--------SLIGHTLY LESS THOUGHTLESS INTRO--------
Hey there. How are ya doin'? If you're a first-time GS reader, then welcome. If you're a returning visitor, then you're either really bored or you actually take some interest in this site. If you are interested, make sure you tell your friends dudes and dudettes. What have we got for you today? You can call it "Trouble Shooter: Take 2", Trouble Shooter being Battle Mania in Japan. As I personally alluded to in the TS article, Battle Mania Daiginjou is the Japan-only sequel that the cult followers of the original game clamored for. While the game has a small following and a fan translation, there isn't a whole lot of information about either game in the series, so I sought to clear that up. How is the game? Is it worth playing? What can you hope to learn after reading this article? Will it rock as much as the Trouble Shooter article? Without further ado, I present to you: Battle Mania Daiginjou, unofficially known as "Trouble Shooter Vintage". Enjoy.
--------AND THREE DAYS LATER...--------
The Year: 1995, during the Heisei era
The Setting: The Tokyo Government Office (Jokingly "Modern-Day Babylon")
The Time: 7:00 P.M., three days after defeating Morgenstein, aka Blackball
The Problem: Morgenstein has somehow been resurrected needs to be stopped!
The Solution: Mania and Maria rise to the occasion once again!
The "Liberty Chasers" are at it again, and they're funnier and more powerful than ever! This time, besides stopping Morgenstein, you're gonna have to put a stop to the strange new group who summoned him in the first place. A dangerous cult of assassins known as the Kikokukyou, or "Ghost Wail Cult" are concocting a plot to rule the world with evil demons and darkness, and you have to stop them before it's too late. You will journey to many action-packed locations and every level you clear will bring you closer to unraveling the mystery. You're not alone though.... the military is also on your side, including your "old" friend, Colonel Patch. Do you have what it takes? Let's charge up their car once again and find out for ourselves.
--------VINTAGE TRIVIA MANIA --------
Vic Tokai isn't exactly the company to shy away from a good joke or comical reference, but some of the references in this game are a bit surprising and are references most folks in the U.S. wouldn't catch right away. Besides the whole correlation between this game and Dirty Pair, this game goes a few steps further. For instance, while I had my suspicions from the first game about "Studio Uchoo Tetsujin" (the development team), the second game really gave me something to work with in regards to the naming of the "studio". Some might ask why this particular name is important. After all, most of the members in the credits were dubbed with some silly nickname, so what's the big deal. Well, the name was reinforced in the sequel to be read as "Uchuu Tetsujin", or Space Iron Men. This didn't mean much in the original game...but the sequel supplied a date, stating that it's been around since 1978. Then it hit me- the robot boss on the first level of the first Battle Mania that didn't really serve a purpose, the same robot just acting as a spoof in the sequel, the year proximity, the name of the team...it all alluded to the famous tokusatsu program, Uchuu Tetsujin Kyodain!
Uchuu Tetsujin Kyodain is an old Japanese show made during the mid-to-late seventies and it was your fairly standard Japanese super hero show, much like classics such as Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Sentai Rangers. Without going into too much detail, the show was about slapstick humor, silly costumes and, over-the-top fight scenes revolving primarily around two robots with human personalities. While Vic Tokai couldn't blatantly plagiarize the whole concept around Kyodain, they knew they could leave as many clues leading up to it as possible without just flat-out giving it away. That's where the joke lies. They made a robot that looks very similar to one of the main characters of the show, sans his head (which functions like one of the other robots from the show, known as Gonbesu), which strikes poses and laughs. While the giant robot can be comparable to a few other giant robot shows of the time, Uchuu Tetsujin Kyodain sounds the most probable. I wish Vic Tokai took it one step further and made a synthesized guitar version of Kyodain's heroic theme song. It would rock just as much as Kagami Yoshimizu's Lucky Star rendition of the theme song that was purposely sung badly but sounded so awesome.
Another connection this game brings about comes in the form of righteous self-promotion and cameolicious characters for hardcore gamers to spot. In this edition of "spot the not", we've captured Vic Tokai's ill-fated answer to Sonic the Hedgehog on camera, the "Time Dominator", known to those who actually care in the U.S. simply as Socket. That's right Vic... you are so freakin' busted. In Time Dominator, you ran through different zones at nearly breakneck speeds trying to reach the end of the levels, fighting a boss after every few stages. The hero could collect lightning bolts that were nearly the equivalent of gold rings and he could even kick people. The only problem is that the game wasn't very well thought out, was three years too late to compete with the first Sonic game, and featured a character who was meant to be cool and hip but looks like the dorky kid at school that you don't want to sit with at the lunch table. Apparently, Vic Tokai feels the same way since he can be seen only once in Battle Mania Daiginjou...on a sign with a "No" marker and it goes as quickly as it came. That's some tough love. Now that I've got you all nice and bored, let's talk about.... BATTLE MANIA DIAGINJOU!
--------CANDY FOR MY EYES, MUSIC TO MY EARS--------
If you're looking for reasons not to like this sequel, it's going to be a lot harder to find them. For starters, the visuals have been significantly enhanced. The characters and backdrops are much richer, the animation is better, there's no slowdown whatsoever and the level designs and imagination have increased ten-fold over the original game. From fighting your staple Japanese demons like an Oni-faced doomsday train on a windy highway and the dreaded kasa-obake (Chinese/Japanese umbrella demon) to blasting a monster who climbs metal bamboo poles waving around a "hit me" banner and a mechanical B-ball monster, this game looks fantastic and the sprites and models are rendered beautifully. The anime style cutscenes have also gotten a huge facelift and Mania and Maria actually change expressions this time around, not to mention the characters as a whole look less amateurish. Colonel Patch doesn't look like a butler anymore, so we know that Vic Tokai is moving in the right direction.
However, while the visuals are nice, I'd have to say that the bigger upgrade to this game is the audio. The FM chip has been rolled out in full force in this game and blows the soundtrack from the original game CLEARLY out of the water. The musician who performed the original Battle Mania's music, Raika Papa, wasn't all bad...but Hyaku, Masuko, Suzuki and Tamaya rocked the sequel and the composition was on the money. The synthesized guitars and drums for this game are so robust in the places they need to be yet relaxed in what can be considered "the slightly less absurd" moments in the game that these folks have earned a place in the royal chamber of great gaming musicians. Besides the great quality of the audio and the slightly more powerful sounds, the sheer quantity of quality tunes overwhelms the original game. You can tell how proud the whole crew over at Vic Tokai was considering you can see Maria jamming to all the aptly named tunes in the options menu. I don't dish out praise of this kind every day, so let me reiterate by saying "nice work" Vic.
--------DEJA VU AND A CAP IN EVERY ASS--------
There really isn't much to say here. This is probably the least important part to this sequel, if only because it hardly even changed. I'd call it Battle Mania Version 1.5. There's nothing inherently wrong with the gameplay. In fact, this game gives real meaning to the term "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The game took nearly everything from the previous game and made it better. The four special weapons from the original game are more or less back, except they're a little better rounded in their capabilities. The game has three more levels than the original game and the story is spread out in a greater fashion, not to mention you'll even get a few intermissions between the fights and story that say Battle Mania Daiginjou, so this game throws its weight around and tries to make it feel like equal parts anime and shooter. You can also choose to shoot behind you or in eight directions within the options, although the classic method is fine for this game as well. The game even increased the difficulty a little and included a Score Ranking mode so you can challenge your inner chaotic trigger finger.
The bigger picture here is that the game is far more interesting than the original game thanks to the cool levels and the even cooler new enemies you'll face. You can blast baddies in a typical Japanese neighborhood, blast bad guys in a temple, blast baddies underground, blast baddies on the highway, and even blast baddies during a crane game! Hell, there's even a level that will let you use the otherwise "useless" car from the first game where Maria drives and Mania shoots. A few of the levels also have you rising and falling in addition to your standard horizontal movement. The game really takes you to the part of Japan that I love so much: the crazy part.
--------NO GUTS, NO GLORY--------
Whenever you have a villain who thinks you're brain would be perfect for an armored train because it only knows violence and slaughtering and whenever you have to ram your car into a guy who should already be dead stories above ground level, you have a noteworthy game. But, when you add that with a funny story, great visuals, awesome sound and tight play control, you have a game that I would seriously consider giving a gold medal. Battle Mania Daiginjou has only two major problems: first, the game was never released outside of Japan. Second, the game was released in very limited quantities, but is desired by hardcore gamers the world over, which drives up the price to heights seven out of ten people aren't going to pay, EVER...so this one will become a real hard drive favorite. There's all this crap about advertising and everything else in the credits, but the game isn't widely known and I think it was a crime to not bring this great game to a wider audience...no guts, no glory Vic. This game could have held some serious cult status credentials. Still, at the end of the day, Vic Tokai got their act together and turned an average SHMUP into one of the best on the system. I'd even go so far as to say that it sits among the likes of M.U.S.H.A., Lightning Force, Gaiares and the Japanese exclusive Gleylancer...all of which are also expensive, though not as expensive as THIS game. It's games like this that make me love classic gaming.
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -