Friday, May 13, 2011

East vs. West: Final Zone II

The second wave of Turbografx-CD games to hit the US included Nihon Telenet/Renovation Game's Final Zone II, a nearly-instant sequel to the Mega Drive/Genesis game, Final Zone.  I owned the American version back in the day, and what I've learned in sampling the original Japanese PC Engine version this week is that my action game skills have atrophied badly in the past couple of decades.  But that's not what I'm here to talk about, so let's take a look at the game itself.

The game is identical in both territories, as far as I can determine, aside from some truly atrocious English translation and dubbing for the US release, which provided unintentional entertainment value on these shores.  The opening theme song that goes with the title screen is especially amusing -- for the record, I will transcribe the English lyrics as I understand them:

Forward march!  Busters on full!  Fight to the death!
Watching the fog burst into flames with bazookas!
Let's hurry before it's late!
We will not miss at all this chance!
Bowie, this is the chance that you been waiting for
A dream of home you can't ignore
Can't you see you have to throw open the door?
Rush!  Destroy the man!

The original Japanese version sounds much the same musically, with the same late-1980's synthesizers and hyperactive drum machines, but since I can't understand the lyrics, and they are presumably more grammatically solid in the original language, it all seems more sincere somehow.  I also note that the odd name spellings (like Haward Bowie) weren't cleaned up at all for the US release, nor is it made clear what N.A.P.: LUPUS means, making us feel like we've invaded the good Captain's medical privacy:

Since this is a CD-ROM game from the heady early days of the technology, there are a number of animation sequences designed to deliver the obligatory next-generation glitz.  In the opening sequence, Mr. Bowie's spaceship is struck by a mysterious energy beam from space, pitching most of the crew fatally into the void, with some surprisingly graphic imagery for the time:

Once Bowie makes it back to Earth (somehow surviving a trip through the atmosphere in his advanced robotic exoskeleton), it becomes clear that we're playing a Commando/Ikari Warriors-style game.  Run up the screen, position yourself so you can shoot the enemy soldiers at a slightly oblique angle while avoiding their fire at complementary angles, blow up a few tanks by hitting the obvious weak spots, avoid getting shot, and progress to the next level, where additional characters may be introduced via cutscenes.

After we've fought the main boss (a super soldier in a golden uniform), we see a cutscene in which Haward Bowie arrives in the nick of time too late to save an old friend:
"Dude!  Dude?  Uh-oh."

Then the focus shifts to another character, Hannah Franks, who wears a red-and-white exoskeleton (which looks more-or-less pink onscreen) and carries a special weapon that I believe is supposed to be a B-Launcher, but is rendered here as the B-Luncher -- perhaps for combat snacking on the go!

She must fight a largeish mech to finish her level, and her health bar isn't as substantial as those of her male counterparts, so it's a bit of a challenge.  At least Ms. Franks is not the only female character on the team -- there's also Momoco Ring, whose armor is hot pink and apparently sculpted by men with an eye to aesthetics, moreso than safety.  Apparently sexism remains endemic, even in the future:

The third level features one Izak Velder, an elegantly-tailored James Bond type, and changes up the gameplay a little bit by turning the game into a shoot-'em-up, pitting Velder's helicopter against waves of enemy copters, missile-firing jets and heavily-armed battleships:

And that's about as far as I got before frustration at my frequent deaths in the non-checkpointed levels got to me; when we die, we have to start the whole mission over.  Final Zone II is fun but relatively generic stuff, and my arcade gaming skills weren't sufficient to get very far along in the time I allotted to playing it.  But it was fun to look back at this game, if only to remember the atrocious theme song.  The in-game music is actually pretty good, with more variety than the norm and CD quality throughout, and the graphics are also varied and colorful, with small but detailed sprites. 

That's all I have time to say right now; gotta run -- hurry before it's late!

If you want a copy, it shouldn't be too hard to find one. You might be able to pick it up here or here:

Final Zone II 2 PC-Engine CD

No comments:

Post a Comment