Shock Troopers review by BBH
Whenever the name SNK is brought up with old-school arcade advocates, some of the first games that come to mind are Ikari Warriors (and its not-so-stellar sequels) and Time Soldiers (which was actually made by Alpha, but close enough). But SNK never saw fit to bring the overhead "human shooter" genre to the Neo. Luckily, Saurus seized the reins and decided to release one in late 1997. The problem is, Metal Slug 2 was released months later and their game was forgotten by many, not to mention the fact that the game didn't get the arcade distribution that the Metal Slug series has gotten. Nor did it ever get a release on a home console. So if you missed out before, here's your chance to experience quite possibly the greatest vertically-scrolling human shooter the world has ever seen... Shock Troopers.
So why is this game so good? Well, let's start from the beginning. When you start a game, you'll be given the option to play "LONLY WOLF" (god bless Engrish) or Team Mode. While Lonly Wolf is the standard three lives you'd find in most games, Team Mode is way cool. You get to pick three of the eight selectable characters and then switch between them on-the-fly during gameplay! There's no limit to how many times you can switch, until they die of course... and you even get temporary invincibility on the switch. When a character is badly injured you will of course want to switch them out and use the other teammates until life-ups can be found. Pretty neat, huh?
So there's 8 characters to pick from, each one with unique attributes in terms of speed, gunpower, and special attacks (unlike, say, the Metal Slug games where you have four characters that are identical gameplay-wise). After picking your characters, you're then given an option of three routes - Jungle, Valley, or Mountain. Each route is completely unique in terms of the levels you play, and after the 3rd stage you're given the option to switch to another route. Switching lets you play a "bonus" stage that takes place
on a train.
Control is a bit tricky, but it's a joy once you have it down. The A button acts as your regular gunfire, and you get built-in autofire when the button is held down. That's not all though, holding down the button also "locks" your firing direction until the button is released again. That means you can do things like fire upwards while moving downwards. It might not give you as much control as the dual-joystick setup on games like Robotron 2084, but it's the next best thing. The B button makes your character do a roll, which makes them completely invincible, but very vulnerable when they come out of it. Smart rolling will let you avoid enemy attacks. The C button is your character's special attack, which has limited use. Each character has a different special attack with a unique way of doing damage. The D button acts as the teammate switch on Team Mode, and as mentioned before there's no limit to the amount of times it can be done when teammates are alive.
Using the A button as close-range also activates your character's close range attack... this is a very fun and important part of the game, as when an enemy is dispatched in this fashion, an item will be dropped. Most of the time it's a 30k bonus point item, but other times you will get life-ups or special weapons. Try doing a close-range attack on a human boss, you'll be pleasantly surprised!
Graphics: 8.5 - This game has gotten bashed before because "it looks like an SNES game". And to an extent I'll agree, as the visuals are pretty simple... but come on, look at that animation! Character and enemy movement is very detailed, not to mention the fact that each frame has to be drawn in *EIGHT* different directions. That's right, a character holding a gun in their right hand is not going to magically hold it in their left hand when you face the other way. While that's not a big deal to most people, it just goes to show how much effort Saurus put into the characters.
Music: 11 - Oh my god. If you ever find this game in a multi-slot cabinet, you better bring some headphones along. Shock Troopers has THE greatest soundtrack ever in a Neo cartridge... and quite possibly in any game, ever. Kickass drum 'n bass tunes will accompany you through the game, as well as those good ol' Neo guitars. You even get some of those wonderfully incomprehensible-yet-still-awesome voice samples on some tracks (KoF players will know what I'm talking about). Even the funky boss tune will end up staying in your head long after you play the game. The sound effects might
not be quie as impressive, but there's plenty of speech in the game too, with characters even having multiple "win quotes" when you finish a level. Playing this game with the sound off simply is not the same.
Gameplay: 10 - The control is great once you get used to the firing system, and rolling is a great way to dodge enemy bullets. You really feel like have control of your character, and this just makes the game a blast to play. You also have the option of rushing through the levels quickly, or taking your time and trying to kill enemies with close-range attacks. Personally I find the game to be much more fun the latter way, but it's totally up to the player as to how fast you want to proceed through the game. Just keep in mind that the journey is more important than the destination... not to mention
that rushing through the levels gives you less time to enjoy the music.
Replay Value: 10 - The three sets of levels make for a total of 17 stages in the game, although you can only play through 6 to 7 in one session... meaning you will have to play the game a minimum of three times just to see everything there is to offer. And after that, you can try to figure out which route combination is worth the most points, or which is the easiest to get through. That's another thing that's worth mentioning, if you enjoy trying to see how far you can get on one credit, then Shock Troopers is very rewarding. A patient player who takes note of the simple enemy patterns will be able to use that information to his advantage. And with the help of the roll button, you can always escape from any situation that's "cheap"! And even if one-credit finishes aren't for you, you can always play through again and just enjoy the music... either way, you don't have to be bored playing the same levels over and over, nor do you have to use the same characters over and over.
Availability - Sadly, this game was *ONLY* released on the MVS format. No AES cart, no Neo CD, no ports to PSX/DC, nothing. If you've got an MVS setup, then finding a cart shouldn't be too hard, at this time of writing they can usually be found for $60-80 and aren't too uncommon. It is *SO* worth that price.
Overall: 9.8 - A gem in the rough, an overlooked masterpiece. Although many will disagree, this game is way better than the Metal Slug series to me, and the finest Neo-Geo game ever crafted. If you missed it the first time, have an MVS, and enjoy games in this nearly-forgotten genre, then you have no excuse not to pick up a copy and start blasting away.
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by Dan Elektro