Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nerdicus Genesis Review #51: The Chaos Engine (SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE)

Title : The Chaos Engine (SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE)

Publisher: Renegade Software

Developer: The Bitmap Brothers

Genre: Run N Gun

Players: 1 / 2 Players

Release Date: 1993

Estimated Value (as of today's date): $7-$10

A few announcements!! First off, the northeast was hit by a monster of a snow storm, in case you didn't. What, didn't JUNO!? HA!! Wow, no laughs? Don't get it? Storm was called on words...Juno = you know? Oh, come on people. Anyway, I was stuck in doors most of the day, and couldn't even get to my job in the city because, well, the trains were ACTUALLY shut down. The storm wasn't even bad as predicted. We were supposed to get three feet of snow, but ended up only with 2...bummer.

Between my bouts of shoveling, which has left me reeling in pain today (obviously not as young as I used to be), I managed to update my blog to be reflective of the new format. Drum roll please.....NEW FORMAT HAS BEEN MADE LIVE!!! Was working on this for awhile, fiddling with templates and catering it to make it my own and voila, here we go. Now, I'm loving it so far, and what made me even more ecstatic was that I was able to rescue all the potentially lost google plus comments that you, my fans, have given over the years! 

Is it true? DO I HAVE FANS?! Meh, not really, probably just people stumbling upon my blog and reading a few video game reviews and continuing on their way. But I can dream. While the new blog format is up, the worst part about it is that I need to go back into each and every post I've written to make sure that the text and background color to the text is cohesive...which for the most part it isn't. That means, I'll be spending the next few weeks going back over 300 blog posts and adjusting the HTML. Anyone want to do that for me? I will pay in video games.

As for a FINAL ANNOUNCEMENT, seeing how my new blog format is up, that means the RAFFLE is on it's way! I shall be announcing the raffle this FRIDAY, so stay tuned. It's going to be exciting, and if you're a retro gamer or a looking to start your own retro gaming collection, you'll want to get in on this. All the details coming, but be sure to come back Friday for the announcement. Okay, now that all that junk is out of the way, onto some more video games.

We're back at it with some Genesis games (or mega drive, whatever you want to call it), and this time we're playing some CHAOS ENGINE. Actually, you probably never heard of this game as Chaos Engine, and you're probably more familiar with it under it's North American name, SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE. It's a nice little top down run 'n gun game set in a theme of a Steampunk world of Victorian England. Funny, because Steampunk wasn't even that big back in the early '90s. Kind of odd to see a game focusing on it. Now, if this game came out now, with all the steampunk-ers out there, I bet it would have been huge.

For me, this is the first time playing the game on the Genesis. In fact, I owned this for the Super Nintendo, and if I think back I'm trying to figure out what I even got this game. It wasn't the type of game I liked playing, so maybe I'm thinking I either traded a friend for it, or maybe I rented it and ended up keeping it? I'm really clueless, but I did manage to find the box and instruction manual in the attic for my SNES version, so hey, I'll take it.

Besides the SNES, and Genesis, THE CHAOS ENGINE made it's home on a variety of other systems, making the game pretty common and available pretty much anywhere. Strangely enough, reviews back in the day weren't that spectacular for this game, and didn't quite hit the mark. For me though, this game is still one of the better and more enjoyable run n guns out there for the 16-bit systems. Let's find out why...except it had a severe lack of airships...steampunks need airships, am I right?

The story line for Soldiers of Fortune (aka CHAOS ENGINE...I'll just keep on switching off between the two lol), is actually loosely based on the steampunk novel, The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Strange to see a video game based on books, and not movies, but why not!? Now as for the actual plot? Oh need to really get into one of those sci-fi, steampunk moods to appreciate this far-fetched tale. You've got time travelling scientists stuck in the 1800s battling against a group known as the Royal Society whose leader created a device called the Chaos Engine capable of manipulating matter and time....yup....just let that stew for a bit. Ultimately, it's your job to save the universe. Go get 'em.

Here's the fun part. Typically when you get a run 'n gun game you'd want to play with two people. After all, it's more fun to blow crap up with your friend, right? Well, let's say you don't have any friends, and I'm sorry if you don't. Have no fear! This game actually forces you to pick a second player that will be controlled by the AI to help you defeat your enemies! I won't say the AI is perfect, because it's not, but it's always fun to watch a mindless drone slay mobs and do all the dirty work...and then die pitifully. Of course, if you don't want to play with a second player, just make 'em die and go on from there.

You have a wide range of characters to choose from. There are the basic "tanks", Navvie and Thug who while the strongest of the group of 6, they are also the slowest. They'll take a beating, but they'll be trudging along. Then there are Brigand and Mercenary, who are the most well rounded, but weaker than the thugs. Then again, they also move pretty damn fast across the screen, and their special weapons are a bit more user friendly. Finally, there are the Gentleman and the Preacher...I'm not calling him the Scientist, because it's much more epic to be a Preacher. These guys are speed demons, but also die in a few hits. Then again, they also have the most useful special attacks that are capable of clearing screens. Just need to be more careful.

You've played run n guns before, so you know how this works. You'll traverse 4 different zones including a Forest Stage, a Workshop, a Fortesque Mansion, and a cellar basement with various sub-levels, blasting your way through enemies, collecting power ups and money which will be used to purchase new upgrades for your characters. The basic path for each of the levels involve you discovering nodes that need to be activating by shooting them in order to open up the final door. Don't worry, it'll tell you how many nodes you need to find before you can move on.

The great thing about Soldiers of Fortune is that the levels aren't too straight forward. There are plenty of secret areas to discover that provide you with a crap ton of goodies for you to splurge upon.

Enemies....what can I say...they are a down right pain. They swarm you quickly, and can be overwhelming at times. It really gets difficult because for some reason the game lacks a strafing ability, so you need to get used to maneuvering yourself and firing without being able to lock your path. VERY ANNOYING...and a real detriment to the yeah...shame on you.There also "boss" battles, which are basically large swarms of enemies, or unique mobs, but the only really true boss battle is the last one where you come face to face with the Baron. And he is quite ugly.

Typically, I'd complain about run n gun controls, especially when dealing with character movements. And I did have one complaint, the lack of strafing. However, the game is fluid enough and the movement is easy enough to master where you don't necessarily have to worry about it too much. In fact, in terms of control scheme, it's one of the easiest run n guns to master.

Hit Detection? Near perfect. No complaints in that department.

Now the real kicker for this game? The visuals and sound. It's Steampunk heaven. From the backgrounds, to the character designs, to the epic soundtracks for each stage this game really pushes the limit. Maybe now I finally understand why I loved this game so much as a kid, because it was different from your average gunner. It pushed the envelope and it worked. The only downfall? The game is too damn short...seriously, only four levels that you can breeze through in under an hour. GIVE ME MORE!

Ah well....

Final Score (out of 5):

Until next time, Keep On Gaming!



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