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Mahou Daisakusen
Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kingdom Grand Prix
Soukyuugurentai

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Battle Garegga
Armed Police Batrider
Battle Bakraid

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Great Mahou Daisakusen
1944: The Loop Master
Brave Blade

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Battle Garegga (バトルガレッガ) - Arcade / Saturn (1996)

Saturn Cover

Battle Garegga

Battle Garegga is a game with a legendarily divisive reputation. Many people regard it as one of the best shooters of all time. Others think that it's overrated and that the art style and rank system ruin what would have been some cool ideas. The general style, in addition to the bomb collection system, was heavily influenced by Taito's 1990 shooter Gun Frontier, to the point where Battle Garegga could be considered a spiritual successor.

The storyline takes place in a sort of diesel punk versions of the 1940s. Motors are all over everything, and factories continuously churn out machines, with tall smokestacks littering the scenery. The two main characters, Brian and Jason Wayne, own a very productive automobile factory. A mysterious group called the Federation offers them wealth beyond their wildest dreams if they switch manufacturing from cars to weapons, and they agree. While the Wayne brothers are counting their riches, tThe Federation begins a world conquest by destroying everything that opposes them. The Wayne brothers quickly figure out that they had made an extremely poor decision and use four experimental aircraft to fight against The Federation and destroy the machines they made for them.

Characters

Unfortunately, the Wayne brothers may have made the Federation's machines a bit too powerful. Anyone that remembers or has played Compile's Zanac will be instantly familiar with what's referring to as a "rank" system. The computer will count how many times you fire your weapon, how many times you grab powerups, how long you go without dying, how many bombs you hoard, even your score count - and then adjusts the difficulty accordingly on the fly. Once the rank goes up, the difficulty increases dramatically. There is one way to make the rank go down - by dying. It creates some ridiculous scenarios where players will intentionally suicide at points to make the difficulty manageable, and can only properly clear it by scoring high enough to rack up extra lives. Then again, the non-Japanese arcade board removes the extend feature, screwing this all up rather royally. Managing rank is especially a pain because, technically, it's invisible - you might not even know there was such a system in place without being informed of it beforehand, unless you really played a lot.

Visually, Battle Garegga is incredibly outstanding, with a depth in pixel artwork comparable to Irem/Nazca games like Metal Slug or In the Hunt. It's got some spectacular looking explosions, as each enemy goes down in different blazes of glory - some are simple, small balls of fire, others are huge, twisting fireworks. Bits of shaprel and debris fly off of every hit. The atmosphere might be dark and depressing, but the attention to detail is quite impressive, especially on the gigantic fighter plane bosses. The most impressive of these is a gigantic green battleship which resembles a manta ray, complete with a swaying tale. Not the most practical of designs, but it sure looks awesome.

Even though it's a visual treat, the art style does intrude a bit on the action. The pacing and amount of bullets have shot up, and while it's not quite a bullet hell shooter, it's considerably more hectic than Raizing's other shooters. In shooters of this type, the bullets are brightly colored and easy to see, so they stand out from the scenery. Not so in Battle Garegga, where the bullets look like actual bullets. These projectiles are long, dark silver or gray colored, and tend to blend in with the dark machinery in both the foreground and background. Many fans quite were quite vocal in their criticism, and so Raizing eventually made a second version that replaces many of the realistic looking bullets with bright yellow fireballs.

Besides the art style and rank system, Battle Garegga has some other interesting features. Once you get options you can command them in a variety of formations, positioning them to fire behind you or command them to spin, again borrowing some aspects from Compile games like MUSHA. Each ship also has its own unique bomb attack (called "bombers" in Raizing parlance.) None of them are your standard "one big explosion" either, as they're more like super attacks. The Silver Sword spreads napalm in the opposite direction you move in. It is very powerful, but can be hard to aim. The Grasshopper turns invincible and fires a torrent of bullets at an incredible rate. The Flying Baron launches homing rockets in all directions. The Wild Snail turns invincible and uses a pair of flame-throwers on its wings. You get bombers by collecting small, grey bombs, dropped by destroyed enemies. It takes forty of these small bombs to make one large bomb. You can prematurely fire off bombs for a lesser effect if you really need to use them, but saving up for a large bomb may prove more advantageous.

There is also an "arrange mode", activated through dip switches. Arrange mode lets you choose the order you play most of the levels. You still have to do the valley level first and the airport level last, but it can be fun to mix up the order every once in a while. Taking on some of the later bosses while your rank is still low can make them seem like completely different fights.

The scoring system is fairly simple. Sometimes enemies will drop medals when defeated. The medals start off small, but as you collect them, they get bigger and are worth more points. If you miss a medal by letting it fall off screen, they revert back to being small again and thus resetting their point value. Picking up medals can increase your rank, so scoring can be pretty dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.

As a neat bonus, by entering a code, you can unlock four of the characters from Mahou Daisakusen. Unlike in their debut game, all four of them are extremely powerful this time. This appearance foreshadows one of the biggest crossovers in shooter history with Raizing's followup game.

The Saturn version of Battle Garegga is another excellent port, and includes the ability to tate the screen or emulate slowdown for an experience closer to the arcade. The arrange mode, alternate bullets, and hidden characters can be enabled via the options. It also includes some unlockable replay videos.

It also features an arranged soundtrack, which remixes some of the music from the arcade version and lets you switch between the two. One of the best pieces is the song "Stomp and Stab", one of the pulse pumping boss themes. The music was composed by a young Manabu Namiki, who would later go on to give himself a reputation for excellent shooter and retro-style music, working on several Cave games like Dodonpachi Daioujou, Ketsui, and Mushihime-sama. The style is Detroit techno, not often heard in video games, and it goes great with the non-stop action. The ending credits theme is a homage to the band Underground Resistance.

While some design decisions may rub players the wrong way, Battle Garegga is still an absolute classic. It was designed by Shinobu Yagawa, who previously worked on Recca for the Famicom, and would later helm Raizing's next two games. The Saturn release is quite pricey, and often reaches the triple digits, though not quite as expensive as Radiant Silvergun or Hyper Duel.

Battle Garegga

Battle Garegga

Battle Garegga

Battle Garegga

Battle Garegga

Additional Screenshots

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Armed Police Batrider (アームドポリス バトライダー) - Arcade (1998)

Arcade Flyer

Armed Police Batrider

Armed Police Batrider is probably the closest shooter equivalent to SNK's The King of Fighters. There's heavy emphasis on using teams and features crossover characters from both Mahou Daisakusen and Battle Garegga. There's even a team edit mode that lets you mix and match characters however you see fit. The only series Raizing missed is Soukyuugurentai/Terra Diver.

The plotline involves Manhattan being plagued with unprecedented levels of crime and overpopulation in 2004 (which must've seemed like the distant future back when this game was made), so the government turns to the Gigantech corporation. Gigantech makes an artificial island called Zenovia, designed to fight crime and overpopulation. Gigantech also promised to help keep Zenovia under control with its giant robots. By 2019, Zenovia has become a slum and Gigantech is producing powerful weapons in an attempt to remove itself from the government. Nine "zero cops" are sent in to stop this.

The original characters for Armed Police Batrider are the most interesting ones. They all ride hover bikes and are separated into three teams: Police Team, Psychic Team, and Criminal Team. Police Team is composed of violent D.D., who is reminiscent of Dirty Harry; Shorty, a girl that has really cool homing missiles; and firebird loving Jyuji. Psychic Team has Maria, a girl with a bomb in her head; Golden, a man with some kind of supernatural power in his eyes; and Strawman, a very tall, quiet man that can talk to trees. Criminal Team is composed of Birthday, a bank robber that apparently loves buzzsaws; Tag-T, the leader of a hoverbike gang; and Adam, a depressed serial killer. There are nine hidden characters - Silver Sword, Grasshopper, Flying Baron and Wild Snail from Battle Garegga, and Gain, Chitta, Miyamoto, and Bornnam from Mahou Daisakusen. All of these were previously playable in their respective games, but includes one new character that is exclusive to Batrider. Her name is Car-Pet, an NPC from Kingdom Grand Prix that you could blow up for fun. In Batrider, she is fully playable. It's an interesting mashup, to say the least, playing as a flying carpet that can blow up giant robots and helicopters.

Characters

Armed Police Batrider also borrows bosses from the games it crosses over with. The Battle Garegga bosses, Black Heart and Glow Squid, surprisingly don't seem too out of place next to the rest of the bosses. The Mahou Daisakusen bosses however, look particularly goofy, as the art style totally clashes. A great example of this is the highway level. Imagine chasing a gigantic, futuristic tank down a highway, while powerful robotic squids enemies jump out from every direction. Then, out of nowhere, a ninja attacks and starts using his ninjitsu to make walls of fire and throw giant burning shuriken. It's obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and it's charming in its own way, but it does ruin the tightly detailed thematic consistencies that made Battle Garegga and Soukyugurentai such amazing games.

One of the best parts about Armed Police Batrider is that it tunes up Battle Garegga's rank system. In Battle Garegga, you start the game at the lowest possible rank and have to be careful not to let it get too high. In Batrider, you start the game at the highest rank. While it's nowhere near as insane as Battle Garegga at the highest rank, it still fills the screen with bullets and will try its very best to kill you unmercifully. There is one catch, though - you can way to lower your rank by grazing. This is when a projectile passes through your sprite, but misses your hitbox. It can be very good for scoring, as it gives you extra points, but it's obviously also very risky. By lowering the rank, grazing can be key to your victory.

There are other methods taken to try to make Armed Police Batrider easier and more accessible to new players. There's a training mode that features slower bullets, less levels, weaker bosses, and an auto bomber attack. Normal mode is quite a step up in difficulty, and Advance mode adds in the final level and is the only mode that offers endings. There is one last mode called Special, which is a boss rush mode where your ship is always at full power. Arrange mode can be enabled through a dip switch, letting you mix and match levels, just like in Battle Garegga. Sadly, your customization is far more limited. You only get to choose what order you play the airport, sewer, and sky levels while the rest of the game is untouched. If arrange mode is off, then the order of those three levels are randomized.

The scoring system from Battle Garegga is back too. Chaining medals to make them larger is a bit easier here, partially due to how there are more enemies than in Battle Garegga. One humorous aspect was added - if you miss collecting the largest medal, the announcer will shout "No!" It makes screwing up a bit less of a downer because it sounds so ridiculous.

The bombing system is the same as Battle Garegga as well. Of note, the auto bomber in training mode only fires full bombs, meaning that picking up small bullets is even more important to clearing the game than the other modes. Additionally, there is a new charge shot. You activate the charge shot by not firing your main weapon, which will cause a force field will form in front of your character. Once released, your options will freeze in place and start firing faster until time is up and reverted back to hovering around your character.

Armed Police Batrider is a fantastic game. It offers something for the inexperienced and the hardcore alike, and it offers more depth and customization than most shooters. Neither the visuals nor the music is quite up to the levels of Battle Garegga - it has a post-apocalyptic look that is a bit less unique, and the spritework isn't quite as impressive, plus the music is only average, despite the boss theme having an awesome name like "Let's Ass Kick Together". Alas, this one never saw release on a home console.

Armed Police Batrider

Armed Police Batrider

Armed Police Batrider

Armed Police Batrider

Armed Police Batrider

Additional Screenshots

Comparison Screenshots

Armed Police Batrider

Mahou Daisakusen

Armed Police Batrider

Battle Garegga

Armed Police Batrider

Mahou Daisakusen

Armed Police Batrider

Shippu Mahou Daisakusen

Battle Bakraid (バトルバクレイド) - Arcade (1999)

Arcade Flyer

Battle Bakraid

Battle Bakraid is the true sequel to Battle Garegga. It takes elements from Armed Police Batrider and experiments with them, as well as including some new ideas. The biggest difference between the two lies in the art style. Battle Garegga was a smoke-stained vision of the 1940s, but Battle Bakraid drops this for a far more traditional futuristic war style. With Raizing having learned their lesson with Battle Garegga, the bullets are brightly colored, easy-to-see energy balls. In general, the graphics are decent, though not quite as detailed.

Battle Bakraid also includes a total of nine ships, although as usual most of them need to be unlocked with a cheat code. Instead of being limited to planes, you can also fly jets, flying wings, and strange looking aircraft that don't even appear to be particularly aerodynamic. There is also an option for a Team Edit, similar to Armed Police Batrider. This leads to one of the best original ideas in Battle Bakraid. In Battle Garegga, you had two types of shots, your main shot and your option shot. There's also a sub shot that can be leveled up. Each ship has a different sub shot, ranging from flame-throwers, to homing lasers, to missiles. You can really get a lot of firepower, along with up to six options that can be programmed. Additionally, the hitboxes are much smaller than that of Battle Garegga, making grazing much easier.

Battle Bakraid also has difficulty levels directly inspired from Armed Police Batrider, complete with that awesome boss rush mode from before. The rank system is back, but this time it starts in the middle, giving you some elbow room to work with raising or lowering it depending on your play style. Since it's much easier to graze, it's also far easier to decrease the rank, making it somewhat easier than Armed Police Batrider in general. That certainly doesn't mean it's an easy game. It will cover the screen in more bullets than any other game Raizing has ever made before, to the point where it almost feels like a Cave game. The charge shot and force field from Armed Police Batrider return too, though it's much more powerful. The scoring system is quite similar to Battle Garegga, with the grazing aspect added in. Medals seem to drop more often, so it can be a bit harder to keep the chain going. Furthermore, if a medal drops off the bottom, you can restore your chain by not shooting anything else and grabbing the largest medal currently on the screen.

Most of the bosses are named after mythological beasts. Axebeak is a large bomber plane, while Bahamut is a tank the size of a building. These bosses have a habit of taking multiple forms and coming back even stronger just when you think you destroyed them. One of the coolest is Gigamanta, the boss that comes at the end of the cloud level, a stage already infested with powerful mini bosses.

Battle Bakraid may not be as original as Battle Garegga, nor as stylish as Armed Police Batrider, but it's still a very high class game. Pity that, like its predecessor, it was never ported.

Battle Bakraid

Battle Bakraid

Battle Bakraid

Additional Screenshots

<<< Prior Page    

    Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Mahou Daisakusen
Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kingdom Grand Prix
Soukyuugurentai

Page 2:
Battle Garegga
Armed Police Batrider
Battle Bakraid

Page 3:
Great Mahou Daisakusen
1944: The Loop Master
Brave Blade

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