The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review - Grind Stormer - Genesis









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Grind Stormer - Publisher: Tengen - Developer: Toaplan (Genesis - 1994)

Consectutively replaying the somewhat dueling modes represented under-rated Grind Stormer represents a uniquely structured releases on the traditional space-shooter front. This approach offers surprising variety and flexibility, at least from a commercial standpoint. It's surface design appears standard and its design resembles little beyond what you'd expect from a traditional shooter on the surface, with a solid appearance throughout starting with the menus and extending towards the high-score input. The top-scrolling shooter delivers most traditional elements of the genre. Its engineo offers solid mechanics by Genesis standards, delivering a fluid, top-scrolling title that sufferd little in the way of slowdown. There;s occasional flickering but nothing signifivcant. Grind Stormer blends with the familiar style of Raiden Trad, Sol Deace, Vapor Trail or dozens of other similar releases. This is one of the better examples in terms of interface and controls, offering a smoth gameplay experience. It's frantic pace and pitiless challenge remains substantial, maintaing a consistent challenge throught It's a technically impressive releaase with engaging enemy patterns and steady pacing that holds your interestl. Grind Stormer does an excellent job constructing the basic elements that make shoot-'em-ups so enduring and appealing,

Players will skillfully traverse a series of robust environments that deliver surprisingly challenging levels arranged with occasionally vexing formations of opponents. Backgrounds offer a surprising variety of botanical and natural locations that scroll by smoothly. Ranging from traditional foes that are easy to destroy with a single shot to more elaborate boss encounters with layers of defenses that need to be defeated. Grind Stormer moves at a consistent frame-rate throughout that remains consistent in both modes of play. The responsive controls go a significant way in keeping your reflexes alert and doesn't fall short of high expectations set by the generally consistent and engaging Toaplan name. Going a bit deeper under the surface, you'll find a surprisingly robust amount of settings and menus you can use in the menu screens that allow you to adjust the number of ships, continues, Players can also adjust the overall speed and difficulty and challenge quickly and effectively, offering extensive replay value. Beyond these traditional parameters, you'll quickly discover the most significant option delivers the biggest surprise.

Instead of limiting players to a single-watered down version of the game, Tengen decided to include both foreign and domestic variations in a single release. They differ in significant ways, so it's almost like giving players two complete games on a single cartridge, Grind Stormer not only includes the expected 'westernized' version of the game, but the unfiltered, complete and unedited Japanese version of the game, V-V, pronounced 'Five V.' This gives players access to a pair of superficially similar yet inherently distinct types of play mechanics. The key difference between these modes comes in the power-up system that significantly affects the gameplay. In the simplified Grind Stormer mode, collecting pods automatically implements their abilities which makes things simpler but not as interesting. Additional options allow you to change the game's overall pacing, to your liking or even engage in a practice mode where you can fight through rough sections with invincibility to learn its basic layouts.

However, when you play in the distinctlively different original 'V-V' mode, collecting power-ups builds your powers in a flexible power-up system. This method resembling the stacking power-up system used by Gradius. Here you can select the power-ups to use once you've accumulated the pods, you can choose to keep them or wait until after you've 'stacked up' until the that particular indicated. At that piint, you press the power-up key to implement its enhanced capabilities,. Timing is essential since you can move these more opwerful weapons accidentally if you collect to many power-ups or be caught defenseless if you use them too son and take on a weaker weapon, This more flexible but somewhat more complicated and trickery to use, but its increased flexibility makes for an acceptable balance that gives the game a unique strategic trade off. Deciding which weapons will be more effective against certain opponents adds to the challenge and replay value. As expected from Toaplan release, the production values are superlative by Genesis standards. Fluid controls are easily implemented with a smooth consistent appearance throughout that features impressive sprite work throughout. grind Stormer's sound effects and nicely-orchestrated music are above-average for the hardware, marking an effective accompaniment to the fast-paced  on-screen action.

Its above-average graphics are impressively detailed and include some surprisingly elaborate level designs feature inventive stages that elicit interesting alien worlds. Alive with fauna and natural elements, these occasionally elicit unexpected  locations, Certain areas resemble what can only be described as strange interplanetary vineyards that scroll by underneath your ship.  These vaguely-rustic levels can still bring about strange areas that effectuvely utilize  the Genesis' relatively limited capabilities, though they look somewhat simplistic graphics by contemporary standards. Abundant and creatively unique designs give the game a unique look and aesthetic that differentiates Grind Stormer from the generic, sterile space-themes that predominate in most shoot-'em-ups from that era.

Opponent sprites showcase elaborate details, impressive scale and smooth animation which makes them fun to obliterate. Technically, Grind Stormer impresses since it unfolds at a consistent frame rate that doesn't suffer much in the way of slowdown, however there are occasional flaws. This is especailly true when you unleash one the super-bombs in the face of a screen-filling bosses that can slow the action momentarily. These can be tricky to defeat but you can beat them by memorizing their elaborate patterns. Once mastered, it takes little effort to counter and anticipating their attacks, Avoiding their longer sustained attacks while you await the bosses' vulnerable intervals. There are noticeable periods of inconsistency, when the bosses seem somewhat slow, almosr distracted as they srutter. The bosses' large size might be too ambitious at points, but these probkens can be over-looked. Sporadic minor visual problems occur and can be momentarily distracting but they don't noticeably detract the gameplay.

Surviving Grind Stormer's occasionally frantic levels requires a high-degree of concentration and memorization given its complicated patterns and aggressive enemies. Supporting the player are a number of key power-ups that work convergently to allow you to create fiery paths through the levels. The most immediate impact comes into play when you can arrange your firing paths simply by maneuvering the ship's targeting system. You ship's simple motions and fluid movement can make a big difference in terms of the effectiveness of its shots. The flexible approach allows you a measure of freedom when choosing between a wider shot the covers a wider area or squeezing the fire into a single flowing path that offers greater power in a single path. Enemies fight back using an array of weapons and increased momentum but you can counter their moves with accumulated power-ups. Most of these are fairly easy to use and include stronger shots, larger reticules and enhancements such as bombs and homing missiles that let you clear out a section easier and quickly.

Enemy formations can cause some trouble occasionally and can trick you into a corner from time to time, though this doesn't occur particularly often. Its structure makes it more approachable than many other shooters. You don't lose a life immediately with a single-shot and instead suffer a downgrade in your powers. This forgiving approach allows you to rebuild your power-ups if you make a mistake and keep moving ahead, instead of reverting all the way back to the beginning of the stage.

The most important task you have to consider involves use of the smart-bombs with you can detonate at certain points, you have to use these wisely. You only have a limited number of these but they'll destroy anything within their measured range. These weapons are powerful and effective, but only last for a short time, and you can collect additional bombs if you're lucky enough to find one of the gently-pointed power-pods floating down the screen. UNfirtunately, these power-ups are somewhat limited in number and replacements don't appear often, so use them wisely. Still, they're prevalent enough, to be useful component of your strategy, at least in the standard Grind Stormer mode. However, this strategy changes substantially in V-V mode,  you need to store multiple power-up capsules to unlock these weapons, which makes them more challenging to use. This system requires prescient timing and forethought where you have to decide in advance which might be the most effective against specific enemies.

Grind Stormer's effective level design offers an intuitive balance of challenging sections that require dexterity and skill to defeat, along with more open sections that are easier to fly through. Stages can be a little long at times. but never becomes excessively tedious. Strongly resembling other Toaplan shooters such as Truxton, Grind Stormer brings an immediacy to its gameplay that starts at a fast pace and doesn't really trail off until you press the pause button. Structurally, some familiar elements from other games recur, such as the wave power-ups and smart bombs seen in other Toaplan releases from the same era. A cool visual cue evokes from the developers' earlier releases when the levels shred, fall into pieces and are quickly sliced apart when you lose a life. With its many options, both versions of the game provide a fairly challenging and entertaining shooter that offers springing amount of depth and polish. Grind Stormer is an excellent title with mutiple modes of play and extensive repkay value that delivers a satisfying and challenging experience.

- Michael Palisano