MindRec - 2004 - U.S.A.
For years I lamented the void in the TurboGrafx library created by the lack of an Asteroids clone and thereby all the thrills and chills I was missing out on. Asteroids is such an enthralling experience, after all. Lucky for me, after nearly 15 years of waiting, Meteor Blaster DX showed up to save the, uh, decade.
While obsolete consoles such as the Genesis and Dreamcast are enjoying successful lives after death with extraordinary original games such as Pier Solar and Last Hope, the Turbo is turning over in its grave with the release of ancient Commodore 64 ports and clunky arcade games that had long since retired when the console was still in its heyday.
All that said, Meteor Blaster DX brings nothing to the table that hasn't already been done previously (and better) in the genre. There is only so much that can be done with the Asteroids template, and I'll concede MB does just about all of it. Twice nothing is still nothing, however, as the game does a good job of proving.
You have the option of flying one of four ships, none of which are too inspired design-wise. As a matter of fact, the ships look downright ugly and out of place over the pleasant backdrops and alongside the competently detailed asteroids. Each ship has its pros and cons, but ultimately it doesn't matter which one you choose as the differences aren't realy significant enough to affect gameplay.
The Emerald Falcon is the pinnacle of spacecraft design.
If you found Asteroids plodding, slow, monotonous, and boring the first, second and third time around you probably won't be thrilled to hear that little has changed in that regard. For this outing, the developers saw fit to add a techno soundtrack extremely similar in style to the one they used in Implode. While I thought the techno tracks worked surprisingly well in Implode, they unfortunately fall flat here and only work to enhance the dreary ambiance. The core gameplay still feels dated as ever, and you'll suffer one cheap death after another from bits of rock that wrap around from the opposite side of the screen to whatever spot you happen to occupy. Meteor Blaster's attempt at a "wow" factor is the addition of actual bosses every 10th stage. Trouble is, you face off against the same boss (albeit palette-swapped) over and over again. The action drones on for a much-too-lengthy 99 levels. If you actually make it to the end, you deserve a medal. Not for skill, mind you, but for unparalleled stamina and endurance. I turned the game off long before reaching that point.
Cutting the length of the game by about 70% and introducing some other bosses and enemies to shoot at would've done wonders for Meteor Blaster. The "silver lining," if such a thing exists in this game, is in the presentation. The in-game visuals are pretty nice for the most part, and the package feels polished. That is, of course, excepting the physical disc itself. Someone thought they could save some dough by distributing the game on blue-dye CD-R, rendering the game unplayable on about 50% of Turbo consoles out there. The good news is that 50% isn't missing out on anything novel.
Be it stage 3 or stage 16 (or stage 28 or stage 52 or....), you can count on more of the same.
Coming soon: a look at the brand new port of an Atari 2600 game so old we're having trouble with the carbon dating process.