Thursday, 23 October 2014

Arcade Classics #7

Moon Cresta (1980)
By: Nichibutsu Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 8,240 (one credit)
Also Available For: PlayStation, X68000, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Dragon 32
Download For: PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console

In the early days of the arcades, quite a few of the games found there were ones 'inspired by' Space Invaders. A majority of their developers tried to do something slightly different to help them stand out and one of those that I remember best was Moon Cresta. This was partly down to the fact that I had somehow acquired it for my Spectrum (I still can't remember how though), and quite a decent game it was too, but it's one of many of these early classics that I never encountered in its native environment. I suppose it had been replaced by a newer machine by then but, having now spent some time with the original version, it's clear the Speccy hosted a decent port. But how does it stand up nowadays?

Technically, Moon Cresta is a vertically-scrolling shmup as it features a scrolling sparkly starfield background, but in all other ways it's a single-screen shmup like Taito's classic. There are eight 'waves' in total, each two of which are home to the same type of enemy. The first two feature 'Eyes', the third and fourth feature smaller, faster 'Flies', the fifth and sixth feature 'Birds', and the last two feature 'Arrow Ships'. All of the aliens swoop around a lot, getting lower and lower until dropping off the bottom of the screen and reappearing at the top. This is all the Eyes and Flies do but some of the Birds can briefly turn invisible while the Arrow Ships turn into arrows and drop down the screen.

All types of enemies are destroyed by a single shot though, using your rather interesting 'rocket ship' which splits into three sections, each of which represents one of your three lives. The first section is the smallest and fires a single shot at a time. If this gets destroyed you'll get the larger middle section which fires twin shots, and lastly the third and largest section. If you still have either of the first two sections by the time you finish the fourth wave you'll get the chance to dock it with the next section. You only get 30 seconds but, if successful (and it's really hard to mess it up), you'll get to use a combination of the two sections with your firepower (and ship size) increased accordingly!

This doesn't make the game as easy as it sounds though, as it's also quite a bit easier to get hit by the 'Kamikaze Aliens' zipping about the place, especially on the 'bonus' stage that appears between the sixth and seventh waves which features fireballs flying diagonally across the screen (unless you find the 'hiding spot' of course!). There's a good amount of variety for a game of its type though. The enemies may be fewer in number than similar games but they're slightly larger and their rapid, erratic movements often make it surprisingly challenging to take them down. Or avoid them - I can't help but wish the bloody ship fired a bit faster! Even so, I guess eight waves isn't that many so, in the truest tradition of games from this era, if you manage to clear them all you'll just be sent back to the first wave to start again. The graphics and sound are typically basic but work well - I particularly like the sounds effects and little jingle when you start a new life - but I'm not entirely sure the gimmick of the sectioned ship and the docking sequences are enough to raise Moon Cresta above the slew of similar games. The controls and collision-detection and all that stuff is fine though, and it's still an entertaining game to play for high scores now and then. Can you still "get a lot of fun and thrill" as Nichibutsu claimed? Yes you can but there are more fun and more thrilling examples to be found.

RKS Score: 7/10

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