Saturday, April 3, 2010

Treasure: The Thrill of The Chase

Patterns in gameplay have existed since... well, since the first two videogames were released. They both had visuals and most likely interactivity as well. However, I'm talking about a pattern much more specific. In fact, I've only seen it done three times, and from the same company at that. Oh, Treasure (♥), how I unceasingly find intrigue in your existence. Read below to learn (and hopefully relive) "The Thrill of The Chase!"

The chase to which I refer can be found in Radiant Silvergun, Sin & Punishment, and Ikaruga. Though these games contain dozens of bosses, midbosses, subbosses, and minibosses, this chase occurs but once in each. Over the course of the three games, it has changed shape to accommodate both the mechanics of the game it's within and the undying thirst we have for a knowingly-conquerable challenge.

The basic recipe for this thrill chase is that you are either chasing or being chased by a subboss while avoiding both enemy fire and environmental hazards at a brisk pace. It's a workout for both the brain and the fingers, forcing the player to utilize all the mechanics of the game to not only win the chase, but to survive in general.

Radiant Silvergun: Stage 2 Midboss
Silvergun's is the most complex of the three, though it's probably the most manageable after a few go-arounds. There are sometimes split paths offered that are a win-lose situation: You may have an easier time surviving for the next 3 seconds, but the boss isn't losing health any faster. Consider this the pit-stop to give your rubber some time to cool off. This is also the only boss of the three games that attacks from both behind and in front of the player. I'm not counting Ikaruga (below) because the boss just sits down there, though you can still collide with it (and probably will the first few times).

Sin and Punishment: Stage 2-1 Midboss
S&P's version of the chase is the easiest to complete, though it's still no walk in the park. Besides the fact that there are split paths to follow in order to kill the boss quickly (time limit here this time), the game has bonuses littered throughout the chase to coax players into going for the major points at the risk of falling indefinitely. On the plus side, this boss doesn't fire back at you; he's kind of just concerned with running away from you, which makes you look like the killer. Regardless, the boss's actions give the player just enough split seconds to follow en route for a quick finish. This is the only chase of the three to also employ gravity as a mechanic, so timing [double] jumps is combined with strafing left and right, while of course collecting bonus points, firing a gun, and slashing floating bombs into the boss's rear end.

Ikaruga: Chapter 3 Midboss
This one is the killer. By this point, this is Treasure's third pass at making a chase that can really make the sweat drops glisten. Not only does this boss sway back and forth, but it constantly vomits out sprays from four companions as well as its own ugly mouth. On top of that, the sprays are alternating in polarity, so when one is crossing your path, you have to be ready to cut through the center stream and survive against an oncoming stream of the opposite polarity. I apologize for the skill level of the player in the video below. He actually does so well, you don't have much of a chance to appreciate anything (other than his dedication to turning a chase into t-ball practice).

This boss is known as one of the hardest sections in the game, which makes it all the more enjoyable to know that of all the changes Treasure made to the game for its XBox Live Arcade port, this boss had the most significant change. That change is that its companions spin in the opposite direction than they did in the arcade, Dreamcast, and Gamecube versions. Nothing too complicated for the pros, but you almost have to relearn this section from scratch, creating all new digital nightmares for your scoreboard to be plagued with when the console is turned off.

I hope I haven't missed other chase sequences in Treasure games of past. I'm relying on memory for Mischief Makers and Gunstar Heroes (which had a close call with the underground mine level), so if anyone can think of others, do share!

[Update: It's been brought to my attention that this chase can be found in two additional newer games: Gradius V and Sin & Punishment 2, both of which were also made by Treasure. Awesome. However, I can't offer too much insight on these, despite being able to easily find them on YouTube. I have this thing where I like to play Treasure games firsthand before spoiling anything online. I haven't gotten that far in Gradius V and S&P2 hasn't been released in the states yet, so I'll just have to assume that both of these chases are nothing short of thrilling. Thanks Evil_Toaster!]

[cross-posted on Gamasutra]