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Assault City was made by Sanritsu Denki Co., Ltd. and was released in 1990. Contrary to the entry on Wikipedia the game was not an European exclusive as it was also released in Brazil and Australia. Also I saw something what appears to be a North American version.
The game takes place in a world which uses robots for many tasks as for example dangerous labor. At some point the central control system revolts and causes the robots to turn against the humans. They occupy strategic important facilities and kill humans. The player plays Joe, a member of a resistance group, which was formed of surviving humans. Someday a wounded man appears and gives Joe a mysterious gun. Joe then goes on his way to find out more about the gun. While doing so he learns about the central control system, which caused the situation, and decides to stop the revolt by destroying a central power plant. It is worth mentioning that the story in the manual diverges quite a bit from the story told in the game.
Before the main game begins the player must complete a shooting practice mini game. A maximum of 20 points can be achieved. The aim is to hit plates showing the picture of a robot, while ignoring plates showing a human during a limited amount of time with a limited stock of ammunition. The difficulty of the game is than adjusted accordingly on how well the player did. The gun can be upgraded by shooting red pellets. Red or yellow pellets appear when the player shoots blue elliptically shaped allied robots. The yellow pellets restore four parts of the life bar. However it’s somewhat difficult to gain those bonuses as the blue allied robots always are closely accompanied by similar yellow robots. When the player shoots one of those several penalties take place. Sometimes the blue allied robots act as screen clearing weapons instead of providing pellets upon being shot. Besides the yellow allied robots, there are other objects that cause the player being punished when the player shoots them such as human scientists and special red plates.
Depending on the upgrade state of the weapon the gun has a full automatic fire option. Using this option will cause the weapon to heat up. The temperature of the gun is monitored in the upper right corner of the screen. The weapon will switch to semi automatic mode when it’s too hot. The power ups are lost when the player dies. The game features unlimited continues which I strongly appreciate in any light gun game. However at some occasions the allied helper robots seem to stop appearing, after the player uses continues.
There are six levels which are all concluded with a boss fight. The levels are: A junkyard, the headquarters of the resistance, a weapons laboratory, a sewers and the central power plant of the robots in which the player fights 3 bosses in a final dedicated boss level.
The story is told in beautiful drawn cards which sometimes feature a little bit of animation. However here comes one of some flaws the game has: The text advances far too fast, making it difficult to follow the story and putting the player to the decision whether to read the text or to look at the pictures. The music is well made and matches the mood of the game. The sounds were of special importance to me in order to beat the game, as the enemies will stay in place quite long after being shot, with only minor animation indicating whether they got killed or not. Most of the cases a special sound gets emitted when a robot got fatally hit.
The precision of the light phaser is good for an 8 bit game without calibration. However the player will shoot from the hips most of the time as the game spawns the enemies so quickly, that actual aiming is often not the best strategy.
In my opinion the difficulty of the game is done bad. I feel the game goes to 100 % difficulty from the get-go resulting in very quick deaths when the player is starting to learn the game. I think it’s a frustrating concept, which could be better understood, if the game was ported from an arcade machine, but Assault City is a console exclusive game. I had to master the game and get virtuosic in order to beat even the first level. After that first level I finished the game without using a single continue. I am sure it’s a matter of taste, but I would have preferred to play a game with an increasing difficulty curve. This would have made me fail at various positions in the game, making me steadily proceeding and appreciating what I am seeing.
Nevertheless I enjoyed the game. The mixture of ordinary game play and boss fights keeps the game fresh. The presentation is well made through the entire game, from the intense start to the rewarding end. My recommendation for beating the game is to shoot only once to ordinary enemies and to assume that most enemies will leave off the screen, after they did hit the player.
The game came in two versions: A light gun supporting version which does not support controllers and vice versa. The versions can be distinguished by a message on the upper right corner of the front face of the box. Speaking thereof: It is really pretty drawn and goes well with the artwork inside the game. Sadly I just can recommend this game to fans of the genera as the light gun version is expensive. It is the most expensive master system light gun game I am currently aware of. I assume the quotient of enjoyment versus price will be low for casual players.