NIGHT STRIKER / Taito / Arcade
Sega's Super Scaler games were graphical tour-de-forces of the 1980s arcades and massively popular, so it's a little surprising that more companies didn't try to clone them. One of the few attempts was Taito's Night Striker. Taito never met a popular genre they didn't want to shove a knockoff into, but they tended to actually put some elbow grease and quality into their conceptual copies, and Night Striker is no exception. At least from a technical standpoint, it's probably the most capable of what few Super Scaler knockoffs there are. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't stand up well next to comparable Scaler games such as Space Harrier, Galaxy Force and Thunder Blade.
Our setting is basically Neo Tokyo, as we play as some lawman who has been empowered to take an armored car and recklessly blow hell out of a terrorist army in the wake of their kidnapping of some scientist and his daughter. The game is made up of a lot of different short levels; a la Outrun, you get a branching path to choose from at the conclusion of each. While it initially looks like an impressive amount, it turns out a bunch of them are recolors with the obstacles and enemies just re-arranged a bit. Many even have the same bosses, just with a palette swap. One neat touch is that each of the final levels is different, however, and has your vehicle transform into a unique new form like a giant mecha or a jet. You even get a unique ending sequence for each, in one you rescue the scientist, in another you rescue his daughter, in a third you blow up the terrorist factory, etc.
Visually, the game is quite impressive at points. It's a little sloppier in terms of gameplay than the Yu Suzuki masterpieces that came before, however. It basically suffers from Afterburner Syndrome in that you often can't see incoming projectiles properly (especially the barrages of heat seeking missiles) due to both your own sprite and all the various shit going on in front of you, so hits frequently feel cheap. Tactically, it actually turns out to be better to just dodge than try to fire back for most of the game, since enemies will just piss off eventually. You can even out-wait some of the bosses.
Night Striker is an interesting curiosity piece for those who like Sega's Super Scaler work, but I can't say it's really all that fun to play.