Wed Sep 18 18:17:22 EDT 2013

Review of NMK/Tecmo's Riot


Title Screen

As my last post indicates, I've been playing Riot quite a lot recently and got the 1 credit clear. I figured writing a review might be a decent idea since this game is quite unknown, and the PCB is quite rare. Maybe it'll pique somebody's interest.

First thing you'll notice when you pop in a credit are the story segments. They aren't particularly long or thought provoking or anything like that, but they do add a bit of flavor and typically are humorous due to the prevalent Engrish. These segments also introduce the fantastic artistic detail found throughout the entire game.

The game then shows off a little graphical effect for the start of a round and shoves you right into the game. The game plays a fair bit like Cabal: shoot the bad guys, walk and roll around, use a joystick to move your reticle. Despite the initial similarity, Riot adds a few more mechanics that make the game significantly more interesting.

Instead of being on a fixed screen, the screen will automatically shift right while your character is in the right 3/4ths of the screen and not crouching. Additionally, your rolling can be canceled out of, giving the player a lot more flexibility and control over their movement. A small aside, the defense bunkers cannot be destroyed, so you are safe to hide behind them forever.

However, this is supplemented by the addition of a second plane of enemies. Yes, instead of only shooting ahead of you and being shot from the front, there are now enemies in front and behind the player. One might think that this would become awkward and complex, and feel strange to control, but it feels extremely fluid and intuitive. It's really not something possible to describe, but it feels so incredible that I'd recommend it just for that alone.


A cutscene

On the subject of controls though, the default control layout is quite odd. The default layout is 3 buttons. Button 1 is roll, Button 2 is Forward Shot, and Button 3 is Backwards Shot. This layout may work decently if you have 1 and 2 on index and middle and 3 on thumb, but I decided to try a different layout. I switched my mapping to use Button 1 for Forward Shot, Button 2 for Backwards Shot, and Button 3 for Roll. 1/2 on index/middle and 3 on thumb. With this layout, all of the controls feel very natural and very effortless. It still does require a fair bit of practice to get used to, but after a bit of playing it all feels natural.

Another little quirk is due to the way the rolling works. To cancel a roll, one simply presses the opposite direction that the player is rolling. For example, if I'm rolling right and I hit left, the character will immediately stop rolling the moment I hit left. However, this can interfere a bit when one wants to keep the cursor focused on one spot but still roll. There really is no way to do this, and trying to do so will often get you accidentally hit.

I have only two significant grips with this game, and one of them can be solved with a bit of self-limitation. My least important issue is that it feels a bit too easy. With a little bit of memorization, I was able to get my 1CC in about one week. This was with the MAME (and theoretically, European) defaults of 4 lives to start. According to a friend who owns the Japanese release (which is incredibly rare and expensive), the true defaults are one life to start. This sounds reasonable since when all DIP switches are off, the starting life count is also 1. So if one wants the game to become a true challenge, set the starting lives to 1.

My second issue with the game is seemingly very small, but it becomes a very big problem once one becomes serious about 1 credit clearing the game. The last boss has a single attack: it sweeps a laser from a random position on the screen to the edge, alternating the edge that it sweeps to. If you are caught between the laser and the edge that it's going to, you will take damage and it is impossible to avoid. This laser deals half a life bar's worth of damage. So take a guess what happens when the RNG decides to start from one edge and go to the other? You are forced to take unavoidable damage. If you are lucky, the boss will never do this. If you're unlucky, that'll be the only thing he does. In which case, you just wasted 20 minutes. The only thing you can do to possibly make your life easier is to aim to destroy one of the eyes as soon as possible, so that you are able to avoid the laser regardless of the boss's position. It's still quite likely for you to be hit a few times in the process. Maybe this just comes off as senseless bitching, but I feel like it's a fairly significant flaw in a game with essentially no others.


The gameplay

I don't particularly like numeric ratings much, but I think I should give a nice short summary of the major parts.
Graphic: Dark, gritty, and meshes extremely well with the rest of the game.
Audio: Very Konami-esque, and extremely powerful at setting the mood. Unfortunately, the sound effects are far too loud, and drown out the music at practically all possible moments.
Gameplay: A bit on the easy side, but very clever and mechanically interesting.
Game Feel: Everything feels very satisfying; enemy deaths feel good, breaking scenery to get items is pleasing, and the aesthetic is extremely strong.
Replay: Very fun to come back to, even after a 1 credit clear. I can't imagine getting too much time out of it once one can consistently 1 life clear though. If there's a difficulty setting (MAME does not have a DIP switch that is labeled as such), this may be replayable for a long long time.
Overall: A very interesting game from a very interesting time, made by very interesting developers known for very interesting mechanics. A silly way to put it, but it's a pretty good indicator of what you're getting into. It's not the hardest game in the world, but it's very pleasing.

One last word of advice... use autofire! I can't imagine playing this without it!

My 1CC run is located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu7z9dWOwjk


Posted by trap15 | Permanent link | Comments (0) | File under: arcade, reviews

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