Time for some picks from my embarassingly big Steam library, and why not one of the last things you expect to see on Steam, like…ports of Game Boy Advance games?
Yep, sometimes Steam being the de facto more used platform/store doesn’t just lead to lots of unfunny simulator crap trying to meme their way into profit, there’s clearly enough space for it to be used as a cheap, affordable and easy way for publishers to make some money back from their older catalogue, and it’s not really surprising, since the publisher in case it’s Majesco, a surprisingly resilient small publisher that published a lot of crap over the years, and… re-sell it, since they also brought over to Steam the infamous Drake Of The 99 Dragons, reviewed last year.
Though this case…well, cases are still odd, since Majesco basically ported both Iridion 3D and Iridion II from the Game Boy Advance to the PC, with the obvious expectations that come with it, since both games were made to play on a very small screen.
At least Majesco priced these very cheap, which is quite sensible to do, and they end up often on sale, so it’s easy to get the “Iridion Collection” bundle for three bucks.
We’ll be starting off with Iridion 3D, because logic.
In terms of the ports, it’s not completely barren, as you can set the resolution (depending on how crunchy you like your poligons, you can opt to stretch it screen to quasi-full screen or smooth the image), enable some smoothin rebind the keys, reset the game or make three save states. Easier than to rewrite the code and remove the cheap cop-out on the game using passwords for continuing, i guess.
Yeah, by the game the GBA arrived, you could easily spot how cheap was the publisher, producer or developer by the fact a GBA game required password instead of just having a save function of any kind. Then again, Iridion 3D was a launch game for Nintendo’s beloved handheld system, and you can tell since it was clearly made to showcase the system ability to handle polygons… or more accurately, to have a quasi-3D effect via some clever programming tricks.
It also boosts some pretty good music for the GBA, but it’s also fairly competent in the gameplay department, going for a very basic Starfox or Space Harrier gameplay style, but with just directions and a button for firing. That’s it in terms of controls, there are a couple of weapon pick-ups that change the type of shot, but at least you can simply press and hold to keep firing, no mashing.
It’s also challenging enough, not too much, not too easy, but it’s a shame a good 50 % of the challenge is adjusting to the old “quasi 3D” graphics, as in the prospective will make you believe enemies and projectiles are far away, when they’re actually a lot more closer than they seem, and it becomes frustrating, especially since the levels are a bit longer than usual and feature a LOT of obstacles and projectile patterns that become nearly impossible to dodge completely in a reliable fashion, hard as it is to judge the distance between your ship (the sprite itself being bigger than necessary and so ending up accidentally obscuring the view to a certain degree) and what looked like a distant violet bullet that was actually…. not that distant.
Due to this, after a while you start trying more to avoid the enemies than fight them, and there’s the fact that the otherwise ok bosses are almost easy compared to the normal stages leading to them. With the final one being the exception, as if trying to make up for the other ones.
It’s not a complete deal breaker, but sure as hell doesn’t complement the very basic and repetitive gameplay, which is kinda to be expected from a shoot ‘em up, just makes the game very average, mediocre, but playable, even it flawed and not interested in spicing up the familiar formula.
it actually makes for a good beginners shoot em up, thanks in no small part to the control scheme that’s really as basic as possible and the lack of smart bombs or anything like that, so you’ll have to learn directly by playing, even if you use some passwords that nets you a specific weapon type right away, that won’t help you avoid the many obstacles in the stages.
Or get any replay value out of it, because there are no unlockables, no extra difficulties (aside from “Normal” and “Hard”), just some cheats codes and a secret gallery mode (as in just a gallery of some of the assets used in the game for enemies and objects), all done via inserting specific passwords. It’s the kind of game where you save the galaxy from the evil alien empire (that’s the extent of the story, btw), and you move on until the enemy can un-death themselves for a sequel.
Both Iridion 3D and Iridion were developed by Shin’en Multimedia, a german videogame company that also worked on plenty of licensed games and other shoot ‘em ups, almost exclusively releasing on Nintendo platforms, you might remember them for Nanostray, the Nano Assault series, or Art Of Balance, with their most recent work being the multiplatform action-adventure puzzler The Touryst.
Overall, not bad for the second game developed by the company, and its first space shooter, just mediocre and more of a showpiece for the technical capabilities (both audio and video) of the Game Boy Advance, which sadly fits as Iridion 3D was a launch game for the console, with all the expected negatives that come with such status.
2 years later, after developing the first (but not last) of their licensed Maya The Bee videogames, Shin’en made a follow up, simply titled Iridion II.