Review by sfcalimari

"Ronald Reagan would not be proud"

Gameplay

Basically you're a little commie running around beating up baddies with your melee weapon. You also have a gun which you can shoot enemies with by locking on to them and firing. The view is top-down at a slight angle. The camera view is kind of like old-school games like Smash TV, and the melee combat is a bit like a more linear version of Dynasty Warriors. Most of the enemies you face are enemy soldiers which you defeat with a combination of your melee and gun weapons; however, here and there in each level you face some large contraption like a tank or flying tank or whatever that hovers around basically filling up the screen with a wild barrage of bullets. Here is where the twitch factor comes in, because you'll need to fire back at the enemy vehicle while also very skillfully and carefully dodging the insane spread of bullets. Fortunately you have a life bar, but mess up and you'll go down pretty quickly.

You have two characters to choose from--the slow but powerful Kyuzo, and the faster but not-so-powerful Makita. Using either is definitely a different experience; this isn't one of those games that gives you multiple characters with completely similar abilities. You have a shield to block attacks, but block too many attacks and you lose your shield for a few seconds while it recharges. You have a variety of melee attacks, which are mostly intuitive and easy to use, but I would have liked a bigger set of melee attacks; like me you'll probably just attack every enemy with the same one or two effective melee combos, which gets a bit repetitive after a while. Also you have a "protocol" attack, which has a bar you have to fill up by hitting enemies with melee attacks. When the bar is full you can use the protocol attack--for Kyuzo a powerful directed beam and for Makita a somewhat useless blast that surrounds her and only hits the enemies that are next to her. Also your guns overheat after extended use; this really raises the challenge of using your guns, especially during the intense boss battles.

Also you can upgrade several of your attributes by collecting points at the end of each level; get hit less in a level and you get a better ranking and more points to spend on upgrades. You can buy new guns, upgrade your guns, upgrade your armor, your melee attacks, etc. This is kind of a nice touch since you have some control over your character's attributes, but it can definitely be challenging to collect enough points to upgrade everything you need for some of the later levels.

So basically the game is a mix of scrolling beat-em-up melee combat and shoot-em-up "dodge the insane old-school spread of bullets" combat. The melee sections are pretty fun, though once you learn the patterns of the enemies' attacks it can get a bit easy and predictable. Once you've played (and died) in a level several times you can easily get through these melee sections without taking any damage. The shoot-em-up sections on the other hand are really intense and basically your survival is dependent on dodging the bullets. Early on in the game it's not too tough but later on it can feel pretty impossible and can get kind of frustrating.

Storyline

Well some commies got in a war and it's your job to help out. Seriously, I don't really know what the storyline is, and the game doesn't really do a good job of getting you interested enough in it to pay attention to it. The game is based on a comic book series, which I haven't read. Before every level you get a report by some guy on your side, but it's just stuff like "go to this province and fight them and win." I guess it's old-school but I would have liked some impressive cut-scenes or whatever, this being 2007 and all, but as with many aspects of this game the storyline is presented in more of a 1992 sort of manner.

Graphics

Well this game was sold new for $20.00 at release so, what, you expect Metal Gear Solid 3 style graphics? The graphics are very simple and really don't look like ps2 graphics at all, in fact they kind of look like graphics on a GameBoy Advance game. All the characters are small and kind of mushy looking. I'm not a graphics maven who expects every new ps2 game to look like MGS3, but I think The Red Star could have benefited from a more modern and impressive look.

For one thing the levels are kind of bland and look very repetitive, and don't really have any kind of atmosphere. Give me the bathroom stalls and bars of Final Fight for the SNES any day.

Music

Eh, I really didn't get anything positive out of the music. It's all pretty much repetitive and forgettable techno stuff.

Overall

Overall the game is pretty good for what it is. It never tries to be anything other than an old school beat-em-up/shoot-em-up budget game, and if you can keep that in mind, it's a fun enough game. Like I said the melee-combat sections of the game can get a bit repetitive after a while, and the boss battles can get pretty frustrating with their massive spreads of bullets. In the later levels you'll basically be slogging through a long and fairly easy melee section, then you get to some boss or mini-boss that cuts you down in 5 seconds. Yeah, this gets a bit frustrating after trying to get past a level 20 times in a row. If nothing else this game is very challenging, but the challenge is a bit uneven--I guess this is the cost of combining two different genres in one game. Maybe different difficulty levels to choose from would have been useful, or checkpoints here and there so you didn't have to suddenly die cheaply and waste 20 minutes of hard effort. But hey, at least you are allowed to save in between each level.

In any case expect a challenge from this game.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/23/07


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