TAITO - ARCADE
Trounced by an 11-year old game. I didn't believe it. Me, the saviour
of the known universe, pulped silly by Flying Shark, and it was set
on EASY!!! (Must be getting old I think) (Note - older
than that still - it's now a 17 year old game)
Let me take you back in time... cue wooh wooh Dr.Who types noises...
to a place filled with smoke and bleeps, and teenagers spending their
pocket-money bashing the hell out of expensive machines. You're in my
favourite arcade in Glasgow, Scotland, circa 1987, a place called the
Treasure Island. Flying Shark sat in between Terra Cresta and UFO Robo
Dangar (never heard of it? me neither since!) and this trio constituted
my favourite games at the time. These games had something that very
few since have managed to embody - an addictive playability that DEMANDED
total concentration - it was either that or die horribly. I actually
got pick-pocketed playing Dangar, it was that mind-consuming!
You've probably looked at the score and wondered why on earth such a
plain looking old game got 9 out of 10. It wasn't the graphics or sound
that mattered, I mean, I've just played Taito's G Darius - probably
the most wonderful graphics and music yet in a shooter - and it isn't
as playable as this game. Flying Shark is extremely fine tuned, there
are no flashy extra bits to distract. Take the powerups - the bombs
appear exactly at the point you've run out and are desperate for them,
and the weapon upgrades are modest, yet pleasingly welcome when they
appear. Compare Batsugun to Flying Shark - they're at opposite ends
of the shooter spectrum... where Batsugun has got SO much firepower
it spoils the game, Flying Shark has got so little you need total skill
to get through it. The powerups swirl about, teasing you to catch them
through the myriads of fast-shooting planes whirling around the screen,
often leading the unsuspecting player to their death.
The enemies are equally fine tuned. There isn't much variety in them,
but they always surprise - they have the uncanny knack of shooting right
where you're plane is going to be in 2 seconds. I don't know how many
times I've flown right into a speeding bullet! The bosses are generally
small tanks and battleships, bristling with gun emplacements, and pose
a serious threat to your survival, as the normal planes and tanks don't
go away when they're about, unlike other shooters I could mention. Other
surprises are the way you blow buildings up and accidentally reveal
hidden tanks inside just as you're about to fly over it (nasty!) and
large bomber planes flying from behind you, making you zoom up the screen
to get away from the bullets you know are going to follow, and crashing
right into a squadron coming from the side. Tanks also hide in the trees
so you can barely see them, meaning you become very wary of wooded areas.
Downright evil these designers;)
Once you put your money in, apart from the refuelling points, there
was not a single chance to take a break throughout - one slip and you
were history. Many gamers used to the contemporary style of shootemup
- overloaded with frequent weapons, confusingly complex graphics and
continue-where-you-died points will not like this game at all. They're
used to fast progression through the levels without having to work at
it. That's what I was doing with G Darius, ( a great game, but more
of a graphical showpiece than a real shooter) - just watching the lovely
graphics and coasting through it pretty quickly.
It's almost not worth showing you screenshots of Flying Shark, as they're
really nothing special, but this would be a rather boring page without
them! Major Kudos to Magnus for emulating this game, a very nice choice
You'll be using these bombs a lot at first in sheer desperation.
It's the only way to survive until you work it out. Sometimes you
panic completely and fire them off at the slighest movement too!
Keep them for moments when hell is just about to break loose. Moments
where you can tell a bunch of baddies are just sitting there pregnant
with bullets way past their due dates. If you leave it a second
too late, forget it!
See how the game throws everything at you at once? Small ships,
big ships, small planes, big bombers... the whole lot unforgivingly
flung at your ship without a break. The only breaks you will get
are when you die and have to restart!
You'll be seeing this screen an awful lot! Get used to it!
Shooting certain buildings and rocks reveals baddies within, ready
to tan your hide. Be on the lookout for traps like this. It's a
bit like doing a quiz and you KNOW there's a trick question in there
One of the later battleships, notice the yellow bit at the top you're
supposed to shoot at. Funny how all bosses flash in shooters eh?
You'll note with a faint sense of unease the way the gun turrets
rotate to follow your ship.