Stepping out of the fighting arena and into the heart of an old school classic shooter, NeoGeo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting offers a new way to play as your favorite fighter.
Scrolling from bottom to top, Ultimate Shooting is a shooter like an R-Type or Gradius, not a fighting game. But instead of piloting a space ship, the player controls one of the classic King of Fighters or other popular characters from SNK, like Marco from Metal Slug. Just like any other shooter, the goal is to blast everything that comes your way while avoid enemy attacks. But this shooter has some twists to make it more unique.
Instead of using a basic ?kill an enemy to get points? scoring system, the player must collect falling icons from destroyed enemies. The difficulty of each enemy will determine which icon is released ? if you kill a basic peon, expect to see the low scoring icon whereas taking down an enemy with a lot of stamina might reveal a more desirable symbol. Adding a little more flavor to this unique form of scoring, the player has the ability to activate taunt mode. During this time, enemies will increase in difficulty but the rewards are higher.
Giving the game an even higher checks and balance system is the way power attacks are used. Besides the standard rapid fire machinegun style attack, each character has unique super powers that can be used anytime there is enough juice in the super power meter. This meter, however, works three-fold. Simply tapping the special attack button uses one chuck of the super power meter but holding this button down can activate the second and third power. The balance is, when warming up this attack, the player cannot shoot. This means that enemies will have enough time to pile up on screen.
This system works for a shooter game but really separates itself for a hardcore audience only. Because of the game?s high difficulty level, the player will probably lose at least one life during an end stage boss battle. When this happens, the player is basically awarded no points because all the scoring icons that you collected during the stage resets back to zero once a life is lost. This all-or-nothing system makes it frustrating for even meteoric skilled players as each stage usually involves at least one death even on the normal difficulty. Making matters even worse is the total lack of a tutorial. Sure, you can access the game?s manual from the PSP?s dashboard but there is nothing in-game that informs the player on the rules of the game. I only learned about the power attacks, taunt, and scoring system by trial and error and eventually by browsing through the electronic instruction manual.
Looking through the game?s overall difficulty, there are bigger concerns regarding the overall presentation. First, the game really just doesn?t work that well on the PSP?s screen. Playing in a normal layout, the actual playable space is so small it is difficult to distinguish detail; vertical shooters do not work well on the PSP?s horizontal screen. However, there are options to shift the game from this normal layout, to playing the game vertically by holding the PSP on its side. This makes gameplay much better as the full screen can be used to its full extent ? this is how the game should be played. But the downside to this is that it makes physically playing the game very strange. Holding the PSP vertically, and trying to hit the facebuttons in a fast paced shooter game, is just a hard task to do when holding the PSP on vertically.
There is an option, however, to move with the d-pad (using your left hand) while attacking with the analog nub (using your right hand). Holding the tall PSP in this position is passable but it is surely uncomfortable. But perhaps the game?s biggest error is a bug I found when trying to customize my controls from the option menu; I set custom controls to this analog nub but the game did not recognize my custom setting. This not only made using the analog nub difficult, it was upsetting to run into a basic glitch such as this. And even if the player shifts to using the vertical layout, the game?s loading screens are still laid out horizontally and the player still must use the facebuttons (the analog nub does not register) during dialog scenes and menu navigation.
It is not that Ultimate Shooter is a bad concept for a game, it is just that there are many nuisances in the overall presentation that really drag this game down besides the screen orientation and lack of tutorial. Levels are actually quite short. In fact, the horribly bad dialog between the player and boss characters usually take up as much time as playing through the level. The player cannot exit back to the main menu when in the character select screen. The audio does not loop correctly. The dialog and plotline are absolutely useless and should not have even been included. It is a struggle to earn a higher score on the leaderboard, but lacks functionality because high scores can only be boasted locally ? there is no online component to this game.
While there are more than a fair share of flaws, the game does make a decent attempt at providing extra content. Like using Xbox?s Achievement system, Ultimate Shooter uses a medal system in the Challenge mode which provides guidelines and rewards to playing the game in a slightly different style. There is a two-player mode, but again, it is limited to local play and another player will need a copy of the game. And KoF Sky Stage is included as well. This arcade shooter recently made it way on the XBLA, but is it also found here in this Ultimate Shooter package. The Museum mode puts all endings, profiles and art work in one place that hardcore fans will probably appreciate but the average gamer will probably never even access this menu.
NeoGeo Heroes: Ultimate Shooter is an interesting concept as it gives players a new way to experience their favorite NeoGeo-based characters, but the game?s overall presentation suffers from many minor flaws. The high difficulty alone is enough to turn most players away, but finishing most levels with no score is just heartbreaking. The lack of tutorial will leave players scratching their heads while you curse at the size of the PSP?s screen. But if you can look passed the flaws, shooter fans might appreciate the new gameplay elements on one of gaming?s oldest genres.
Not As Good As: R-Type
Also Try: the shooter elements in the Super Mario Land
Wait For It: Ikaruga 2
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