Monday, June 23, 2014

Shooter Month: Summer Carnival '92: Recca

Summer Carnival '92: Recca
  • Publisher: Naxat Soft 
  • Developer: Kid 
  • Release: 
    • NES, 17 July 1992 (Japan only) 
    • Nintendo 3DS, 5 September 2013 
  • Genre: 2D Action (Shoot-em-up) 
  • Players: 1 
  • Save: N/A 
  • Rarity/Cost: 
    • NES: Very rare, US$300-1,000 
    • 3DS: DLC, US$5 
You know when a new video game console comes on the market, but its predecessor still has a good deal of life left in it? That can lead to some awkward, even unfortunate, moments. For example, Shantae has been cited by some as the best game ever made for the Game Boy Color -- I believe I may have implied something of that nature. The problem was, by the time it was released, the Game Boy Advance had been on the market for a year, so for the sake of putting their resources where the hip new thing was at, Capcom made only a limited production run of the game. Oh wait, this was the same Capcom that cancelled Mega Man Legends 3... okay, bad example.

Let's move on to the actual subject of today's review: Summer Carnival '92: Recca, a shoot-em-up released only in Japan for the Nintendo Famicom, but two years into the lifespan of the Super Famicom. From what I've read, Recca was made for an annual shooting-game competition, something which apparently was all the rage in early-90s Japan. [1]  So, it's sort of like Nintendo World Championships '90 and those other multi-game challenge carts, right? Not exactly; it has a fully-featured single-player campaign, albeit a short one, and it had its own production run, with a box and everything. A very limited production run, mind you; a hard copy of the game will either cost you hundreds or even thousands of US dollars. Or you could visit and see how you could get a reproduction copy made for around $20. #NotSponsored  Thankfully, that all changed in 2013, when Nintendo offered the game on the 3DS eShop for a mere $5. #StillNotSponsored  But even at that low price, is Recca worth it?
Letting go of the trigger button charges a bomb, and also builds your score.
Recca offers three modes, all designed for one player: a standard campaign consisting of four stages, a Score Attack mode where you have two minutes to score as many points as possible, and a Time Attack mode where you have five minutes to score a million points. No matter which mode you select, your ship has a main weapon which can be changed and upgraded with blue-coloured items, and will thankfully auto-fire when you hold the B button. But let go of B, and an energy meter at the bottom of the screen will fill up. Press B again when it is full, and you launch a bomb which lingers on the screen for a few seconds. Furthermore, you can pick up red-coloured items to gain and power-up a secondary helper gun, which fires when you hold the A button. Think the Option modules from Gradius or R-Type and you've got the idea. But these extra turrets offer more than just added firepower. Recca has a peculiar scoring system: in addition to earning points for shooting targets, your score increments automatically -- as long as you're not firing your main weapon. So while running through the levels with B held down and guns blazing is a perfectly acceptable strategy for survival, it would not have won you the tournament this game was made for.

And your skills would need to be of tournament-ready caliber in order to thrive, nay, survive in Recca. As I said before, there are only four stages in the main game, each of which last five to ten minutes and host at least two bosses, so it's not much for length. (Unless you beat the game and reset, in which case you get to play a second campaign, like The Legend of Zelda's second quest.) But what it lacks there, it more than makes up for in challenge -- specifically, in its pace. Enemies fly onto the screen from all directions at a tremendous rate, so there will be many, many ships and bullets for you to dodge. And you lose all your power-ups every time you get hit. A lot of games do that, so I'm not gonna single out Recca on this offence, but still, I'm never a fan of this decision. If our ship's gonna be a one-hit-point-wonder anyway, why not let us keep our upgrades until we continue? Or maybe I'm just not good enough to appreciate this game, whatever. Ironically, most bosses tend to be easier than the stages leading up to them, since you only need to drop a few bombs on them to win. Which is why I feel no shame whatsoever in sharing with you an infinite-lives cheat. Ready? Here it goes: Hold Select during the opening Naxat Soft logo. This will open a menu where you can change the score target for Time Attack mode. Before leaving this screen, press Start while holding A, B, Select, and Up. Start a game in any mode and you will have infinite lives.
Recca employs various background effects and doesn't often slow down.
Summer Carnival '92: Recca is a well-put-together shooter, don't get me wrong. But for some reason I just couldn't connect with it. Maybe it's the visual aesthetics; the colour palette seems to focus on reds, blues, and violets, making for a somewhat monochromatic affair. And even though I will give credit to the graphics engine for employing special effects to the backgrounds every once in a while, and only suffering slowdown in rare, specific instances, the combination of warping backdrops and limited colours makes the visual action hard to make out, or at the very least a little ugly. Maybe it's the soundtrack; it seems to be going for a house/jock-jam feel, with intricate beats and lots of sound-effect samples. It's impressive in theory; you don't see, or rather hear, many NES soundtracks emulating real-world musical genres. But it suffers a similar problem I had with 1942 in that with the NES's sound hardware, it just isn't rendered in a pleasing manner. I don't know, maybe if this soundtrack got a remake with some real production, I'd like it a lot more. Or maybe I'm just the type of gamer who demands a difficulty curve on which I can ride a game to the end without relying on cheat codes. Oh well, practise makes perfect, I guess.

+ A unique scoring system that values making your shots count.
+ The bosses are breathers compared to the rest of the game.
+ Innovative graphical effects with limited slowdown.
+ An ambitious house soundtrack.

- Insane difficulty.
- An ugly colour palette.

Control: 4 minutes out of 5
Design: 3 minutes out of 5
Graphics: 4 minutes out of 5
Audio: 3 minutes out of 5
The Call: 75% (B-)
[1] ZZZ. "Recca". Hardcore Gaming 101. 21 April 2007

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