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Reviewed by Malc


A few years before Terra Cresta appeared in the arcades, its prequel Moon Cresta added innovative touches to the Invaders theme, with varied enemies and attacks, and a docking sequence which expanded your ship. Moon Cresta proved a massive hit, (and is still remembered fondly today) - signifying that variety and more complex powerups and controls were required to make the next step up from Galaxians.

The same philosophy was applied to Terra Cresta. Taking it's cue from countless Xevious clones (such as Espial, Exed Exes, and Vulgus - which added nothing new to the genre) it expanded on the whole concept of the vertically scrolling shmup. At first sight it seems yet another clone in gameplay and looks. Dig deeper and you'll discover a powerup system ingenious in its simplicity, bolted on to an addictively difficult and furiously frustrating game.

The weapon system is in many ways unique, and hasn't been copied an awful lot since. Your ship starts as a naked lonely soul, with only a bleepy weedy shot to keep it warm at night. Ground bases (numbered from 1 to 5) appear every so often, and shooting these will release a bolt-on-able section of ship. Collecting these will boost the firepower, adding backshots and a wider spread. A quick bash of the second firebutton will expand the ship temporarily into formation mode, dependent on the amount of extras you've collected.

The ultimate ship is the Terra Cresta itself, only available if you have successfully collected all the powerups without dying. Bashing the second button will morph the ship into a phoenix-like bird, completely invincible for a few seconds. This system is one of the reasons I pumped veritable skiploads of 10 pences into the machine in the arcades. Trying to stay alive to collect that elusive fifth powerup is a completely engrossing experience. The sheer feeling of exhilaration when you finally manage it is unbeatable. Losing your addons, on the other hand, is a screen-punchingly bitter affair!

Without this powerup system, the game would be significantly less fun, but the gameplay itself is compulsive. The enemy ships have a horribly accurate way of swirming around in pattern which match your own pathetic attempts to escape their path - it's preprogrammed, sure, but it's still uncanny how I seem to die so often because I don't learn! Lots of ground activity too, and I was glad to see that you don't need a separate weapon for ground installations for once - just shoot 'em and be done with 'em! The X shaped barriers are indeed a pain in the bahookie, as you'll need to sneak in close to get the guns hiding behind them. Large dinosaurs and iguana-like-beasties roam the plains, spitting fire and taking many hits before they suddenly become calcified bone.

Bosses are typical of an early shooter: unlike many modern games, they are not the be all and end all of the game. Far from it in fact, I've only seen three types so far, and although quite nasty, they aren't huge affairs. The game doesn't stop for them either, just continues into the boss and past it. A later Nichibutsu game I've got on PCB now, Terra Force, does this too - levels sort of merge into each other without defined start and end points.

For an early title, the music is actually rather groovy. Apparently there's two variations on Terra Cresta, each with a different sound chip, and with slightly different tunes. I personally prefer the more muted one, as it's the one I grew up with! Special mention must go to Martin Galway's C64 interpretation of the music, which had a great new title tune.

Nichibutsu has a great back catalogue of shmups, amongst them UFO Robo Dangar, Terra Force, Armed Formation F, and many of them are emulated by one of my favourite emulators, Richard Bush's RAINE.

Unfortunately, their console policy has been less than inspiring. The PC-Engine Terra Cresta 2 is a poor followup of the original, and the Saturn release of Terra Cresta 3D is plain and utter drivel. Armed Formation F, whilst not being brilliant, has an awful PC-Engine conversion. Players hankering after Moon Cresta can play it on MAME, and even on a SNES compilation cart, but Terra Cresta has been a long time in coming home. At the time of writing, RAINE, SPARCADE and MAME all emulate it, together with the X6800 Japanese computer emulator. For a long time, not one of them played it properly, but now finally MAME has come up trumps. Nice one!

SCORE: 8/10
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Not afraid to mix prehistorics with spaceships, Terra Cresta's Terra-nosaurs prove to be a real nuisance with their tortilla breath. Notice here how the ship is expanded, the F icons at the bottom show how many more expansions you can do. And lo and behold! I all but one part of the addons! There it is!! Finally, I get to take a snapshot of the phoenix ship!

"Yes! I am invincible!!"
I was saying this long before anyone had heard of Goldeneye....
See those cross things? Annoying they are - you can't hit the bases behind them! Get in close and take them out before they start shooting.

One of the few Terra Cresta bosses, this one sits and spits bullets while staying a good distance away - not too hard.... ... unlike this one, which closes in and backs you into a corner. Even after all these years (since 1985!) I still can't get very far in it. If anyone can, please take some pics for me? Ta! - Malc


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie