<table> <tr> <td class=headerlogo> <p class=image><a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/logo/hg101logo.png" alt="Logo by MP83"></a></p> </td> <td> <table class=headerright> <tr> <td class=headermenu> <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/alpha.htm" target="_parent">Articles</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/features.htm" target="_parent">Features</a> | <a href="http://blog.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent">Blog</a> | <a href="http://hg101.proboards.com/" target="_parent">Forums</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/about.htm" target="_parent">About</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardcore-Gaming-101/109837535712670" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/facebook.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/HG_101"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/twitter.png" target="_blank"></a> </td> <td class=searchbox> <form action="http://www.google.com/cse" id="cse-search-box" target="_parent"> <div> <input type="hidden" name="cx" value="partner-pub-5230184257141993:xfg3mydy24k" /> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="ISO-8859-1" /> <input type="text" name="q" size="30" /> <input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search" /> </div> </form> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/coop/cse/brand?form=cse-search-box&amp;lang=en"></script> </td> </tr> </table> <table class=headerad> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "pub-5230184257141993"; /* HG101 */ google_ad_slot = "4961941287"; google_ad_width = 728; google_ad_height = 90; //--> </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> </script> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table>

by Sotenga - May 28, 2013

Cabal - Arcade, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC (1988)

American Arcade Flyer

Japanese Arcade Flyer

European C64 Cover

American NES Cover

The basest variety of arcade games possible is the type that allows players to shoot a lot of stuff. Many video games allow for a virtual manifestation of violence that satiates the basic primal need of humans to shoot and blow crap up. Naturally, it would be bad to do this in real life, so leave it to video games to give people guns and blast everything in sight. In the arcades of the 1980s, most such games took place in a two-dimensional sidescrolling environment like Contra, or in top-down perspective like Commando. However, the rather obscure Japanese TAD Corporation wondered what it would be like to give a third-person point of view to gun-based carnage and developed Cabal, an underrated arcade classic that spawned a short-lived but pretty awesome genre. It was the first of several 3D third-person shooting galleries in which you had control of both your character and your targeting cursor, the most well-known of such games likely being Natsume's future-Western shoot-em-up Wild Guns. Other arcade games in this perspective include Seibu Kaihatsu's Dynamite Duke, the early Neo Geo war shooter NAM-1975, and the infamous Pirates, best known for the announcer pronouncing the title word as "pie-ass." None of these games would likely exist if Cabal didn't set the table.

Cabal doesn't really have any story to it; you simply essay the role as a commando (blue for player one and red for player two) and wage a one-or-two-man-army war on enemy forces. Go forward and destroy everyone and everything over a spread of five stages, each with four sublevels, effectively making for a total of twenty different screens. You start out firing through ruined fields to reach an airport, blast through swamplands to wreck a private enemy hideout, obliterate one of their harbors, demolish a village under occupation, and end up infiltrating the enemy's desert headquarters. Your goal in each area is to kill all opposing soldiers and cause massive wanton property damage armed with nothing but an infinite-ammo rifle and several grenades. A meter at the bottom of the screen indicates your progress, turning from blue to red as you shoot down enemies and buildings, and you move on to the next level once it becomes entirely red. Whenever you clear a section, it's made apparent that Cabal doesn't take itself at all seriously. Victory causes your soldier to dance goofily across the battlefield and into the horizon set to a ridiculous jingle. It never gets old to see the commando(s) prance across the terrain where they killed many agents of the opposing force, though being that there's no actual bloodshed, the game doesn't tackily glorify the horrors of war.

There are three buttons: One for shooting, another for throwing grenades, and the third for dodging. While shooting, your character stays still as you move the cursor around; when not shooting, you simultaneously control your cursor and commando, who can only move left and right. You can toss grenades at any time, even while firing your primary weapon. Grenades do big damage to enemy vehicles and structures, but they are limited. You get ten grenades per life, though destroying special targets can give you extra grenades, and dying with less than ten in tow replenishes your explosive munitions. You can also grab a powerful machine gun that boosts your fire rate and a shotgun that increases your shot width and power. These bigger guns only last for about ten seconds (or until you die), so better deal maximum carnage while they're in your possession. You also have the ability to roll, a useful tactic which makes you temporarily invincible to fire but can be detrimental if you tumble into an errant bullet or cannon shell.

There's a fair variety of enemies to take care of in each stage, with common infantry units as the base fodder firing their rifles or tossing grenades at you. Elite soldiers (dressed in white as opposed to the normal green) tumble around and take more than one hit to defeat, though they often reward you with grenades when felled. Somewhat hilariously (or disgustingly, depending on your ability to take these things lightyl in the context of a silly video game), two medics can run out on the field to take wounded soldiers away on a stretcher, and you can actually earn bonus grenades (and even one of the two bigger guns) by shooting them as they run off. Aside from foot soldiers, you also have a whole heap of military machines attempting to take you down: Tanks, APCs, transport trucks, motorbikes, helicopters, and bomber planes are what you'll expect to face on your mission. At the end of every fourth sublevel, you face off against a gigantic boss machine, including a cannon-spamming twin helicopter, a well-armed submarine which attacks you in a pond, and a convoy truck which keeps driving by to drop sentry guns. These bosses are certainly manageable, but they're made tougher due to their lifebars resetting if you die against them even once. Cabal isn't too tough, and considering that it's an old-school arcade game where your will to go on is determined by how many quarters are left in your pocket, the game usually encourages you to go on even after your last life is snuffed. However, it's a bit frustrating to be held back if you can't get past a particular boss, albeit this solution is remedied in two-player mode where you continue on so long as your partner stays alive.

There's not much else to say about Cabal, certainly not a bad thing in its case as it doesn't try to be anything beyond a short and straightforward arcade game with tons of destruction and explosions. For its time, the graphics were quite serviceable, with decent animation quality for all the sprites and fitting backgrounds that resemble actual guerrilla warzones. A few of the areas do look a bit samey, but a nice touch is how the next stage often looms in the background of your current battlefield. There's not much to say about the music as you'll be hearing the same tune 90% of the time: A low repeating bass tone which is actually entertaining in its simplicity, though it'll likely be drowned out by all of the realistic sound effects of gunfire and aircraft rolling in. Each boss has its unique music with these tracks being quite good, but you likely won't hear them for very long unless you really get held up at any particular fight. The graphics and sound are simple like the gameplay, and it is this simplicity that makes Cabal emblematic for its time. It's far from the most elaborate game ever, but it doesn't have to evolve outside of its premise of "shoot everything" in order to be an arcade classic.

Cabal was popular enough to warrant several computer ports, though the ones for the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and IBM PCs are all not worth playing. The Amstrad version is particularly bad with no color in the battlefields and incredibly choppy action, and while the Spectrum version looks slightly better, it plays no less terribly, with both versions lacking in-game music to boot. The PC speaker sound in the DOS version is beyond obnoxious, and the action is incredibly slow, but at least it gives you the victory jig unlike the other computer ports. The Commodore 64 version is a step up in terms of action pace, but this is only for the European version. Oddly enough, there was a separately developed C64 version in the US that is a considerably inferior port, with overall slower action and cruddier graphics. Rareware handled the NES port, which still doesn't quite match up to the arcade version but at least has pretty competent graphics and retains the music. The best ports are the Amiga version, which is a fairly accurate replication of the arcade game with slightly touched-up graphics and music, and would probably be the most preferable way to play the game if you actually own an Amiga. The Atari ST version also looks nearly identical to the Amiga rendition, even if the action is slower and the sound quality not quite up to par.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • TAD Corporation

Publisher:

  • Taito (Japan)
  • Fabtek (US)

Genre:

Themes:


Cabal (Arcade)

Cabal (Arcade)

Cabal (Arcade)

Cabal (Arcade)

Cabal (Arcade)



Comparison Screenshots


Blood Bros - Arcade (1991)

European Arcade Flyer

American Arcade Flyer

While Cabal received a modest... cabal of fans (apologies for the pun), it also had a sequel with which not too many are as familiar. It was known as Blood Bros., and while not a direct sequel to Cabal in the strictest sense of the word, it may as well be Cabal 2 in all but atmosphere. Perhaps serving as an even more direct influence for Wild Guns than Cabal, Blood Bros.' biggest difference over its predecessor is its ol' Western theme. It essentially does for Cabal what Lethal Enforcers II did to its predecessor, being an extremely similar follow-up and setting it in the latter half of nineteenth-century America. Why set it a century in the past while keeping the exact same gameplay? Who the heck knows why, but it's filled with just as much destruction as its modern-day kin.

Once again, Blood Bros. foregoes story for action, though based on what you learn in the end credits, it's apparent than an outlaw by the name of Big Bad John is searching for a gigantic treasure. The Blood Bros. hope to stop this nefarious goliath by blasting their way through anyone who stands in their path. Player one is a cowboy and player two is a Native American, giving more cosmetic difference between the two characters than just an altered uniform. Their journey takes them through waterfalls and train tracks, a big lake leading to a besieged town, a barfight, a big dry gulch, an oil field, an ominous cavern, and the treasure fortress where Big Bad John awaits them. There's a lot more level variety than in Cabal with no two stages looking quite like each other, and they're a great deal more colorful to boot. The graphics are much brighter and enticing, demonstrating the improvement two years can bring to what is essentially the same hardware. The sounds are also beefed up, with the main tune being a catchy Western-style ditty that's certainly more prominent than Cabal's low-key tune, though it can get a bit repetitive considering the only other in-game tracks are the boss tunes.

Despite the fact that player one has dual pistols and player two uses a rifle, their default fire is exactly the same. As in Cabal, you control both your character and your target cursor when your finger isn't held on the fire button, otherwise only the cursor moves. Grenades return in the form of dynamite sticks, and as before, you are granted ten per life with more to be earned from mass property and enemy damage. You get shotguns that increase your damage and giant machine guns which up your fire rate, and you can also roll around to evade fire. Just like Cabal, the heroes engage in a happy dance across the battlefield after each win. On top of this, the goofy factor has been raised significantly higher, with your most likely source of munitions of all things being pigs. If you shoot these cartoonish hogs that run across the screen, they'll sprint quickly and drop weapons, with more to give if you can keep hitting them. Red ones give you dynamite, black ones drop shotguns, and pink ones dispense the heavy machine gun. There are even more silly targets like burlesque girls that give off points when shot, and squat Native American chieftans that always drop heavy machine guns.

The enemies are even more vicious than in Cabal, with outlaws popping up in greater frequency than soldiers. Bomb-heaving convicts, armored wagons, armed blimps, old-timey planes, and horsemen chucking torches are among your adversaries. There are some enemies which only specifically appear in one stage in the entire game to break up the redundancy of normal enemies, like gunmen paddling kayaks, drunken shooters in barrels and what appear to be trios of Civil War Union soldiers. Blood Bros. ups the ante of potential property leveling over Cabal with not only buildings up for wreckage, but also cave walls, stalactites, and other natural edifices. You essentially have a two-man wrecking crew at your potential command, but don't think too much about how a mere duo can obliterate an entire mountain with just guns and limited dynamite in stock. The bosses are even spicier and more enjoyable than in Cabal, like the titanic train which gradually drives into the foreground until it's only inches away from you, a massive zeppelin which blasts at you with its many cannons, and a trio of giant birds who are somehow able to blast fire from their beaks. These fights tend to be harder than in Cabal, but thankfully you only have to restart them in single-player if you have to use a credit, not if you only lose a single life. While the action is overall more madcap and decidedly harder, the increased commonality of dynamite and new guns allows you to end levels faster, provided you can stay alive long enough.

Blood Bros. is bolder, louder, and arguably cooler than Cabal. If not just for the brighter graphics and more varied settings, it serves as everything a sequel should be by upping the ante while keeping the spirit of the original intact. Lamentably, unlike its predecessor, Blood Bros. received absolutely no known ports outside of its initial arcade release, so MAME is the way to go in order to play it nowadays. It's also unfortunate that, for such a neat duo of games, TAD Corporation didn't last very long. Their only other contributions to the arcade scene are the action-platformer Toki (which received modest fame and even got several home ports), the obscure beat-em-up Legionnaire, and the also relatively unknown overhead shooter Heated Barrel. They folded in 1993, a fate too soon for a pretty darned cool company which kickstarted a specific sub-genre of shooters. The genre itself mostly died sometime in the mid-nineties, although Treasure's cult classic Sin and Punishment may be considered the last great Cabal-style shooter. TAD's contribution to the gaming world was not in vain, as there's nothing quite like Cabal and/or Blood Bros. that captures the energetic essence of absolute destruction and demolition.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • TAD Corporation

Publisher:

  • Fabtek

Director:

  • Hiro. Kakiuchi

Genre:

Themes:


Blood Bros. (Arcade)

Blood Bros. (Arcade)

Blood Bros. (Arcade)

Blood Bros. (Arcade)

Blood Bros. (Arcade)



Ripoff: Pirates - Arcade (1994)

The Cabal-style shooter was a briefly popular genre in the nineties, so much to the degree that Cabal itself was completely ripped off by an unknown Spanish developer named Nix. To be fair, it was difficult to change the genre enough to not make any such game seem like a Cabal clone, but Nix went far enough so as to completely rip the style and atmosphere of Cabal and Blood Bros. to make Pirates. Perhaps better known as "PieAss" due to the slurred speech of the voice that chimes up whenever you enter a quarter, Pirates may as well be Cabal 3. It's the exact same sort of game, though this time with a 17th-century pirates theme to everything. Its controls and power-ups are exactly the same, the players and enemies have similar animations, and you can even cause untold amounts of property damage to clock down your "enemy meter". It does pull a few original things, like allowing you to pick your starting level and requiring you to target specific parts of the background in order to destroy it. Danged if it isn't a weird game, though. How do pirates get access to automatic pistols in the sixteenth century anyway? And what's with this flying witch that sounds like a goat who keeps popping up on screen to give you grenades? It's strange, derivative, and its sound quality is chintzy, but for what it is, Pirates is good dumb fun just like its obvious inspirations.

Pirates (Arcade)



Bootleg: Hard Times - Arcade (1994)

Cabal was the better-known of Tad's two shooters, what with its numerous ports. Blood Bros., while arguably an even more fun game, somehow received no ports, but it did somehow receive an unofficial re-release called Hard Times thanks to an Italian company named Playmark. Its graphics were hacked wholesale while its gameplay remained the exact same, only instead of Old West cowboys shooting up outlaws, it was now made to cast the player characters as Prohibition-era gangsters waging a two-man war against other criminals. It's an interesting new coat of paint, but it's still Blood Bros., albeit the new setting is a bit more ridiculous. Stage 2-1 has pimp-coated thugs scaling high-rise walls as if they were Spider-Man, and the replacement for the bird boss is some sort of flight suit man who looks like a DC Comics reject. The level order is also changed around in an effort to not make it a 100% retread, though stage 5 only includes the final segment and ultimately cuts out the three levels before it. Hard Times is incredibly rare to find in the wild, as most of the cabinets were converted to instead Playmark's puzzle game Hot Mind. Its emulation is botched on MAME with the sound missing and a few sprites (most notably the level 2 boss) becoming severely glitched. Being that it's missing a few levels anyway, Hard Times is a slightly inferior product to Blood Bros. and is mostly worth playing only on the basis of curiosity.

Hard Timers (Arcade)


Related Articles


Back to the index