Genre: Action Developer: Novotrade Publisher: Playmates Inc. Players: 1 Released: 1995
It was a “golden age for mankind, using the incredible exo-skeletons called E-Frames, we had successfully terraformed Venus and Mars.”
Another day, another mid ’90s cartoon that died too early and another game licensed from said show. That’s one way to describe this game and show and another example of how much I miss Exo-Squad. What started as an American answer to the initial rush of Saturday morning anime soon achieved levels that had plenty of older children (and a few adults as well) watching. Then, after one episode in season three, suddenly Exo-Squad was no more. Never would we find out the full resolution of who was superior, the Terrans or the Neo-Sapiens? Would the Terrans be able to win back the planets they worked hard to reform? Would the Neo-Sapiens emerge the winners and eat the the Terrans for dessert? Would they eventually team up to fight off a new threat? Did Rita and Bronsky ever shack up?
We can never know. We never will, and that’s that. What we CAN do is play the cartridge we have today, a compilation of three games combining different elements of the show: a shooter, a platformer, and a fighting game. Normally, when a release of this type comes along, it’s one of two things: either all the games are sub par, or one part is awesome, and the rest aren’t worth it. There’s a third occasion where all three (or more) games are pretty good, but that’s a rarity. What you’ll see though, is that much like the show, this game was a legitimate effort and is seen as much for the most part today at least by people who have actually played it.
First off. the graphics are great. Exo-Squad doesn’t try too hard to really amaze you at every turn, but you will probably still feel as such at times. A black screen… then BOOM! Income the heroes, and you don’t want to turn this off. The multi-segmented sprites make for a great look, along with the explosions and backgrounds bringing the whole thing together. The colors bring you in and keep you, and the scheme follows the show well. Even the menu is an original twist for its time. Overall, the look works.
Music? Yes. Good music? It’s all here, memorable background music that you’ll be humming for hours later. Why it isn’t mentioned more when describing good Genesis music shows just how underrated both the game and the show have become. And for the sound effects, nary a generic action sound be heard! You get explosions, guns, moving, all sounding well made and not pulled out of a library of video game sounds – another reason to play.
While all that is well and good, there are a couple of reasons, I’ll admit, as to why Exo-Squad doesn’t get a higher score. First, the menu system, while innovative for its time, is a bit of a step in the wrong direction and makes some of the simpler tasks needlessly annoying, especially when switching from the single game to the fighting game. It’s oddly hidden for such a basic switch.
Another part is how two thirds of the game is pretty forgettable while the last third is enough reason to track it down. You start off with a shooter, or as I call it “hold B and hope for the best.” Unless I’m REALLY doing it wrong, moving my character around on this little screen (the sprite’s a bit big) seems to be the same no matter what buttons I’m telling it to go. I can shoot and hold “A” for the lasers, but the best thing to really do is hold “B” try to do what you can to hit the baddies on the screen. You’ll be getting hit more than a few times though. It’s frustrating and barely a game, and I have to wonder why a title that did a lot with mech air-battles had a problem here.
Then there’s the platforming, which predates modern games with its somewhat complex control scheme. The jump button is in a weird spot, and you’ll probably find your self jumping when you need to shoot up, then shooting when you need to jump. It’s a learning curve that maybe didn’t need to be there so early. The biggest problem I saw here though was even after getting the controls down, it’s not even really that fun.
To get this game going and worth picking up, we need something really worth saving it. Thankfully, I can say that the fighting part is good enough, believe me! The controls for the platforming part are tweaked properly and make for not only something worth going multiple rounds with the computer but good enough to actually pull in a friend to control the second player and have some great matches! A healthy sized life bar along with an overall game that’ll allow you to really have and even match with some moves that other titles didn’t really start using until years later. If the whole experience was more like this fighter, it could have been a real classic.
I miss Exo-Squad, but it’s gone and I’m not going to cry. What I have is the Internet for episodes until it’s finally put on DVD, and I’ll have this game. Though the overall product is hit and miss, after sitting down with the fighting part, that’s good enough for me.
SCORE: 7 out of 10