Time Soldiers: An Inevitable Review by Bobak!
(Since I happen to have a dedicated Time Soldier cab sitting in my living room, I figured it was only a matter of time before I got to reviewing it....)
Well, one of the first things that pops into mind when looking at Time Soldiers is 'who in the heck made it?' Romstar is printed on the marquee and bezel, yet it shares billing with SNK on the title screen. Once you start playing the game it you can feel SNK written all over it. So who did what? The Alpha Denshi Team (which became the Alpha/ADK teams on Neo Geo) programmed the game for SNK, which in turn licensed the US distribution to Romstar. Thus, we now know who the father really is...
Time Soldiers is another descendant of SNK's milestone Ikari Warriors. Using rotating joysticks, you guide two warriors as they travel through time to save their captured comrades (SNK loves the word 'comrade'). Your battles take place over eras from the past, present and future -skipping from place to place, trying to find the correct boss to rescue your comrades. This is History 101 presented by SNK: "Here's history, now lets shoot it!"
The graphics in Time Soldiers range from good to excellent (for 1987). The Age of Rome stage steals the show in the background category (and its usually stage one). All of the characters are well drawn and shaded, and move with no clutter or flicker. The bosses are all very large and move quite well (almost too fast in some cases). As a game from the mid/late 80s, Time Soldiers had aged quite well.
No one ever forgets the death-scream of a fallen player in Time Soldiers. I remember the first time I heard it: It sent chills down my spine. Its so effective it sort of throws the rest of the sound category. There are a number of good tunes and sounds effects (and a number of so-so ones), but the massive digitalized cry of agony coming from a killed Time Soldier trumps them all. Its almost traumatic -you'll feel your heart drop, or rage explode at the game, or both...
Time Soldiers was designed for serious gamers. With plenty of multi-level power-ups, dynamic terrain, and the added control of torso-rotating joysticks, you are geared up to take on the world (pardon, Time). That is perfect because Time Soldiers is a tough game. Still, the game rewards the skilled player: Mastering the rotating joysticks makes it easier to navigate enemies; the bosses all have exploitable patterns, and the special weapons are places in such a way that you rarely will have to go with not enough fire power. The more I've played Time Soldiers over the years, the more I realize how well designed it really is.
As an added bonus, the game doesn't always take you down the same path every time. The first three stages proceed randomly (especially since progressing between comrades requires jumping through several time gates), and are then followed by two harder stages (still jumping to the previous stages mid-level). My only serious complaint is the lack of continues on the extremely difficult final stage. Completing it is a test for any true gamer.
Viking? In Roman times?
Time Soldiers is a solid game, and solid games age well. If you were ever into the Ikari Warrior style of rotating joystick games, you'll enjoy Time Soldiers. Even if you were not from that earlier era of video games, you'll see a fine representation of mid/late-80s gaming (it came out in the same year as the original Street Fighter!). Play it with a friend, create a strategy, feel the clicks of the rotating joysticks as you turn them, hear the blood-curdling screams of your fallen heroes, and kill, kill, kill in the spirit of fine video gaming nostalgia!
Music/SFX: 78% (death-scream: 100%)
Historical Accuracy: 2%
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