of people ask me what my favourite shmup is, and although they probably
expect the glib "R-Type" reply, instead they'll be slightly bemused
while I wax moistly on about Nichibutsu's UFO Robo Dangar.
billed as the "Ultimate Formation Powerup Game!" Dangar (pronounced
"dang-gar" - The connoisseur's preferred shortened version) is a
pseudo sequel to Terra Cresta
, but no-one would actually tell you this. Looking at it for a few
seconds would prompt you to cry "Ah! Terra Cresta 2". It's not though.
Although there's many ideas and elements from the classic TC, a
lot of it is brand new.
probably worked out that Dangar is a vertically scrolling shootemup
by now, and have a small bronze medal for that. It's also from 1986,
a pretty damn pleasant year for shmuppers and fans of classically
styled games. (Jackal, Salamander, Tokio , Slapfight and Side-Arms
all came out that year too.)
Dangar has one irritatingly addictive trait, then it's the weapons
system. Like Terra Cresta, getting tooled up to the max can be difficult:
accrue bolt-on extra ship parts by shooting certain well-spaced
out icons, but an enemy shot can strip you down to the naked unenhanced
ship. Like sensible restart points, this makes you want to REALLY
stay alive and unmaimed, rather than the lackadaisical attitude
you get in player-resurrect method shooters.
parts will morph your ship transformer style into bigger ships and
Mechas, culminating in one of three ultimate final configurations.
Different formations give reverse lasers, sideways spreads, and
the Robo Dangar has a sort of "bum-force-field" which will kill
smaller enemy ships.
addition to this are limited "expand" options, which will temporarily
change your ship configuration - usually wider, stronger but more
vulnerable to being hit. A handy little feature here is the fact
that you get a couple of second's invincibility when you morph -
so you can keep them for extra-sticky situations!
structure is Dangar's other main selling point. Normal levels are
above-ground affairs, the normal volcano, shrubland, trees, cities
straight from Terra Cresta. But, if you spot a warphole, you can
dive into the Big Bosses' Lairs - which are spacey, organic, alien
environments in another dimension or something. Normal enemies have
predictable enough patterns, but tend to catch you out with a quick
change of direction (straight at you) when you least expect it.
a good variety of air and ground life to splat, and the dinosaurs
from TC make a welcome return as mecha godzilla beasties, complete
with roary death sfx! Some mid-bosses appear about halfway to a
warp point, a couple have been nicked direct from TC - lazy, but
offer some cuddly familiary. Da Big Bosses though, they're a different
matter. Sometimes easy to catch their pattern, sometimes just a
matter of reflexes, they can be vicious and tenacious in the way
only certain shmups' bosses are.
of bosses ins some games are docile sluggish creatures, helpfully
opening their chest cavities to expose their feeble hearts, or kindly
flashing a weak spot with a 2000 watt bulb when you tickle it. Mostly
though, Dangar bosses just don't let up - they constantly bombard
you with small missiles and ships, without a break... it's keeping
the rhythm going that's the hard bit. After a minute of "dodge dodge,
shoot, dodge, nip, scoot, shoot", you fumble the rhythm and run
straight into a bullet.
not really about bosses though - the actual levels feel solid and
complete without them, not just merely quick and uninteresting roads
to travel to Boss country - the "hurry and get to the boss" feel
that the AeroFighters and Strikers games have.
Dangar is a strange one. Featuring a europoppy arcadey melody over
a heavy techno drum beat - it simultaneously annoys and pleases.
There's no way you can think of playing the game with music off,
but you wish there was. You probably don't know what I mean but
playing it again brings back memories of those rare "dead-serious
competition with a total stranger" sessions we used to have in classic
arcades - where games were played for score, and skills not credits
were required. Me and this bloke (we never spoke, we silently took
turns knowing were were exactly as good as each other) would rack
up huge scores on it, and every time I'd get an impossible score
it he'd just nick past it... games of ten at a time were not uncommon
back in '86! In fact, I nearly got started on a rant about some
of today's no-fun skill-free score-free games there, but I caught
myself in time fortunately.
At risk of being accused of being overly rose-tinted and mindful
of the good-old-days.... I'll have to slap a 10 on it. That's for
sheer playability mind you, graphics and sound are really quite
average and functional these days- although they do suit the game
and I like them anyway. However, on the "how much I spent on it
in the arcades" rating, there's just no question about it.... a
definite unquestionable 10.