|I've never known just what the fuck a unicorn has to do with the U.N. ...oh well.|
U.N. Squadron is a side-scrolling shooter developed by Capcom, released originally as an arcade game in Japan in 1989 under the title Area 88. It was named and modeled after a manga by the same name. It made its way to the SNES in America in 1992. It's an exceptionally fun shooter with a lot of interesting gameplay elements you don't find in SNES shooters very often. Let's dive in, Efreet-first.
As near as I can tell, the original game follows a group of 3 pilots (Shin Kazama, Greg Gates, and Mickey Scymon) who work to take down a terrorist group named Project 4. All you really need to know is there's a lot of assholes with planes, boats, and tanks who really want to fuck your day up. It's your job to try your hardest to, in turn, fuck up the day of everyone who dares fire at your plane.
The graphics are actually surprisingly good for a SNES game. At a lot of points, they fit a metric dickton of enemies on screen, along with dozens of bullets and missiles and explosions, and some of the boss ships look stunningly awesome. There's very rarely on lag on the SNES port (though I can't speak for the arcade port).
|Holy shit! It's the Aurora! Sidenote...Shin looks far too much like an emo to be a fighter pilot.|
First, U.N. Squadron, like almost any shooter, gets really damned hard at points. The goal is to pick a level from the main map and shoot your way through it, killing as many (or as few, if you like a challenge) enemies as you can. You can choose the levels in any order you like as long as it's available on the main map. You can pick between sub levels, quick little supply truck levels, or air attack levels (all of which you use a jet fighter on). The main difference is who the enemy is. You have a life gauge that lowers with each hit you take, contrary to most shooters where if you take one hit, you instantly die. Every enemy you kill gives you a minor amount of money, and finishing a stage will give you a large amount of money.
All of this money can be spent on a number of different weapons for your plane, as well as even buying new and better planes. This feature is unique to the SNES version. In arcades, each of the 3 pilots had their own plane and that was it. Now, regardless of pilot, you start with the weakest plane (F-8E Crusader), and every pilot has the ability to buy planes all the way up to the best one (F-200 Efreet). As you buy better planes, each has its own strengths and weaknesses; some only allow certain weapons, some are only suited for air attack, some are only suited for ground, and some are equally well-balanced.
As far as weapons go, there's really a pretty large range. There's of course the standard machine gun-type shot that you have an infinite supply of. As you kill certain enemies, power ups will drop. Collecting enough will cause your machine gun to move to the next strongest level. Other weapons include a cluster shot (fires shots outward in a circle around you), bombs (must be dropped on the enemies), bullpup (fans missiles forward), gunpod (fires machine gun at 45 degree angle upward), MegaCrush (deals MASSIVE damage to enemies, killing most on screen and heavily damaging bosses), and many more. Most of these have ammo limits, so even if you buy a weapon, if you exhaust its ammo, you won't have it for the next level.
Each of the fighter pilots also has their own advantages and disadvantages. From the game: "Shin increases his firepower the most quickly, Mick can shoot two special weapons at the same time, and Greg recovers from being damaged twice as fast as the others." What this really means is that Mick gets more ammo from ammo pickups, Shin increases to the Vulcan Cannon (strongest cannon) faster than everyone else, and Greg's life bar will fill up faster after being hit.
Don't be fooled...the game doesn't sound difficult, but you have to be VERY good to make it through this game without dying (or even at all depending on the difficulty settings). Here's a short video demonstrating an early level on one of the higher difficulty levels.
The music in this game is really what you would expect from a Capcom game. A lot of it is great music, but in my opinion, it doesn't stand out too much. I think I'm a bit biased, though, since I've played through almost all of the Mega Man games, all of which are also made by Capcom...the music in U.N. Squadron just can't quite compare. It is still very good on its own, though. Listen through just a minute or two of this. It also shows a bit more of the gameplay, but with the sound effects cut out.
The sound effects in this game are much the same; good on their own, but nothing to write home about. Every shot sounds like a generic side-scrolling shooter shot should (alliteration for the win!), and the explosions all fit in just fine.
Replay Value: 5/10
This game is hard to win. Trust me on this. I've beaten U.N. Squadron exactly once out of 4 or 5 genuine efforts to sit down and play through it. It requires a large amount of skill and very quick reaction times. As a result, unless you're a hardcore shooter fan, you won't come back to this game very often. However, one incentive is to try out each of the three pilots at least once, since they really do affect gameplay quite a bit.
U.N. Squadron was a super fun game to play through, and certainly deserving of a playthrough. Whether or not you play it multiple times is up to you, but it warrants a decent shot.
Do yourself a favor, and be wary of the SR-71 Blackbird in level 8.
|Little do you know, Greg Gates just shat himself.|