Saturday, 22 October 2016

In the Hunt (Arcade)

In the Hunt title screen
Developer:Irem|Release Date:1993|Systems:Arcade, PlayStation, Saturn, PC

This week on Super Adventures I'm playing an arcade game, because I feel like showing off some pixels and I figured this'd be a good place to find them. Plus I haven't played a single arcade game for the site all year and I'm running out of time to make up for that.

My first criticism is that it needs more space between the words in the title. It looks like it says "INTHEHUNT", and that's not what it's called!

In  the  Hunt came out in arcades first in 1993 and was ported to PlayStation, Saturn and Windows 95 a couple of years later. It almost made it to Super Nintendo as well, but it was getting a bit close to the system's end by that point, and Irem's game development department departed soon after. The team that made this were apparently already gone by then though, as they formed Nazca in '94. I've already played one game they made as Irem, scrolling beat 'em up Undercover Cops, but they're more famous for what they made afterwards... Metal Slug! Which I'm totally going to play one of these days, maybe.



I put some credits in and pressed start and now the sonar's picking up some strange text. If I'm reading this right, it's saying that stage 1 is at the South Pole!

Hang on, now it's picking up another message saying that it's the 9th of April 0093 and that it's cloudy. So either this text is ancient, humanity reset the calendar at some point, or they need to get this device re-calibrated as I'm fairly sure submarines didn't have sonar in the 1st century.

Plus why do I care if it's cloudy? I'm underwater!

Wow so there really are messages floating in the sea. Also whales and ice bergs, which are kind of like clouds I guess, in that they sail by in the background and I can ignore them.

So I've got to go to the D.A.S. base (not to be confused with 'Das Boot') and destroy their system before it's too late; seems simple enough. They haven't told me what D.A.S. is or why we're wrecking their stuff, so as far as I know I could be on a mission to destroy the Dog Adoption Service on behalf of a cabal of cats, but I don't suppose it matters. All I can do is go to the right and shoot anything I come across along the way.

In the Hunt (Saturn)
The Saturn version of the game does have a rendered intro, with cheesy rock guitar straight out of a Sonic game, and cheesier voice acting, but there's not much plot going on here either. A sub is ambushed by a bunch of other subs and they fire torpedoes at each other. There's explosions and also dolphins, but zero explanations. No intro on the PlayStation version though.

Hey it's one of those shoot 'em up games where you fly horizontally and shoot aliens. Except instead of flying I'm in a submarine, and instead of shooting aliens I'm shooting submarines. I'm also blowing up their torpedoes, which is different! Ain't common to find a game where you can shoot enemy bullets.

I love that my boat alternates between firing tubes as its launching ordnance, though I'm less impressed that I have to press a button every time. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap etc. Still, it's got a surprisingly fast firing rate and it's quite a speedy little sub in general. It's not a starfighter darting across the screen, but I was expecting it to be more sluggish.

Okay, so it seems like I shoot the blue pods to reveal red orbs marked with a star. Then I collect them to make my * counter go up by 5. No idea how this helps me at all, but I've learned that it's usually to my advantage to make numbers go up.

If you're wondering if the music's as good as the visuals, then no... no it's not; it sounds a lot like a Mega Drive game actually. But it's decent enough and there's no shame in falling short of 'amazing'. In fact these graphics look so good in motion that I want every screenshot to be an animated GIF, but they've got the background rippling at all times and that really pushes the filesize up.

I have to show the mines explode though! Look at those beautiful underwater explosions... and those surprise mini-mines flying towards me as shrapnel. I can't say I was expecting to have to suddenly dodge out of the way. Though on the plus side I wasn't expecting it to vaporise the enemy sub either.

Oh, here's another thing that makes this different from your average plane/space shooter: the level only scrolls when I want it to. I can come to a complete stop any time I want. Until I run out of time, then I presumably explode for no reason.

This is an entirely new part of the stage with entirely different mines and enemy subs, not that you can tell by looking at it. I've found a weapon upgrade power up here though and I want to show it off. I collect one of these, it makes my torpedoes better, it's pretty simple. There's no messing around with a Gradius-style weapon select.

Oh wait, I think this is just a speed up. Well that was pretty much worthless. I should've waited a bit to see if it cycled through other power ups.

I'm suddenly getting a new appreciation for that speed up I picked up.

Quit shooting me you bastard, I'm trying to admire the pixelwork! If I didn't know beforehand that this was made by the team that would later make the legendary Metal Slug series, I think this is the point where I'd start to have suspicions.

Well at least it wasn't the ship that got me. Also one-hit deaths confirmed! I have a fragile little sub with no health bar. At least I respawned exactly where I fell, with a few seconds of invulnerability to help me not immediately explode again.

Why are there so many gun emplacements at the South Pole anyway? Is it the penguins again, are they up to something?

Oh ignore the way the image fills in as I move, that's because I used image stabilisation to remove the screen scroll and keep the filesize down. It couldn't show the right hand of the screen until I reached it and I didn't feel like faking it this time (because look at how much crap's going on!)


MEANWHILE, ON PC.


Irem Arcade Hits (PC)
I won't be comparing the game on different systems this time (they all look the same anyway), but I've got the Irem Arcade Hits compilation installed and In the Hunt comes with it, so I figured I might as well play it for five minutes and see if they screwed it up.

It seems like it's just the same game running in an emulator, but it's not the best emulation I've seen. For one thing there's a few options for different types of blurriness and scanlines, but no option (that I've found) to turn the bloody filters off. It also ran a little stuttery on my machine, which made itself obvious in the music playback.

Releasing arcade games on PC is good, I fully endorse this (in fact I endorsed it with money by buying it), but making them worse than what you can get out of emulating them on MAME is less good. I mean I wasn't expecting better, but equal would've been cool.

Wow I don't like these things. Bloody subaquatic mine dispensers.

I have a second fire button that dispenses depth charges, but that doesn't do me much good if I can't get above the thing I'm trying to bomb. This is the first obstacle I've come across so far that seems like bullshit, but I'm sure there must be a way to get past it I'm not seeing right now. Like maybe I can fit in that gap to the left and shoot it. Not that I have to now.

Oh shit, freeze rays! Look at these things, they're awesome. When the blue beams fire they're quickly covered in a wall of impenetrable ice that lasts a few seconds before shattering. So basically there's no immediate cause for me to keep hammering this fire button as my torpedoes aren't going anywhere. And yet I'm still doing it.

Oops.

Well at least now I know that being encased in ice isn't an instant kill. Though those bullets will be when I eventually thaw out, seeing as I'm a sitting duck. I'm going to run out of credits on stage one at this rate.

Damn, I finally got a weapon upgrade pod and these are my new favourite torpedoes ever! They're slow but if you give them a couple of seconds they annihilate anything caught in their wake. It's like a railgun you can't miss with! I don't know where this cave leads, but getting there's just become a lot more fun.

Oh hi.

This first boss doesn't seem so bad (and it looks fantastic), but he's sure soaking up a lot of damage. Plus he likes to alternate between these wavy grappling hooks and an array of torpedoes fired out of a hatch on the front, though they're easy enough to shoot or dodge.

I still got blown up and lost my beloved torpedo upgrade, but after 40 seconds of sustained damage the thing finally had the decency to explode and get out of my way.

So that's stage one cleared. I guess I must have killed 41 subs before I was done, plus a boss.

I dunno why but I get the feeling this might have 2 player co-op mode. Also the second player commands a grey sub with the exact same wear and damage on its hull, except flipped over.


STAGE 2: SUNKEN TOWN.


Sonar readings suggest that it's the 26th of May now, so it's been 47 days since the last level and that's downright strange. Also it's raining so I hope my crew remembered to bring their umbrellas.

In this screenshot I'm demonstrating what happens when I fire torpedoes up into an enemy submarine's open docking bay. It's certainly quicker that shooting them head on. I've a separate fire button for these upwards firing torpedoes and it also drops depth charges at the same time, so really you should be impressed that I'm not tapping both buttons and firing them off constantly as well. They're limited to the water though as they just stop when they hit the surface, so they're no good against air targets.

You really need one of these things if you want to get a torpedo airborne.

They're kind of in my way and they never stop coming, but fortunately the gaps form a narrow corridor for me to slip through, and the sub's more than nimble enough to make it.

Sadly the pilot is an idiot and drove into one. Firing at them seem to make them spin around a bit, so I guess I was supposed to keep hitting them to make the gap bigger.

That red ball is the temporary post-respawn invincibility shield that comes on when I do something stupid like crash into a missile. It flickers on and off to appear transparent in game so I merged two frames to fake it for you.

Wow, it's only just occurred to me that it's kind of unusual to find a sunken city underwater like this. I wonder if was hit by an earthquake or got Waterworld'd.

According to Wikipedia the game actually does have a plot, or at least an explanation for what's going on:
"An organization known as the D.A.S. (The Dark Anarchy Society) uses magnetic doomsday machines to melt the polar ice caps and thus desolate the world. Although the entire world is flooded, a few societies survive to build over the highest structures they can find and continue living. In this post apocalyptic scenario, the D.A.S., who were prepared for this catastrophe, reign supreme over the survivors with martial law and military weapons of extraordinary power. Upon learning of a new D.A.S. superweapon being developed, "Yugusukyuure", the remaining survivors who are terrorized by D.A.S. secretly organize a rebellion force using a newly developed submarine known as the Granvia. The Granvia’s mission is to dive into D.A.S. enforced waters, territories and eventually the D.A.S. headquarters itself to destroy every single D.A.S. weapon in sight."
So it's set in a world where James Bond failed then.

Undercover Cops - Japanese version (Arcade)
The D.A.S. apparently turns up in a few of Irem's games, including Undercover Cops. That did the flooded city thing too now that I think about it. It also did the 'looks fucking amazing' thing as well; this is what arcade games are supposed to look like!

The second boss is actually two bosses, which I suppose is fair play seeing as I could've brought a co-op player with me. Their gimmick is that they like to catch me with their vortexes and then... I escape and shoot them some more. Fortunately I know that I'm shooting them in the right place as they're kind enough to flash when I inflict damage. It's always nice when a game gives important feedback like that.

Oh by the way you can tell by the '89' down there that I'm having no trouble with the time limit at all. Because I get more time when I lose a life and I'm throwing them away. At least the boss doesn't reset as well.


STAGE 3: THE CHANNEL.


Hey I can fire out of the water! I just have to break the surface first to turn my torpedoes into machine gun fire.

This GIF's on a loop but I did actually get blown up twice the exact same way here. I got a bit too enthusiastic about shooting the planes and didn't see that one of their torpedoes had ended up on my level. And then I didn't notice again.

In my defence, those explosions are really distracting. I mean what am I more likely to point my eyes towards? Boring missiles, a dull little submarine, or vibrant clouds of fire obliterating those that oppose me? Totally not my fault that I didn't pay attention.

I switched my anti-air gun to anti-air homing missiles by collecting an M power up, then did it again to upgrade them and now all is right in the world.

Look at those beautiful splashes. Look at the houses shattering into beautiful splinters! Look at that poor beautiful mech coming out of the warehouse on the left and barely getting airborne before being violently erased from my world. I bet that was his house I blew up as well.

I shot up a train bridge right after this and sent the whole thing into the sea, but the GIF came out relatively huge and I think I'm already pushing my luck here so I'm not going to include it. It was a work of art though, you really should've seen it. It saddens me to know that your lives have been made objectively worse by its absence.

Okay fine, I'll give you a link to it: Overhyped rail bridge GIF.

Stage 3's boss is a bit more static than the last one. I was expecting the construction arms to add some legs and arms to this robot, but nope they just stuck four laser turrets on the thing and let it go wild.

Now whenever I blow a turret up an arm slides back on screen to replace it, so I guess I'm trying to hit the machinery behind the guns instead of disarming it entirely. I can avoid the beams easily enough by ducking beneath them, but I have to be careful as if it crosses the streams they're amplified and become strong enough to reach the bottom of this puddle I'm swimming in. It's quite clever really.


STAGE 4: DEEP DARK SEA.


It's late August now, so I've been at sea for five months. I hope when the mission briefing said "destroy their system before it's too late" they were talking a time frame of about a year, not 48 hours.

Oh damn, did D.A.S. genetically engineer this thing themselves as a guard dog or have I discovered a new creature unknown to science? Well I'm sure if science did know about this thing it'd want me to kill it, because a giant sea serpent thing that's resistant to depth charges and torpedoes isn't something you want to share an ocean with, especially when the world is all ocean.

This guy isn't even a real boss though, he just turned up to give me something else to do in this cave besides dodging bullets, torpedoes and underwater eruptions. Funnily enough though it turns out that actual volcanic eruptions are less of a pain than those erupting mine sprayers.

Oh hey, guess what I found in the very next room. I hate these things so much. Hate. HATE.

Also I'm out of credits, so this is where I stop. A good place for a game over I reckon, seeing as there's only 6 levels in the game and I'm halfway through the 4th.

In the Hunt high score top 10 ranking screen
Or the 4st, whatever. Oh 'ST' must be short for 'stage', I get it now.


CONCLUSION

In the Hunt really needs a more memorable name, because a game like this deserves to be remembered. I mean it's not overly amazing as a shoot 'em up, I wouldn't say it's particularly weird and distinctive, and its historical importance is probably limited, but it carries its duties as an arcade shooter with conspicuous competence and a great deal of style. Plus it's fun to play and that always helps.

The audio on the arcade version sounds like it belongs in a Genesis game, but the graphics not so much. You've seen for yourself how incredible it looks for 1993. Of course by the time it finally reached the PlayStation and Saturn in '95/96 it was consider a bit dated, but that's likely because it doesn't have any of those blocky polygons they were so fond of back then. Well, also because it's a typical early 90s shoot 'em up I suppose.

Reviewers in its day also criticised the game for being too easy and short, with limited replay value, but as someone living the year 2016 with a stack of other games to get to I'm not seeing that as the huge flaw it used to be. Plus I stuck 9 credits into the thing and still lost, so it's fully capable of kicking my ass! It's not bullet hell, but it certainly gives you cause to keep moving. In fact it's often more important to focus on dodging rather than aiming, especially when you've got those railgun torpedoes and three-way homing missiles equipped and missing becomes unlikely.

It's good uncomplicated chaos with a decent amount of variety and you create art with every shot that lands on target, so I'm giving this a Not Crap star.


Congratulations, you finished the whole post, I've got no more words for you this week. But there is a comment box below if you want to share a few of your own, or maybe guess what the next game will be.

2 comments:

  1. though I'm less impressed that I have to press a button every time. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap etc.

    I sometimes wonder why more -- any? -- shoot 'em ups don't just have autofire, but then I realise that then the only thing left for the player to do is move around, and you may as well be playing Call of Duty if that's the level of interaction you're looking for.

    It's still annoying to hammer the fire button though, so I'm torn between promoting player agency and wanting gameplay convenience.

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  2. "Firing at them seem to make them spin around a bit, so I guess I was supposed to keep hitting them to make the gap bigger."
    That's half correct, see those 2 jet thrusters that in upper and lower of each big missile?
    If you shoot the upper ones, the missile will brake
    And If you shoot the lower ones, the missile will accelerate
    Reviewer said it was too easy?? That's scrappy lie
    I recall it as totally credit/continue feeder
    But the gameplay and graphic are quite well

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