Pandora's Tower Review
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but swords and chains excite me. Should you climb the towers in Xseed's JRPG/adventure hybrid to save your cursed (and tragically whiny) girlfriend?
[ Editor's Note: As Nick Olsen is a writer for Theory of Gaming, this won't be counted in the monthly Vox Pop prize. However, it is very much a worthy read. ]
By Nick Olsen
Co-founder, Theory of Gaming
In 1985 Nintendo started a revolution when it...
In 2006, Under Defeat was released on Dreamcast. Chances are good that none of you have played it. For one, Sega's final home console was essentially completely dead at this point in time. Even if you were still snatching up every possible DC game under the sun, Under Defeat was only available by import. Now, you can play the game on your PS3 thanks to publisher Rising Star Games and original developers G.Rev. [No relation to GameRev, unless we lie... ~Ed. Nick]
This re-release, titled plainly Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition, gives gamers the opportunity to go back in time and get a better grasp of the Japanese schmup market. While the original game's more obvious mentions of the Nazis you play as have been dialed back, the action feels just like the arcade.
As a fan of the genre, I love the way Under Defeat HD takes traditional shoot-'em-up controls and bends them to its will. Instead of shooting straight ahead and aiming by navigating the skies, players can lock into aiming at a certain angle and explore the screen space to fire at enemies diagonally.
This isn't the most intuitive way to control a deadly helicopter in an alternate World War II history where the Nazis are the good guys, but when you're dealing an oddity like this, it's best to go with the flow. After a while, the angular firing can feel nuanced. Everything you do exudes finesse. Getting a handle of the action can make you feel like a total badass, but be prepared to give the controls some dedicated learning time.
This HD update also offers players the opportunity to control the ship with the PS3's dual analog sticks, if the old controls are too difficult to master. Here, you'll use one stick to navigate the skies and the other to determine the angle your fire is headed.
While Under Defeat HD responds to many control issues with the dual-stick control scheme, it still feels like a game trapped in time. Throughout other schmup campaigns, you'll pick up power-ups and bombs that aid you in your siege against the faceless enemy forces. In UD, there are only "Options," which are one of three power-ups controlled by a meter you fill when you're not shooting everything around you. You can choose from the vulcan, the cannon, and the bomb, with the vulcan having a high recharge rate but low power and the bomb having the opposite.
You unfortunately can't control your Option, but knowing when to charge your secondary power-up fits into levels like a puzzle piece. Can you dodge long enough to fill the meter, or is it better to get the guns blazing again to clear your screen?
This HD update gives Under Defeat a 16:9 view for modern televisions and a host of new textures and models, plus an addictively strange soundtrack remix. Despite this, the visuals can be drab. I wish there was more crazy stuff on screen to promote the absurd narrative.
Still, Under Defeat HD joins Akai Katana (also from Rising Star Games) as a modern-day schmup with nuance and charm. Longtime genre fanatics will enjoy the history behind the game and the way it skews what's considered "normal" shooting controls. If you've got an appetite for the genre, Under Defeat HD will suffice. If you're new to schmups, be aware that this is the deep-end of a very large pool.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PS3 version.
Under Defeat HD
Old-school schmup gameplay
... with a few twists and turns
New soundtrack and visuals
Nazis are bad, mkay?
Priced just right at $29.99
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