Sunday, March 16, 2014

Top Gun.

No, I'm not reviewing Top Gun, a beloved 80s action flick this week, rather the game released around the 20th anniversary of the movie for the Nintendo DS. While I will get around to reviewing Top Gun, the movie eventually, right now I'm going to review one of the games based on it. This game is set after the movie, so it's sorta like the unofficial Top Gun 2 that Tom Cruise has been trying to get made for the last 30 years. I'm going to go into this saying that A) I'm a sucker for games that let you fly at high speeds, and B) Top Gun is one of my favorite movies of all time. And I'm also gonna say that I'm not letting that affect my decision-making process. That being said, the game isn't nearly as big an insult to the movie as the NES one was, but it's also not great either. For one thing, the legendary Top Gun Anthem, one of the most memorable theme-songs in the history of movies, right up there with The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Rocky, is the only piece of music from the movies sound-track that the game uses. No Danger Zone, no Playin' With the Boys, no Hot Summer Nights, no Take My Breath Away, no Mighty Wings, no Destination Unknown, nothing. Just three tracks that try and fail to imitate Cheap Trick's and Kenny Loggins's work because Mastiff was too cheap to license more than one track from Paramount. That might not be so bad if the only song taken from the movie wasn't a lo-fi conversion that pales in comparison to Harold Faltermeyer's and Steve Stevens original work. And even that might not be horrible, but the Top Gun Anthem only plays on the title and menu screens, not during gameplay. That's why I've got the whole Top Gun soundtrack on my MP3 player, so I can listen to the movies awesomeness. Now, onto the gameplay. It's.... Meh. It's not horrible by any means, and it's kinda fun to fly around canyons at high speeds, but the collision detection seems a little bit off. What I mean is, I think the hit-boxes of the planes and the terrain are a little larger than you'd think they were, which leads to a lot of unintentional deaths. That'd be okay if the game wasn't old-school hard and didn't let you have any checkpoints. The most egregious case of this I found was in the unskippable tutorial mission, where I wound up trying to hone my flying skills flying through a pair of balloon-targets but wound up apparently smashing into one of them when my honed piloting skills from years of playing flightsims and other such games had me reckoning that I had given them enough space. The point I was trying to make earlier about the checkpoints is the fact that it starts you back at the beginning of ever mission regardless of where you left off, and doesn't let you skip the dialogue beforehand. I did manage to beat the tutorial, because me dying was mostly just screwing around. The second mission is the one I initially had the most fun with, darting through a canyon like it was the Death Star trench. Taking turns close and shooting obstacles out of the way, all while staying below the canyon walls. After that I moved on to the real missions, and that's about where it started getting less fun (And also started showing signs of corners cut). You see, whenever there's water in a flying game, I always like to try skimming over top of it for the hell of things. Unfortunately the water is just a solid floor scattered with blue confetti. I've seen better water effects in N64 games released almost a decade before this one, not to mention that Mario 64 DS came out two years before this game did. To be perfectly honest, the game is pretty good, but it feels a little rushed, and certainly didn't get enough polish to it. There's some varying levels of graphical distortion, some major disorientation when it comes to open-air missions, and despite Mastiff's best efforts, draw-distance that isn't very well hidden. Another thing that I need to mention is that even though there's a free-flight mode, you still need to complete an objective to continue, which defeats the very purpose of free-flight. Moving on. We all know that the DS can support high-quality audio tracks, just look at The World Ends With You and its crystal-clear sound-track, or..... Looks at The World Ends With You and its crystal clear sound-track. That's not to say the music is bad, the tunes are nice and fairly creative for attempted imitations. Thing is, my ear for music can tell that not only what songs each of the three tunes is trying to imitate, but also that the music was severely smashed down in quality, so that it comes out sounding kind of muted and dull. That in itself isn't the problem with the music, it's that you'll hear the same three tracks so many times that they become boring and tedious. Even if they threw in a few more crushed down original music tracks, say... three to five more, it'd break up the monotony enough to keep me from turning the sound off and firing up my own music. I checked out the developers Wikipedia page and to both my surprise and utter lack of it, I found that they only ever published about five titles of note, Top Gun: Combat Zones on the GBA, Space Raiders, Space Invaders Revolution, the abysmal survival-horror FPS on the DS, Moon, and this game, although after closer inspection, I feel I should probably check out a few of the games they published on the PS2 and PSP. All in all, the game feels like a nearly finished pre-release build that I wouldn't recommend paying more than five or six bucks for. Top Gun for the Nintendo DS gets a 4.2* rating. Tune in soon for another exciting review!