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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Battle Garegga - Eighting/Raizing - Saturn - 1998

Inspired in large part by Capcom's seminal 194X series, Battle Garegga takes a familiar formula and expands on it successfully with longer areas, more elaborate boss encounters and an impressive array of options and variations that extend its longevity significantly. The standard shoot-'em-up mechanics are well-implemented. Players begin the game by selecting one of four distinct fighters, each of which excels in the realm of weaponry. From this point, its on the main assault, where your ship is pitted against seemingly endless waves of opponents. Most of these foes can be taken down with as single shot, but the trick comes in avoiding their complex waves of bullets and projectiles. Learning to weave around their patterns and avoid the traps they place with their complex bullet paths. Navigating their elaborate attack configurations is fairly straightforward during the earlier stages, but becomes increasingly complex and challenging when you reach later stages or play using harder difficulty settings.

Battle Garegga quickly becomes more difficult as the opposing forces move exponentially faster and fire more aggressively, implementing almost unavoidable streams of fire. Standard shots allow fairly good targeting, but players have the option to turn on a smaller hit box for more precise play. In addition to these weapons, you can use special attacks. Each ship is loaded with its own unique special attack that players can unleash at any point during the level. These super-attacks start off relatively weak, and do little damage. However, you can build them up gradually and they become significantly stronger as you get further into the game. In order to help build the super-shot's power and capabilities, players collect bullet magazines. These power-ups resemble small metal cases scattered through each stage. As you build up your arsenal, the row of bullets indicated near the bottom corner of the screen expands.

As you collect bullet magazines, the duration and strength of your special attacks increases, making for a powerful counter. This is especially true during the massive boss encounters, which can take persistence and skill to defeat. These opponents usually take up a large section at the top of the screen and put up more resistance than you'd expect, requiring you to locate their weak spots while avoiding their unyielding attacks. Using the standard fighters should makes for an appealing game in their own right, but players who navigate the menus will find a massive surprise hidden in the options screen.

Here, players will be able to activate and use four special 'guest' fighters, that bring a very different feel to the gameplay. Inspired by classic titles like Tatsujin and Dragon Spirit, these added ships deliver a unique set of mechanics and gameplay styles to the action. For instance, one of them unleashed a large bomb that appears as a giant, laughing skull, destroying everything in its path without fear. This adds an different layer on top of an elaborately and effectively constructed shooter. These extra ships create an impressive set of 'hidden aspects' that are worth playing all by themselves. Delivering a much deeper experience than you'd expect in a number of areas, Battle Garegga genuinely excels in presentation and technical implementation.

It's clear significant effort has gone into creating a superb translation that remains faithful to the arcade game while adding significant new elements and variations that extend its appeal. There's an impressive balance to the game that extends to these new fighters which are balanced between stronger and weaker main weapons and super-bomb attacks, depending on which you choose. While their appearance is novel, they don't feel gimmicky. Playing these ships in definitely gives a second run a significantly different feel and approach. Other options available in the extensive menu include the ability to choose from a number of different visual approaches with normal settings alongside several different 'Tate' modes that allow you to play the game in arcade proportions if you desire.

This exceptional combination of game mechanics and elements is presented with above-average visuals that showcase the Saturn console's exemplary 2D capabilities in fine form throughout each stage. The backgrounds come alive in robust style, managing to convey the surroundings effectively, through a good balance of detail and speed that rarely interferes with the action in the foreground. Occasional special effects such as light-sourcing and elaborate sprite manipulation provide visual flourish but its never excessive. Animation of the main ship and opposing forces is consistent throughout with the action unfolding at a steady, frantic pace without suffering from slowdown when the action gets heavy or flickering sprites if the screen becomes crowded. Battle Garegga is challenging but never excessively frustrating, offering a decent balance of skill and reflex that's immediately appealing yet deceptively engrossing. It manages to achieve this through its consistent execution, with intuitive controls, straightforward structure and consistent pacing. It doesn't diverge dramatically from shoot-'em-up conventions, but offers a resounding implementation of familiar elements alongside an impressive array of user-selectable options creates an immensely enjoyable shoot-'em-up with immediate appeal and enduring longevity.

- Michael Palisano