Mars Matrix

Gamestyle Archive intro: not every game made it across the pond to Europe on the Dreamcast. Of course all restrictions were busted wide open once the console was hacked. However Gamestyle was fortunate enough to import a Japanese console from launch at a considerable cost. The machine like the Saturn before it became a welcoming home for 2D shooters.

Writer: JJ

Format: Dreamcast

Published: February 2001 

VERSION: JAP DC

DEVELOPER: TAKUMI CORPORATION

PUBLISHER: CAPCOM

GENRE: 2D SHOOTER

ACCESSORIES: VMU, VIBRATION PACK, ARCADE STICK

RELEASE: JAP (OUT NOW) USA/UK (TBA)

LINK: www3.capcom.co.jp

Mars Matrix jap - front

The Dreamcast seems to have become a haven for all things 2D.   Perhaps the almost anti-2D stance adopted by Sony for the PSone continues on their new 3D emotion based console?   It is disappointing when you mention 2D to critics and gamers, most will frown and immediately label the game old-fashioned 80’s retro crap.   Unknown to most is that some of the most addictive, frantic and time-consuming games are in 2D.

Capcom with its arcade roots have never left the 2D genre behind, in fact recently they have embraced it.   With this in mind Mars Matrix: Hyper Solid Shooting was eagerly anticipated.   The story (not a must in these games) is given in the excellent introduction sequence; a second sequence provides more background.   It makes a refreshing change that the developers haven’t given us a manga style introduction and the quality of the FMV adds to the anticipation.   The arctic planet of Mars has been colonised but 50 years later on 8th December 2309 aliens invade and you must save the day in your Mosquito craft.

The introduction has you excited, arcade stick firmly grasped, ready to let all hell loose – then you see the dire graphics.   The resolution is very low which results in the feeling that you are playing an early PSone or Saturn game, perhaps even Commando in an arcade.   The soundtrack/effects are very minimal and don’t add anything to the experience.   If you have played the legendary Radiant Silvergun on the Saturn you will recognise that Mars Matrix is a poor second in the visual and audio stakes.   Yes a 32bit game walks all over this 128bit offering and I haven’t even mentioned the design and game-play yet.   To be fair to Takumi the screen is never empty and the pace of the game never drops.

If Mars Matrix does have one saving grace then it’s the addictive game-play, this is one tough game hence the subtitle Hyper Solid Shooting.   Even I found it tough going at times with an arcade stick and my curriculum vitae.  For some the difficulty will be off-putting, I hate to say it, but perhaps one for the hardcore?

The key to progressing through the game is mastering the offensive and defensive weaponry at your disposal.     You have several attacks, the more points and experience you earn, the more powerful they will become.   Throughout the game you will see golden blocks, you must collect these as it improves your shields for the button reflect option – a reflective force field if you will.   Once you have enough blocks you can unleash the gravity holy bomb, a devastating weapon that will destroy everything on the screen.   The key is using the correct weapons in certain situations during the game.    The two-player mode is great fun but you can become lost when the screen fills with flak, as the craft are so small and plain.

Takumi have included several options to add variety and incentive to finish the game.   Three modes are offered (arcade, arrange, score attack) which will provide a lasting challenge.   Cash to spend in the shop is earned by the amount of points you collect in the main game.   Modes and bonuses can then be bought and used, such as unlimited continues which provide an added incentive to do well.   Picture for the gallery can also be unlocked and viewed.

Mars Matrix: Solid Hyper Shooting is a basic looking game with high playability if you can come to terms with the difficult level.   It is very similar to Radiant Silvergun in many areas but is a poor relation when it comes to graphics, sound, design and weaponry.   At present no publisher has confirmed this title for release in Europe or America.   Still if you fancy a challenge or enjoyed Bangoi-o on the Dreamcast you should pick this up on import as most of the menus are in English.

Presentation: 4

Graphics: 3

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 8

Lastability: 8

Should have been much better. Overall 5/10 

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