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UFO Danger Robo - Arcade (1986)

American Arcade Flyer

This spin-off of Terra Cresta fully embraced Japan's giant robot culture, taking most of its cues from the animated series UFO Robo Grendizer and Danguard Ace. There are also similarities to Lightspeed Electroid Albegas, featuring three battle mechs which combine into one massive android. Albegas was planned as an entry in the popular Voltron franchise (Voltron of the Middle Universe), but only a line of Matchbox toys were released in the United States.

UFO Robo Dangar is similar to Terra Cresta in most respects, with the same look, sound, and play mechanics. Dangar even uses the same sound chip as later models of Terra Cresta, although the CPU takes a step down from the 16-bit 68000 to a more humble 8-bit Z80. You wouldn't notice the step down at first glance, though. The graphics are every bit as detailed as they were in Terra Cresta and a bit more diverse, with highways spanning the sea and castles finding an unlikely home in the desert.

The big difference between UFO Robo Dangar and its predecessor is in the lead character. While the player starts with a single ship in Terra Cresta, UFO Robo Dangar gives them all three pieces of Dangar, assembled into a robot. A power up capsule gives Dangar a laser rifle, but especially skilled players can find flying saucers marked with green, red, and blue gems. Each saucer has a different pattern of fire, and they're all pretty impressive by 1986 standards, filling the screen with hot death.

The game's other distinguishing feature is that the player will occasionally discover black holes, leading to a creepy subterranean world with more difficult enemies. The only way to return to the relative safety of the surface is to gun down a heavily armored and especially aggressive boss, which covers the screen with a thick coat of bullets and missiles. It's possible to bring down this dangerous foe... but not very likely.

UFO Robo Dangar wasn't as successful as Terra Cresta in its native Japan, and went practically unnoticed in the United States, despite the popularity of giant robot shows like Voltron. However, the game is fondly remembered by those lucky enough to have played it.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


UFO Robo Dangar

UFO Robo Dangar


Additional Screenshots


Terra Force - Arcade (1987)

American Arcade Flyer

The force wasn't with Shigeki Fujiwara and his team when they created Terra Force, an unremarkable sequel and the first misstep for the Cresta series. It's not that the game is terrible - it's pleasant enough to play, with robust 16-bit graphics and levels that shift perspectives, from overhead to side-view and back. It was one of the first shooters to do this, beaten to the punch by Konami's Life Force by a year but predating others like Abadox.

However, as a Terra Cresta sequel, it completely misses the point. The merging ship play mechanics that were at the core of the Cresta series since the beginning have been abandoned. Instead, there are power up panels which boost the strength of the Gaios' shots and bombs, along with two escort ships similar to the Options in Gradius. It's functional, but it lacks the addictive hook of building a flying fortress piece by piece, or turning mighty vehicles into a mighty robot.

The shifts in perspective deserve special mention. Unlike Life Force, the player can switch from overhead stages to side-scrolling ones by flying into specially marked gaps in the playfield. Convenient exits can even be made in the overhead stages by dropping a payload of powered-up bombs. Sometimes the player is forced to switch perspectives, offering another unpleasant reminder that Terra Force is the black sheep of the Cresta family.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


Terra Force

Terra Force


Additional Screenshots


Armed Formation F - Arcade, PC Engine (1988)

Japanese Cover

PC Engine Cover

A distant cousin of the Terra Cresta series, Armed Formation F (also known as Formation Armed F) brings back the formation button - but not the docking ships - of past games in the series. When powered up, your Vowger is given escorts called Armers, which fire pairs of exploding spheres. A tap of the formation button reverses the direction of the Armers, letting you pick off enemies attacking from behind. Power ups change the Armers' active weapons, while collecting an F icon lets you briefly send them outward, spreading their firepower. It's a play mechanic not far removed from R-Type's Force Unit・ the Armers can even shield you from bullets, although they can't move independently of your ship as the Force Unit could.

Armed Formation F was created by an outside development team called Fillmore, led by Takanori Tanaka. Tanaka is a professional artist, painting backgrounds for the film The Cat Returns and the animated series Last Exile, which goes a long way toward explaining why Armed Formation F is more flamboyant than games in the mainstream Cresta series. Each level has its own theme, ranging from the Insect Stage with its tangled nightmare of fossilized bugs, to the Bone Stage, where the Vowger must carefully navigate through mold-caked rib cages and graying lumps of flesh. The game is an ordinary shooter in most respects (and more cramped than many thanks to its vertically oriented monitor and barrier-filled margins), but at least its artwork makes a strong impression. Sadly, those striking visuals lose much of their impact in the PC Engine port, which relies on repetitive tiled graphics to squeeze itself into the tight confines of a 256K HuCard.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Fillmore

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

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Armed Formation F (Arcade)

Armed Formation F (Arcade)


Comparison Screenshots


Terra Cresta II: Mandora Strikes Back - PC Engine (1992)

Japanese PC Engine Cover

Terra Cresta returns, this time exclusively to the PC Engine. Japan's favorite almost-16-bit game console and its CD-based cousin, the Turbo Duo, were home to dozens of fantastic shooters. This put Terra Cresta II in the uncomfortable position of having to prove itself as both a sequel to a game that was almost legendary in Japan and as a shoot 'em up in a library packed with overachievers. Worse yet, it had to do it all without the guidance of Terra Cresta's creator, Shigeki Fujiwara, who had defected to Hudson Soft to work on the Bomberman series. No pressure, right?

When all was said and done, Terra Cresta II: Mandora Strikes Back is a competent shooter. It doesn't compare to the original Terra Cresta...or Blazing Lazers...or Gate of Thunder...or, uh, Air Zonk...but it got the job done. To its credit, it does offer several enhancements over the first Terra Cresta, including the option to create your own ship formations (a holdover from the NES port of the original game) and power-up capsules which add to your formation stock. Collect enough of these and you'll be granted access to special formations, with your fleet of ships releasing homing phoenixes, laser beams, and other weapons of mass destruction. The game is so easy that you probably won't need them, but it's a nice touch. Also included are Star Soldier-style score attack time trial modes.

Special attention must be paid to the soundtrack, which is fantastic despite being on a PC Engine...or perhaps because of it. There are lots of catchy chiptunes which set the right mood for each stage. All that's missing are remixes of songs from the original, which would have helped legitimize Terra Cresta II as a sequel. Craftier enemies and more memorable level designs would have helped too, but what's here is good enough for fans starved for a sequel.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


Terra Cresta 2

Terra Cresta 2


Additional Screenshots


Terra Cresta 3D - Saturn (1997)

Japanese Saturn Cover

The video game industry went through sudden, profound changes in the mid 1990s. Many game companies, blindsided by the shift to polygonal graphics, scrambled to adapt, with varying degrees of success. Some popular franchises made a remarkably smooth transition to 3D, like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metal Gear, but many more suffered, either losing their identity or unable to make themselves relevant in the PlayStation age. Remakes of past classics like Frogger, Galaga, and Q*Bert were regarded as failures, losing their urgency to confusing new viewpoints and unnecessary play mechanics.

It would be easy to blame Terra Cresta 3D's shortcomings on the industry trends of the time, but there were other factors at play. Shigeki Fujiwara's departure from Nichibutsu was certainly one of them. For years, he was the heart and soul of the company, and without him, Nichibutsu had struggled to make any worthwhile action games, 3D or otherwise. Instead, it devoted itself to arcade mahjong titles, which rewarded the player with images of faintly dressed, doe-eyed women. Considering its fixation on softcore pornography through the 1990s, it was a miracle that Nichibutsu made Terra Cresta 3D at all.

Getting to the game, Terra Cresta 3D is a disconcertingly watered down sequel to the original. Instead of the full fleet of five ships, you're given just three・ the Winger, Beta, and Gamma. Beta doubles your firepower, while Gamma gives you tailguns. There is no rear shield and no piercing beam, and no explanation for their absence. (Indifference seems as plausible a reason as any.) Using the formation button with one escort gives you a wave beam, while using it with two gives you three beams, filling the screen and exterminating foes the moment they appear. The phoenix is still here, but it only makes a brief appearance, flying past your ship while filling the screen with flaming tail feathers. As expected from the Sega Saturn, the phoenix is "enhanced" with an ugly pseudo-transparency effect that makes its arrival less welcome than the developers had hoped.

Generally speaking, the graphics aren't impressive even by the Saturn's modest standards, with ugly texture mapping, muddy colors, and uninspired character designs being the norm. There are also issues with the perspective・ the camera is set too close to the action, making the game feel uncomfortably cramped. During boss encounters, the camera is set directly behind your ship, which leaves you with even less room to move and adds a lot of unwanted guesswork to dodging bullets. The silver lining is the soundtrack, full of bombastic orchestral reworkings of the themes from the original arcade game. If the enthusiasm and creativity that went into the music had seeped into the rest of the game, Nichibutsu might have had something special. Indeed, outside of some racing games like Battle Round USA, and more mahjong titles, it was one of the last video games released by the company.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Nichibutsu

Publisher:

  • Nichibutsu

Genre:

Themes:


Terra Cresta 3D

Terra Cresta 3D

Terra Cresta 3D


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Moon Cresta
Terra Cresta

Page 2:
UFO Dangar Robo
Terra Force
Armed Formation F
Terra Cresta II
Terra Cresta 3D

Back to the Index