Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Spiral Wave

This time, we tackle an old-school pseudo-3D shooter for the PC Engine - Spiral Wave, published for the PC Engine in 1991 by Media Rings Corporation.

The game's positioned as a sci-fi adventure, which in gameplay terms means that there's a great deal of text involved.  Most of the menus are in English, so I found the game fairly playable, but all the dialogue is in Japanese, which means I know little about the plot, other than a guess that the line in quotes is either the name of the invading robot alien armada, or the name of the ship sent to defeat them:

The game apparently didn't have a large development budget -- note that the scrolling text above is printed on a black background, not a transparent one, so the background doesn't show through the lettering as it would in a more polished title.

The game cheaps out on the storytelling as well.  Right from the get-go, the game gets bogged down in a lengthy introductory dialogue between a brave pilot, his commander, and his female robot co-pilot.  This is a HuCard-based title, not a CD-ROM release, so there's no exciting music or animation to enhance the exposition -- just three talking heads, with some facial animation to convey emotion and the occasional clenched fist from our waxen-jawed hero to enliven the text (which can be accelerated, but not skipped):


Finally we get into battle, which resembles Sega's old Astron Belt and Galaxy Force arcade games -- it's sprite-based 3D, scaling in crude steps as the ship flies into the screen and shots converge on the center:


Here we encounter the game's most frustrating flaw -- the player's ship can initially take one hit, and one hit only.  One alien missile contacts the player's ship, and it's GAME OVER.  I thought maybe I'd done something wrong, but checking the specs confirms that our shocking pink star cruiser has no shields at all:

I explored the universe a little bit -- the player can choose to visit several destinations, a few of which offer no combat -- to see if I could enhance the ship a bit, to no avail.  Still, it's possible to avoid the enemy onslaught long enough to face the boring, tiny mothership -- it moves from side to side, throws three shots at the player's former position every five seconds or so, and eventually explodes if the player keeps dodging and shooting instead of, say, turning off the console or falling asleep.

 Then we're treated to further dialogue, in this case with a Vader-esque alien commander:

So after a few rounds of this, it was time to slam myself into the broad side of an asteroid:

Spiral Wave is entirely playable with little working knowledge of Japanese.  But it's hardly worth doing so; maybe the story would be compelling in translated form, but the gameplay didn't keep my interest.

I don't recommend this game, but if this sort of import experience is exactly what you're looking for, it can be purchased through our affiliate link here.

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