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Bloody Wolf
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Bloody Wolf / Battle Rangers / Narazumono Sentō Butai Bloody Wolf (ならず者戦闘部隊ブラッディウルフ) - Arcade, TurboGrafx-16, Wii Virtual Console (1988)

American TG-16 Cover

Japanese Arcade Flyer

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 a few instances of platforming, for example, when crossing a broken bridge, but thankfully such instances are minimal. To accommodate the use of jumping, the angle is skewed slightly downward to make it look more like a side-scroller than an overhead shooter, but 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 good. The one against the final boss is much more one-sided, as he still maintains controls of his guns, as well as a series of 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 Sentō 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 fixed some of these, but 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 subtly improving the backgrounds. Furthermore, the action is smoother and the music actually sounds quite a bit better. Rather than having three life bars divided into three segments, you simply have one life bar, 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 level, 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 stages are more or less the same but longer, the fourth level 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 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 stood still and fired, and went down in a few seconds. In the TG-16 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.) Instead of the 3x3 life bars of the arcade version, you only have three hit points total. You can increase that, however, with muscle enhancement tablets. Dying sends you back to a checkpoint a short ways back. You have unlimited continues in the North American TG-16 version, but the Japanese original limits how many times you can respawn.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

  • Data East (Arcade)
  • NEC Home Electronics (TG16)

Designer:

  • Yoshiaki Honda

Genre:

Themes:


Bloody Wolf (TurboGrafx-16)

Bloody Wolf (Arcade)

Bloody Wolf (Arcade)

Bloody Wolf (Arcade)

Bloody Wolf (TurboGrafx-16)


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Intro Comparison Screenshots


Comparison Screenshots


Battle Rangers Dialogue


Bloody Wolf Dialogue


The Most Patriotic Scene in the History


Thunder Zone (サンダーゾーン) / Desert Assault - Arcade (1991)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

American Arcade Flyer

The fourth and final of Data East's American action hero games, Thunder Zone pares down many of the more unique elements in favor of good old-fashioned blasting. Your job is to move forward and blow stuff up everywhere. There are no keys to find, no cases to unlock, no hidden items. Occasionally there are some hostages to find and some vehicles to ride, including sand skis, jeeps, and hover tanks. And your commandos still have health bars a la Bloody Wolf, but otherwise it's remarkably straightforward. Keep in mind that this is absolutely not a complaint, because it takes the core action and amps it way up. In many ways, Thunder Zone outclasses all of Data East's other games for two primary reasons - first off, it's leaps and bounds in front from the other titles from a technological standpoint, despite coming only two years after Bloody Wolf, and secondly, because it capitalizes on the multiplayer trend started by Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by letting up to four players cause total mayhem at once. Snake and Eagle from Bloody Wolf return, along with two new characters, Monkey and Spider.

Thunder Zone is by far one of the best looking run and guns ever made. The explosions are satisfying, smoke gives off a nice thick haze, and pace is breathless. The action is viewed from a slightly isometric angle, giving it a bit of extra depth, although unlike Bloody Wolf you can't jump. The weapons are typical - machine guns, shot guns, flamethrowers - and each of the four commandos has their own unique screen clearing bomb. Like Data East's Vapor Trail, the music consists of many sampled guitar riffs coupled with its FM synth music, giving the game, perfectly capping off all-American hard rock Desert Storm war fantasy. It's got plenty of great details, too - health is restored by grabbing cans of fizzing soda, and each character has unique portraits by their life bar which change based on the situation. They'll give a refreshed sigh when getting a health restorative, show a cocky pose when detonating a bomb, or show a tombstone when they get killed. Most amusing is when you get set on fire, requiring you rock the joystick back and forth to put it out - the portrait seems to show your soldier in the midst of some kind of flaming pirouette. If you're playing in multiplayer and one of the players is downed, a surviving character can pick him up while the wounded player can continue to shoot.

The final stage sends our heroes to stock a missile launch at the last second, not by hitting any button, but by completely destroying the computer itself. Then you hurl yourself at the window on to an escaping jet plane for the final encounter. The game ends with our heroes plunged out into the ocean as they swim in panic away from a shark, whose graphic seems to have been ripped straight from the Jaws movie poster. It's a perfectly silly way to end such a deviously ridiculous experience. In between stages are also training levels, ranging from shooting galleries to button-mashing boot camp segments, where you compete against your fellow commandos for bonuses.

Thunder Zone is far and away the most obscure of these games because it never got a home port. It probably would've felt at home on the Saturn - it's far too much of a graphical powerhouse to run properly on a 16-bit console without major downscaling - but since the game ends after a mere five stages, the extremely short length may have made it unsuitable for console play. Regardless, it's easily one of the most enjoyable overhead run and guns made, right up there with Capcom's Mercs and Saurus' Shock Troopers.

The Japanese version has a handful of changes. The biggest one involves in the second stage - in the American and World versions, it takes place in the desert. In the Japanese version, though, it takes place in Antarctica. This was probably changed to fit in with the overseas name, Desert Assault, as well as trying to tie itself in with Operation: Desert Storm going on at the time. If you beat the game in a single credit, you also get an image of an extra cute little girl congratulating you. Unfortunately this version is not presently emulated in MAME.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Yoshiaki Honda

Genre:

Themes:


Thunder Zone (Arcade)

Thunder Zone (Arcade)

Thunder Zone (Arcade)

Thunder Zone (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots


Comparison Screenshots


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Heavy Barrel
Midnight Resistance

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Bloody Wolf
Thunder Zone

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