Genre: Run-‘N-Gun Developer: Data East Publisher: Data East Players: 1 Released: 1992
With so many companies releasing poor console versions of their arcade games, it’s a nice surprise to be able to find one that’s actually done well. Data East’s Atomic Runner, also known as Chelnov outside of the U.S., is one of the better ports from the arcade to the Genesis. If you like games like Contra, Mega Turrican, Ranger-X or Fatal Rewind, then you’re going to like this one.
Data East did the port, and the company was pretty well-known for its conversions. Aside from this game, it bought some great games to the Genesis like Two Crude Dudes and Side Pocket. Data East also released some turds, but in this case it did a real good job by porting a extremely good title to Sega’s little black box. The Genesis was able to do a good job of handling the sound and graphics.
The story is simple. One morning, Chelnov comes back from his daily walk to find his home in ruins, his father dead on the ground, and his sister kidnapped. Before passing away, Chelnov’s father tells him everything about the Deathtarians, the First rulers of the Earth. Supposedly, the Deathtarians were the first race to populate this planet, and they now want to take it back from humanity.
Next to Chelnov’s father, there a suitcase with a suit in it that gives him super powers and the ability to shoot all kind of things. Now it’s up to him to save his sister and also humanity from the Deathtarians. But just when Chelnov dons his suit, he’s captured by the aliens and tortured. Before they can give him an anal probe, he escapes and yells “no enemy can put a stop to justice!”
So it begins…
Well, the story isn’t one of the most original, but it’s more than made up for by the great fun and action the rest of the game brings Atomic Runner has seven stages with a boss at the end of each. There are also some mini bosses in between. Enemies come from all directions, and Chelnov is a one-hit kill with legs, so practice is needed. Some might consider the high difficulty to be a problem, but just like any good arcade game, practice makes perfect. Thankfully, the controls are easy to learn: A jumps, B shoots, and C allows Chelnov to face either left or right. During the game itself he can only run forward, and there’s no running to the back of the screen since it auto-scrolls. Should Chelnov jump back, he’ll be stopped by a mysterious force.
Well the enemies come from all directions carrying power ups that upgrade your weapon. If you get behind and shoot enemies that are carrying things, then you can pick up the item they drop. If you shoot them after they’ve passed over you, chances are that you’ve lost the item for good. It may sound difficult, but you get used to it really quickly. The inability to move backwards gives a hectic feel to the game, something that I really love. When you reach the end of each stage it’s time for a boss. Should you die during the battle, you’re thankfully started just before the boss so you can collect some power ups and try again.
The graphics in Atomic Runner shine, despite the small sprite size. Just play it to the second stage and you’ll see what I mean. The aliens must have something to do with the Incas or Egyptians, because you’re going to see a lot of strange drawings of that type in the background, and they’re really detailed. It’s a shame that the last level sends you back to New York, but it’s also nicely detailed and has a great background. Personally I would really have preferred to see more of the strange drawings like in the first few levels. The final fight with the last boss on top of Miss Liberty looks great though!
The audio is also very well done. The music pumps you up, and when you’re shooting in all directions and trying to evade the enemies it’s almost as though it plays faster. The effects are strong and fitting, but they don’t overshadow the soundtrack, which is something that I wish more developers would have considered. It’s just nice to hear good tunes that will stick with you throughout the game.
Overall, Atomic Runner is a great game, and fans looking for a new run-‘n-gun title to burn through on the Genesis should give it a go. I only can say try this one, and don’t get put off by its difficulty, because it’s great fun all the way. It’s also pretty inexpensive and easy to find, so what are you waiting for?