Sunday, October 9, 2022

Cosmo Tank (Game Boy, 1990)

Next I'm taking a look at an interesting Atlus game from 1990 that is remembered fondly by the few people that knew about it back then. This is a fun game with great music, and it has the boost of being featured in the Game Boy Player's Guide. To segue to Halloween, the next couple of posts will have a Bug Hunt theme.

First, a quick gander at the Player's Guide coverage. I actually used this while playing through the game and it helped a LOT. This game can be finished in 2 hours or so with help, but I imagine back in the day players that didn't have a guide might have spent weeks on this.

Weeks? That's right, weeks. These maps have a lot going on, yet generally only a few things you really need to worry about.

It's worth noting that one of the indoor areas (lower right) is actually shaped like a swastika, but Nintendo Power sort of altered the map here by replacing some of the rooms with arrows. It still looks like that shape here even with the arrows. In the actual game, the north and south wings have just as many squares in them as the other two wings, to form the shape in its entirety. I assume the level designer was Hindu.

HERE WE GO. I didn't play this game until 2014, but I imagine it's a nostalgia trip for 1990 kids.

Some guy gives me the order to...what? Destroy life cores? That sounds horrible. So basically we're exterminating entire planets just because this bearded guy said so? What is the justification? Can there be one?

Man, everything was way simpler in 1990.

Alright, so what he means is, an army of alien bugs has invaded five planets, and the only way to stop them is to fight your way through to the leader on each planet, known as "Life Cores" for some reason, and take 'em out to stop the alien spread on that world.

You pilot a tank here through various levels, both 2D and 3D, with an open world kind of design (much like Golvellius).

You can gain levels (HP) by defeating enemies, and every 100 enemies raises your HP by one bar. Also, collecting power capsules increases your laser power, with every 10 capsules bumping said laser to the next level. However, from what I can tell, there are only 3 levels to the laser: Single laser, double laser, Wave Beam. I feel like there could be higher levels than that, but I never got them.

When you die, you never go back very far at all, and start back right outside a boss door for example. Your HP levels are also retained. However, you lose your weapon upgrades and reset to L1 there. At least there isn't a huge difference between the L1 laser and the L3 laser, and TBH the L2 laser is easier to aim than the L3 laser. Why they settled on a Wave Beam for the strongest weapon is beyond me, and one of the reasons why I think there might be another level beyond that I didn't find.

The main stage type has you driving over land blasting endless waves of attacking bugs. You can never clear them out because they respawn on your screen every few seconds no matter what. The persistent attacks cause a sort of "start-stop" movement throughout this game.

Reach a cave, and you go to 3D Mode:

This mode has you moving through the cave (one block at a time) and blasting aliens in first-person while they strafe back and forth. The only way to dodge projectiles in this mode is to look away.

That's right, you look away from things to avoid being damaged by them. Finally, something where burying your head in the sand works.

Along the way are these Energy Core "minibosses" that are generally found several times in a world. Defeating them lowers the overall health of the area boss, which is a must in this game. It helps that these Energy Cores are pretty weak/easy. It does get super-redundant fighting this same thing over and over though.

Beating them gets you this message. Do not give energy to the life core? What it means is that now the area boss will have less energy.

Another completely optional miniboss is the Control Tower, an easy recurring fight. I skipped all of these after the first one, because all victory gets you... a map of the current cave. If you have the Player's Guide, this isn't necessary at all.

I actually maxed out my HP in the first area by just slaying newbie area mobs for like 20 minutes. This gave me an advantage against the area boss, this GIANT METAL CRAB. All of the bosses in this game are a matter of shooting, looking away, repeating. You end up needing to adapt to the cadence of the boss projectiles to swing the camera back and forth and shoot between their shots. Pretty much every boss in the game is beaten this way, though some have more moves than others.

This creep-o-zoid back at Command and Control (I assume) is super excited about the genocide of the first planet and orders the next genocide. "Get 'em, champ!"

Stage select. That's right, after the first planet, you get to choose what order you do the remaining four. As a kid, I used to LOVE stuff like this. Any game with a stage select instantly rocketed up in stature for me. I just liked the idea of being able to play a variety of stages, after playing so many linear games where if you couldn't get past one level you were done.

Unfortunately there's some linearity here too, because there's an item you need from Monoa to get through Aquel. Not sure what happens if you do them in the wrong order, but I think it might be possible to get stuck.

Between planets you get this sweet flight mini-stage.

This involves blasting enemies in a vertical scroller to get more items. So that's 3 different game types that this game does, impressive for a game of that era. It's definitely a "master of none" situation here though, because none of them play super-well. Your ship moves very slowly with no way to speed it up, making dodging a difficult task. The 3D areas are probably the best part of the game since you can employ some strategy there.

Monoa is a desert planet where you get the Hover Unit, which lets you cross water (in Aquel).

After the first world, the caves in all of the further worlds look like this. Reminds me of TMNT.

The second boss is the most annoying fight in the game. This thing fires sparks that stun you, and hides for a portion of the fight.

"Millions of species lived there! I think a commendation is in order for THIS young pilot!"

Aquel is, obviously, the land of water. The random enemy spawns here tend to spawn in a group around you and converge, so you need to constantly stop and shoot in all directions to clear it out.

Around this point I realized I had totally maxed out the tank. I think you hit level 6 HP at 500 EXP, so 501-999 gets you nothing. I think they should have added a couple more HP bars, even if it was just like, two.

Also Laser-3 is sitting there not moving, with 9 power chips (so it's ready to level up). Unfortunately it won't level up. I guess there isn't anything beyond that after all.

Energy Cores continue to pop up. These fights are so redundant that I considered just skipping some of them, cause how much worse can the bosses be with more HP? The answer is a lot worse.

Roach miniboss with boomerang arms! This thing shows up a few times and I could see it being a problem for young me if I'd played this at the time. You need to bait its attacks.

Get this powerup and you can charge shots, which gives you a big advantage in boss fights where you're looking away half the time anyway. Now that time can be spent charging.

Area boss is this big mech that zips around. It's a multi-piece boss, meaning you can blast off the side arms.

"To seek out and destroy new life forms! To boldly go!"

Gadam is another desert, and features these sinkholes that insta-kill you if you land on one. Well, it isn't have a few seconds of spinning first before you blow up, just to make you think on the error of your ways.

The Shield Unit is crucial for getting past various barriers in this world. Again, the guide helps hugely with planning a route in this game to make sure you have everything you need at the time you need it.

The boss here is protected by a gate, something the guide doesn't mention. It took me a minute to figure out that the game wants you to clear out several scythe-roach minibosses from the overworld before this opens up.

The scythe-roaches resemble CRAAAAB PEOPLE.

Speaking of crab, the boss of the first world sort of returns here, except now it looks different and fires a little faster.

DN-1 is the next planet, and while I expected it to be a fire planet based on the others, it turned out to be a "living planet" where everything was gooey.

The boss here is this...thing.

It summons smaller mobs that walk over to it and heal it if you don't take them out fast enough. I'll say this, the makers of this game got very creative.

Defeat him and...this tiny man appears!

Is that Sans from Undertale??

In any case, the Sensor Unit just reveals the location of the secret 6th planet, the alien base of Gidoro.

After a short flying stage, you arrive at...Gidoro?

...NOPE IT'S A BOSS. It caught me totally off guard when it started blasting.

Not sure if you land on that bug-ship, but I believe that's the insinuation. In any case, this is Gidoro and it's all mechanical.

Almost all of the area bosses return here as minibosses, and you have to fight all of them. Weirdly enough, the boss of Gadam is missing. The one that was practically a model-swap of this first boss, maybe that's why.

They give you a clue on defeating the alien leader here...but it isn't much of a clue. What they mean is that he is impervious to damage until you blast his hands to lower the barrier.

Also...the alien leader's name is Gregor?


And speak of the devil, here's Gregor himself.

The actual final fight is kind of insane because he has so many HP that it can take upwards of ten minutes to take him down. You can only take 3 hits from him during all of this, as well.

First thing to do is blast the two hands on the sides that are generating a barrier over him. Even those take as long to beat as most of the bosses do. Then the actual body of the boss takes AGES.

Charged shots help, and they can land anywhere between the "elbow joints" on either side of the boss to do damage. Hitting the far ends won't do anything though. Still, the hit box is big enough to make this fight not too bad, just time-consuming. On a side note, this boss looking as cool as it does is one of the reasons I wanted to play this game for a long time after reading about it in the guide. Spider bosses were all the rage back then.

This thing also might have inspired the "spider metroid" final boss in the notebook-drawn "Metroid 4" I did as a kid that I've mentioned on here a few times. Incidentally, 2002's Metroid Prime actually gives us a spider metroid final boss.

"Now we can go into those planets and take all their oil and natural resources without any resistance Now the bugs will no longer be a threat to the galaxy!"

Yeah, whatever dude.

Really cool game here, especially for its time. It isn't much to look at now, but it's got that nostalgic feeling going for it. I don't regret taking a couple hours to look at this again.

Onward to more Bug Hunt. Tune in next for the king of modern Bug Hunt games. It probably is indeed what you're thinking.


  1. Which magazine is? thanks in advance

    1. I'm an idiot, I already saw it hoho