Metal Storm (Import) review
Quite possibly the most fun game for the NES, wish it wasn't so underrated!
Fun and unique gameplay; visuals look stunning especially for their time; even with great visuals, the game hardly ever lags, and when it does, it's not that bad of a moment anyway; fair difficulty (albeit some frustrating parts); never a dull moment; keeps you coming back; bosses are quite challenging and forces you to use your brain to come up with a strategy; hell a lot of things are good about this game!The bad:
Can get frustrating at parts; casual gamers may not like the high difficulty in the later levels.Summary:
As an M-308 gunner, your mission is to go through some factory and blow crap up to save the earth. Well, what you have to blow up are hostile robots hellbent on destroying the world. Okay, not an elaborate story, but hey, it was 1990 when this game was made, give it a break. The story is still a good story, maybe a bit cliched by today's standards, but cut it some slack.
When I heard of this game from the Happy Video Game Nerd (Youtube user), I decided to try it out, and to be perfectly honest, it's as good as he says it is, maybe better. What sucks is that it's an obscure game for the NES, which means unless you've been watching Happy Video Game Nerd's videos or someone told you about it, you have most likely never have heard of it. The developers themselves, Irem, were quite obscure for their time. Now, they are gone like a dot, and so are copies of this game. But if you can find this rare item on Ebay or whatever, then get some snacks and drinks, sit on a comfortable chair and prepare for a long, enjoyable 7-staged ride through a tough game that's called Metal Storm. Know why? Because this game is basically perfect, especially if you're a fan of run and gun games.
Taking advantage of the higher graphical capabilites the NES could ever utilize, Irem have really showed that the graphics are not just a step over the Atari-2600's when it comes to the NES, but could potentially be more like 5 steps, at least.
Honestly, even for an 8-bit NES game, I think the graphics are impressive. My eyes are actually in love with the detailed visuals this game presents.
And don't start thinking that all 7 stages are going to have recycled backgrounds or anything, because the backgrounds are not seen more than twice (each stage has 2 sections, except stage 7, so I guess it makes sense to recycle the background for the second section of a stage). All 7 backgrounds are different from one another, and all look as good as each other. Every background looks so detailed, and without flaws. The color schemes don't hurt your eyes, either. Just shows Irem know how to make proper backgrounds, eh? Screenshot = living proof.
Now let's take a look at some of the character models. You, the M-308 Gunner, look sweet. It really does look like a robot, and one that looks different from all the rabid robots. The rabid robots differ. Whether it be the blue ones you see in the screenshot, some turrets, laser cannons, ships, the whole gang of robots basically, who are all out to kill you, they all look very detailed, just like the backgrounds do. The colors don't hurt your eyes here either, they actually look quite good. The motions of the characters when they move is quite fluent too. There's no shortcutting in the walking, they actually look as fluent as maybe one of today's games, which, when they AREN'T LAGGING, are fluent, almost realistic, human-like (or robot-like really). This is actually quite an acomplishment, as many NES games have shortcuts in movement sprites (cutting out some sprites, for example), whereas Metal Storm, they don't. All I can say is "wow" at that.
As far as the explosions go...when I heard that there's robots, I assumed explosions, and I then thought "well, I bet they'll screw this up". And wow, I was actually wrong. The explosions look brilliant! Well, as brilliant as 8-bit explosions go anyway, but still, the explosions look a hell of a lot like explosions. In fact, my jaw dropped down on my legs when I saw this the first time, because this was something that was only accomplished during the SNES years and beyond (as far as Nintendo graphics go). Honestly, while some run and gun/shoot em ups/arcade shooters have explosions, their explosions just can't compete with Metal Storm's.
And for that, I salute Irem's graphic artists, because these are easily the best NES graphics I've seen...ever.
I should also salute Irem's music team, both the composers and the selectors, because not only are these songs catchy, but they're also well executed and well fitting to whatever moment they're played in. The sound effects, also, are well executed and very fitting to what their timing is. An explosion sounds like the 8-bit equivelant of a real explosion, laser shots sound like 8-bit laser shots, etc etc.
Here's some music that really won me over; The game over music! Instead of your traditional "oh yep, we're gonna do some slightly down-to-earth tune to accompany the game over screen", Irem reads that statement and thinks "screw that, let's actually do some REAL game over music", so they went to work on that, and guess what? It actually sounds like REAL game over music. It's actually a dreary tune played, and it's kind of saddening, like as if you caused the Metal Storm earth to be destroyed. Quite good actually, the music. Hell, all the sounds are good. Kudos to you, Irem music team.
And what can I say about the controls...other than this, they are basically like any run and gun game's controls (A for jump, B for shoot, D-pad to move and aim, Start to pause, blah blah blah), but they go and add in this: Press A while holding up, and you go upside down, thus reversing gravity. Press A while holding down, and you go back to normal gravity before reversing it (more on that later). But what wins me over when it comes to these controls is how simple, responsive and fluent they are. They are simple because they are traditional run and game controls (and if you're not even sure about them, well, you can screw around a bit with them. Don't worry, they're easy to remember). They respond as soon as you press the button, which is also a good thing, because you know the worst thing about irresponsive controls? You're about to die, and you go to shoot back. Well, no matter how much you mash shoot, it doesn't shoot, because it's response speed is slow as molasses. Well, that's not the case with Metal Storm, no siree. Instead, it responds when the right buttons are pressed. And don't worry, the most you'll ever have to use at once would be two; up or down to aim your gun, and A to change gravity or B to shoot up or down. And how about when you're mashing B? Yep, it responds to that too...well, within reason anyway. It has it's speed of when to shoot, so you'll unleash a bullet per 5 milliseconds as long as you mash B good. But please, don't take this as a button masher, believe me, there are only moments when you're doing that.
Wow, I wonder how this game plays, and what the buttons are actually doing for me!
Just...wow. This game takes what makes games such as Contra and Megaman look good, and multiply their awesomess by ten, plus add in a twist of their own. This twist not only makes it unique, it also makes the game more fun and more strategic. Usually, these little additions screw up a game, but not here. Here, it makes the gameplay more interesting. And that twist is called...
Well, you can either have everything go down a straight line, or go up that line. Either way, it brings a whole new twist to the whole run and gun genre. What you do, is that in certain situations, gravity control will save you. Got spikes on the ground? No problem, just reverse gravity. Got some crab on a lower platform firing a huge beam and it's blocking your way? Put gavity back to normal. You'll have to learn proper timing of when to use gravity control in order to survive, and that makes the game just that bit more interesting.
Aside from that, it has everything a good, no, it has everything a GREAT run and gun game has; running, gunning, a bit of platforming here and there, and a tough difficulty. Sorry folks, but if you were expecting such an epic looking game to be easy, then you're looking in the wrong direction. This game has your traditional "1 hit YOU'RE DEAD!!!" thing all run and gun games have going on. So you bump into an enemy or get hit by their shots, you're DEAD! Thankfully, this game starts out easy so you can get used to the gravity quickly, and that you get 3 lives. Also, when you die 3 times and select continue on the game over screen, you simply start at the beginning of the level you died on, with your score back to 0 and without any of your power-ups.
Speaking of power-ups, there's a few of them lying around. One power-up gives you a stronger blaster that goes through walls, which is good for bosses and enemies who hide in walls (turrets mostly). One power-up gives you an extra hit before you die, so if you see this one, GET IT! This one will keep you living a bit longer, so that you can proceed through the level and still get hit once. One power-up gives you a shield, which shields you from minor hits and minor enemies. It helps in some levels (later levels especially), so you may want it. And the last power-up you can get allows you to reverse gravity without getting hurt whilst getting to the ceiling/floor (so while going from floor to ceiling, or ceiling to floor, you won't get hit. You can get hit when you actually get to the floor or ceiling). Good selection of power-ups, though you can only have one at a time.
As far as enemies and bosses go, some enemies die in few shots and aren't all that smart, racking up easy points unless you're careless enough to get killed by them. Bosses, on the other hand, are quite smart, and are NOT easy points. In fact, they're the opposite; HARD POINTS! Each boss requires different methods in order to get to shoot them lots. One requires usage of gravity control while dodging some shots. One requires smart gravity usage whilst dodging these metal balls surrounding it and these lasers shooting right into the middle. And one requires you to get movement patterns memorized well and then when the timing is right, shoot them (yes, one boss is actually multiple bosses). That's...actually pretty darn cool, especially for 1990.
I guess the only problem is that it gets pretty frustrating, especially the later levels when you really have to bust your balls to go through a bunch of enemies without getting hit, as well as some of the bosses sometimes being a pain. I know I lost it at my computer whilst playing this and flashed middle fingers so much it wasn't funny, but this was mostly later in the game (Level 4 and beyond really). Aside from that, it's quite good.
Just...when you finish the game the first time and want to try Expert Mode...BE PREPARED! You'll be facing stronger enemies and stronger bosses. It's essentially the same as regular mode, you just need a password for it, and it's a hell of a lot harder.
Still, it's gameplay is quite impressive, and well worth your time.
Replay Value: 5/5
Honestly, I've played this game for many hours (within my spare time obviously) and still not bored of it. The game is very addicting, and quite fun to play. The Expert Mode boasts more of a challenge, therefore more practise and memorization is needed to beat that mode too. And trying to get the highest score you can before you lose all three of your lives, that's always a fun thing to do too. So yeah, lots of replay value here.
This game is probably the best game on the NES. Too bad this is very rare to find, and it's a bigger shame that hardly anybody has even played it. In fact, the only way you can play this game is through emulation. One think I must say: Irem have really put the NES's power to their limits, took advantage of them and produced one of the very best games the system ever had. Been playing this for a couple of years, plan on playing it more, and I bet, you'll probably feel the same way I do.
Jak's Rating System: 29.5/30
Neoseeker's Rating System: 4.9/5