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by Sotenga - May 18, 2014

Combat Hawk - Arcade (1987)

Sega had many collaborators and development teams working under their tutelage in addition to their central development studios. One of their earlier collaborators from the mid-eighties was Sanritsu, later named SIMS. They were a rather minor group when they worked with Sega, mostly handling several ports to the Master System, but they did at least log two notable contributions into their arcade stable. One was the improbably named Appoooh, which wasn't a great game per se but was a notable step forward in the evolution of pro wrestling video games. The other game was Bank Panic, an incredibly fun and innovative take on shooting games of the time, which did not use a lightgun but favored using three buttons to shoot at corresponding doors. It was a modest hit for Sega and saw several console and computer ports, but Sanritsu mostly went unrecognized after Bank Panics release. They did actually contribute a couple more games under Sega's tutelage, one of which is the quite unknown Combat Hawk.

While the title screen indicates a typical vertical shoot-em-up, what with a helicopter hovering towards an ominous building, it turns out to be a bit of a false advertising as the game is actually more like a shooting gallery. More accurately, Combat Hawk is essentially Bank Panic if it evolved from the Old West over to modern warfare, or at least mid-20th century military style. Considering Bank Panic was Sanritsu's most acknowledged contribution to Sega's databanks, it would make sense for them to try another game under the same format. This time, instead of shooting outlaws, you're shooting at enemy soldiers who have taken scientists as prisoners of war and have taken refuge in ominous tall buildings. Your goal is to rescue the captives while making sure the comically smug-faced foes don't shoot down your whirlybird. Each building comprises of six floors through which you vertically scroll, and you can shoot to the left, center, and right with the same control scheme as seen in Bank Panic. There are a maximum of six doors in any given screen (with three on top and three on bottom), but you only need to be worried about three being open simultaneously.

Whenever a door opens, a soldier will most likely pop out and attempt to open fire. They often sway in and out of doorways to taunt and confuse you before actually firing, but you can't always be trigger happy. Sometimes, the scientist hostages which you are meant to save peer out from the doorways, and restraining your trigger finger allows them to give you a medal. You will beat a stage if you manage to not shoot seven scientists and collect a medal from each of them, which is not an easy feat. If you do accidentally blast a scientist, they look rather angry at you as you lose a life. Of course, you can also die the old-fashioned "getting shot" way, though it's unclear if you're always the one getting hit or if your chopper is wont to crash if a couple of bullets pierce its hide. Whatever the case, you can also lose a third way, and that is to run out of fuel. Even if you're diligent enough, this unfortunate time limit is hard to keep in check, and the only way you can restore fuel is to shoot at an "E" coin five times which enemies occasionally leave behind. Still, it's tough to stay alive for too long in Combat Hawk, but at least you get hit with a bit of hilarious bad English when you lose all of your lives. As your chopper explodes into many flames, you are told that "YOU HAD FILED THE MISSION!! WE EXPECT YOU TO NEXT CHALLENGE!!"

Combat Hawk

While it is a fairly fun shooting gallery (despite not employing the use of an actual lightgun), Combat Hawk isn't that much of an evolution over Bank Panic, and in some ways, it's actually a bit of a step back. Bank Panic has a bit more of a strategic bent to it, as you needed to be observant and ensure that each of the twelve bank tellers received money. Here, you're just randomly bumming around the floors of the building and hoping a scientist will show up. Bank Panic would throw quite a few tricks at you like time bombs and hostage shields, but Combat Hawk doesn't vary outside of what you see in the first level alone. Combat Hawk is also far harsher than its Old West cousin, especially with the fuel gauge being even more imposing than Bank Panic's time limit. You get to select from three difficulties at the beginning of your play, but it's tough to beat the first stage even on the easiest pick. While not an easy game and far from the best under Sega's name, Combat Hawk is still amusing for what it is. The goofy character designs and the mangled English (what other game tells you "ONE LIFE OUT" when you die?) accentuate the game's charm, and it's the closest thing in all of existence that anybody will get to a Bank Panic sequel. Still, Bank Panic is ultimately the better and more captivating game, but it's not like Combat Hawk is that bad on its own. Combat Hawk is the red-headed step-brother to its more famed sibling Bank Panic, and tired of Bank Panic being the apple of Sanritsu's eye, Combat Hawk went off to join the military. It "filed" to make any great impact on the arcade scene, but there are far worse soldier-themed games out there than Combat Hawk.

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Combat Hawk (Arcade)

Combat Hawk (Arcade)

Combat Hawk (Arcade)

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