With Kirby’s Dream Land beaten and SolarStrikerfinished, I turned my attention to Battle Unit Zeoth, another Game Boy game, and like the latter, another shoot ‘em up. I purchased it with SolarStriker, and didn’t really play it until this week. It was developed and published by Jaleco in 1991 and perhaps thanks to this later release, Battle Unit Zeoth is a little more progressive than SolarStriker. I say this primarily due to its level design and it’s usage of infinite continues.
The game is composed of five stages. The three odd-numbered stages are traditional side-scrolling affairs, with the screen auto scrolling horizontally. The two even-numbered stages however scrolled vertically with my movements, but required a lot of platform navigation. I thought these were pretty unique stages for this type of game. Shoot, even the traditional horizontally scrolling stages featured a notable amount of verticality to them. My control of the mech seemed pretty progressive too, as I was able to shoot in all four directions, and with enemies coming from all sides, I often had to.
That being said, the game was made easier than SolarStriker thanks to the infinite continues. Instead of having a reserve of lives that would increase with my score, I only had access to one life. But, when I died I could continue from the beginning of the stage I died on, albeit, without the upgrades I had collected. That was an important loss too, as the upgraded weaponry had a much larger impact than it did in SolarStriker.
Between the two, I think Battle Unit Zeoth is the more interesting shooter, design-wise. But, it’s also the easier shooter, which may rub some the wrong way. Still, being able to complete a game is nice, and games in this genre are very replayable. So, I think I’m done writing about Game Boy games for the moment. I am playing something on the platform currently, although I’m not sure an article will come to fruition as a result.
A: Juggernaut is a first-person adventure game where the primary mechanic is solving puzzles. A great shorthand reference would be the popular game Myst, a less ideal one would be either Mansion of Hidden Souls or The Mansion of Hidden Souls, two similar games that I wrote about earlier in the year. Juggernaut was released on the Playstation in 1999, many years after any of these games.
Q: What is Juggernaut about?
A: The protagonist’s girlfriend has become possessed by an evil spirit (presumably the devil) and a priest has notified the protagonist that the exorcism he performed was ineffective. Telling the protagonist that his love for her is the greatest chance of removing the evil, he sends him into her body to rid her of the evil.
Q: Wait, what!?
A: Yes, that’s only the beginning to the surreal adventure that plays out in Juggernaut. Inside the girlfriend’s body my friend and I did not find organs and blood but instead a mansion; perhaps a nod to the Mansion games?
Q: Okay, but why a mansion?
A: Well I suppose it could be a metaphor for something. Maybe it symbolizes her soul with the rooms inside representing specific chapters of her life, maybe not though. Functionally it provides a great backdrop for a single environment that requires a lot of exploration and houses many puzzles.
Q: You’ve mentioned puzzles, but what’s gameplay like besides them, what do you do?
A: My friend and I controlled the protagonist and explored the mansion and other environments. We’d explore until we couldn’t progress any farther, usually because of puzzles, although I use that term lightly. Most puzzles seemed to revolve around finding an item and making the connection as to what it’s used for. There were puzzles that required my friend and me to get scratch paper out and think something through, but for the most part making connections was the name of the game.
Q: So it’s a puzzle game and the puzzles aren’t that great, why should I even care about Juggernaut?
A: That’s a great point actually. My friend and I felt the same way until we encountered an evil microcosm, what we were attempting to rid the girlfriend’s body of. The evil microcosms were one-off stories that featured unique plots, characters, and environments. The stories and dialogue in the microcosms were absurd! Definitely some of the weirdest stuff I’ve encountered in a video game.
There were eight microcosms in all. Two of them took place in the future, entirely on the internet via virtual reality. Two of them took place in an isolated prison. One of these featured a spy who yelled out karate moves before he attacked people, like “karate correspondence manual page 12, flying kangaroo”. It ended in a goofy/creepy five minute conversation with another character that had my friend and me laughing, and confused. Two took place on tropical islands and they also resulted in confusion. The last two took place in woods and they dealt with a ghost shaman from Africa and a killer who slashed out eyes. I’m only scratching the surface of what makes these storylines strange by the way, just know the plots develop strangely and the dialogue is detailed
Q: After everything you did was the ending satisfying?
A: Yes, actually. What was more satisfying was the epilogue though. It added another puzzle and a lot of exposition from the girlfriend’s perspective, plus, a twist.
Q: Who made Juggernaut?
A: I’m unclear on that. There are two Japanese companies attached to Juggernaut, Will and TonkinHouse. From what I’ve gathered Will developed it and Tonkin House published it in Japan. Jaleco published it in America. Remember, it came out on the PlayStation in 1999.
Q: So should I play it?
A: Nah. The gameplay was slow and it takes a long place to get somewhere. There was an interesting mechanic in the mansion of having to switch bodies to access specific rooms but this was time consuming. Juggernaut is a pretty ugly game even considering how old it is but I liked the soundtrack, it wasn’t overbearing, it was moody, and set the tone well. It was fun solving puzzles and experiencing the oddities with a friend and the microcosms were surreal, but you can probably YouTube that stuff.
Set in the future with a generic plot, Earth Defense Force is a quality shooter for the Super Nintendo. Lacking a thrilling story is not a knock for games of this vein as the story is each person’s experience encountering the hundreds of enemies and bosses you’ll surely take out. From the beginning, the game is fast paced and early on, requires quick reflexes as well as memorization.
EDF was developed and published by Jaleco; it was released originally into the arcades and later ported to the SNES. Having never played the arcade version I’m unaware of the differences between the two. The story of EDF is told in the manual with a lack of cutscenes or any background in-game. I would’ve liked seeing some sort of progression between levels but the story in the manual was sufficient for the genre. Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to beat the final boss and see if there was an ending sequence. That being said the manual was detailed and even referenced The Beatles!
At the beginning and between each level you are given the option to pick a weapon type. There are eight different types but a few seem redundant. My favorites were the homing and the search laser although anyone who has played a
similar game will find something familiar. As you defeat enemies you will fill a bar at the top of the screen. This will level up from 1-5, each time increasing the power of your weapons. This turned out to be a good barometer of success and a way to differentiate itself while retaining elements of the genre. Flying with you are two satellites ships that provide extra firepower. As you level up, they’ll be able to take on different formations and like your weapons, become more powerful. These smaller ships are indestructible and can absorb some enemy fire.
The game is comprised of six levels that take you from Earth to space and get increasingly more difficult. I spent much time getting to a new part and dying, but making progress with each death until I was able to get to the final boss. Though all this dying was frustrating at first, it came to be a part if the game. I found the game to be tough, but fair in most parts and towards the end of my playing I was able to reach the final boss without losing a life. The final boss however seems very cheap, nigh impossible. This experience is made worse when you lose all of your continues and must trek through the whole game just to have another stab at him, all a part of the game I suppose. I felt the soundtrack was great; its up-tempo beat matched the nature of the game and in particular I found the weapon select track superb.
I found the final boss just too tough to continue after a while and have given up on the game. I will still try every now and then and I won’t let this bad ending impact my view of an otherwise solid game. I found EDF to be fast paced and when considering the effort it took to be able to get to the final boss undefeated, rewarding.