Oh boy, another arcade-style shooter, this time sidescrolling instead of moving forward.. You might recall how terrible I am at these.
Anyway, this here game is a victim of localization. It’s actually a port of a 1989 arcade game based on a 1979 manga (titled Area 88), and in Japan it bore the title of the manga whereas internationally it was retitled. There is no characterization here that I saw or in-depth storytelling, instead the enjoyment comes from killing a bunch of people but without the shame and self-loathing that the hero felt according to the Wikipedia page. Really, kinda runs contrary to the message of the story. And the fact that I played as the hero character makes it doubly ironic- while he was a top ace, I am absolutely terrible. For a triple irony score, we have the game being called “U.N. Squadron” when you play as a mercenary group that has no affiliation with the U.N., an organization that frowns upon mercenary activity. Hell, let’s go all-in for quad-irony: the manga was praised for realistic depictions of air combat, while this game is very much unrealistic.
Didn’t I tell you? Side-scrolling shooter. You can pickup power-ups that change your gun from being some kind of infinite energy bulb shooter to an infinite energy crescent shooter. The eventual form of your energy bolts reminded me of one of the ultimate weapon upgrade in the SNES Star Wars games. You also can have several secondary weapons, but they’re in a finite supply.
You start with a screen showing a map of the area, and can pick a mission on that grid. Then you go to a screen where you can select your fighter. You start with an F-8 Crusader, but can upgrade to various other planes as your amount of money increases… so I guess that’s something from the manga they were able to translate to good effect without too much of the irony thing happening. You can buy other planes to fly, such as the F-14. Once you select your plane, you are taken to a screen where you can pick what secondary weapons you wish to equip. Go ahead- buy an F-14 and load it up with all sorts of insane things, then fly at real low speeds mopping up enemies. Pretend you’re flying the Turbokat. You choose your science-fiction fantasy, you’ll be living it every time you play this game based on a manga lauded for realistic depictions of air combat.
The missions don’t happen in a vacuum- while you are doing one, the enemy has units advancing elsewhere. So you might finish a mission to find that an enemy sub is shooting-up your base, or an enemy mercenary squad has finally reached your base. Or you might take a million turns failing to fight off the enemy air force as it advances to your base until it finally arrives and becomes the only mission you can select.
That’s it really as far as I can tell. Just keep playing until there aren’t any more missions? I’ll never know.
It’s not a budget title, it runs at around $25. As I recall for $15 more I was able to get arcade ports of R-Type I and II on the PlayStation. So… to me it didn’t have much to offer that differed it significantly from other games like this or that would make it more cost-effective to buy it over another side-scrolling shooter, but if you like the Area 88 series then I’d suggest this game over the other side-scrolling shooters.