Shock Troopers 2nd Squad review by BBH
I can recall back in Fall of '98, when I first heard there was a sequel to Shock Troopers coming out. I was so excited! I was currently playing the hell out of the original Shock Troopers, and wondered if there was any way for a sequel to top the original. After months of agonized waiting, I finally got to play the game. But after all that buildup, could it possibly meet the expectations?
The name "2nd Squad" suggests that it's the same game with different characters. Nope, ST2S is pretty much an entirely different game from the first. The same basic gameplay applies, but there aren't too many similarities from there. The A button still acts as the character's primary weapon, with the same "lock-on" shooting. There's been one odd change though, and it's that the functions of the B and C buttons are switched. The B button now activates your character's special attack, and the C button is the defensive move. I say "defensive move" because the rolling has now been replaced with jumping. Jumping is completely invincible too, and you have the added bonus of actually being able to move around in any direction, unlike rolling which forced you in the same direction. The only other change is that the D button is no longer used...
...because Team Mode is now gone. Yes, one of the coolest things about the original Shock Troopers is missing, most likely because there are only four characters to pick from. Each character is pretty individualized in terms of normal shot type, special weapon type, and speed... but unfortunately, the characters aren't "well-balanced" either. Basically, the male characters Leon and Toy are far superior to the female characters Angel and Lulu. This is due mainly in part to Leon and Toy having special weapons that destroy all bullets on the screen. And that becomes a lifesaver later on, especially on the last battle. (so... many... reflecting... lasers...)
Other changes to the game? You can now get into vehicles (tanks, jeeps, and mechs) to mow down enemies. You can even "charge" up your shots in the vehicles to unleash more destruction (and earn more points). Item pickups are slightly different now, as all of them must be obtained from enemies... and rarely will you get the special weapons that were so prominent in the first one. Instead you will receive the usual points, bombs, and letters for a strange "spelling" system that's unique for each character (don't worry too much about it, it has little effect on the game).
Graphics - 8
2nd Squad takes the graphic style in a completely different direction, opting for the rendered look instead of hand-drawn. Unfortunately, this just does NOT work that well on the Neo-Geo. It didn't work all that well for Saurus on other games like Ragnagard, but that obviously didn't stop them. On the plus side, the characters' animations are even smoother than they were in the first Shock Troopers, and there's more blood to go around too.
Sound - 9
Another area which would have been nigh-impossible to top compared to the first installment. But the music overall is very excellent, it just isn't quite as catchy as the kickin' tunes provided by the 1st. Again there's a lot of speech, this time in hilariously bad English... "No room for forgiveness, on the battle field", indeed. But it still goes a long way in personalizing each character.
Replay Value - 8
One of the great things about the first Shock Troopers was how you had three different routes to pick from at the beginning, and could switch to another midway through... it made for a total of 17 unique levels. 2nd Squad starts off with the same 1st level every time, then on Stage 2 you get to pick a route that only changes the next two stages.... and there are only 5 stages total, meaning there's only 7 stages in all on this game. However, the levels are a tad longer than they are in the first one, and it will still take roughly half an hour or longer to play through from start to finish. But it still hurts the game a bit, as after two play-throughs you've seen everything there is to be seen. After that... well, you can always work towards a one-credit finish, which is much harder to do in this game.
Gameplay - 7.5
This could've been a 10, or even a 9.5. But the game falters in this category for one main reason - the difficulty. The life bar is almost meaningless in this game, as an average enemy attack will take off 60% or more of the bar, insuring you'll be dead in two hits. Life-ups are never found or awarded after levels, they must be obtained entirely from killing enemies with close-range attacks or bombs... but the chances of getting a life-up are very, very rare. Many times I've gone through two levels in a row, killing a ton of enemies with close-range attacks and never getting a life-up. Once you do receive one, it only heals about 25-30% of the bar... which isn't enough to recover a full hit. But there's another side to this - when you have a special weapon, getting damaged reduces your ammo, not your life bar. But then you can't get any life-ups when you have a special weapon. It's a real double-edged sword, and not a system that works very well. It's very sad that with a couple tweaks, this problem could have been averted. It makes the game much more difficult (although not entirely impossible). The other major problem is slowdown. It hits often, and can get very irritating. Although after a while you come to appreciate it, as it makes dodging/jumping bullets easier.
Overall - 8
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but this is still another great game for the Neo... it's just not the same as the first Shock Troopers. Well-worth a purchase if you enjoyed the first, just don't expect more of the exact same thing.
Released on MVS and AES (Japan only) formats. Average going price for the MVS version tends to be around $50-60 now, while the home cart still goes for $200 or so. Of course, prices are always subject to change...
More Reviews of This Game:
by Dan Elektro