TROUBLE SHOOTER / Vic Tokai / Genesis

Trouble Shooter is a riff on the anime Dirty Pair, which was big in the '80s. The basic premise is two Space Hotties jet around blowing holy hell out of bad guys with heavy weaponry. It was kinda a precursor of Cowboy Bebop, with the animation done by the same studio.

Anyway. So Vic Tokai basically rips off this concept and makes an oddball sh'mup out of it. Though oddball, there are quite a few things to like about it. It has a consistently fun and goofy tone with some creative and entertaining bosses, an appealing old-school colorful anime aesthetic with graphics and audio that were a little above par for the Genesis in 1991, and basically solid action. The only issues with it are that the unusual configuration of the heroines is a little confusing and it starts getting balls hard around the third level, with only limited lives and continues before you're kicked back to the beginning.

Each level starts with a cutscene establishing the current hijinx ... the ongoing plot is that our Sooty Twosome has been hired to save the inept son of some Space King from some sort of clownish yet incredibly well-armed terrorist group. You then pick your special weapon of choice from a few different options, most of which clear the screen in a pinch but then have to gradually recharge over time.

The gameplay is fairly standard sh'mup at its core, but our heroines take a bit of getting used to. You're controlling both simultaneously, but the blonde (Madison) is the "main" while the dark-haired support character (Crystal) is in this nebulous space where she can only kinda sorta be damaged. So the first issue is that you have to train your eyes to focus on Madison, since she's the one that takes damage that can kill you. Crystal can take hits, but her hitbox seems to be tiny and immune to a lot of things, and damage to her only banishes her offscreen for a bit before she comes back recharged and ready to rock.

So in addition to tracking two characters simultaneously, you also have to manually flip Crystal around (by pressing B) to alternately deal with cheeky enemies trying to sneak into the rear of the poor girls and to lend her awesome cannon to whatever Madison is currently chipping away at.

The levels basically have to be balls hard (beyond the first one, which is a misleadingly gentle introduction) as it turns out there are only six of them and none are very long. So it's a bit of a "try and die" memorization game in the later reaches to extend overall length.

All that makes the gameplay a mixed bag, but it's hard not to walk away from Trouble Shooter liking it even if you're not into memorization-based shooters. It's a concept blatantly lifted from a popular anime, yet it somehow winds up being one of the more unique and creative titles in the Genesis lineup. It's a nice pickup to spend a few hours with if you like colorful conversation pieces, classic 80s anime and/or just the cute and quirky titles of the Genesis library.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video