S.C.A.T.
Box Shot
S.C.A.T.
Platform: NES
Publisher: Natsume
Designer: Natsume
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Not long after Natsume brought out their two player action game Shadow of the Ninja, they brought out a curious shooter named S.C.A.T. The basic concept is to take Contra, arm your characters with jetpacks and then put two little satellites to protect the players. And what results is one of the better shooters on the NES.

There's the standard throwaway plot. The only thing you need to know is that two flying commandos have to shoot things and save the world. After picking your character (a male and female, who bear a creepy resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver) a neat little voice announces "You must destroy them! The Earth is counting on you! Good luck!" Everything takes place with an automatic side-scrolling view. Often times the scrolling changes directions from horizontal to vertical a couple times in each level.

You have a standard gun but there are three times of weapon boxes that can be picked up at various parts in the level: wave, laser and bomb. The most innovative thing is the little probes that surround your fighter. By pressing the A button, you can control whether the probes are moving or not. They constantly rotate in front of and in back of your persona. If you need extra fire power to the right side, just position them there and they're shoot out their own projectiles (in other words, they don't take on whatever weapon you happen to be carrying.) If you need rear protection, just rotate them until they're in back. This provides a very interesting strategy element, as certain parts of certain levels pretty much require that you figure out the best place to put your probes.

Unlike many shooters, you actually have a life bar. There's only six units, so after that you blow and are sent to the beginning of the level. There are life restorers, but they are rather rare. You can also regain a bar of health by obtaining a high enough score. Like Super Mario Bros. 3, if you get trapped behind a wall as the screen scrolls, you die...no exceptions.

Unfortunately, a big problem is the length of the game...there's only four levels. They're aren't very short, but the game just seems to end too soon. Sure, the levels that are there aren't too bad...the city level is neat, the alien base has evil eyes that resemble the stalks in Life Force, and the third level features an exasperating vertical trip through a vacuum...but after the final alien base level, there's nothing left. Maybe it required too much memory for the voice sample at the beginning of the game, and levels were cut out. Who knows. But whatever it is, the game doesn't seem complete. But the game has the difficulty factor set up so you probably won't fly through it on one try. The unlimited continues will probably help those normally frustrated with shooters, but may make it too easy for veterans.

The graphics aren't too bad. The enemies are typically nondescript, but the background effects aren't too bad (like the lightning in the first level), but the green background in the fast vertical area in the third level can produce nasty headaches. The music is all pretty good...some of it is almost Konami quality. And the game plays very well, without much of a hitch in the play control department (although the speed-ups are welcome power-ups when you find them.)

While not quite matching the standards set up the excellent Konami shooters, S.C.A.T. is a very fun diversion once you've played those to death. And the two player mode is something rarely seen outside of Life Force, so it's great to play with a sibling or friend.