The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

(PC Engine - 1991)
Saint Dragon (PC Engine - 1990)

Starting with a similar theme, but arriving at completely divergent results, these shooters showcase the diversity and consistency that have kept the PC Engine top-of-mind amongst players for many years. Both titles star dragons in horizontally scrolling shooters. but do so in very different forms. Naxat Soft's Coryoon is the more engaging and immediately appealing title. Its cartoonish design is well-suited to the platform's inherent personality. Its visual-style is light-hearted, taking players on a fun romp through a fantastical series of levels. Coryoon is a little child-dragon who endeavors to blast through stages filled with opposing forces. Beginning with a single shot, he can fire at anything on the screen, using two basic approaches.

You either can use the standard shot, aiming at the other side of the screen to fill the screen with a line of bullets. This is an effective weapon that sweeps through enemies with some effort. Plaing with the auto-fire switch turned on makes things much easier. It lets him attack an the opponents without much effott. More interestingly, you can hold Coryoon's fire, and build up his energy until it maxes out, when you release a single large burst. Its quite effective at larger enemies, letting you sweep right through more difficult sections. This makes for some interesting strategy where you can time your moves and focus your shots on more powerful enemies. Its important because when they're shot, enemies release special items, like fruits that you can collect to increase your score. While aiming for a high score might seem a bit superficial, this approach gives the gameplay added and welcome depth.

Levels are fairly easy to traverse in terms of layout and structure and this straightfoward approach makes for an immediately accessible and enjoyable game. Its enemies are fairly easy to battle, and while the end-stage boss encounters are fairly predictable, they're still fun and engaging . Progression through the stages increases rapidly with numerous power-ups quickly enhancing his firepower. You can make fairly successful attacks using these, allowing quick dispatch of enemies. Along the way, there are numerous upgrades to find that allow him to get through waves with little effort. Coryoon's gameplay is somewhat easier in its earlier stages, but it becomes more challneging as you reach later stages. These levels offer more enemies that form less-predictable patterns, which should keep engagement levels high. Motivating players further are numeorus collectibles that offer a variety of entertaining, and somewhat surreal attacks. Coryoon's appealing visual style arrives with a fairly consistent look throughout that's enjoyable to watch and simple, making it easy to see where you are in relation to enemies. Coryoon's animation is fluid and sharp, showcasing an appealing cartoonish style that looks bright and colorful throughout.

Its accessible controls make for a fluid gameplay experience that's straightforward and consistent throught. You won't need to climb much of a learning curve to get the hang of Coryoon, but its immediate appeal and cartoonish approach is underpinned by challenging gameplay that becomes evident as you progress deeper into the game's stages. Its a surprisngly deep and polished shooter with robust level design, interesting enemies and surprisngly high-replay value thanks to its consistent aesthetic and intuitive controls. Coryoon isn't the hardest or most complex shooter on the PC Egine, but there's more than enough substance beneath its brightly-colored exterior to make it seeking out.

Taking a darker approah Aicom's Saint Dragon is a more mature shooter that offers some interesting twists on the genre. Instead of piloting a small ship that appears onscreen as a single contained object, the 'ship' is a metallic dragon consisting of multiple sections that can be manipulated by the player. This makes for a unique play mechanic where you're given a more challenging set of problems. The dragon's connected-sections move behind it,trailing your movement, and the trick here is that you can use these trailing sections as shields since they absorb shots, or as weapons since they destroy any enemies in their path. However, the dragon's head is vulnerable and will be destroyed if it comes in comes in contact with enemies. This gives Saint Dragon a unique strategy that allows players to change the dragon's position for advantages beyond what yoiu'd expect in a standard shooter.

You can collect multiple power-ups that increase Saint Dragon's firepower, and some of these are quirte effective, with an array of functions that allows for plenty of different attacks. Most of the gameplay is fairly straight-ahead shooting, but the challenge comes in the occasionally unpredictable enemy placements and surges of attacks, which can be difficult to dodge. While some of the patterns are predictable, avoiding enemies isn't as simple as it appears. Some foes attack from behind, below which which can appear in from virtually any angle, making them difficult to avoid.

Saint Dragon's somewhat lengthy levels unfold at a fairly fast pace and but players can build up their endurace chaining multiple power-ups to create a very stong dragon. In-level standard gameplay is fairly difficult but makes good preparation for the massive encounters with some impressiv end-stage bosses. These battles rage quite a bit longer and more intense than you might expect, requiring consistent concentration and sustained effort to defeat. The impressive bosses usually fill the screen, attack aggressively and put up a relentless fight. with nearly unforgiving difficulty. Players need to memorize their patterns, anticipate their movements and make few mistakes. Your concentration, skill and endurance are rewarded with a trip to the next stage, where additional waves of vexing enemies await.

Saint Dragons' elaborate boss-battles can be quite difficult, and occasionally frustrating but the efforts is rewarded with some cool stage designs, impressive boss creatures and a satisfying progression where you feel like you've earned every victory. Its a fairly dark game with a somewhat gothic feel. Stages are filled with horrific creatures and foes that range from demonic and creepy to some that might be considered frightening. An ominous soundtrack accompanies the action, setting a somewhat dark tone that fits the mood and design perfectly. Its consistent controls allow players to move around with a great sense of freedom of movement.

Playing is fairly intuitive with smooth controls. Stages unfold at a decent clip and most of the challenge comes from anticipating enemy patterns and knowing how to counter their attacks. Its a fairly difficult, and somewhat dark experience. Saint Dragon's uncompromising approach succeeds is mainly because the challenge it presents never feels onerous or unfair. Its cool design is stylish and dark. It runs fairly smoothly throughout with detailed, smoothly-animated the enemies that look the part. Its look and feel is fairly imersive, wih multi-plane backgrounds and stages effectively creating an engaging atmosphere. Saint Dragon's design succeeds for the most part, offering challenge and consistency. It might take some time to get used of its unusual controls and master its occasionally frutstrating patterns, but its distinctive design aesthetic and engaging play-mechanics make it one of the more unique shoot-'em-ups on the system.

On first inspection, both of these PC Engine shooters might appear to offer vastly different experiences, both share important elenments. Solid gameplay mechanics, interesting power-ups and consistent stage design make for cohernet and appealing gameplay. While Coryoon emphasizes the carttonish side, there's plenty of challenge with enough depth underneath its bright colors to keep you coming back for more. The darker Saint Dragon gives players a more difficult task, but is rewarding and entertaining in its own right. Despite divergent aesthetics and gameplay, Coryoon and Saint Dragon are prime examples of how the classic shoot-'em-up genre thrived on the platform.

- Michael Palisano