Saturday, September 10, 2022

Tropical Angel (1983)

Name:Tropical Angel
Time:50 minutes
Won:Won (48W/49L)

Summer is almost over here, meaning its time to put away the tropical shirts and tropical drinks, and start wearing sweaters and consuming a dangerous amount of pumpkin spice flavored items. While its bit a particularly unpleasant summer, I do not look forward to an equally unpleasant winter and the temperatures here have gotten to the point where its just comfortable enough. As a final hurrah, I decided to pick out this title.
Irem was one of the earliest arcade title manufacturers in Japan, you might know them for R-Type, In the Hunt or Moon Patrol. Over the years they were quite the bedrock of Japanese gaming, as such, I suspect that this will not be the last we've seen of them. They apparently did everything from cotton candy machines to pachinko in the very early days. Fun fact, it was founded by Kenzo Tsujimoto, the same person who founded Capcom.

In theory a racing game, Tropical Angel asks the player to control a water-skiing woman through a rock filled obstacle course. In practice, speed isn't all that important, but avoiding rocks is. I am curious as to how these rocks don't screw with the boat propelling me, but I don't really think logic enters into this game. And what is it with Japanese racing games and having A-class test, B-class test as track names? Maybe its because I don't pay attention to motorsport, but I can't say I've seen that used outside of the context of video games.

To further differentiate itself from the pack, the game includes a show off mode you can switch to, where the lady skier will spin around, the boat will stop speeding up, and you can't turn. Basically just for points and to make yourself seem cool. It doesn't seem like they put any effort into that lady's face. Otherwise its your basic racing setup, speed, left and right turning.

Because of the set-up, this game feels quite bizarre in how it plays. You only get the road up to a certain distance, as its being created by the boat. As such, you can't really tell what's past the boat, it seems like every time I tried to guess it went wrong. That's not to say you can't react to them, even if you can't, the combination of being able to slow down and the generous time limit means you can probably avoid most of them, at least at this point.

Prepare to see this a lot
Crashing, as in getting those penalties feels so bizarre in this game. Early on when I was just starting out it practically felt like I had a cheat mode on, because crashing isn't quite as big a deal as it should be. I mentioned the penalty, and it just feels...soft. Its comical how many times it happens, so much that despite being an effective obstacle, it doesn't quite feel right. I feel like I should be losing the game or getting something else as a penalty.
So its not really that long before I manage to win, which allows me to reach a bonus stage. The first one is all about jumping up ramps. These were sprinkled throughout the ordinary level, but often too far out of comfortable reach. If you don't hit these right, you end up falling down. On this stage automatically results in you advancing. I didn't really get a lot of bonus points here either, because they were still out of comfortable reach.
At first the A-class stages seem like the starting too, just with a slightly tighter time limit. Only, its here that the game introduces another aspect of the game, the shark. You have to avoid him, or you'll instantly lose. There's nothing wrong with this in theory, but in practice this makes the game unnecessarily brutal, at least without save states. Here I am saying the game feels strange before, now that there's something to worry about it feels annoying. The game just can't win.
The shark isn't too bad though, as most of the sections involving one has a dearth of rocks in the water, and his patterns are relatively easy to predict.

To make matters worse, it feels like the A-class stages are designed specifically so you the natural choice of the player in steering will guarantee falling into the water. Its infuriating. It feels like I should be able to slow down and spot these things, but it seems more a test of muscle memory than reaction.
The second bonus stage is a slalom. You know, water slalom is apparently a thing, but it did make me think the game was a reskinned snowsport game. Jumping, slaloming, you can understand why. This is really, really easy outside of a small handful of places. I have no idea why the game is so generous about it. Because there are places where you're practically just staying still getting past them.
None of these screenshots really convey how difficult this game truly is
The final stages are infuriating through and through. I don't know how you'd be able to get through them without save states. Getting past this section felt so absurd that watching it must look akin to seeing someone playing QWOP. Surely, it can't be that bad! Yes, it is. Now shark waves are moments of relaxation between the sheer chaos that is the rock stages. Its half being so strategically placed you're lucky to dodge them, and half I somehow went into the same stupid trap ten times in a row.

I will note that I figured out how the edges worked here, you can move into them once in a while, with no harm, but keep it down and you'll fly out.
This is all a lot different in action. Fortunately, someone else took footage of the game. I just want to note two things, he gets really lucky several times, and he eventually uses the invincibility cheat. Someone good enough to make a video on it is using a cheat. If I weren't using save states, I suspect it would have taken me a lot longer to win the game.
I like the way the game looks. The whole place oozes that tropical atmosphere. I love it. I do however, think the game is incredibly basic, as we get a few basic elements, a really nice skybox, and then...the same thing for the fifteen minute duration of the game. This works best if you set it so the game has engine noises rather than music, as the tune that plays in that case is extremely generic.

The purple water gives the place a slightly alien vibe, like this takes place on an alien world. But its not so obvious the game is screaming alien planet at you. I feel like if someone made a concept like a sci-fi beach game today, it would be so overwhelmingly alien it would feel on the nose. "This much greeting to you, Trixatrix, Concubine to the Seven Kings of Aior".


A shark, who was more of a boon than a foe. 1/10


We placed rocks in this order, get past them. Technically you get the same twisty curve stuff as Outrun and other racers of this time, but it hardly matters. Absolute insanity. 3/10

Player Agency:
This is probably intentional, but the controls felt a bit too stiff. Since the game is all about water-skiing, its probably trying to emulate a slightly awkward way of moving around. 3/10


I liked the way the game depicted its tropical setting, but I just wish there was more of it. More islands, some tropical music, maybe even some seagulls. 4/10

I have some minor difficulty figuring out where rocks are going to appear in front of me, but otherwise, I think the game looks great. 4/10


The game offers two modes, music and sound mode. The music is your typical happy NES tune, while the sound is okay. Just about what you'd expect from this kind of sound chip. 2/10

That's 17.

This seems like quite an extreme contrast. So many zeroes and yet quite a few aspects I liked. Thus its somehow become the highest rated game of 1983. It actually made the average for this year jump a 7. (the games I played before actually getting to this year were all bad)
I hope it does not remain that way. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because of what that would mean. I would recommend this to racing game fans, but that's partially because racing game fans seem to just hate themselves based on how hard racing games tend to be.

Programming note, this will probably be the last 1983 game I blog about until November. I have a very interesting title to talk about next, and I also want to get through as many FPS titles as I can through the rest of this year.

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