Saturday, January 25, 2020

Run Saber (Super NES, 1993)

This is a quick and awesome SNES action game from Atlus. One thing is for sure: It's much better than Walk Saber would have been.

Way before they were known for their Persona games, Atlus was actually a fairly prolific developer of action games on Nintendo systems in the early 90's.

Planet Earth. The Future. You can tell this game takes place in The Future because the planet is all brown from all the smog.

This intro completely lacks text, which is odd because there's plenty of room for it. From what I can tell, humanity either went on a mass exodus into space on these long ships, or aliens attacked in said long ships. Since we're seeing this from the perspective of An Average Family who seem to be ON one of the ships, it's probably the former. Which means there's no reason to protect Earth, because if we break it we can just build ships and go find a new one. Suck it, Carl Sagan!

Who is this strangely malevolent guy? Is he evil? Or is he the ONE scientist who can save mankind from the Coronavirus?

Some shadowy aliens are seen. I think the above guy might be one of the aliens, since the screen faded right from his face into an alien face.

Now, we get design schematics for a T-800 cybernetic warrior: A "Saber" to fight back against... the aliens? We can see on this screen that three "Sabers" are in development.

And then, to drive the point home, we see them in stasis pods. The middle and right Sabers are the playable characters. The left pod seems to be empty, so it's likely that the third Saber is a nefarious villain who has rebelled against his creators. Or something.

Our two playable characters. One is a dude and one is a chick. The dude is powerful and hits hard, while the chick - get this - is quick and agile. And there we have the stats for every action or fighting game from this era.

The first level is in AMERICA. These colors don't run! 

The Dude attacks with a sword. It can be temporarily powered up to be a bigger, meaner sword. His attacks sweep from behind to the front in an arc, taking out everything around him effectively.

Odd that the game starts you with less than half health. And every time you die, you come back with these meager three ticks of energy. It's weird and a bit frustrating, given that health+ powerups don't drop very often at all.

The dude also has a magical smart bomb type attack that obliterates everything. He only gets two of these per life, but since you have something like 15 lives to work with, you can do this a lot. It's important to prioritize using this attack over dying, because if you die you'll go back to two smart bomb charges no matter what. If you have one or two already when that happens, they're wasted.

There's also a useful slide move that causes enemy attacks to miss. The slide is also an attack, and a fairly effective one.

The lady, on the other hand, sorta looks like a green-haired Samus in a ninja outfit. other words, she doesn't really look like Samus at all.

She also attacks with a sword, but it's notably smaller and has less of an arc than the dude's attacks. This makes playing as her more difficult, at least for a n00b like me.

Her animations are really cool, though. Here's the crouching-slash. I think I'll go with this character for the most part.

Both characters have a screwattack move while jumping. It seems to only work some of the time, though. Not sure what the deal is there.

Perhaps the coolest element of this game is that you can climb on walls and ceilings. The characters are so agile that they can even climb around the edge of a ceiling and flip around to the top of it.

...wait, why is her face blank? OH MY GOD.

She also has a smart bomb esque screen-clearing attack. Hers is a spinning wave of ice shards. Seems to be equal in power to the green dragon attack that the dude uses.

At one point, you find yourself balanced on a fighter jet as it takes off. This is a cool idea, but it gets cooler, because...

...the fighter does loop-de-loops while you hang onto it. This is AWESOME.

Another stage puts you in a futuristic Hong Kong. This is a weird idea of it, though. Notice the arrow atop the screen? That tells you what direction to go in at any given time. I could have really used this in Halo: ODST with its frequent jaunts through the New Mombasa maze.

This looks like a boss, but it's just a standard platform. Well, as standard as a platform covered in traps can be. Due to the truncated life meter, this game can be quite difficult if you try to rush through it.

In Hong Kong, you battle with another cyber-ninja. I THINK this is the guy from the third pod. He's pretty easy, and warps off in a smoke bomb after the fight. Not sure if he's supposed to be the villain or if the aliens are. Is he the close-up face guy from the intro? I really need an instruction booklet for this game...

Our heroine strikes a pose. The visuals of this game are compulsively snapshottable.

What the shit is that? A giant lich? Ann Coulter's true form? Whatever it is, it sure is an impressive boss fight. Probably the most memorable fight in the game.

She summons a tide of fire-people who streak across the screen. Luckily her arm serves as a platform to stay above the fray.

The next stage opens with you battling a giant bird of prey miniboss. Most of the enemies in this game are demons or mechs (or demon-mechs), so it's odd to have to fight wildlife too. This is why the planet is in shambles, damn it!

Most of these bosses look like they'd be more at home in Contra than a ninja game. Some, like this one, also seem like they're designed for a game where the protagonist has a ranged weapon. It's difficult to hit some of these bosses with the short-range sword without being hit back. The guy has an easier time in that regard because his sword has a considerably longer reach.

Speaking of the guy, I tag him back in for the next stage. Watch out for the giant swinging mace.


Next miniboss is this sweet mecha-knight. I found that special attack spamming was the best (and gimpiest) way to get through the boss fights of this game.

Here's the Third Pod Guy again. You fight him a few times; he doesn't really get any more powerful as the game goes on, oddly enough.

Another mech is the big boss of stage four. It stomps around a lot and chases you up a vertical passage.

This fight is actually really easy even without special attacks. It auto-scrolls vertically which is a pain in most games. Thanks to the way the characters can grab onto surfaces, though, it's simple here. Jump up and flip onto the next platform every time the bottom of the screen gets too close.

Finally, stage five. The final stage transpires in the middle of the ocean. Not sure if this is Hawaii or some new place that doesn't exist.

It's full of these bizarre mud-men. They remind me of -Wels- from Xenogears.

The final stage is a procession of boss fights, starting with this Botwoon-like miniboss. It snakes out of those skull things in the background and winds around the screen.

Our heroine plummets down a lengthy vertical drop. I wonder if this place is supposed to be a missile silo.

Giant Face of DOOM. A few of these swoop in over the course of the stage. Are they mechanical? Alien? I don't know.

The military base gets more biological as you go on, Contra-style.

Finally, the third ninja attacks for the final time. He's no tougher than earlier. What I'm wondering is... what THE FOOK is that thing in the background?

A very Contra-esque, Xenomorph-style boss is the next one on tap. It has three heads that all need to be defeated. Smart bombs totally murder it; sword strikes are pretty difficult to land with all three of them attacking at random intervals.

The final boss is this massive monstrosity. For a while I couldn't figure out how to defeat it. You slash away at the head until the shield covering the weird belly-thing disappears momentarily, then jump down and attack that once, then repeat. Before long, the game is won.

...and I realize that I have no idea whatsoever what the plot was, or who I was fighting.

The credits end with a small child running to her parents while our heroes look on proudly. Wait, all of that was just to rescue some kid from the aliens? What is she, Newt?

So, final thoughts on this game: It's really cool, and I see why it has a cult following. The game design is a bit wonky (starting with three ticks of life is pretty lame), but the animation is great, the controls are great, and it's just plain fun to look at in motion. Give this one a shot some time if you want to play an old 16-bit action game.

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  1. Thanks for the great review!
    While I have not beaten this game yet, I have played it several times, and I hope to beat it eventually. You may not have noticed, but this game has a simultaneous 2-player mode, which is quite fun to play with a friend.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I'm sure two-player mode is awesome, but unfortunately co-oping on emulator doesn't work too well for me. As for beating the game, my advice is to abuse the room-clearing spells to beat bosses easily.

  2. I suppose building all of those ships would create a lot of jobs.

    For a game like this great animation and controls are really all you need. Though a rockin' soundtrack helps too.

    1. I wonder if the ships are the nuclear-powered variety or the fusion-powered variety. Chances are, the creators didn't think about it quite that much, but yeah.

  3. LOL, great NFL joke.

    It would be fun to go through all the action games and see who's better, the male character for female one, in each.

    Having to budget your super-attack uses is quite interesting, and so is having many lives but little life. They wanted to make things different.

    Lots of Cool Things in this so far. ...and I said that BEFORE the jet took off. YEAHHHH!

    "Dragon Dragon Co. Ltd." and "Eastern Advance Temple"

    The platform has Thunder on it. ....yes, I see it fires that.

    I'm pretty sure the kid returning to his/her parents is a personal example of what you've done, not the whole point of it.

    This game had a lot of cool stuff. Entertaining post. Too bad the colors are drab, but these were the old days.