Genre: Shmup Developer: Innerprise Software Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1990
Battle Squadron is a somewhat average game. It’s not the best, but you can certainly get enjoyment out of it. Plus it has a two-player mode, and who can argue with that? Of course, I always did wonder why the cartridge was different from my other Mega Drive games. Was it some sort of region locking or something much much more sinister? Or it could just be that this was an EA game and I had no idea that American and Australian Mega Drive games were physically the same.
This game is of great difficulty, I’ll just say it now rather than later because quite honestly, I have not been able to complete it 100% without a Game Genie. I’m not really a SHMUP fanatic and can understand they are supposed to be hard, but if you are looking for an easy game, turn away. Not even ten years of owning Battle Squadron helps me play it better. But there is a good side to the difficulty, you can adjust it to increase the amount of lives and credits you have (You may want to increase the credits available in multi-player, its simultaneous and you both have to share the credits) and slow or speed up enemy bullets. But even at the easiest difficulty, this game can still be very hard.
The gameplay is a bit more complex than the plot, which consists of you being the pilot of a spaceship to rescue some people stupid enough to get taken hostage by evil space aliens. Original isn’t it? Okay, so there is more detail to it than that, but that’s the general gist of it. Your ship moves more slowly than half of the enemy spaceships you face, but it is still very agile, and you are still able to pull off some impressive stunts to avoid being killed. The type of ammo most enemy spaceships or other beings use are some sort of yellow bullet, it is generally easy to avoid them but combined with the not so speediness of your ship and the sometimes cluttered screen it can be hard not to die, colliding with any enemy spaceship will also cost you a life so be careful, these aliens are very suicidal.
The projectiles you shoot are thankfully not these bullets. Instead, you have four different types of projectiles available: the default one that eventually covers the front and the sides thoroughly, a bullet type that launches red balls across almost all the front with multiple sprays, a front weapon that can easily cause destruction if you can avoid crashing into anything and a blue coloured laser that fires in the front and the back of your ship. All of them shoot rather fast, but you can’t shoot more than twice until the projectiles leave the screen. If you die, the weapon level goes down by one until it reaches its lowest one. There is a lower level but that is only attained when you use up all your lives and need to use a credit. The weapon type does not make a difference with this weak weapon either, but thankfully you only need one weapon upgrade to restore it back to normal power. The other type of weapon you have is the Nova bomb that is more defensive than anything, sure, it will get rid of almost any weak enemy but its main purpose is to clear the screen of bullets and slow moving homing missiles, it may sound like a silly reason to use it but you will want to when you find how full the screen can get.
The audio in Battle Squadron is quite average. You have a repeating tune in the background suits the game pretty well, and it isn’t too bad either despite being the games only background music except for the title screen and the ending. The sound effects are also repetitive, but just like the music, they suit things pretty well. Everything you do apart from moving the ship has a sound effect, firing your laser, firing a different type of laser, and letting off a Nova bomb. Every single thing that is hittable also make a noise, and depending on the type of enemy they make different noises too, often informing you if the enemy is going to take two shots to kill or is going to take more damage than you might want it to.
The graphics do nothing that’s going to kill the Mega Drive, though lots of sprites flying around create flicker in certain parts. Thankfully, not much flickering is present overall. The enemies are well detailed, and all of them look good. Rotating enemies have plenty of pre-rotated sprites, which is nice. The bosses in the game are made up of giant sprites that don’t suffer from much flicker, unless there is an excess amount if sprites that for example, is caused by explosions, such as the boss dying from a Nova bomb. The backgrounds, while suffering from a limited colour palette, are detailed too, but it’s also used as a rather annoying obscuring element to hide the enemies and you. Mostly, it just hides bullets. The backgrounds can make a level very frustrating, more so when the screen is cluttered.
But all is not wonders and goodies. Battle Squadron is an Amiga port, and it does not shine out and scream of being as good as the original. The graphics and sound have taken a noticeable hit and do not do the Mega Drive version justice when compared side by side. The Amiga version also had the option to use a mouse, and it would have definitely made the game easier to control but early Mega Drive games did not have a mouse.
Overall, if you ask me, its worth the purchase but it won’t blow your socks off. There’s great fun to be had in the two-player mode as well. If you don’t have an Amiga computer or are too lazy to download an emulator, get the Mega Drive version.