Retro Game Club this week, this time the group voted to play a SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis game I’d never heard of before: ESWAT:City Under Siege. This Mega Drive version is based on the arcade game Cyber Police ESWAT that also saw ports to a variety of other systems including SEGA’s own Master System.
As mentioned above, I’d never heard of ESWAT so I’d gone into this without any nostalgia attached to the title. First impressions are that its what I’d describe as a side scrolling action game. It’s not an all out ” run ‘n’ gun” like Metal Slug and its not a side scrolling brawler like Streets of Rage, its also not a “proper” platformer. It does, however, feature platforms to jump across and shooting, the group has likened it to SEGA’s Shinobi games, but with a futuristic setting and I’d have to agree with that, though my experiences with Shinobi are very limited.
First start off fine, you control a typical cop looking character, walk from right to left (and then left to right as you make your way up the platforms in the first level) and shoot enemies as you go. The second level is a little more technical and it took me a while to get past the second levels boss. This was because I knew you could crouch, then I figured out you can walk and shoot whilst crouched, but I kept standing up to turn and being shot, I’d like to blame the PSP’s d-pad for this, as just holding crouch and moving felt cumbersome, but it was all on me really as it took me ages to realise you could also change the direction your facing whilst crouched. It still took me a few attempts to get past though.
However, its the third level where things really take a turn. You’re suddenly put into what looks a little like a Robocop suit but with jet thrusters on the back. This allows you to stay in the air but you only have a set amount of fuel and, honestly, its best saved for the boss battle, provided you can get there as the difficulty level really gets ramped up with the number of on screen enemies increased greatly and all placed at very different positions. It’s also the first time you have to select different weapons but the game never tells you any of this so there’s alot of trial and error involved that would have, if I weren’t using save states via my emulator, seen me just quit and not bother returning.
Level 2 is the interesting, with you having to nagivate a prison rail system through multiple directions before entering the cells themselves and dispatching the enemies, I ultimately gave up at the boss for level 5.
Being honest, it was a trek getting that far, ESWAT is very much of its time, its also cashing in heavily on the popularity of the Robocop movies in the late Eighties (this version of the game was released in the same month as Robocop 2 premiered in cinemas in 1990, whilst the previous versions of the game arrived the year following the first films release). It’s a competent game at best and its certainly showing its age, that the difficulty level ramps up so drastically in level 3 gives the impression that there was very little outsourced playtesting going on for this version of the game, and its not as though its a properly difficult level, as once you know the mechanics, progression is as simple as before, the issue with it is that the game play changes with brand new mechanics thrown in with no introduction to the player (beyond the suit appearing on the idle and title screens).
I was trying hard not to write it off, but was struggling to find the enthusiasm to play it after an initial couple of plays and its only really with the end of the month arriving and me wanting to write this post that I gave it any more time. It’s easy to see why I’d never heard of ESWAT, I was normally a generation behind during this period in gaming and it seems that even then ESWAT was the type of game that pretty much found its way to the dusty cupboard of games no one really talked about, which whilst I’m all for preservation of gaming history, its hard to make a case for anyone really missing this or of it being a bad game that ought to be remembered.