1985, and the NES/FC didn't have a big game library shmupwise. A
lot of solid, if not excellent, shmups were to come the very next
year, but for now the best shmups one had was a solid port of Xevious
and Star Force (not bad at all, in fact). Then there were
these two shmups by dB-Soft: the quaint and ultimately frustrating
Galg and Volguard II, the subject of this review.
(Tangentially, dB-Soft also wrote the Flappys, all of which
are intensely frustrating puzzlers.) The original Volguard was
written for the MSX, so I don't know how much of a sequel this is.
II is a horizontal shmup, with areas and levels (the latter
probably referring to loops of the game; I haven't yet cleared Area
1). You have a boss at the end of each stage, and later in the game,
there are some bigger enemies which you may call sub-bosses if you
want to (and indeed, they can cause you as much grief as the boss
himself). It can remind you of the solid Aldynes if you're
not paying attention too closely, too. At least that's how I felt
the first time I saw Aldynes.
a shmup, Volguard II has two rather unusual features to it:
a shield, and limited ammo (shock!). The former is handled well,
the latter almost always downright annoying. I say 'almost' because
this game has just managed to balance ammo loss with simultaneous
ammo gain. There may be other shmups who use the limited ammo gimmick
well, but please do tell me if you run into them. One way the game
handles these issues is several power-ups for ammo and hits in the
game. some enemy patterns are also structured for you to fill up
your ammo quickly. Later on, too, there are shields which
can let you blow stuff up (especially on the ground) without ammo.
But this disappears at the boss, alas. As a side note, enemies
spray bullets quite liberally at you, odd enough for an NES shmup
in 1985. To return to the shield, you are allowed 99 shots (a bit
much, yes), which is fair since you have to go to some difficulty
to keep your ammo up. These can be recharged as well. But the shield
doesn't protect you from a direct collision. You are warned.
II very faintly offers you the novelty of a transforming ship
once you pick up an 'option' in the course of the game. You can
transform, but I didn't find it that useful. You can only punch
stuff, jump and it's not easy to jump up and punch ships. There
eventually are mechs on the ground whom you can duel with (and have
Arthur Conan Doyle write about it). There are some thoroughly
incongruous 'enemies' out there too: a goo-goo-eyed penguin is just
one of them.
the game isn't too great. Your ship is all squashed up, and it can
be mistaken for a pen, or a dragster, instead of your ship. Scenery
gets monotonous fast too. Common enough complaints for the time,
I daresay. However, some of the enemy animations are quite fancy,
and there is some sort of parallax when you pause the game. The
music is quite drab, with ditties that can at most be counted on
one hand and three fingers.
suppose if I were reviewing this game in 1985, I may be more excited,
but I guess not.