SIGMA STAR SAGA (GBA)
In a nutshell: Fight purple people-beaters while being bounced between sides of a war like a sort of mutant human tennis ball. Hero Ian Recker follows in the metal bikini'd footsteps of Arle from TGL in a very, very loose sense. It's actually more like playing a hacked Crystalis cart that randomly shifts over to a level of Gradius every few minutes. One of the few American-made titles to try- and succeed at mimicking more Japanese style story and artwork. It just fails to be quite as pulse pounding as its spiritual predecessor, which I put most of the blame on making the shooting parts side-scrolling instead of top-down.
In short, I'd love to see this if it was turned up a notch or two and the random battles ditched in favor of just more 'event' battles.
I slapped the instruction booklet down on the table in front of the man in the strange purple hat. "I knew the Guardian Legend. I played The Guardian Legend. And you, sir," I drew a sharp breath before driving the point home, "...are no The Guardian Legend."
"I never said I was. That was all pre-release reviewer hype." He took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth without so much as going for a lighter. "Project: SSS is a brave new hybrid of action and adventure, the likes of which has never seen before."
"Bullshit!" I barked. "Like fifteen years ago, they had an adventure/shmup. Guardian Legend. I know you have to have heard of it, it's on your company founder's homepage as one of his favorite games."
"Let's not drag him into this... he has his hands full with little Shantae right now." I had to nod a little at that- his older sister of sorts by a different mother platform grew up neglected, and now was waiting around her father's place waiting for an interested investor to provide that last little oomph for her new project to go through. Sweet, little Shantae. She grew up. She filled out. But her head was still about half of her body mass.
"Let's go back to the beginning, though," I resigned, as this reminiscing and comparing of gossip was going nowhere fast. I wanted the meat of the case like a runway supermodel secretly craves a Wendy's Triple with cheese. "So, this commanding officer of yours chose you for a secret mission, yes?"
"That is correct." The shifty double agent stood up in his seat, probably flashing back to his discharge. "I'd just finished the first level, and next thing I know, he slipped me a mickey."
"Leave the damn rat out of this!"
"Not that mickey, you stupid flatfoot. Anyway, I was supposed to infiltrate the enemy, as the enemy. So they chained me up in a derilict ship's brig and left me for dead for the Krill to find."
I scribbled "Buy more popcorn shrimp" into my notepad and nodded for him to go on.
"So yeah, I got taken aboard and skinned."
"Not that kind of skinned! That's what we-er, they call it when you get fitted with a parasite."
"The funky hat."
"...YES, THE FUNKY HAT THAT BLINKS AND HAS ITS TAIL DUG DEEP INTO MY SPINE." The little wings on the hat flittered uselessly at the rise in emotion. "As I was saying, I got a parasite, and that put me in mental synch with the biomechanical space fighters patrolling the planet. And when they get spooked, they teleport the nearest available pilot up to help them fight."
"OK, so that's where the shooter levels come into play. Does that mean they're just random encounters? I hope they're pretty good in that case..."
"Actually, it was a little annoying," Recker admitted. "At first it was WOW, because the ship is plugged into my brain and I could feel everything, but when I got chosen by the big Toaster of Doom-looking trapezoid ship, enemies couldn't fucking miss me and well... I felt EVERYTHING. You know that the undercarriage of a fighter jet feels like one big solar plexus? And that everything above that basically feels like a blow to the head or crotch? Depending on how far back anyway."
"Uh... I did not know that. Thanks for sharing... You know, Arle the Guardian was a woman. You think that's why she could take more abuse? Not having the same... organs in that case."
"The Guardian was a robot. That's why she could take more abuse. Hey, maybe the woman thing explains why Psyme was so good at it. Before the baby anyway."
"Ah yes, Psyme... tell me a bit about her."
"I first met her by walking in on her changing. It was love at first sight. She was smart, sassy, and wore nothing but a squirmy tentacled organism. Of course, she kind of got bitchy when she found out I was the Earthman who-"
"I think that's a spoiler."
Recker laughed. "Scarlet is the virus!" he blurted before I could cut him off that time. "And Blune is a traitor! And Captain Tierney dies!"
"God, cut it out already. Get back to the thinly veiled game commentary." In the meantime I pulled my GBA-SP out of the drawer and turned it on, muting it so he wouldn't know I was really starting my second time through Riviera: The Promised Land instead of Sigma Star Saga.
"So yeah... Pretty much, commanders gave me search missions. Find 7 fossils. Plant 10 signal flares. Gather 5.42 in change so we can go to Taco Bell." He seemed a little peevish about now and started searching for a light. I provided one. "It was pretty annoying. I'd be about two steps from a Data Plug or health pickup, then suddenly a Big Bertha ship gets spooked by a flying rubik's cube- Honestly, wouldn't you?- and I'd have to go fight that. Then come down to the planet's surface and fight some other stuff."
"What sort of equipment did you get?"
"Oh, those Krill weapons were sweet. I could mix and match three types of gun data to make custom weapons as needed. Even if I did pretty much just use the Heavy Shot/Max Spread/Barrier setup... nearly the whole time."
"Sounds cool. Probably made the exploration segment enemies cake."
"Cake yeah, but not because of that. Planetside all I got was a pistol and a hockey puck with an eye on it."
"Granted it exploded, but it was a hockey puck! With an eye! It didn't even home or anything, I think the eyeball was just there to creep me out. But I did get some other stuff, like an x-ray scanner. I had kind of a bad habit of walking into things when it was turned on though. Oh yeah, and Psyme gave me Girl Wings."
"Yeah. 'Girl wings. Wings like a GIRL.' Happy?"
"Quite. So you don't even get to use the guns you customize while exploring. How much of a split would you say the game is, between shooting and wandering around combing planets with a little scanner? 50/50?"
"Maybe more like uh... 30/70."
Brass tacks time. And when I got done sticking them in my file folder, I decided to cut to the chase. "So, despite all this, you want me to go out there and dig up evidence you ain't a bad game." I clicked off the SP. "I'll tell you what. You could use a little bit of polish, maybe some more adrenaline in these shooter battles. You know what-- side-scrolling shooters are too slow anyway. Try it the other way, top-down. And try to talk the commanders into letting you keep your hard earned guns on the planetside. But for the most part, I like the story you got here, and the fact that it involves juggling sci-fi vixens on the side doesn't hurt it. In fact, I'd sort of like to be able to play as this Scarlet broad. Or Psyme. They're both shown way bigger than you on the box."
"Don't remind me," Recker moaned. "But does that mean you'll take the case? You like it???"
I gave him a corny wink and thumbs up. "Sure. It's no TGL, but on the other hand it isn't Vietnam in a cartridge. Besides, I like the cut of your old man's jib. He made a freakin' hot zombie."
"You... like Rotty Tops?"
"Well, her name makes my imagination work."
"...You're a little sick."
"You've got a cape made of tentacles and an alien wife."
With a handshake, we parted ways. Sigma Star Saga... you're alright.
But no TGL.
So I kick back and play some more Riviera.