TOKIO SCRAMBLE FORMATION
TAITO - ARCADE
Reviewed by Malc
me a an anti-retro-heretic if you will, but sometimes I get a mite bored
with Very Very Old Games. VVOGs, to coin a term, don't justify the term
'classic' just because they happen to be ancient. Sometimes I can't see
how anyone would get a minute's worth of gleeful enjoyment from them,
never mind a couple of hours. Were we so easily pleased back in those
days, or did we just not know any better?
Many readers may be familiar with a certain emulator called MAME. While I love the borg-like beastie, many of the games contained therein will forever be relegated to the '5 second quick-check' department. As a result, the typically 50+ odd games supported each beta release will only serve to hide the small amount of truly playable classics worthwhile of your time.
One of these games is Taito's Tokio Scramble Formation. Tokio is an old friend to me, whom I first met in my local smoke-filled arcade emporium. It had a painfully low cabinet, with a cracked screen, fuzzy monitor and was positively smeared with some unidentified greasy foodstuffs. (Hah! emulate that!) But it was only 10p a go, and being a poor student, I scoured my duffle coat for a few coins to play it with.
Fun it was then, and astoundingly, it's still as much fun now. Playability is an oft-used term, but I can truly apply it to Tokio. The graphics are downright lousy in places, and the backgrounds repeat far too often. The music is catchy as hell, but with only one real music track to listen to the whole way through, it does get a bit wearing. Ignore all that. The game itself is one of those finely tuned little vertical scrollers that does everything right within the limitations of the hardware.
The weapon system has a lot to do with this. You only really get one pickup, and that's a small red drone plane. Catching these will allow you to change formations, with each formation type altering the weapons style. . The drones also act as a sort of shield, but the more drones you get, the bigger you get, and the easier it is to get hit. (Pretty similar to the way Terra Cresta worked if you've ever played that.)
What helps the gameplay is the level design too. Effectively just one huge long level, which loops back to the start, the game is broken up by flying through clouds. One minute you're above the clouds attacking swarms of enemy planes, then you swoop down a few feet above the city, between tower blocks dropping bombs on tanks, then you're up again a thousand feet, with the cityscape far below.
Tokio never was really much a boss-fest, with only one large baddie popping up again and again, like the mothership in Nemesis. The gameplay revolves around about 8 different enemy types, each of which had unpredictable and nasty attack patterns. (I'll take you through a few in the shots below). In essence, a supremely playable 12 year old vintage, and although the emulation is not yet complete as I write this, it's not far away from perfection at all, and much gratitude goes towards the clever blokes responsible for writing the MAME driver. (The sound is especially good). Play it and find out for yourself.
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