Release Date: September 21st, 1990
My Score: 8.5/10
This review is for the Famicom version of Insector-X, which is a port of the arcade version. The Genesis/Mega Drive version has a completely different aesthetic. The arcade and Famicom versions are cutesy, while the Genesis/MD version goes for a more 'realistic' look. I'll do a review of the Mega Drive version in the future, but this review is for the Famicom version.
Don't let the cute sprites fool you, this game is a toughie. There are two modes "For Boys" mode and "For Girls" mode. "Boy's mode" is just the game on regular difficulty settings, the "Girl's Mode" is easier. The character you are controlling is also female who starts off halfway powered-up. Just imagine if they released a game like that in this day and age. The girl's mode being easier and all. There would be riots in the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco.
The game has 5 levels. You start off in Egypt which baffles me because the rest of the levels are just plain Jane levels like a backyard, a forest, a city skyline, and inside a honeycomb. They all make sense for a game about fighting insects, but Egypt? It is totally random! Anyway, one thing I am confused about is the size of the humans and the insects. Are the humans really small? Or are the insects really big? There are 3 human characters in the game. You, the girl, and the last boss who is a Dr Wily rip-off. The reason for my confusion is because the forest level and backyard level, the trees and everything else are HUGE and you're a tiny human. The city level, the buildings are proportionate to the size of the humans, and just the bugs are huge. With the Egyptian level, it's a little hard to tell. Anyway, don't let this get in the way of great game play.
After you defeat the last boss you are given a quick text summary of what just took place and a typical 8-bit ending of a shooter. After the ending sequence you begin the game again, but only it's more difficult. I went through the game 3 times before I ran out of continues, but the endings don't change...just the difficulty.
The difficulty also depends on which power-ups you have. This game is has so many power-ups it seemed endless. When I thought I was fully powered-up, I found more power-ups. When you are fully powered up, the game becomes much easier...perhaps too easy. There are two types of power-ups. One for your main gun, and one for your auxiliary weapon which can be fired in tandem with your main guns. You can also get speed-ups and the "A" power up which makes your weapons fire rapidly so you don't have to button-mash. Do not get cocky with your power-ups! One slip-up and you are back with nothing. Having no power-ups on a higher level makes the game extremely difficult. If you're masochistic, then by all means commit suicide on the last level and avoid all power-ups!
The enemies are what you might expect. Insects. This game feels like a great grandfather to Mushihimesama....only because you're fighting bugs. Each level has unique enemies as well as reoccurring enemies. Some enemies are strange...like a jelly bean wearing a sombrero! The fat enemy bees give you power-ups, and the rest of the enemies give you hell. Each level's boss is a giant bug (except the last boss) which look similar to Mega Man enemies and bosses.
The verdict: 8.5/10
This is a great game and I would say it's one of the best 8-bit shmups that I have played. The graphics are great and the characters have great detail. So much so that your character's facial expression changes when he/she fires their primary weapon. The game is challenging and the action can get pretty intense. This game reminds me that even old shmups can be really challenging and great at the same time. I have been spoiled recently by Cave shmups that I forgot to remember those games' roots.
My only gripe is the flickering when there are too many enemies and bullets on the screen. The flickering gets bad enough so that the enemy bullets sometimes become invisible which results in a wasted life. The music could be better, too, but it's cutesy and it matches the game well.
Pick up this game if you're a shmup fan and Famicom owner. It's a shame this wasn't released in the United States. I'll review the Mega Drive version soon enough and do a comparison.
My copy, no emulated or pirated reviews.