Saturday, February 27, 2010

Image Fight


What I ended up getting with this vertical shooter in regard to action style was actually quite a bit different from what I'd anticipated. I'd read numerous articles that compared the game to R-Type, so I was expecting it to be relatively slow and methodical. But it really isn't like that at all.

Image Fight isn't Spriggan-fast, but it certainly doesn't plod along in the manner I'd expect from a shooter often classified with R-Type. For its first four stages, it feels somewhat like a Star Soldier game that grants the player nifty red pods to control (more on these in a moment). The "organic" fifth stage does remind me of R-Type with its large snake-type creatures, but throughout the early and middle stretches of the affair, reflexes take priority over memorization. It isn't until the last three boards that knowing the level layouts and strategizing for enemy patterns and vulnerabilities really become key. Even then, progress plays out more like it does in the excellent Sinistron, where you hammer away at segment after segment as you gradually make it further and become more comfortable, than it does in R-Type, where a little memorization allows you to charge through the first six levels as if there's no opposing army at all.

The red pods I alluded to earlier are Image Fight's hook. You can grab standard blue options that simply flank your ship and shoot straight ahead, but the red guys are much more interesting. You control their bullet streams by flying in the direction contrary to where you want them to fire. There are similar armaments in a number of other shooters, but few of them are as integral a component in their respective games as the red pods are here. You must not only master the direction-based firing but also consider ways to utilize the pods defensively.

Indeed, most of the later boss fights are all about ship positioning and pod placement. The early-level skirmishes are no cakewalks either, however. All of the bosses are cunning and can really make you panic with their attacks; and of course, panicking is the worst thing to do. The enemy leader in Stage 3 shoots long, shot-blocking lasers that crisscross the screen; if you decide to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, you won't stand a chance.

Oddly enough, your final opponent can be destroyed incredibly easily if you simply determine what the best weapon is to bring to the fight.

The bosses, as well as the regular enemies, look quite cool, but the level graphics are ho-hum at best. It's not that anything's particularly ugly about 'em, but there's nothing really eye catching about any of the environments, from the forest to the bases.

The music is nice, though, particularly the surprisingly soft numbers, and there's a cool Ninja Spirit-style sound test.

One more thing I must mention is the penalty zone, an extremely difficult area that serves as your punishment if you fail to obliterate a significant chunk of the enemy legion during the regular levels. I'd never been there until I swallowed my pride and missed shots intentionally so that my hit percentages would plunge below the border, so it's a fate you shouldn't have to work very hard to avoid. If you're wondering if it's worth taking pains to visit the zone just for the experience, well, I sure as hell don't think so, and there's practically no reward for overcoming the extreme difficulty and making it out of there alive.

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