the same era were able to pull off. The sole visual evidence of any "extra effort" being put forth by the designers comes not in the form of unique bosses or resplendent backdrops but in Dr. T's crimson coiffure being disheveled by the wind. If you have any desire at all to witness the effects of a breeze blowing through the hair of a fat man, Ordyne just might be the game for you. It is not the game for me.

The project wasn't a complete throwaway, however, as the mechanics for a decent round of shooting are indeed present. Shops are placed so precisely throughout the various levels that it's possible for supreme players to maintain a never-ending stream of high-level firepower. The upgrades themselves are not only extremely strong but also impressively wacky: one armament system places a Pac-Man-shaped, bullet-gobbling ornament on the front hood of your ship.

These fundamental factors lead me to believe that Ordyne's creators constructed the layout of the adventure carefully and indeed had good intentions--they just couldn't supplement the meticulously plotted action with aesthetic appeal.

Or maybe they were just freakin' insane. "Princess Mode" certainly seems to support this possibility.

Yes, there is a hidden mode that allows you to play as a chick rather than a chubby grunt. This notion appealed to me, so I decided to give the girl a shot. Imagine the horror I felt when I discovered that THE PRINCESS IS A PALETTE-SWAPPED VERSION OF THE FAT GUY.

I have nothing more to say.

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