Data East’s Bloody Wolf involves the harrowing story of two commandos sent into enemy territory to – what else? – rescue the president. The biggest change from the usual formula is the ability to jump. Keeping to the air helps avoid enemy bullets, and is also essential to cross barbed wire and other road blocks. There are a few instances of platforming, for example, when crossing a broken bridge, but thankfully these are minimal. To accommodate the jumping, the angle is skewed slightly downward to make it look more like a side-scroller than an overhead shooter. Like Heavy Barrel, it scrolls both horizontally and vertically.
To contrast other shooters, your commandos can actually take a few hits before they go down. In addition to the extra weapons, usually found by rescuing hostages, you also have a combat knife which, like Shinobi, is used automatically when close to an enemy. Not only does this kill enemies more quickly, but it is also required to take down armored foes. A few battles even strip you of most of your arsenal, requiring that you fight your enemies one-on-one with only your knife. (The first of such encounters is a somewhat fair fight, against another knife-wielding goon. The one against the final boss is much more one-sided, as he still maintains controls of his guns, as well as boomerangs.)
In an element which seems to channel Metal Gear, there are various items to find. These are only found in a single location, so it’s possible to miss them, and are kept all the way through the entire game. The key will open up locked boxes. Swim fins will let you swim faster underwater, while infrared goggles will let you see otherwise invisible lasers in the final stage. Also available is body armor and the rosary, both which can protect you from damage. A few stages also have motorcycles, which allow you to fly forward, run over enemies, and absorb extra damage. You can also jump on command, which completely defies all types of physics, but is ridiculously fun anyway. The finale, too, is pretty remarkable, as you need to escort the president through a score of minions wielding only your knife. (Thankfully, the president is invincible, so you don’t need to worry about him getting killed.)
This game is known by slightly different names in various territories. In Japan it’s known as Narazumono Sentou Butai Bloody Wolf, or “Rogue Combat Squad: Bloody Wolf”, while in North America it is simply known as Bloody Wolf. The “World” version is known as Battle Rangers. This particular version is translated, if one could say that, into incredibly hilarious Engrish, including the infamous “Get you the hot bullets of shotgun to die!!” The North American version fixes some of these, but unfortunately ended up deleting most of the conversations entirely, especially the dialogues with the mid-bosses.
Most folks know Bloody Wolf from its TurboGrafx-16 port, which was released early in the system’s life. It looks remarkably faithful, in some cases improving the backgrounds. Furthermore, the action is smoother and the music actually sounds a bit better. The soundtrack is completely different, with a number of excellent songs, even though the eighth level’s song is a shameless ripoff of Toto’s “White Sister”.
Rather than having three life bars divided into three segments, you simply have one life bar (which can be increased with muscle enhancement tablets) and getting killed will send you back to a checkpoint, rather than resurrecting immediately. Like the home port of Midnight Resistance, the two-player mode is also entirely gone. Instead, you can choose between the two commandos at the beginning. The arcade version only let you enter your initials, while the console version lets you enter five characters. By default their names are Snake and Eagle – they play identically, although each gives a slightly different ending.
Many of the levels have been greatly expanded. For instance, the opening area in the first stage is much longer, and includes both barbed wire traps and explosive barrels. The explosions themselves are quite funny, if only for the incredibly cheap ways the enemy sprites are blasted off screen. The fifth level is completely new, making for eight total versus the arcade’s seven. This stage, which takes plus under the cover of night, is unique because it’s non-linear, as you search through a camp to find all of the hostages. While the first couple levels are more or less the same but longer, the fourth one is actually a variation of the final stage. When you complete this level, you’ve technically saved the president, but unfortunately there’s only a single seat left in the rescue helicopter. Doing his patriotic duty, your hero decides to stay behind and let himself get captured while the president is flown to safety.
The second half of the game is played as the other commando as you try to rescue your compatriot. Not only does this ridiculously corny scenario totally emulate the feel of 80s action movies, it also provides an excuse to why there are still two commandos to choose from (a remnant from the arcade version with its simultaneous play), but only one can be in action at a time. There’s even a tragic boss fight where the kidnapped (and brainwashed) commando turns traitor and attacks you. There are more cutscenes in general, including brief, stirring speeches from your hero after each level, and the boss dialogues have been retranslated again to sound more coherent, although significantly less hilarious. The rosary item has also been changed into a “rabbit’s foot”, but this is only referred to as such in the dialogue. The item itself still looks like a cross.
Many of the bosses are the same, although they’re much tougher and have more telegraphed attack patterns to exploit. For example, the shotgun boss in the arcade version just stands still and fires, and goes down in a few seconds. In the TG16 version, he takes more damage and calls up a series of armored soldiers once he’s been hit a few times. There’s a new final boss, as well as a rematch against the knife punk from earlier on. Instead of just fighting mano-a-mano this time, you actually have access to your guns and can finish him off easily (and hilariously.) You also have unlimited continues in the North American TG16 version, but the Japanese original limits how many times you can respawn. The TG16 version was released on the Wii Virtual Console in territories all over the globe.