Monday, April 7, 2014

Forgotten Worlds

Capcom / NEC Avenue
Super CD-ROM

Already a veteran of the enjoyable (if somewhat emasculated) Genesis version of the game, I was familiar with the unusual manner in which Forgotten Worlds plays by the time I sat down with the Turbo CD rendition. I knew I'd have to determine the direction in which my airborne soldier would fire by rotating him as he'd soar through enemy lines. Those familiar with Macross 2036's boss battles will find a title here that takes a similar approach to blast-'em-up play. 2036, however, allows its players to turn in either direction without ever having to stretch clumsily for the Run button, while FW makes no such allowances except for those who acquire the original PCE bundle-release that includes an Avenue Pad 3. Being forced to reach for Run actually doesn't prove too terribly annoying--and the system is hardly the smoothest regardless of which control scheme one goes with.

Even with an Ave-3 in tow, players will likely find PCE Worlds a great deal tougher than its Genny counterpart. Enemies here are faster and stouter and typically fire many more projectiles. Those overwhelmed by the missile-heavy action won't be able to bring an ally along to make matters easier, as no true two-player mode is available (though a second person can assume limited control of the lone soldier's option pod via a bit of code-inputting).

That it fails to offer two-warrior play is no minor issue, but Turbo FW does employ red book audio to deliver fantastic renditions of the game's predominantly dark tunes (though to this day I'm not particularly happy about Stage 5's sinister theme being rendered "poppy"). It's also far superior to the Genesis version visually, as its enemies are generally larger and its zones are more colorful--virtues certainly worth citing for a game that strives to create an aspect of bizarreness by presenting unusual creatures and environments. Enormous ogres poke their heads through the clouds; super-fast serpents inhabit pretty pink sky-forests; and sorcerers drift about desolate territories that harbor ice-encased mammoths. The title seems to forget the benefits that come with diversity during a mid-game stretch of "pyramid-themed" boards, but it still ultimately attains a compelling "lost-land" feel.

Two of its atypical areas (one a small-scale throwaway tomb, the other a Terraforming-esque volcanic region) and a pair of its boss fights are among the noteworthy items that were not included in the Genesis version.

The post-stage still-shots, on the other hand, are quite similar to the cartridge's intermediary scenes and amount to nothing that a CD title should boast of, though there is amusement to be derived from the accompanying lines of text.

As enemies tend to attack in droves and from inconvenient angles, memorizing their flight patterns and spots of origin will be of great use in getting through the game. A little strategizing is to be done as well, as cash for purchasing health restorers and gun-fire upgrades isn't made available in abundance (though good players can stick with a certain hard-hitting, available-early-on devastator until late in the affair, when the best blaster of all can be acquired).

Come up with a sound set of strategies, keep the habits of your foes in mind, and develop proficiency with the game's unusual controls, and you'll in all likelihood find Forgotten Worlds both beatable and fairly enjoyable. Again, it never quite feels wonderful, but it always feels interestingly atypical--and perhaps that's why I've found it to have greater replay value than plenty of its good-but-not-excellent peers.

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