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Moon Cresta
Terra Cresta

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UFO Dangar Robo
Terra Force
Armed Formation F
Terra Cresta II
Terra Cresta 3D

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by Jess Ragan - January 1, 2015

Nichibutsu is a Japanese arcade developer which probably won't ring too many bells for most classic gamers. A division of Nihon Bussan, an electronics company, its most successful title outside of its native country was Crazy Climber, an obtuse but silly game about scaling buildings. Within Japan, though, they're well regarded as the creators of Moon Cresta and its successor Terra Cresta, two very well regarded shoot-em-ups from the early age of the genre. There are also a number of spinoff titles, such as UFO Dangar Robo and Armed Formation F, that use similar mechanics despite not technically being part of the series.


Moon Cresta - Arcade, PC-8001, X68000, Windows, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Wii, PlayStation 4, Atari 7800, Android (1987)

European Arcade Flyer

European Arcade Flyer

Moon Cresta was one of the first of many single screen shooters from the early 1980s, designed to capitalize on the popularity of Namco's Galaxian. Moon Cresta runs on the same 8-bit hardware, has the same sparkling star field in the background, and even uses some of the same sound effects, like the whistling of missiles as they leave the player's ship. However, there are two key differences.

The first is that while there are fewer onscreen enemies, they're also wilier, flying in confounding elliptical patterns. Your first foes are Cold Eyes, which swirl above you in figure eights before swooping down for the kill. Shooting a Cold Eye splits it into two ships, making it crucial to destroy both halves before aiming for the others to keep the onscreen chaos manageable. After two fleets of Cold Eyes, your next opponents are Super Flies, which are slightly less crafty but more numerous.

Swatting the two swarms of Super Flies reveals the game's other key difference from Galaxian. Like most shooters from the early 1980s, you're given three ships, but they're three different ships, each more powerful but also larger than the last. If you can survive four rounds, you'll be given a chance to dock your fighter with one of the remaining ships, in a mini-game similar to Atari's Lunar Lander. The fire button turns on your thrusters, letting you gently guide your ship down to its ally. A successful dock merges the two ships, boosting your firepower and preparing you for future waves of more dangerous aliens. Crash and you'll lose one of your ships, leaving you at a disadvantage when the game gets tougher.

It would be easy to dismiss this feature as a knock-off of Galaga's dual ships, but keep in mind that Moon Cresta was released one year before Namco's sequel to Galaxian. Also, all three ships in Moon Cresta can be brought together, creating a tower of death that makes short work of the Four-Ds (AKA Arrow Ships), Meteos, and unfortunately named Atomic Piles that menace the player in future stages. On the down side, the fully assembled Moon Cresta ship is an easy target for the circling swarms of aliens, and once one of the ships in your fleet is gone, it's gone for good unless you can earn a kingly score of 30,000 points. With enemies worth as little as 30 points each, that may take a while.

Moon Cresta exists in several forms beyond the original arcade release by Nichibutsu. It was rechristened Eagle and given new graphics by Centuri, famous for distributing many of Konami's early arcade games in the United States. There was also a revised version of the game by Sega/Gremlin called Super Moon Cresta, where the already tricky enemies dropped missiles of their own. Finally, there was Moon Quasar, a semi-sequel which challenged the player to dock with a brightly colored mothership between stages for bonus points.

Moon Cresta never saw much action on the game consoles of the early 1980s, but it was ported to a half dozen home computers courtesy of a small British publisher called Incentive. According to the World of Spectrum web site, Incentive founder Ian Andrew paid 1000 pounds (roughly $1500 dollars) for the license, and was given free rein to publish Moon Cresta for any computer he chose. Those included the Commodore 64, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Dragon 32, a close cousin of America's TRS-80 Color Computer. Most of these ports are solid conversions, with several adding impressive particle effects that fill the screen when the player's ship explodes. Moon Cresta on the Dragon 32 is presented entirely in black and white, while the other games have more colorful, yet chunkier graphics. Amusingly, many of these conversions include an illustrated options screen with a ten pence coin slot next to the key that starts the game!

On the Japanese side, there is an official port for the PC-8001 computer, as well as an unofficial conversion under the name Moon Alien, which has extremely large, chunky visuals.

Years later, Moon Cresta surfaced as part of a collection for Japan's Sharp X68000, published by Dempa/Micomsoft, and in Nichibutsu Arcade Classics for the Super Famicom and PlayStation. The X68000 version is s bundled on the same disk as Terra Cresta, and you need to hold down F2 as the system boots to access it. This port is just about arcade perfect. The SFC and PS1 ports have graphics straight from the arcade game and look decent on the outside, but have alterations to the enemy speed and other characteristics, which makes them unfavorable to fan of the arcade game. The PS1 compilation also includes a game called SF-X (Space Fighter X), which is yet another varition of Moon Cresta with different, more detailed graphics and denser enemy patterns. What's strange is that it's completely different from the SF-X arcade game Nichibutsu released in the arcades in 1983. This was a side-scrolling shooter, and was known outside of Japan as Skelagon.

Moon Cresta was released on its own for the PlayStation 2 as Oretachi Game Center Zoku: Moon Cresta, with Terra Cresta being sold on a separate disc. Most recently, Moon Cresta surfaced on the Android operating system courtesy of the game's new IP holder Hamster Corporation, and was ported to the Atari 7800 by hobbyist programmer Bob DeCrezcendo.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


Moon Cresta (Arcade)

Moon Cresta (Arcade)

Moon Cresta (Arcade)

Moon Cresta (Arcade)


Comparison Screenshots


Terra Cresta - Arcade, NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, X68000, PlayStation 2 (1985)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

European Spectrum Cover

The year 1985 brought profound change to the world of video games. Technology was rapidly evolving, with the latest arcade titles either using more advanced 8-bit processors or stepping up to Motorola's powerful 16-bit 68000. Developers took advantage of the cutting-edge hardware by broadening their horizons, and players reaped the benefits. Instead of being held captive by single screen playfields, they now had the freedom to explore their surroundings, admiring the lush scenery and uncovering hidden treasures scattered throughout each world.

This change in scope turned the already popular Mario Bros. into the spectacularly successful Super Mario Bros., and it does wonders for the sequel to Moon Cresta. Terra Cresta takes the ship fusing play mechanics from the original game and sets them into the framework of an overhead view shooter, similar to Namco's Xevious. Your already capable Winger can dock with four other ships to strengthen its firepower. Docking in Moon Cresta was a challenge, but in Terra Cresta, it's as simple as blasting the protective domes surrounding each ship's hangar, then flying into the craft to merge with it. Every ship is numbered, a la the British series Thunderbirds are Go!, and each has the following abilities:

1 (Alpha): This is the Winger, the fleet's lead ship. It fires twin bullets in a straight trajectory惻 it's not much, but it's just enough firepower to let you survive the relentless attacks of the Mandoran army. If an enemy attacks the Winger while it's combined with other ships, those ships are destroyed and only the Winger remains. If the Winger collides with enemies or their bullets while unprotected, it explodes.

2 (Beta): As the name suggests, ship number two doubles the Winger's firepower... along with its size! Fortunately, the ship will take a bullet for you, as well as cushion you from one collision.

3 (Gamma): Ship number three gives the Winger tail guns, letting it clear away foes lurking behind it. This also comes in handy for safely picking off those pesky cannons hiding behind barriers.

4 (Delta): The fourth ship gives the Winger a concussive beam which tears through smaller enemies and makes short work of bosses and the dinosaurs roaming the planet.

5 (Epsilon): The fifth ship generates a force field behind the Winger, protecting it from those sneaky enemies which strike from the bottom of the screen.

After you've collected at least one ship, you can tap the formation button to split the Winger into a fleet of fighters. Formations drastically increase your firepower and make you a smaller target, but if your Winger is clipped, the entire fleet explodes. Finally, formations are both temporary, lasting eight seconds, and finite. If you use the formation button three times, you won't be able to use it again until you collect another ship and replenish your stock. Your firepower during a formation depends on the number of ships in your fleet. Here are the four available formations:

MOON FORMATION: Two ships fire a devastating wave beam. The crescents don't offer much protection from the sides but rips through enemies directly in front of the Winger.

EXTEND FORMATION: Three ships fire in different directions, creating a deadly fan of bullets. It offers more coverage than the moon formation but the damage isn't as intense.

CYCLONE FORMATION: Four ships release spinning blades which cut through foes. The blades are hard to aim but they work beautifully against those aggravating cannons set behind barriers.

CROSS FORMATION: All five ships lay down a spread of bullets which covers most of the screen. It's not terribly exciting, but the best is yet to come!

Bringing all five ships together briefly turns the assembled flying fortress into a phoenix, which is both invulnerable to attack and deadly to the touch. The phoenix can only be summoned once each time you've collected the full phalanx of five ships, so make it count!

Moon Cresta was designed by a single person, Shigeki Fujiwara, but Terra Cresta was created by a team of programmers and artists, and the extra manpower pays huge dividends. What passed for graphics in Moon Cresta - abstract figures set against the inky blackness of space - has improved significantly, with the Winger flying over stretches of desert, vibrant grasslands, and vast seas which coat the surrounding beaches with seafoam. Thematically it's not hugely different from Xevious, though there are some cool touches outside of the usual sci-fi aesthetics, like the dinosaur enemies. The sprites are still fairly non-descript, but have a metallic luster that stands in stark contrast to the garish colors of the first game.

The sound is also a highlight, at least in later versions of the game with the more advanced YM3526 sound chip. The soundtrack runs the gamut from adventurous to ominous, always fitting the current mood. Each of your Wingers is launched with a brief hopeful tune, which takes on a desperate edge when you're down to your last life. (Keen ears will recognize this jingle as a remix of the opening theme from Moon Cresta!) Nichibutsu was so proud of musician Kenji Yoshida's work that they sold the soundtrack on audio cassette in Japan, with bonus orchestral arrangements.

Terra Cresta took heavy inspiration from the science-fiction cartoons popular in Japan through the late 1970s and early 1980s, making the game massively popular in its native country. However, it was a more modest success in other territories. A competent Famicom version was released one year after the game debuted in arcades, but wasn't available for the American Nintendo Entertainment System until 1990. Both versions let you design your own ship formations as a bonus, but the American game includes a revamped soundtrack that's more full-bodied and less shrill than the one in the older Japanese release. An MSX2 port was planned, and almost finished, but never released. Released video footage seems to indicate it was roughly on par with the Famicom version.

Other ports of Terra Cresta were released for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Sharp X68000 computers. The X68000 version of the game by Dempa/Micomsoft mirrors its arcade counterpart almost perfectly, suggesting that the code was ported directly to the powerful home computer. The Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum games by Imagine Software were less successful, with the former suffering from chunky graphics and the latter having the color limitations expected from Britain's budget computer. The Commodore 64 version does benefit from some excellent music courtesy of Martin Galway, at least. Finally, the game was released for the PlayStation 2 by Hamster Corporation, as part of its Oretachi Game Center Zoku series. Unsurprisingly, the game emulates the arcade hardware and matches it pixel for pixel.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


Terra Cresta (Arcade)

Terra Cresta (Arcade)

Terra Cresta (Arcade)

Terra Cresta (Arcade)

Terra Cresta (Arcade)


View all "Terra Cresta" items on eBay

Comparison Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Moon Cresta
Terra Cresta

Page 2:
UFO Dangar Robo
Terra Force
Armed Formation F
Terra Cresta II
Terra Cresta 3D

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