Genesis Reviews

Growl

Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Taito Publisher: Taito Players: 1 Released: 1991

Remember when Taito used to actually release games? Back before the makers of Space Invaders were assimilated into the Square empire, the company was a prolific and highly respected publisher (former Taito executives have recently been seen in factories, weeping as they’re whipped into pressing Final Fantasy discs). No arcade was complete without at least a few Taito games, and many of those hits found their way to home consoles like the NES, SNES, and Genesis. Among ports like Volfied (Ultimate Qix) and Thunder Fox was Growl, an odd eco-centered game that would have made PETA proud.

Video gamers need little reason to beat the hell out people and blow things up, so the “save the animals” shtick Growl touts might be wholly unnecessary. Be that as it may, the whole purpose for this round of violence is to protect endangered species from poachers, who have managed to wipe out most animals by the beginning of the last century. Throughout the game, players will come across some poor creature being abused by a poacher, and I must admit that it’s quite satisfying to blast the bastard who’d be mean enough to torture an elephant.

One thing has to be made clear, there was a LOT lost in translation. Many of these titles come off as watered-down when first played due to the marked difference in visuals when compared to the arcade originals. Growl suffers from this as well, and while the visuals are decent enough, they are a far grade below the original’s. Heck, the only decent parallax is in the ending! It kind of reminds me of Captain America and the Avengers, in that while the graphics are quite poor, the game itself is highly playable. Of course, that game had virtually all the voice samples of the coin-op, and its audio is far superior to Growl’s. That would put it on par with the sub-standard visuals, but if would-be players can get past the presentation, then they should be fine.

Visuals and sound aside, the gameplay is simple enough, using only a single button for attack and one for jump. The third button activates a Final Fight-style special attack. Several weapons, such as swords, rifles, and grenades can be used against the poachers, but the best by far is the whip since it also hits enemies attacking from behind. There are no combos or anything so complex, so the gameplay makes Growl very easy for getting into quickly. Growl’s instruction manual provides a detailed look at the differences between the four agents, but in reality there’s little contrast. Aside from a different special attack, nothing else stands out as particular to any of the heroes, and even the specials seem to be uniform in their effectiveness.

And those weapons and attacks will come in very handy over the game’s seven stages against the multitude of foes hell bent on trapping those exotic animals. Growl’s character sprites aren’t the largest, and the detail may be lacking, but there are a lot of them onscreen at a single time. As the screen shots to the left indicate, there can be as many as ten enemies onscreen at once! That’s pretty remarkable for a Genesis game, considering that it all occurs with no slowdown and only the occasional sprite flicker. It’s just too bad that the poachers aren’t as diverse as they are numerous, and fighting the same four bad guys over and over only emphasizes the shallow and repetitive game design even more.

Perhaps more than anything else, what I find most unacceptable is the lack of the coveted four-player mode. The Genesis port is a single-player affair, which is unacceptable even by home console standards. I’m not expecting the game to support any multi-taps, but in the arcades Growl also had a two-player cab, which means that the Genesis version ranks at the bottom of the ladder here. Unforgivable. It’s Thunder Fox all over again! How was it possible that anyone could consider releasing a beat-’em-up that’s only single-player? Even Captain America got that part right!

Wow, I’m amazed that I was able to find so much to say about Growl, considering just how underwhelming and mediocre it is. Bland, repetitive gameplay, poor visuals, and weak level design all come together to make a product about as tasty as tap water. I don’t know if Taito was really making an effort with these ports, or if it was just crapping them out to meet a quota, but the lack of multi-player modes in any of them is really deplorable. It’s almost as if the company ran through its checklist of genres that benefit from playing with a friend and with an evil cackle crossed off the games it neutered. Shooter? Check. Action? Check. Puzzle? Check. Beat-’em-up? Check. Too bad for Taito that my interest list only has one box. Play something else not made by Taito? Check.

SCORE: 4 out of 10

 

2 Comments

  1. It’s not that terrible. Taito had no idea how to make games for the Genesis, but despite the crappy production, this one is still kinda fun. It’s very satisfying being able to save the animals. The gameplay and graphics are about as good as the Golden Axe games (take that to mean whatever you wish). It really is a shame that Taito couldn’t be bothered to program in a 2 player mode. That company just really didn’t try with their Genesis releases. 6/10 I say.

  2. I like this game, I find it entertaining,the graphics are pretty decent especially the full screen explosion effects, objects braking into pieces and what else can we say about that cover art….. it`s awesome. Indianna Jones beat Em Up saving animals.

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