Genre: Shmup Developer: Sega Ent. Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1990
Published in 1990, Submarine Attack is an underwater shooter released only in PAL territories and Brazil. My copy of the game didn’t come with a manual, so I’ll have to make some assumptions about certain things in the game. As for the storyline, I’ll quote the English paragraph from the back of the game case:
“The Meta-creature has returned to haunt the citizens of Balderia, who haven’t yet recovered from their last encounter with the monster four years ago. Guide Admiral Mikan through the underwater dangers and into the enemy complex, and help him get rid of the monster for good!”
The game features six stages, all in various locations underwater. In addition to the basic water stages, you’ll travel through a series of caverns replete with exploding volcanoes on the surface, a sunken version of ancient Egypt, and two mechanical factories inside the Meta-creature’s base. One of the interesting aspects of the early stage design is that you have a great deal of freedom to move around. You can play near the surface, the middle of the ocean, or dive down to the bottom. When you’re traversing the cave networks, you have the option of taking different paths with one that might be easier than the other.
For weapons, your submarine comes equipped with forward firing torpedoes and what I assume to be missiles that fire in an arc over the sub and then land in the front of it. The missiles are useful for hitting targets above you and can bring extra firepower to complement your torpedoes if you hold both buttons at once to fire them simultaneously. In stage six your torpedoes are replaced with a laser beam that is quite effective when powered up. As a nice touch, all your weapons can shoot down most of the enemy bullets or projectiles coming at you.
In the early stages, all your power-ups will come from red colored surface ships that need to be destroyed to give up their goodies. In the later stages, you’ll have to seek out the pink colored subs with a white “P” icon on the side. There’s three types of power-ups you can collect. A stands for weapons of which you need two to fully power up your torpedoes and increase your rate of fire. “S” stands for speed and again you’ll just need two to max out your speed and maneuverability. The “H” power-up will completely restore your health as you can take only three hits before being destroyed. Submarine Attack is very forgiving and will start you right where you exploded with your sub reverting back to its basic weapons and speed.
What power-up you’ll receive upon destroying the surface ships or submarines seems to be randomized and it may take some time to get the upgrade you want. If your sub is flashing red which means you’re down to your last hit, the game does cut you some slack and will usually drop a health power-up on the next pickup. The last item drop in the game is an extra life that seems to come randomly from taking out normal enemies. You can’t earn more lives through a high score so these drops and the unlimited continues are your only options to keep playing.
Speaking of enemies, Submarine Attack features a large roster of them. You’ll encounter small and large subs, helicopters and surface ships dropping depth charges, homing mines, bubbles (yes, bubbles that can damage you!), large torpedoes, Egyptian Pharaoh heads who spit fireballs, some type of octagonal enemy that appears, fires and then vanishes only to reappear somewhere else on screen, robotic drones, and a whole roster of organic sea life and robotic themed sea life. Beware the Mecha-Fish! Suffice it to say that you’ll be seeing new enemies in each stage. Some adversaries are so strong that they are almost impossible to kill, even when using the torpedo and missile combo, so you’ll have to avoid them entirely.
The control scheme is simple here. Button 1 fires your missiles while button 2 fires your torpedoes and the directional button handles all your movements. Hitting the Pause button will stop the game to give you some information such as your score, how many lives you have and the like. The controls are responsive and work perfectly.
Graphically, Submarine Attack boasts good visuals and bright colors for most of its six stages. All the enemies and objects are well defined and with plenty of small details. The end-of-level bosses tend to take up around fifty percent of the screen or more and are visually impressive, even though they have few animations to them.
The soundtrack is good, with stage five being the most impressive tune in the game and stage one being a close second. Stage three’s track does a great job complementing the slow trek through the underwater caverns. The sound effects are the usual 8-bit fare and do their job, with nothing sounding out of place and nothing particularly standing out either.
Most of the stages aren’t terribly difficult, except for stage five. If you’re fully powered-up when you get there, then you should be able to clear it without too much trouble. If you do get killed on this stage, be prepared for a rough time reacquiring all your power-ups and dodging enemies in the process. The same goes for majority of the boss battles, where you can surgically destroy each of the boss’s weapon systems and then go after the core of the boss to finish him without breaking a sweat. The final boss, the Meta-creature, is a different story. He’s bristling with firepower and will wipe the floor with you if you don’t find that one little sweet spot to avoid his shots. Another strategy is to go for the jugular and blast away at close range, hoping you have enough lives to get the job done.
Instead of seeing the development team credits upon defeating the Meta-creature, you’re given a small cut scene of your sub with the options of ending the game and returning to the title screen or hitting continue to play through another loop. If you chose the latter, the game will gradually increase in difficulty during each loop with enemies moving and shooting faster each time. I ran through about four and a half loops before giving up, so it’s anyone’s guess just how far you can go with it.
To wrap things up, Submarine Attack is a decent shooter that should appeal to casual shooter fans or those just getting into the shooter genre. Shooter veterans will most likely blow through this game rather easily. Unfortunately, they probably won’t find much replay value unless they want to see just how many loops they can survive for the challenge of it.
SCORE: 6 out of 10