Saved by the "B" button.
Like hardcore gamers everywhere, the first time I tried Cannon Spike
I completely ignored the instruction book. I picked a character and jumped right
into a top-down view of a battlefield reminiscent of Streets of Rage.
Since there hasn't really been a good side-scrolling beat-em-up since the 16-bit
era, I put aside my initial disappointment and instead looked forward to what
might be the first "next gen" beat-em-up done right.
After about ten minutes, Shawn (GR Associate Editor) looked at me and made
the grave declaration, "Man, this game sucks!" Knowing Shawn's inclination toward
verbosity, I knew this was a heartfelt statement. Shortly thereafter, he left,
wishing me luck on my review, figuring I would turn it off after a minute or
I got frustrated rather quickly and was reaching for the power button when
I accidentally tapped the "B" button on my controller. Hey! Where did these
dual laser sights come from? Waitaminnit, I can do "lock-ons?!" A quick
glance at the instruction book confirmed my suspicions. I was playing a shooter,
not a beat-em-up.
Cannon Spike is a horrible beat-em-up, but as a shooter it seriously
applies pedal extremities to hindquarters (and you call Shawn verbose? -
Ed.) This is a really fun game once you play it the way the developers intended.
My first hint should have been all the guns.
Using veterans of other Capcom games, players have to skate through ten levels
of robots, armed terrorists, and mechanized boss characters. Yes, I said "skate."
The game is set some 30 years in the future. In an amazingly unoriginal story,
technology has gone mad in this post-apocalyptic future and an evil dictator
is running things. Our heroes then don "rocket skates" to do battle. I know
it's a stupid premise, but the skate thing allows your character to glide around
smoothly and quickly, which really helps when maneuvering between opponents.
The characters include Cammy and Charlie of Street Fighter fame, Arthur
from Ghosts & Goblins, and even Mega-Man! The environments
and adversaries also come directly from other Capcom games. At one point, you
have to fight undead humans and zombie Dobermans ala Resident Evil.
Cannon Spike is all about the guns. You have your standard rapid-fire
weapon, a secondary "big-shot" weapon, your fists, and, of course, the screen-clearing
special attack (Sonic Boom, anyone?). Your heroes battle with their fists as
well as their guns (hence my original game play mistake), and to be quite honest,
fists are more effective. The problem with going hand to hand is the fact that
you have to get dangerously close to your opponents, and end up suffering extreme
punishment while trying to inflict a couple of hits. You quickly find out that
distance attacks are the way to go.
graphics in this game are good, but nothing to get excited about. Thing are
smooth and adequate. That being said, there are only so many ways to improve
the visuals in a top-down shooter.
The light sourcing is decent (surprising shadow placement) and things blow
up nicely. Best of all, there's no noticeable slowdown. This is an impressive
feat, especially when you're doing about 30 mph on rocket skates, fighting a
half-dozen armed terrorists, dodging fire from 4 different automated turrets,
and trying to defeat a boss character all on the same screen.
The one thing this game is missing is "Power-ups." When was the last time you
played a shooter with no power ups? I mean sure, you get the occasional extra
health, but there are no weapon upgrades at all. In a way, this makes what could
have been an easy game somewhat challenging. Capcom remedied the apparent simplicity
of the gameplay by limiting the number of continues to three, making the game
that much more frantic.
However, experienced gamers won't have any problem blazing through it, since
this is a short game. Really short. I'm talking Tyson title defense short. Given,
this is a shooter and brevity has always been a shooter's stock & trade.
Even if you didn't think it was much fun, Capcom has another incentive for
you. Try beating your previous score. Apparently, some people still like this
sort of thing. Most of us, however, are looking for a little more depth in our
next-generation gaming. How about some bonus levels? How about some hidden game
modes? How about anything aside from having to beat your previous high score?
It appears Capcom enjoys taking their characters and putting them in unusual
settings, and this concept works better than similar attempts by other companies
(anyone remember Midway's Sub-Zero platform
crap?), but I'm sure they could have come up with something better than rocket-skates.
Still, fans of action shooters will have some fun with this one.