Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Night Slave (PC-98)

Night Slave title screen
I'm always eager to try games for systems I'm not familiar with, but it's surprisingly difficult to find out about good Japanese computer games that are both playable without understanding the language, and not filled with cartoon porn. So I decided to compromise this time around.

Wikipedia tells me that Night Slave on the PC-98 is an eroge game, warning that it's gonna have naked anime ladies in the cutscenes in place of an actual storyline. But it also comes with an option to turn the cutscenes off in the menu and play it as a pure action game about giant robots shooting things. No sex, just good clean violence.

So I'll assure you upfront that this post is going to be entirely safe for work, for so many obvious reasons.

Here's one obvious reason: I don't have the patience to sit through the cutscenes. They're all entirely in Japanese and I wouldn't understand a thing that's going on in them. Endless message boxes filled with indecipherable text, in front of still backgrounds of people chatting in an office.

Oh, so those women in the last screenshot are mech pilots then? Well that explains the outfits at least.

Wait, no it doesn't.

Alright skipping ahead to the game then.

They've given me the ability to choose my own gun and sub-weapon, and have thoughtfully made the process simple by only giving me one of each to choose from.

Okay, the game's a run and gun platformer and I'm playing as one of these shiny grey robots. The one facing backwards I think.

Honestly I was expecting it to look a little better considering it came out in 1996, but then I barely know anything about the PC-98. On the other hand I wouldn't really call it ugly and the mechs are well animated.

One by one my mech friends abandoned me until only I was left. But who even needs them? I've got homing missiles.

Plus I can aim my gun by pressing up and down, a bit like in that Metal Warriors game I played a few weeks ago on the SNES, and I can fly around with my jetpack for short bursts... a bit like in that Metal Warriors game I played a few weeks ago on the SNES.

Actually this is a lot like Metal Warriors so far and there's apparently a good reason for that. I did 30 seconds of intensive internet research and it turns out that the two games both take heavy inspiration from similar shooters in the Assault Suits series, such as Cybernator on the SNES. Man, try saying that last line out loud.

The powerup system on the other hand is totally Gradius inspired, as each of these orbs I collect moves the selection on that little menu down there one space to the right. If I activate it now for instance I'd get a 'Sub-W' upgrade point, then collecting the orb would light up 'Energy', or I could collect the orb first and move the highlight across to the 'Shield' powerup box.

Whatever I do I've got to choose fast, as these orbs blink out of existence ridiculously quickly.

I selected the shield powerup in the end, which gave me a metal shield on my arm. What it does though, I have no idea. A short walk later I found myself entering this tunnel snaking underground.

Then I decided to invest my next few orbs into 'Gun-W' upgrades and health (Energy), and made a disturbing discovery. Selecting 'Gun-W' doesn't actually upgrade my weapon, instead it gives me a single point towards eventually upgrading my weapon. I've got 2 out of 4 points so far, so I'd need four more orbs for the upgrade.

Hey look down there on the floor, the enemies come in a mini version too! Hold on for a second there lil' guy, I'll get around to shooting you and your big brother in a second once I've sorted out these turrets.

This is my new and improved upgraded rifle by the way. I spent eight orbs on the this thing in the end and they're not that easy to come by. But then made another disturbing discovery. Each time I level up my weapon, the points I need to get another upgrade increase dramatically. To receive my next level of firepower I'll need to send away 12 tokens this time, meaning 24 orbs in total.

And the way I play, most orbs I pick up are going to immediately get spent on health.

Oh hey, it seems that I've stumbled right into a giant robot boss armed with homing missiles and a minigun as big as I am. How inconvenient.

Still, it's probably worse for him than it is for me. I've played Walker, I know how bloody annoying it can be to try to shoot down a tiny little guy a fraction of my height when he won't stop moving around.


I hate boss fights. Well okay not all boss fights, but I mean generally. They often require learning a routine through trial and error, or activating some kind of mechanism three times over, or if I'm very very lucky the boss just has a giant health bar and never bloody dies.

The things stomps back and forth, drops floating mines, fires off missiles, and all I can do here is keep firing. It would be nice to see his health bar at least, so I could have some indication that I'm making any progress here. I mean damn, for all I know I'm supposed be shooting his shiny metal Achilles' heels.


Well it turns out I was killing the boss just fine and he eventually crumpled into a smoking heap.

Now I'm back outdoors on level two and I have a Harrier for a sidekick! I would have thought these old jump jets would have been phased out long before we reached the giant robot era, but nope the thing's still around and it's kicking ass.

It seems that I don't take damage from collision with enemies, so the safest way to take out these enemy mechs is to walk inside them and shoot them from where they can't hit me back. They tend to take a while to explode though, annoyingly. But I suppose It's possible I'm simply paying the price for spending so many orbs on on health earlier instead of using them to pimp my gun.

I miss my super powered melee attack from Metal Warriors, that always got the job done if I could ever get it to connect. Not that I'm absolutely certain I don't have one in this.

Son of a... did this boat just blow up my jump jet? That is unforgivable!

Actually though I'm thinking I might just let them off, as revenge is taking forever. I have to blow up each section and turret at a time and they're taking a fair few rounds to demolish. Kinda takes all the fun out of mindless destruction really.

Whoa, I'm at the boss fight already? That was a seriously straightforward level compared to the winding tunnels of the first stage. I mean seriously, all I did was walk forward holding down the fire button.

Wow, I thought I was doing some seriously damage there, but nope. It turns out I was actually just helpfully removing the broken door covering up his rapid-fire homing missile launcher. I'm not sure if I should be shooting these missiles or getting out of the way. My mech's jetpack has a bit of a delay to it, so dodging isn't exactly the thing's strong point. Kinda takes all the fun out of leaping around explosions like a lunatic really.

Ow. Next time I guess I should try shooting upwards at the missiles crashing right down onto my head I guess, instead of across the water at the ones coming nowhere near me.

Oh damn I just noticed that the explosion isn't fading away and it's been constantly draining my health! Crap, I might be in serious trouble here now.


FINALLY HE EXPLODES! Oh and look at that, I killed him with zero hit points remaining on my first try! You couldn't ever manage that deliberately, not that you'd want to.

So what's this guy's problem huh? I guess this must be part of a cutscene, seeing as he hasn't ended me with a single shot yet. Still it's a good opportunity for me to show off my mech's rifle animation in action. Making it rain infinite shell casings.

You know, somehow this gif feels like a metaphor for how the fights in this game have been going lately.

He finally got bored and ran off, and that's the second mission complete! To celebrate I jumped off the side of the submarine and flew around with my jetpack for a second or two, before running out of thrust and falling helplessly into the ocean.

Instant game over. No lives, no continues, and killing that boss was a total waste of time. I'd be pretty miserable if it wasn't hilarious. Though it does autosave at the start of every new stage, so I could replay the level from the beginning if I felt like it.

I don't.

So what did I think of Night Slave's gameplay? I actually thought it was pretty good, or at least it could have been if bigger enemies didn't take so long to explode. Also even with the story turned off you still have to skip through some in-game dialogue boxes, which can be annoying if you don't understand a word of what they're saying (and possibly annoying even if you do). I'm not entirely sold on the weapon upgrade system, as it seems like you'd need to diligently hoard a ton of those orbs to get anywhere with it, though I do like how the upgrades are permanent.

But I think I'm done with the game now, I don't see myself playing it any further. I'm tired... tired of all the shooting, and if a game's managed to make me bored of guns then it must be doing something wrong.

Want to talk about Night Slave, or share your own opinions on the opinions presented above? Comments are always appreciated, as long as they're awesome.

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Semi-Random Game Box