Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Nemesis '90 Kai – SPS - 1990

This is perhaps one of the best original X68000 games with mass appeal to Retro Gamers – after all, who doesn't like Gradius? The placing of this game within the series' story and the reasons behind its name are complicated and frankly, boring: all you need to know is that this is an oft overlooked Gradius title that punches well above it's weight. The Wikipedia article on MSX Nemesis 2 provides background though, if you are interested.

What you may want to know (or not want to know, depending on how much of a masochist you are!) is that this game can be brutal, though it is easy to manage the level of difficulty in game. The reload time and shot speeds of enemies get significantly higher with every option you pick up and at a certain level release a shot every time you kill one. Bosses too are affected by this, often gaining a pattern with each option. So for easier play the solution is to limit yourself to less options. Once you understand this it is a much more manageable task than say Gradius III. In a nasty twist of fate the last boss isn't futile as his equivalents in other titles and can be quite difficult, unless you know where to sit.

Another great feature about this game and one that is utilized in few others in the series is the 'recovery run'. That is upon defeating a boss you can fly your ship, with careful maneuvering, into his Core. This triggers a mini-level in which you must navigate a tight set of tunnels brimming with turrets towards the true Core, where your fighter will capture it, giving you access to a new weapon – with a few in an additional weapons slot on your ship. Some of these are down right essential – level one's reward is the 'up laser', which in addition to your missile and shot/laser projects a rather wide laser upwards. This gives fire power that previously only the Double came near to covering. Sadly the majority of the other bonus weapons aren't as handy, some being more of a handicap. That said the upgraded Laser does look quite flashy. There are also time limited power ups throughout the game in strategic locations. One makes your options spin around you, another give you a wave laser that cuts down everything in its path.

Graphically the game is nice, though doesn't push the platform to the heights of say Aquales - remember however that this is a game from 1990. The bonus stage is perhaps the best looking, though its a shame many won't experience it first hand. This stage also harbors a blinder of a track, even if it isn't as good as the version at the loading screen of Nemesis '94 (But not Nemesis '93...see why I didn't want to get into it!). Perhaps the Roland MT-32 and SC-55 soundtracks are nicer, but I don't own either (You can get the real units to work with the emulator via MIDI, if you do in fact own them). Sounds and music, otherwise, are pretty standard fare for Gradius games, so at least you know what you are getting.

The options menu is slightly meatier than some X68000 games and consists of a difficulty setting (Easy, hard and 'Nomal' [sic]), number of lives option (3 or 99 with no score – good for practice!), sound module selection and button/key configuration. There is also a sound test option for previewing the various tracks used throughout the game.

All in all though it is only a Gradius-average in some areas, the solid gameplay and adjustable difficulty shine through and makes the game very accessible, making for a great entry in the series. There are 14 stages too, so plenty of game to be had. Highly recommended.

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