Sunday, August 23, 2009

Terra Cresta II


When Armed F turned out to be a pleasant surprise, I began to think it was possible I'd misjudged Nichibutsu. But then I played this.

Terra Cresta II is not particularly terrible, but it's old, and it looks and feels old. Despite some well-implemented multilayer scrolling, most of the backdrops come off as horribly bland, particularly when contrasted with the vibrant, colorful ones in many other PC Engine shooters. The sprites are small and boring, and enemy repetition becomes a serious issue, as the NES-type small-fry that assail you during the opening strip keep coming back for more, even near the conclusion of the trip. Your mission will take you over and through a wide variety of environments, including a volcanic region, a desert, outer space, and an icy expanse (which actually doesn't look too bad), but you'll have to fight off the same few small, unimpressive fools all the while.

You might expect the weapons system to follow suit and hand you 8-bit-era pea shooters, but thankfully, it's one of the few interesting elements of the game. Once you find different ships to team up with, you can merge with them to become a single powerful unit (which actually isn't much fun to use due to its limited-width vertical fire) or position your squadron in formations of your own design. You can also have your craft transform into a mighty phoenix for a short time--though I kinda prefer the Psychic Storm bug-forms, myself.

While the weapons system is the most "innovative" aspect of the game, the boss cast will probably make more of an impression, and not necessarily for good reasons. TC2's end-level giants are not much stouter than their lame henchmen and go down quite easily in most cases, though they can take a while to beat, which becomes all the more annoying when you have to defeat them a second time during a pointless gauntlet.

And that stupid gauntlet doesn't even comprise TC2's final stretch, which really pissed me off. I thought I was finally done with the game, only for the words "TIME SLIP" to appear on the screen as my ship was unceremoniously dumped into an ugly "prehistoric" level, where I had to face an incredibly cheap bastard of a boss.

Believe it or not, you'll be given more work to do if you defeat that guy. The final battle is actually epic and enjoyable, though the multiform bum you face continues with the cheap stuff (you really need to have lots of lives saved up for the terribly unfair last few rounds).

Sadly, the fun final tussle is just too little after everything that comes before it feels so drawn out and mediocre. And bear in mind if you're thinking about purchasing the chip that you'll have to pay good money to experience that drawn-out mediocrity. If you absolutely must have the game, do yourself a favor: find it loose for a price in the neighborhood of fifty bucks. That's about as good as the deals get for it, and it ain't worth a whole hell of a lot in play value.

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