Friday, August 17, 2012

Game Review: Target Terror

Target Terror
  • Publisher: Raw Thrills (Arcade), Konami (Wii)
  • Developer: Raw Thrills (Arcade), Leviathan (Wii)
  • Release:
    • Arcade, May 2004
    • Wii, 22 April 2008
  • Genre: Light-Gun Shooter
  • Players: 1-2
  • Rarity/Cost: Moderate, US$10-20

Here we go again... it's time once again to bring up Raw Thrills.  In the way I see the world, these guys take me back to the mid-90s, a time when two distinct art styles were fighting for control of the arcade game world: 3D-style polygons, pioneered by companies including Sega (Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop) and Namco (Tekken, Time Crisis), and 2D digitised-actor art pioneered by Midway (Mortal Kombat, Area 51).  I gravitated towards the former, if only because at the time I was too young for the blood and gore coincidentally trumpeted by the latter camp, but before long my preferences sticked.  Now, fast-forward a decade, and combine that with how Raw Thrills' inferior racing title more or less overtook Sega's Initial D Arcade Stage series, and my opinion on the company soured pretty quickly.  And the moral of this story is...?  I will not buy American if I don't want to, whether the subject is video games, animation, cars, or pornography.  Or all four at once.  ...Which would be a fan-game based on Transformers: Kiss Players, so forget about it.

The graphics style is years behind the times,
but maybe that's just me.
But I brought up Raw Thrills again not just to make that joke, but to review their other claim to fame: the light-gun shooter Target Terror.  Also known in more sensitive settings by its Japanese title Target Force, it first released for arcades in 2004, and in 2008 got a port for the Wii courtesy of Konami.  This title serves as a spiritual successor to the nigh-identical Area 51 and Maximum Force by Midway, in that the graphics engine utilises chroma-keyed footage of actors as characters, put on top of a pre-rendered CG background.  I'll try to leave this aesthetic approach to personal taste, but it just doesn't work for me, even on a gameplay level - that's right, I'm going so far as to blame it for my difficulty in hitting targets correctly.  And yet this low-tech approach still doesn't save the game from occasional slow-down, if only on the Wii port.  But given that these backgrounds are on the technical level of those lame FMVs from PSone-era games, I was pleasantly surprised that there are breakable objects here and there, mostly in the form of windows.  Regarding the "actors", if I may be permitted to put on my film-critic hat for the moment...  You know what, I won't even bother, because their acting sucks no matter how you look at it, especially in the case of the blonde news anchor who kicks off each level.  Furthermore, the Wii version also lets you adjust the level of graphic violence, with the lowest setting replacing the blood with green paint, the characters' death animations getting cut off, and even explosive fuel barrels get replaced with equally explosive paint barrels.  Taking that with the rest of the game's presentation, it's almost the game is going for self-parody (knowing what they did with The Fast and The Furious, that wouldn't be out of the question), but that doesn't make it any less painful to sit through.  I'm a pragmatist, peoples.

As for how it is played, it's got many of your light-gun game cliches: shooting outside the screen to reload, shooting hostages takes away one life, yada yada.  And it can't even do that well: the enemies are arranged with little to no regard to logic or the flow of motion, and there is no indication as to when they will land a direct hit on you either.  Woe betide you when someone hits you with a melee attack after leaving you no time to react, which is an inevitability, trust me.  Alternate weapons are available to pick up as well, but of these, only the machine gun, shotgun, and explosive weapons are what I'd call useful.  The shocker and freeze ray are, in practise, nothing more than pistols with slower firing rates, and the flamethrower's fire takes a little while to hit the target; unfortunately, you don't always have "a little while".

Yet despite it all, it does do at least a few things I like.  You are able to reload your guns not only by pressing B while pointing off-screen, but also by shaking the Wii Remote. I will admit it is a nice touch, since it helps keep your focus on the action.  Also, there is the Justice Mode, wherein the player can use two guns/Wii Remotes at once.  Assuming you can get over the coordination issues inherent with throwing your non-dominant hand into the mix, it's generally a big help.  Come to think of it, this came out for the arcades right around the time Halo 2 came and made dual-wielding cool.  Considering that, plus the game's title and setting apparently designed to tap into post-9/11 paranoia...  Yup, they're trendwhores.
"Justice Mode" supports two controllers in a one-player game.
Further to its credit, Target Terror is longer than most light-gun games, something which the genre has always struggled with., but that's beside the point.  In total, there are ten levels, each broken up into two sections, for an running time of about one hour.  That's not long in the grand scheme of things, but considering I can clear the arcade modes of the Time Crisis games in about 20 minutes each, I have no choice but to call that improvement.  Now that I mention Time Crisis (a far better series, might I add), the Wii port shares the same continue system: you have a set number of continues to finish the game with (30 in this case, and even on the easy level, you'll need 'em all), but running out will give you more continues the next time you start a new game.

There are bonus games which you can access by completing certain tasks in-level, mainly of the destroying-objects sort. (NB: I cannot confirm their existence in the arcade version.) Oddly, these minigames start immediately after you clear the special objective, rather than waiting for the end of the stage.  I suppose that would dodge the problem of the game ending before the level end could be reached, but as it is, it still unsettlingly breaks the flow of the game, for what that's worth.  And the games themselves heap on the cheese even more than the rest of the game, should that even be possible.  There's one where you shoot terrorists as they try to push tied-up bikini girls into a vat of glowing green acid, and another where you take aim at terrorists in golf carts, an homage to another arcade mainstay, the Golden Tee golf series.  You get extra points from these minigames, but that's it.  In fact, that serves as a metaphor for the game as a whole - when you consider the presence of other, better shooters, they render Target Terror silly and pointless.

Control: 1 terrorist out of 5
Design: 2 terrorist out of 5

Graphics: 1 terrorist out of 5
Audio: 1 terrorist out of 5
The Call: 35% (F)

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