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Posted on Aug 12th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Review, Mobile Light Force, PSX, Playstation


Certainly, I can't be the only one on this site who gets a little jealous when they read slakur's articles and hear about his weekly nights of gaming with friends. As I've mentioned before, I don't have a lot of friends who game and even fewer that actually collect games. However, over the last few weeks, a buddy of mine has been coming over to the house on Thursday nights to game. We have a great deal of fun playing some of the new games I've purchased (some of which I'm playing for the first time) and pulling games off the shelf that maybe he or I have never tried out.  The best part of the night is that he always has a plastic grocery bag in his hand when I open the front door to my house and I feel like a kid at Christmas eagerly awaiting to see what goodies are in that bag. Our game nights are definitely making my wishlist increase and my bank account lessen.

This past Thursday, we had another great night of gaming and played such awesome titles as: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis), Soldier Blade (TG16), Air Zonk (TG16), The Combatribes (SNES), and Choplifter III (SNES).  As is always the case, we played a few stinkers as well and that night the list included The Tick (Genesis) and Tail of the Sun (PSX). However, out of all of the games we played, none of them surprised us more than Mobile Light Force for the original Playstation.



I received Mobile Light Force in the mail last week after Duke came across it in a local game store. I'm a big fan of shmups and had seen the title in a list of PSX shmups I found on the Internet. I researched the price, and at under $10, I determined that if I ever came across it, I'd pick it up.

Looking at the cover of the game (see above), you'd never know that it is a vertically scrolling shmup. At best, you might assume that it's some sort of shooting platformer, a kind of female Contra with a Charlie's Angels storyline. But, like many games that are brought over from Japan, the name of the game was changed, the artwork was altered, and basically the entire plot and ending were removed for American audiences (*insert head scratch here**). 

Mobile Light Force was originally titled Gunbird and was released in Japan by developer Psikyo and publisher Atlus in 1994. It wasn't until almost 9 years later (2003), when it was localized by New York-based value publisher, XS Games, that it came to the U.S. under the guise of Mobile Light Force. The sequel to Gunbird, Gunbird 2, was released by Capcom for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, and included several familiar faces including Alucard (from the Castlevania series) and Morrigan and Aine (from the Darkstalker series).  Though Mobile Light Force 2 was released on the PS2 in the U.S., it was not a port of Gunbird 2. Instead, it was a localization of Shikigami no Shiro, a famous series some of you may recognize. Though XS Games re-titled the game as a sequel to Mobile Light Force, the games are completely unrelated.


Another one of those moments you want to cry when you realize what you could have had in the U.S.
**image courtesy of bbs2.ruliweb.daum.net**
 

From the moment you turn the game on, you immediately get the feel that it's a Japanese title. You can choose from 5 characters to play as, including: Marion (a blue witch and icon of the Gunbird series), MILF 2000 (an odd, bird faced flying robot), Yuan Nang (a female version of Cloud Master, John Suarez (an old man in a wooden rickety helicopter), and Jason Last (a jet pack adorned rocketeer). Not surprisingly, three of the five characters names were altered from the Japanese version and oddly given the names of XS Games employees....  Each character employs their own psychic abilities including an attack, upgraded attacks (earned by gaining power ups), and screen-wiping bombs.  As a result, each character has a special feel and allows the player to decide which one they feel best suits his/her style of play. 

The plot of the game (which is absent from the U.S. version) involves these characters hunting for a magic mirror as they navigate several fantastic stages. The Gunbird universe is filled with strange mechanical devices that walk, fly, and shoot at these heroes. The end of each stage is guarded by an evil trio called "The Trump" (unrelated to a certain GOP candidate) who attack the heroes with a large, relentless, and highly-detailed machine. Once the machine is destroyed, a smaller and faster robot rises out of it as a second challenge, and you battle until The Trump flees and you are allowed to leave the stage.

In terms of difficulty, Mobile Light Force is somewhere in the middle (and you can change the difficulty of the game from the start to suit), but with unlimited continues, it's easy to finish.  Enemy fire differs in size, shape, and frequency, and as a result, it really keeps you on your toes. Sometimes it gets so intense, that the only way to avoid fire is to use one of the three smart bombs you get with every life.  Though I wouldn't describe the game as a "bullet hell," there are instances where the screen is full of enemy fire and you must carefully navigate through a maze of bullets in order to survive.  This variance in style keeps the game fun, fresh, and quite addictive.

The graphics in the game are great, especially for the PSX. Background scenery is incredible and common enemies, and especially bosses, are highly detailed.  Sometimes these enemies are, for lack a better word, very "Japanese," extremely odd, but fun, and are a good mix of cute 'em up and Metal Slug animations. For instance, one boss battle involves a piece of machinery that randomly morphs into a skull, a fish, and finally, a dragon. Another battle has you pitted against giant Aztec heads, and the final encounter has you............oh well, I won't spoil it, but it is pretty unreal!

My buddy and I had a great time playing this game in co-op mode and I think it is best experienced in this fashion. There were numerous moments of overly wowed exclamations, daunted expletives, and copious high-fives flowing in the game room. The only complaint I have about the game, other than the deceiving cover,  is that it will sometimes pause when loading before a boss fight. However, this doesn't detract much from the game and since the screen is clear, it never leaves you in a compromising position with enemies or bullets nearby. At under $10, this game is a steal and for around the same price, it's sequel is available on the PS2 (which I already snagged off of eBay for $8 shipped before you wolverines had a chance to read this article). What more could you ask for?


**video courtesy of 10min Gameplay**



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Comments
 
The Tick is awesome, you take that back!!
 
@Crabmaster2000: Not on the Genesis it isn't. From what I can tell the SNES version is a bit different, but I've never played it.
 
Gotta love the butchering XS Games did to Gunbird (and later, Shikigami no Shiro), especially after we had previously already got Gunbird 2 on the DC years earlier, with plot and weirdness fully intact.  It never ceases to amaze me how much some game companies think we Americans can't handle Japanese sensibilities, as if the anime explosion of the 1990's never happened.  Or that some suit at XS Games thought red-blooded American males would be more prone to buy the game if it had a quasi-cool name like "Mobile Light Force" and had 3 crappily drawn, Charlie's Angels wannabe characters on the front, running away (or possibly into) a series of explosions.  For those "in the know", it's a cheap way to pick up a localized version of Gunbird, though hardcore collectors are likely going to want to snag the Japanese Saturn version for the superior port.  Still, at its core, Gunbird is a great game, so despite the removal of any semblance of story, it's still, mechanically speaking, a great game.  Definitely worth picking up.
 
@MetalFRO: The irony of the Mobile Light Force cover is that they used the exact same artwork for the cover of Mobile Light Force 2 for the PS2............. which, as I covered in my article, is not even a part of the same series.
 
@singlebanana: I know, and it's despicable that they did that with the same artwork, a "2" tacked on, and trying to pull one over on the American audiences who wouldn't know better.  As if the demographic for shmups wouldn't already have known or figured out that the games were coming over, who was publishing them, and what atrocities had been done to their beloved genre.  As a long-time shmup fan, despite my distaste for this kind of thing, I had to have both, of course, because MLF is the only Western release of Gunbird, and MLF2 is the only legitimate Western release of SnS on console.  Thankfully, Sns2 got localized for PS2 under a more properly translated name, 'Castle Shikigami 2', and similarly, SnS3 came over on the Wii as 'Castle of Shikigami III'.
 
This was another rabbit hole I traveled down since I had not a clue about any of these games.  I have always enjoyed shmups, but mostly played 1942 and Life Force on NES.  I found a few here and there, but I have logged more hours on those two than all the other shmups combined.  It was really interesting to read about this whole thing, and a great example of how butchered some of the games are by the time they hit the U.S.

Not surprisingly many cars (particularly exotic ones) get watered down and in some case completely ruined before they make it to the U.S.  What is the deal with this?  Are there other industries where this is prevalent also?
 
Hey look kids! It's girls with guns! Pew pew pew! *sigh*
 
Is the artist listed in the manual?
 
@bombatomba: Yes, artist listed as I. Hartbewbz.
 
@singlebanana: I actually copied and pasted that into Google before I caught it.  Almost hit Enter, I did.  Almost.
 
@bombatomba:LoL
 
Great review, Rich! Almost makes me want to unseal my copy to play it.....almost.

 
@EngineerMike:  Yeah, I'd hate for you to lose about a $5 value on this game for having it sealed to have some fun.... Wink

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