Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bionic Battler (1990)

Name:Bionic Battler
Publisher:Electro Brain
Developer:Copya System
Time:1 hour
Won:Yes (56W/56L)

There's something I appreciate about console/portable FPS titles at this point in time. Proper FPS, not the RPG-lites we see so often. It doesn't matter if they're crap or if they barely feel like anything, at least they're short. They're simple, I don't need to read the manual cover-to-cover just to figure out how to move ten feet. Indeed, many have NEVER seen the manual for most games they own. The Game Boy, the system today's title is on, is one of the worst examples of that, as portable systems practically encouraged throwing out anything that wasn't the cartridge. I'm pretty sure that American game store chains enforced this policy.

Bionic Battler is one of those really simple games. Robots have revolted and are now about to decimate humanity, but they tell humanity to pick the best human to duke it out mecha-style in an arena with their best robots. I never realized how often that plot has been used. I feel like a measurable percentage of games I've covered and especially FPS games have had robots/AI revolt. You can do that story well, but of all the excuse plots this is the one that's starting to feel most like an excuse. I also get the feeling this was a change for the American release.

In-game you get a series of options, 1 or 2 player, one of two mech designs, and then one of five levels. You don't continue from one level to another, each level just ends whether you win or lose and you return here. Levels don't determine layout as much as how big a level is and how many enemy bots you have to take out. There seem to be about three variations per level.

The game itself is a simple Dungeon Master-style FPS, in which you are either a member of a team or solo against at least 3 enemy bots. The team option is confusingly called option. Friendly fire is a thing, so you should check your shots. The two different mech designs have a mostly visual change, the one you didn't pick will be the enemy, the one you did will be friendly. I think the taller of the two designs might be better. I'm not sure, but I noticed more enemy deaths with the taller design, so I just used it for most of the game.
The GUI is a complex thing. You can probably figure out what part is the game world and map section. In the upper left we have the radar, you get more bars as you get close to a mech, the arrow shows the direction. The upper right is your energy, run out and I assume you lose. Left is enemy vitality and missile charge, right is your. Below those are how many are left on each team.
As a giant mech, you have two attacks. A punch, which does a small amount of damage and requires you to be one space away from an enemy. A missile, which you have to hold down the B button to charge it for about 10 seconds, then release it to fire. That works up to 3 spaces away, your visual range. If you get hit while its charging I think it just discharges harmlessly, but if you get hit you might fire it off. So to start with, the game is quite slow, you can't really afford to trade punches with enemies. You die its over. Allies are allies, not extra lives.

Fortunately, enemies are stupid. Allies are too, because everyone's AI is the same. They walk around in a set pattern and as long as you can get out of visual range before they reach the last place they saw you, you can get away scot-free. Unfortunately, the game controls quite poorly. This could be down to a number of issues, some of which might not be a problem on your machine, but moving and charging a missile doesn't work well. Moving around without a missile charging works fine, but holding down the S key, which is standing in for the B button, causes turning and moving forward to not work half the time.

Its not like this would be a great game without that issue, its a contender for most boring FPS ever made. Not worst, its not outright bad. There are no real decisions in the game beyond shooting a missile then running away. Or if you're feeling aggressive, shooting a missile then punching the robot in the back. This doesn't feel like a game that came out a few years earlier, this feels like a game that came out a decade earlier, and we're making comparisons to games that weren't all that good then either.

Taking out enemies just feels like busywork, and your attacks feel like you're doing nothing. It doesn't feel like you're getting hit. The pop-ups that happen whenever someone dies or you accidentally hit a friendly are the only indication that anything has happened. There are pick-ups in the game world to bring up energy and vitality and it feels like nothing.

If you win a level you see a guy walk out of the mech and towards someone who's either a Fu Macnhu knock-off or a painter. There's an absolutely horrendeous music track playing during this. Afterwards you get this screen. Apparently saving humanity gets me a dollar. I have no idea why. There is nothing in the manual about money and its not like there's anything to unlock. As a reward, this seems hilariously cheap unless there's been extensive deflation. Beating level 2 will get me ten dollars. And so forth until the 5th level gets you 99999 dollars. Okay.

The most tedious weapon selection in any FPS. 0/10

Simple things that have easily exploitable AI. 1/10

Simple things that almost never attack enemies unless you set it up. 1/10

Simple hallways, akin to Dungeon Master or Wizardry, walls are just edges of tiles rather than their own block however. 0/10

Player Agency:
It works...sometimes. 2/10



It looks okay. Not great or anything, but everything is easily understandable. I like how you can't tell what a robot is from far away. 2/10

I feel like someone changed the story between the original Japanese release and the American release. 0/10

The game has a wide selection of very annoying music, including three battle tracks and some sound effects which are helpful. 1/10

That's 7.

Since Mysterium was...somewhat overpriced, I decided to check how much this title was. Currently, its 15$ for the game and 25$ for the manual, no CIB. I guess that's okay, since the only value this really has is nostalgia or those people who collect every game in a system.

So, 2022 is almost over, and this is my last entry for the year. Not a bad year, the total numbered games I played this year were 61, or 62 if you want to count Zone Raiders. I made considerable progress and things are looking up even if the games aren't yet of the highest quality. 1982 is over and 1983 nearly so, while I can finally put the '80s in the rear view mirror for FPS titles. I didn't quite reach my ultimate goals, getting to 1984 and 1993. Those were probably unrealistic anyway.
Quality-wise things are interesting. I've gone through a lot of good games, and were I to make a top ten at this moment, only one game would be below 40. Yet, the average rating has gone down, albeit slightly.

2023 looks to be an interesting year, assuming real world concerns don't end up shifting my priorities. 1983 will be done and 1984 looks to be...interesting if not fun. I can already tell you we're probably not going to see 1985 next year. On the FPS front, I'll be going through some 20 games, max before I reach the end of 1992. Meaning its entirely realistic that I'll be talking about some 1993 games next year. Gotta start thinking about what's the big 200 too.

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