Thursday, June 13, 2024

Battle Unit Zeoth (Game Boy, 1991)

One of the many games I wanted as a kid and didn't get. And also one of the many games that I'm kinda lucky I didn't get because it isn't anywhere near as good as I thought it was. It's a fairly basic action game, nothing great, nothing bad either, but it can be finished fairly easily in about 30 minutes at the most. The same could be said for Kirby's Dream Land, but as a first game launching pad it does what it does very well. After that I wanted things that had a bit more longevity, given that I'd only get a game every couple months. This one wouldn't have fit the bill at all, and it has the illusion of complexity that isn't there. At least it has a mech in it, that's pretty cool.

The back of the box, and what I would have seen if I'd gotten this in the 90's. Never saw this in any store and it seems to be a pretty rare game. Then again I couldn't even find Game Boy Mega Man games in my local stores, so chances are the selection just wasn't great for Game Boy in most department stores circa 1993.

Here's the entry for this game in the 1000 list:

#146 Battle Unit Zeoth (Game Boy) – Spring 2000

Cool little game here that I don't think many people even know existed. I've barely ever heard it mentioned in the 30 years that it's been around. It's basically an action platformer where you play as a bipedal robot and blast your foes with lasers. You can level up and a number of other things that are unusual for an action game of the era. It's actually got a little bit of depth to it and it plays well. The Game Boy Player's Guide didn't have a full coverage section for this game, but it did cover it in a short blurb later on in the guide. That blurb was enough to get me interested, and there was a time in the mid-90's where I was actually on the lookout for this as a potential buy. Never saw it in a store though, and it's just as well because I'm happy with the few things I did get.

Here's the blurb in the Game Boy Player's Guide. In retrospect, it isn't much...

This is the first time I've played the game since that one time in 2000, so let's see how it holds up. I tried to find some Nintendo Power coverage of it to scan, but I couldn't find any. Maybe it's just that obscure?

Here it is, Battle Unit Zeoth. Not sure if this is a guy in a suit, a guy in a mech, or an actual robot. I'm guessing it's an actual robot. Note that it has full thruster capabilities... for her pleasure.

Not gonna lie, this game's strong point by far is the artwork in the several up-close shots. This also carries over to the boss fights. And it needs a strong point, given that it's a few minutes long and incredibly basic.

Behold! Battle Unit Zeoth! My God!

So the A button hovers you upward (think jetpack controls) and the B button unleashes rapid fire. Basically want to hold that down all the time. It autoscrolls like a space shooter and enemies fly in from the sides.

First boss. I mentioned the bosses having great artwork. Not only do they look really good for a 1991 Game Boy game, they're also functional. As in, the different parts of the bosses actually DO stuff. This one has a giant laser cannon and a few smaller turrets.

Stage 2 is a regular level instead of an autoscroller, and involves falling downward through a maze-like level. Collecting powerups causes your bullets to increase in size and scope (maxing out at four shots at a time). Dying resets the gun back to its starting potency, which is the biggest problem with the game and highly punishing. It's one of those games where if you can hold onto a powered-up weapon you can pretty much steamroll the game.

Stage 2 boss is this flying beast of a robot. I've found that the key to the boss fights is really just finding a semi-safe spot and blasting away, because they don't have much HP.

In this case, the safest spot is right under it, surprisingly. Note that your HP isn't restored between levels. That, along with the weapon level reset on death, makes the game significantly less fun. It does elongate it, at least. Instead of blasting through the game in 20 minutes, it might actually take a couple hours on first go due to having to deal with level zero weapon power.

Stage 3 is another auto-scrolling shooter level. Got my HP back, but also have the pathetic regular bullets again. The game is SO MUCH TOUGHER like this.

There are a couple of different weapon powerups and each one has their own line of upgrades. There's the regular shot which maxes out at a quadruple-shot, and then there's the laser shot (seen here) which maxes out at a triple beam that waves in and out of itself as it travels. It's literally Super Metroid's Wave+Plasma combination if it also had Spazer added to it... 3 years before Super Metroid.

I'm a big fan of this particular weapon, as I decimate the Stage 3 boss. This looks more like a misplaced final boss.

Stage 4 is another non-autoscrolling vertical level like Stage 2, only this time you go up instead of down. Matter of fact they might have even reused the same level and reversed it, not sure.

Stage 4 boss is yet another really cool bit of artwork. The bosses for this game would have looked incredible in advertisement screenshots.

The final level has an enemy space armada flying by in the background. I don't know what the Battle Unit Zeoth lore is, but it really does feel like this game could have been a lot longer / more fleshed out. It's got something to say, it just doesn't know how to say it.

The final boss is this giant mech that fires missiles from its foot.

The key here is to just hover above it and unleash hell from there. None of the bosses in this game are particularly tough at all. It's just the stages, with their quick-moving foes, that pose the most threat.

We get more rad artwork, with the final boss mech crumbling apart and Zeoth (if that is his real name) reigning victorious.

Final thoughts on this one? The gameplay is actually quite good, outside of the punishing death mechanic of losing weapon powerups (which was common in that era). This really feels like it should have been a lot longer than 5 stages. If it had been, I don't know, 15 or 20 stages it'd probably be regarded as one of the great cult-hit space shooter games on the system. Even if that meant having to repeat some boss appearances to save memory.

Unfortunately I can't really give it any kind of high marks when it has the longevity of a Boeing whistleblower who suffers from mild depression.

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