Review by kristina kim
"Not quite Radiant Silvergun...."
Mars Matrix is one of the many Capcom-published shooters to come out for the DC, and it stands as one of the better ones compared to it's brethren.
Mars Matrix isn't the prettiest game ever, and it isn't the ugliest game ever. What the game really lacks is polish. The sprites are rendered in a really low resolution and can seem quite blurry at times. The swarms of enemies you'll face sometimes get lost in the backgrounds and the sea of bullets that will target your ship for destruction.
MM consists of mostly techno dance-beat tunes, some of which are catchy, some of which are annoying, and almost all of which are forgettable. The music and sound effects seem more utilitarian than anything, a reminder that you're still playing, or that you're firing upon your enemy. Nothing spectacular.
You can only choose between 2 different ship types, and each ship can only produce 1 type of fire pattern; there's the Mosquito 1, which can fire a weak spread shot, and then there's Mosquito 2, which fires a concentrated laser shot and can maneuver somewhat faster than the Mosquito 1. Other than ship speed and fire pattern, both ships are identical.
Mars Matrix relies on the oft-reproduced new-age idea behind all shooters these days: the reflect force. Basically, your ship has the ability to absorb enemy shots for a short period of time, and then reflect them back at the enemy. If activated for long enough, and if you absorb enough enemy fire, you'll be able to activate the only bomb at your disposal, the Black Hole bomb. Instead of your typical ''shoot the ship that's a different color/slightly larger and more menacing to gain a power-up'' you collect gold that is dropped by destroyed enemies. The gold you collect fills into a combo meter. The trick to the game is to keep your combo meter at least slightly full; once you've collected enough bonus gold, you ship's firepower will receive an upgrade, up to 8 levels. However, when you die, instead of being powered all the way back to level 1, you keep the same level of firepower you had before death. These features add a great deal of balance to the game; you aren't constantly dying in order to come back and use up all your bombs in order to die again, and you aren't left weak and hopeless if you die right before a boss.
This is where MM really shines. There are a wealth of different modes in the game, as well as a ton of different options available for unlocking. These secret options allow you to tweak the game in almost every way, whether it be to change the color of your ship, the speed at which your combo meter fills, or even the starting level of firepower. Among the more interesting goodies is the Strategy option, which allows you to see the computer play each level, disposing of enemies and leveling up in the most efficient matter. The amount of extras tacked onto a shooter, a genre not known for replay value, makes it worth playing over and over.
Overall, i give it an 8. The game is easy to get into, although somewhat challenging. The engine doesn't give you any excuses for doing poorly in the game. The extra modes, secrets, and options really add a lot of replay value to the game and give it a good degree of customization. Although it's not the best shooter out there, it's one of the better ones to come along in recent memories.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/02, Updated 03/29/02
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