Space. The final frontier. Also home to a bunch of horrible monsters, hell bent on conquering us apparently. I remember playing this in the arcades when I was pretty young, and while it disturbed me at the time, it was also exciting. The cabinet was pretty big and the artwork and attract mode instantly drew you in. Blood! Guts! A big chunky plastic gun! Hell yeah! What more could you want? I enjoyed every minute of it, and while it was extremely hard, it was good mindless fun. The plot has your typical engrish writing prominent at the time and a protagonist who keeps changing hair colour every few cut scene screens. The basics of it are that in 2039 A.D., man begins deep space exploration, and then
suddenly gets attacked by all manner of weird alien things. This is where you come in.
A walking brick shithouse. Pure 90’s hero with a gun. Totally legit bad ass. Taito really outdid themselves with the
atmosphere of the game as a whole, and it feels like it has aged incredibly well considering it was released in 1990. You have a radar screen down the bottom of the play area that shows the larger aliens as red dots, piles of dead bodies litter the environment, destructible props hide goodies, and that constant Aliens style radar ‘beep’ that still raises the tension during the quiet periods, even after all these years. The aliens are all very well designed with all manner of freakish
creatures ranging from hulking multi limbed, multi eyed horrors to flying mouths with wings, right down to the hulking boss monsters that show some real imagination and thought went into their designs. The graphics are an absolute credit to Taito’s art department even to this day. While the animation frames are only short, the detail of every sprite more than makes up for it, and considering the hardware available at the time, they did a brilliant job with what they had available to them.
You’re sent first off to a ship floating in orbit, somewhere in deep space. From the moment you enter the place, for some unexplained reason, sentry guns drop down and attack, which becomes a reoccurring event, quickly followed by a multitude of tough as nails, multiple limbed horrors, who come screaming down the corridor at you head on. Aliens who want nothing more than to shred you into fleshy ribbons, crack open your head and feast on the soft goo inside. But all is not lost. To aid you in separating their extremities from their torsos, you have your basic machine gun as well as rockets, better known as ‘the panic button’, which you’ll use often. While your gun does come with unlimited ammunition, it does have an energy bar of sorts. Once the bar depletes, your gun will fire much more slowly, and while it doesn’t take long to recharge you will find yourself dribbling bullets rather than spraying them more often than not. While you can shoot various environmental props to release power ups, they don’t seem to actually help much. Combine this with the incredibly tough enemies and you’ll find yourself hitting the start button to continue a hell of a lot. The game never gives you a break and would have been a serious cash eater at it’s release, most likely leading to many vandalised cabs from frustrated gamer’s.
After completing the levels on the ship, you’ll then journey down to a nearby planet base, bulldoze your way across the surface to the entrance, before blasting your way down through the depths of the complex, hitting self destruct, fighting your way to the escape ship and blasting the hell out of there. Throughout your journey wading through knee deep alien innards, you’ll come across hostages running out at you, screaming for your help. Saving them increases your end of level score, which incidentally resets on continuing, which you’ll be doing a lot of, so it’s more of a personal challenge to see how many you can save, rather than a score chaser as such. Alternatively you can roleplay the ‘no witnesses’ secret service type and just spray anything and everything, all the while calling it collateral damage and going over in your head how you’re going to tell the families that there was nothing that could be done and practising your best poker face.
The developers came up with some pretty inventive and challenging ways to rescue them during the course of the game, should you decide to do so. While the initial few just run towards you screaming, soon you’ll see hostages being gripped in the aliens hands as they charge towards you, trapped in cocoons and even strung up in spider style webbings, sometimes making it a real challenge to free them without blowing them away in the process. There are even a few that run towards you as normal before suddenly shape shifting into aliens and attacking you just as they get near, which from memory both absolutely horrified and excited me at the time. At various points during some of the levels, you actually get to choose which direction to continue in, some of which give you a chance to boost your arsenal with aforementioned crappy power ups, or just throw a huge group of enemies at you, but it was a pretty new thing for games at the time, and helped give you the illusion of choice as well as some replay value.
After blasting through an absolute horde of monstrosities, you’ll take on the end of area boss monster. These bastards not only take the equivalent of an entire first worlds arsenal to destroy, but they also manage to take cheap shots at every chance. Like most arcade shooters at the time, shooting them doesn’t stop them attacking, so while they shrug
off your puny weaponry, they’ll also be biting your face off without any real warning, all the while releasing groups of bastard spawnlings to distract your firing. The bombs tend to help out a lot here if you’re finding it hard to make any real headway and just want to push past them. While it’s hard enough staying alive through the normal corridor sections, the bosses are almost impossible to kill without using at least one extra credit.
The games only real downfall, apart from the badly relayed plot and the fact that it’s ridiculously hard, is that it is also relatively short. To have finished this game in the arcades would have been an absolute mission of the highest order, even for the pro gamer, score chaser types of the period. Even Operation Wolf is a walk in the park compared to the
difficulty setting of Space Gun. In saying that, it’s an extremely fun game that I find myself returning to every few months to blast through once more. If you’re a light gun or sci-fi horror fan, I recommend having a try of it. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.”
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