Monday, October 17, 2011

The second step in my quest to become the
takes me north on the hiiiighwaaaay toooo the..... DANGER ZONE! [da da dah!].
Karate Krap

Like it's predecessor in this list of ulitmate NES challenges, Karate Kid, Top Gun is hailed as equal parts difficult and crappy. Developed by Konami and released in 1987, Top Gun (like Karate Kid) is adapted from the film of the same name. It's got all your favorite characters, as long as your favorite characters aren't Maverick, Goose, Iceman, Magician, Jester, that hot chick, the one grumpy guy or the brooding commanding officer. Basically there's a plane that kind of resembles a plane from Top Gun (but not really).

I was never a huge fan of the movie, but spent countless hours with flight-sims  like Wing Commander and Tie Fighter, so I was actually a little excited to play this game. My mistake. Expecting Tie Fighter while playing Top Gun is like expecting water while drinking battery acid.

Karate Krap
Get used to seeing this.
Mission 1 (the levels are called 'Missions') is ripped right from the Top Gun screenplay: "Training for the Next Mission." With Kenny Loggins singing in my head, I chose the most powerful missiles (you get three choices) and took Exit 5 onto the hiiiighwaaaay toooo the..... DANGER ZONE! [da da dah!].

After a lift-off sequence that takes about five seconds too long, you're up in the skies. Right from the start, I decided to try what worked so well in Karate Kid: run away from everything. I jammed left on the d-pad, and--wouldn't you know?--every single baddie flew right past me. As an additional bonus, I soon discovered jamming down with left increases your airspeed, meaning the baddies have almost no chance of hurting you. Your speed maxes at 1600mph (almost Mach 3), which is (technically) 700 mph faster than the jet's top speed.

Mr. Missile
Maverick, meet Missile.
There are a few caveats, however, to this decidedly un-Maverick strategy of airborne pacifism. First are the heat-seeking missiles. Occasionally, drone planes fire missiles at you. Simply flying away from these missiles works only half the time, meaning avoidance will eventually result in death. Fortunately, letting go of the d-pad and jamming on the fire button works like a charm. So anytime you see ANY red on your flight screen, jam on the fire button. Problem solved.

Danger Zone!

Wrinkle two in my quest for Ultimate Top Gun Pacifism are the infrequent attacks from behind. Periodically, a tone sounds and your...raaadar wipes to...DANGER MODE [da dah da!].  Basically you fly right, then left, and then the danger is gone. This would be really annoying if I wasn't running away from everything to begin with, which I am, so really it's not annoying in the least.

Water Landing
Another successful water landing.
Conversely, the next obstacle between me and not accomplishing a single damn thing in Top Gun is annoying as hell. Each mission ends with a sequence where you must land your fighter jet onto an aircraft carrier. Again, torn right from the screenplay, right? Whereas the heat seeking missiles and danger radars are mere mosquitoes, landing your plane in Top Gun is a hungry velociraptor of death. Your only aid in this task are directions flashing on your radar: "Left! Left!," "Right! Right!," "Speed Up!" and "Slow Down!" The controls in this section are touchy as hell, and the directions do little good. Basically, you center the approaching aircraft carrier on your screen and don't touch an effing thing unless specifically told to do so. Even then, you'll probably crash into the ocean.

Is that a refueling rod or
are you happy to see me?
After our outstanding performance in the first mission (doing absolutely nothing and then crashing into the ocean) central command decides to advance us onto Mission Two: Destroy an Enemy Aircraft Carrier. Level 2 provides much the same of Level 1, just more of it. Additionally, there are enemy aircraft carriers peppering the ocean, some of which fire guns and missiles at you. Again, avoid avoid avoid and blow away any missiles that get near your target box. Another wrinkle is presented at the halfway point of this level: mid-air refueiling. Think of it as Landing the Plane Lite. The upside is that you have a good long time to try it (opposed to the landing sequence), so as long as you follow directions, you should be okay.
Boss 1
The enemy? That awkward-looking smudge!

Mission 2 (and each subsequent mission) ends with a boss fight. The first pits you against a poorly-rendered aircraft carrier and a few drone planes. The strategy here is pretty straightforward: avoid the planes and bombard the aircraft carrier with missiles. If you chose the most powerful of the missiles (you did choose the most powerful, didn't you?) the fight lasts literally five seconds.

Of course, then you have to land the damn plane again, but after four or so oceanic crashes, you start to get the hang of it.

Boss 1
Attacking a Space Shuttle, just like in the movie!
Missions 3 and 4 (again, only 4 levels?) are to destroy an enemy base and a space shuttle (yes, space shuttle). Nothing new here, more drones, more missiles, more flying the eff away from everything. After mastering the second mission, the game's most difficult enemy is boredom. The levels are long and uninteresting, and the gameplay remains static until the end. Mission 4 tries to trick you with different combat "modes," but "mode" is just means the game is going to do a palette swap in mid level.
Eventually we get to the ulitmate boss of Top Gun, a space shuttle on a platform. Everyone fires missiles at you, but as long as you keep bobbing up and down and firing your mega-missiles at the shuttle, the battle should go by quickly. And again, like Karate Kid before it, Top Gun rewards players with an ending ranking with Citizen Kane and Gone With the Wind:
Boss 1
They're cheering because you finally landed the plane.
False. Your plane lands, your pilot gives a thumbs-up, and you get cycled back to Mission 1. A crappy ending to a crappy game.

Again, like Karate Kid before it, Top Gun isn't so much hard as frustrating. Running away from everything seems to be the best strategy. Learning to dodge the missiles only takes a try or two, and from there, its just practice landing the plane and refueling. Top Gun took me slightly longer to finish than Karate Kid, mostly owing to its tediously long levels.

Top Gun gets a difficulty rating of:
Controller Icon
two controllers out of a possible five; the game mechanics took some learning and even Brave Sir Robin would end up with a missile in the face now and again.

I'm starting to think this whole NES Master thing is going to be a cakewalk. The first two games came and went not with a roar, but a whimper. Hopefully my streak continues next week with the offical Level One of my quest to become
 From here on out, it's bound to get a little Wily.

No comments:

Post a Comment