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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Video Game Review: Summer Carnival '92: Recca

Platform: Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console

On the very rare occasion, we get a nice treat on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. We saw some games that never saw a release in North America come to the Wii through the service, giving people a chance to play them without spending a good chunk of change on importing or going through that grey area of emulation. I booted up my 3DS this past week to a rather nice surprise: Summer Carnival ’92: Recca. It never made its way to North America, as production for the cart was extremely limited, so it’s developed a bit of a cult following and the premium prices that go along with that.

If you’re interested, Hardcore Gaming 101 has an interesting write up about Recca, so if you’re looking for some backstory, please check that out.

Recca is a ridiculously challenging and fast shooter (or “shmup”) that was released for the Famicom.  It’s actually quite the impressive technical feat considering the hardware limitations, but a game can’t survive on flash alone. Let’s dig into it a bit more, shall we?

From the moment you start playing it, Recca is going to make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into. While other shooters will attempt to ease you in so you get a feel for the game, you’re going to be hit hard and fast almost immediately here. Unless you dig through the manual (which I would recommend just so you understand them), the power-ups are pretty vague. Even if you could decipher what does what, trying to figure them out on the go is going to get you killed. Enemies fly at you at speeds and in quantities that you wouldn’t think the Famicom was capable of without it coming to a crawl. There’s a surprising amount of depth and customization to your loadouts. Not only do you get a variety of different power-ups for your ship, but you’re also given different Option Units (support ships that fly along aside you), allowing for a fair amount of customization.

There are three different modes to play in Recca, each adding their own set of challenges. The normal game mode is tough enough - tons of fast moving enemies, a mid-stage boss, another wave of enemies, and then the stageboss. And there are four stages! It took more than a few tries before I even managed to beat the first stage, let alone being able to get anywhere near the fourth stage. Score attack gives you two minutes to rack up as many points as you can. Once the two minutes is up, the game ends. Well, if you don’t run out of lives before that anyway. Finally, time attack challenges you to hit one million points within five minutes. It’s certainly doable, but, like everything else in Recca, it’s going to take some (re: a lot of) practice.

While the game is fairly simple, there are enough modes to keep even the most skilled shooter player busy for a while. It’s almost worth the $4.99 entry just to see what Naxat Soft wrung out of the Famicom from a technical standpoint. Recca is an insanely challenging game, but its beauty lies in the rewards of repeated play. Seeing yourself progress just a little more with each try is a truly rewarding experience. It’s certainly a product of its time, but if you can overlook the initial frustration you may feel with the difficulty, you’re going to have a pretty damn good time with a shooter that’s held up remarkably better than one would think a shooter on the Famicom could have.

9 out of 10 NES controllers thrown through your TV

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