Vic Tokai...love 'em or hate 'em, you gotta admit that when push comes to shove and they put their mind to it, they can make exceptional video games, in one sense or another. Whether it was games that got put up on the chopping block upon its release in the U.S. such as "The Krion Conquest," the Mafioso exploits within "The Mafat Conspiracy," or the hilarious and all-too-interesting classic "Clash at Demonhead," Vic Tokai was always doing something in the video game world. Those who are familiar with some of Vic Tokai's works and localizations know that they like to experiment just as much as the next guy or gal when it comes to the theme of their games and that they usually have really bad cover art outside of Japan (Seriously, Baywatch babes with jetpacks?), but they just so happen to have a soft spot for games with a sense of humor too. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to talk about this light-hearted and somewhat nonsensical shoot-em-up, Trouble Shooter. What's it about? How is it for one of Vic Tokai's first Genesis games? Well, let's see here.
--------TROUBLE MANIA OR BATTLE SHOOTER?--------
You'll take control of two teenage girls, Madison and Crystal, who are agents known as "Trouble Shooters." They're a largely mysterious group who take on dangerous jobs for fame and fortune and can handle anything you throw at them. They're the "Big Dogs" and self-proclaimed "Liberty Chasers"– the people who you want to do big jobs while keeping a low profile because they have the skill and the firepower to do so. They'll do anything if the shoe fits and they boast that their services are available 24 hours a day. Colonel Patch dispatches them to stop a fiend of international proportions known as Blackball, who's holding King Frederick's son, Prince Eldon, for ransom. You'll have to charge up your car, strap on your blaster, and show the world and individuals of the male persuasion why sometimes the best man for the job is a woman!
Trouble Shooter draws some of its most noticeable characteristics from franchises like Dirty Pair, which fans of the game sometimes loosely tie to the franchise. Trouble Shooter’s theme of two women who could be seen as trouble consultants, one violent (Madison to Kei) and one more sophisticated (Yuri, to a lesser extent, comparable to Crystal), going around causing disasters but not failing missions, and the I.T.S.A (International Trouble Shooters' Association) in comparison to the WWWA (World Welfare Works Association) help bring about such speculation. However, Trouble Shooter draws some of its inspiration from another, less likely source. I won't discuss it here, since it is more evident in its sequel, so be sure to read that article too...I promise you it's good. All of the elements in the game give it a decidedly comical edge. Of course, I love comical games like a fat kid loves cake. Otherwise, I'd never be able to invest much time in games like Lunar Silver Star Story or Vanguard Bandits (bless Working Designs freakin' soul).
Interestingly enough, the Japanese game (Battle Mania) was made a little later than the U.S. game and toned down the humor a bit, replacing it with a little more rationale and an ending that would help produce a crazier sequel only in Japan. The girls’ names were also changed. Madison is called Mania Ohtorii and Crystal is called Maria Haneda. A handful of sprites were also edited in the Japanese game such as the king (who looks more like your stereotypical Maharaja), nameless cheerleaders who are probably meant to look more Japanese and Asian, a few enemies, and two of the special attacks, Avalanche and Tidal Wave. The Avalanche machine has what appears to be fairy wings early on in the Japanese release and launches four seemingly ordinary missiles. In the U.S. game, the machine is just a rotating mechanism, but the missiles have goofy and sinister smiley faces. The Tidal Wave machine looks almost identical in both versions, but the machine's beams look different. The beam looks like a chain link in Japan, whereas it's just a solid laser in the U.S. game.
The Japanese game even got so lame as to remove the Sega boxes in the weapon hangar...grrr. The credits for each game have a different backdrop, but I've taken the liberty of hosting both scenes on the site, just for fun. It's a little strange that the car in the credits casts a shadow only in the Japanese version of this game...what gives Vic Tokai? Another interesting aspect is that when you convert the Japanese text, you can see that they've actually added more text in the U.S. game! This is one of those super rare examples where I can say these games have an out-of-body experience. Americanized jokes and puns aside, Trouble Shooter feels more like your typical zany Japanese SHMUP than Battle Mania!! Weird...
--------DIRTY PAIR, DIRTIER PRESENTATION?--------
I'll be the first one on this site to admit that the presentation of this game is not on par with a lot of Genesis/Megadrive shooters. The environments are decent enough, the weapons and special effects are so-so, and in the words of Prince Eldon, the anime stills are "coolness," but the game lacks finesse. The animation isn't anything great, the enemies aren't particularly detailed, some things look a little lame like how uninspiring Madison dies, as well as some bosses, and nothing really stands out in this game except for the final boss and a giant laughing robot who lets you blast him to death the first time around before coming back for seconds. I try not to be TOO meticulous, but this game really does look a little lackluster when compared to other SHMUPS released before and afterwards. It also doesn't help that the music isn't anything special. It wasn't particularly bad, but you don't tend to notice it much. The sound effects are standard fair with the exception of the voices made when you pick up power-ups. Ah.... sweet, sweet Engrish.
--------BLASTER MASTERS AND DROLL, ARCHAIC COMICALITY--------
Trouble Shooter isn't exactly the longest Genesis shooter, and it definitely isn't the most challenging. You'll be blasting your way through six stages trying to pursue and defeat Blackball. During the first four levels, you'll have the option of choosing which special weapon you'll want to use with your blaster. Besides the Avalanche and Tidal Wave, you'll also be able to use the Lightning Storm, a weapon that rains down bolts of lightning at random, and the Blizzard, which unleashes circular fields of electro-magnetic energy that swirl outward. Each of the four special weapons must be charged before they can be used. If you push the special button before the weapon is ready, you'll be penalized and have to charge it all over again. All the special weapons are useful, except for the Tidal Wave. The beam stays mostly near you and is more trouble than it's worth. Like any other typical shmup, you can gather upgrades for your normal blaster and other items to enhance your abilities. It should be noted that most projectiles can be blasted and destroyed, making this game even easier.
The bigger quirk here is the company you share in the game and the way your lives are handled. Through the course of the game, you'll control Madison, but have a little control over Crystal too. Crystal stays within a close proximity of Madison and you can change which direction she shoots. This is helpful because Madison can only shoot ahead of her, so you usually want Crystal to cover your rear. You'll even form a trio at one point in the game with Prince Eldon who has his own movement schematic. Lives in this game are plentiful and there is no perceivable limit to how many you can have (probably ninety-nine, but you'll never get that many normally). There is one thing you have to be careful of though...being crushed by the screen's deadly edge. If the moving screen crushes you, you'll end your game instantly, no matter how many lives you have.
The best part about this game is the pointless story, which unravels with each level you clear. From totally rad terms being thrown around from the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties like "Awesome," to the silly catch phrases like "Dana Do-Right," to obliterating Blackball and his "Test-Tube Baby," this game has an uncommon degree of spunk for a Genesis Shooter. Gone are the days when you think you've won the battle and roll out the credits only to be interrupted with a little "Sega!" ditty and have to continue the fight. This game even does a play-on-words from Looney Tunes fame and has slick references to Iron Man, Spider-man, and possibly...AD&D's Heroes of the Lance??? Good times folks...good times.
--------WHEN DO WE EAT IT?!?--------
If you're a fan of funny games and simple shooters, then you can have your cake and eat it too with Trouble Shooter. If you're looking for serious, unadulterated shooting madness, this isn't your game. I honestly think Trouble Shooter is a great shmup for those who are new to the genre and need something to ease their way in and feel comfortable with since it's so easy and short. As a whole however, it's a very average shooter that didn't get much attention and it has a much better (and incredibly expensive) Japan-only sequel. Hell, the regular Battle Mania is very expensive...why is this average shooter so damn expensive? Meh...at any rate, I can say that we could have used more funny shmups like this, with just more...everything. Alas poor Trouble Shooter, we hardly knew ye...
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -