Friday, 7 October 2011

SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division (PC) - Guest Post


Yes! SHOGO! Yes!

I missed this the first few times I played it, so here's a hint for all new SHOGO players: When you start the game, you'll be interrupted by two movie clips. Skip the first one, but when the Lithtech Engine logo appears and the cheesy fanfare comes on don't press anything!

That cheesy fanfare isn't there to only accompany the Lithtech logo, it's the start of the SHOGO theme!

Like any mecha series worth its salt, SHOGO bursts into life with an awesome, optimistic J-Pop track! To make things better, it's accompanied by character and mecha concept art and really badly choreographed in-game sequences!

"I KNOW WE CAN MAKE IT TOGETHER!!!"

Man, I love it! It's good, yet it's bad! But the bad makes it good! If it were any better, it would be terrible! Watch! Watch! (YouTube link)


It's such a rush, it makes the actual start of the game exceptionally lame. After picking New Game, you get a few lines of text about how everybody the main character loves has died in some war. It uses the exact same background as the menu screen and it's not read aloud. They could've at least faded the background to black.


Radio chatter. Absolutely nothing resembling context. Somebody's being ordered to fall back to somewhere. No idea if it's referring to me, or if it's referring to these guys on screen. Am I one of these guys?


Nope, I'm a big red and blue mecha dude! Or a dude in a big red and blue mecha. I've got a laser gun that fires big blue balls that explode when they hit stuff. Those tanks from the previous screenshot are shooting at me and my squad so I'm shooting them right back. I think they're somewhat misguided if they think they can do anything to my massive mecha while on foot using those tiny portable rocket launchers. (What are the chances of THAT happening in a video game?)

Hey, where's the music? I think the desperate escape of me and my squad across the icy wastes of Warville warrants some music!


Okay, we blew up the tanks and this dropship landed to take us away to the next level. Heroes! Or perhaps despicable monsters! I really wish I knew what we were doing here.


While setting up these two shots, I waited around so long for all the ships to be in the right place that the dropship landed and took off without me.

"GOTTA GO!!!" *whoosh*

My guy's response was hilarious.

"Waaait! Come back here...!"

"..."

"... I hate you!"

And then his mecha self-destructed.


And now I'm in my quarters. There was a screenful of text that basically said 'You were picked up and brought back to your ship.'. Maybe I'm spoiled by the more modern games I've played so far like Mace Griffin, but there's a big 'the dropship flew away from the planet, I had a good laugh with the rest of the squad, the commanding officer congratulated me on a job well done'-shaped hole here.

They must have started the game off with shooting so you don't start off bored (and to avoid starting the game with a 'your guy wakes up' scenario) and then forgot to link the two scenes together. Let's pretend the game starts here and dismiss that intro bit as a crazy dream.

I'm Commander Sanjuro Makabe of the United Corporate Authority Security Force. Ol' Sanjuro doesn't like 'The Fallen' (a completely different 'The Fallen' from the one in Requiem) because they killed his brother Toshiro, his childhood friend Baku and the love of his life, Kura.


Sanjuro lives on a dingy ship where everything's blue, the folks wear blue and red and there IS NO MAP.

The area behind this guy is a restricted area. I don't know where it leads or why I would want to go there.

"Sorry, Commander, this area is off limits."

"YEAH WHATEVER."

"I have my orders, sir, please be nice to me!"


Although I didn't show them in the last shot, our guy Sanjuro likes to run about waving a pair of pistols at everybody. I'm going to assume he's even more mentally fragile than Red Faction's Parker. The friendly woman behind the counter refuses to serve Sanjuro a drink because he's on duty. That's as good an excuse as any to see what happens when I do THIS.


"Kill that traitor!"

To the game's credit, the mini-mecha guards that come after me aren't infinite, invulnerable, omniscient or any other kind of magic. Killing all these guards, getting better guns, running around corners, hiding in rooms, sneaking around, killing other folks before they see me... all way more fun than piloting the mecha in the prologue! I went on to clear out the entire ship and found the entrance to the next part of the game, but then the cutscene kinda glitched up and it wouldn't let me proceed. Ah well.

Relax, it was all a dreeeeaaaam.


After not a small amount of searching, I've found the train station leading towards the next area. Along the way, I found an optional computer room which describes some of the basic parts of the plot, the names of the places I'll be going, who I'll be fighting, what we're fighting over. Essentially, the entire plot. I'd expect less than one percent of players have both found the room and listened to all of the voice samples in there.


I've solved the second part of the maze and found Mr. Serious Admiral Moustache Face for a very important briefing. Already I've made a mockery of it by being caught mid-jump when the cutscene started and now Sanjuro's jammed in mid air.

"Do you have something you wish to share with me, Commander?"

"Yes, sir, you are my personal hero, sir!"

My mission is to single-handedly eliminate the leader of The Fallen. A big task. I like that I've been directly ordered to defeat what sounds like the final boss of the game on my first mission. No fussing about defeating henchmen or, worse, doing completely irrelevant crap just to earn the right to challenge him. Commander Makabe must be pretty well-respected around here.

For this mission, I can choose from one of four mecha. My choices include...


The mecha I was piloting in the prologue! It's pretty good!


The mecha from the box! It's pretty good!


I've decided to use this one instead because it's got the most armour. The computer voice tells me that it's also the slowest, but that's fine because the mecha in the prologue was very fast but also very floaty and strange.


Super mecha squad, ADVAAAANCE!

If you're wondering why some of these shots are first person and some are third person, it's because you can change between the two at any time. As you might expect, the game was designed for one view, with the other being an afterthought. In this case it's the third person view that's useless. The camera is set up precisely so that your mecha obscures what you're trying to fire at.


Back to first person view. Shooting tanks and whatnot is loads of fun in these wide open areas. My mech isn't as slow as I was expecting and it hardly makes any noise whatsoever. If I didn't know I was piloting a mech, I'd say I was driving a hovercraft.


I'm underground somewhere. It's strange being inside a building in a mecha because everything's teeny-tiny.

Still no music. I'm sure there was music in the options but the game seems to have given up on it.


Oh no! Some guys on foot!

The weapon I'm holding here is a railgun the size of a house. I'm more of a danger to myself in here if I start shooting them but I can't get out the mecha. I think I'll just jump on 'em all instead.


My squadmates are waiting near the entrance of the building. I'm supposed to be finding some controls to lower a bridge so that they can cross a small stream that runs through inside the building. For some reason, my mecha can go underwater just fine and theirs can't, so they can't follow me. I found the exit to this building long before I found the bridge control.

"Aren't you forgetting your squadmates?"

"Actually, I'm ignoring them."


With the bridge in place, my squadmates are ready to join me n the other side. They don't seem to be very useful in battle. All they do is run off ahead of me and get blown up. They'd be a lot more helpful if they stayed next to me and made sure nobody attacked me from the side.


Back in the open, I'm a force to be reckoned with. Controlling the mecha is just like any other first person shooter, except every weapon makes a great big bang. I'm gliding across the desert like a rocket, shooting all kinds of glowy nonsense at whatever is in front of me. It's the exact inverse of Metal Rage, which was basically me sitting like a rock being helplessly fired upon from all directions.

I'm picking up tons of awesome weapons from the mecha I'm exploding. This thing fires sticky time bombs that explode in huge helical fireballs.


The railgun is a one hit kill against anything at any distance. Sometimes a hit registers as a 'Critical Hit!', which of course means I'm dealing a lot of damage as you can see, but it also means I'm slightly healed from the blast (even though being NEAR the blast inflicts enough splash damage to kill me).


Why am I assaulting a castle? I have no idea! This must be the enemy base! Hey you guys up there! I've ran out of railgun rounds, so I'm firing my crazy rapid-fire inaccurate anime missiles! Ha ha ha!


It wasn't a castle at all, it was a self-contained city! The Fallen's stronghold, in fact.


This place presents a small problem. Moving from the desert to the city reduces the frame rate from 60 FPS to about 5 FPS. SHOGO simply wasn't written to be compatible with my astounding future technology (a GeForce FX 5200).

I've fiddled with the options and config files all I can, with no luck. There's only one thing for it. Software rendering.


*Pop!*

Everything isn't as orange as it was, the textures are all blocky and everything jumps about and vibrates due to the finite precision maths used. In short, it'll do!

Let's continue.


There's mecha in them there streets, but they're dark green and the streets are dark grey. Those explosions don't look as impressive as they used to.


The city is split into several distinct sections linked togther by underground tunnels. I've found some sneaky tanks down here trying to blend in with the road. I could tread on them, but that would do more damage to me than to them. Calmly take a few steps back and hit 'em with something small.


I'm supposed to be finding or unlocking one of those underground tunnels, but all I've found is this building with a hole in the side. What to do?


If I'm exploring another sewer-like installation, I'm switching this thing back to Direct3D rendering.

This must be where they keep the Triforces.


Lasers in sewers.

Notice the symbol above one of the guys' heads? You can sneak up on the enemies if you're sneaky. I can understand how that would work on foot (and I did it plenty when I was raising hell on the spaceship), but giant robots with lasers aren't the stealthiest things.

Duh. It's anime isn't it. I just have to hide out of frame and I'm completely imperceptible!


If I were super cool, I could use the third person view and strafe past a couple of unsuspecting mecha and shoot them in the head with the laser, blowing them to bits instantly and restoring my health with the critical hits.

Don't actually try this though, because you can't aim worth a damn in third person and the enemy will destroy you. If they don't, they'll walk up to you which is worse because you can't miss at that range and then their death explosion will destroy you.


Even though this city level is pretty big, it's easy to get around. The mecha's got an alternate 'vehicle form' which moves faster but can't fire.


Gah! That too close! Back, back, back!

We ended up sticking sticky bombs to each other and blowing each other up.

I like how the enemy mecha all have weird weapons that you have to work out how to defend against, and when you kill them you can actually USE them! I've around a dozen weapons at this point.


This guy is the exception. I thought his gun was a graphical error at first, but nope that's what it's supposed to look like.

He tells me to get lost, runs away and blows up the underground tunnel behind him. I've got to quickly get out of the tunnel and find another way to the mission objective (which is...? No idea.).


I'm not falling for this trick though. Sticky bombs on the buildings either side of the entrance to the underground tunnel. The screams validate my intuition. It's clear, let's go!

Lucky for the citizens of this city the buildings are totally impervious to this kind of damage. This kind of thing must happen all the time.


SPIDER...ROBOTS! ARGH!


When my radio friend told me I was supposed to be going inside and messing with the ventilation system of a building, I assumed I'd be doing it on foot. Nope, Sanjuro takes the mech. Well, if I'm to show you an on-foot level, I guess I have to keep playing.


This place is a series of identical walkways with mission objectives placed at the end of some of the routes. I'm supposed to destroy some critical systems so that these fans safely blow the mecha to the next part of the level. Yeah, that's right, blow. Blow a megaton robot through the air as if it were a feather. Sure, why not.


Look at this... a H-shaped set of walkways below my current level. There's no lift to down there that I can find, so I wonder if there's a secret down there!!!

Nope. There's nothing down there. No enemies, no ammo, no health, no way back up. The only thing to do down there is reload the game or jump off into the void, explode and then reload the game. Good job this game has quick saves as well as a seperate 'restart the current level' button.


After destroying all the stuff, I leap off into the fans.

It took a dozen tries for the game to give me the correct amount of push so that my mecha didn't splatter against the ceiling at the speed of sound instead of floating gently down onto the proper platform.


Finally, finally, FINALLY! Sanjuro's on foot!

Where's the mecha?


There he is. Safe and sound in the garage. If we're trying to destroy The Fallen, why don't we use the mecha to destroy the building? Because shut up.


The guy on the right is on my side... is he my squadmate from before? I don't remember seeing him in the city. How did he get in here?

The enemies on the stairs have spotted me. Bang bang bang!


The enemies dropped a silenced Uzi. Is there any better type of gun?

The answer is no.

I thought the Critical Hit powerup was a mecha thing, but it seems that Sanjuro can magically heal himself through well-placed shots. I'm rewarded for my skill in shooting.

This precludes and obviates both recharging health and auto-aim. SHOGO is now definitively better than Halo (as if that wasn't the obvious conclusion, I'm having FUN here for chrissakes).


Unlike the wide open plains and the mostly flat buildings I was in while I was piloting the mecha, this level has staircases and alternate routes going every which way. It's reminding me a lot of a F.E.A.R. level.


Third person on-foot is as weird as third person mecha. The only real use for it is to cheat by looking around corners. That's what you do in every third person shooter, but it's a cheat if you do it in a first person shooter.


I haven't successfully snuck up on any of these guys. They spot me before I can get anywhere near them and they're absolutely lethal.

The difference between this and Contract J.A.C.K. is that if I mess up sneaking on these guys, every enemy in the entire level doesn't come running directly into my face. Sure, that's really stupid for an organised opposing force to do, but I like stupid opponents. They're fun. Inching round corners and shooting enemies that can't see you but really should be able to is fun. Hiding at the top of staircases and shooting enemies at angles that they can't copy is fun.


This whole game is stupid and fun!


Where to now?


Well this definitely isn't the exit. Time for a break.

I recommend you get yourself a crap computer just for playing these Windows Me games. SHOGO, Requiem, Kingpin. They've got seams, flaws, inconsistencies, ridiculous weapons, crappy character models, impossible enemies, broken story triggers, bizarre collision detection, saves that don't work.

They've got heart.

Except Klingon Honor Guard. That was just crap.

9 comments:

  1. I like the fake-NERV logo on the poster in his quarters.

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  2. I actually own this, for some reason, and I have never and will never play it, because the Americanime styling offends my sensibilities.

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    Replies
    1. Newsflash: Unless you are actually a successful Japanese established anime writer or director, this comment makes you sound like a gigantic elitist fake douchebag.

      Delete
  3. There is a poster in the game.. I will remember it forever: Death Metal Amish.. RLLY?? WTF?

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  4. I think that the guys who made this should be friends with the creators of Hybrid.

    http://superadventuresingaming.blogspot.com/2011/12/hybrid-psx.html

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  5. Not even a reward for not being crap? You're being too harsh!

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    Replies
    1. Only Ray can give out shinies. I have to make do with these inferior words.

      Delete
  6. Sorry I haven't figured that out. I guess it's ok then.

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  7. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this game fun. I finished it when it was new, then again in the mid-2000s and it was still good.

    I was really surprised at how well Shogo does BOTH giant robot combat and on-foot combat. Trying to do so much could have resulted in both styles sucking, but the risk really paid off.

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