Tuesday, September 2, 2014

VGR Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel

Here's back, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel!

Zero, man.... The kamikaze squirrel? Aw, forget it...

VGR: Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel 
From Iguana Entertainment/Sunsoft
Played on Megadrive
Also available on the SNES

Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1994


After losing twice to Aero the Acro-Bat, Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel (YEAH, that's his name!!) wanted to take some well deserved time off from these games developed Iguana Entertainment... to star in his very own spin-off game!

Sunsoft was still looking for the perfect formula to recapture the success of Sonic. And they tried to do so by turning this whole "badass mascot " formula to the max. That's perhaps why they decided to make an anti-hero out of a former villain character.

This eponymous Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel game is a spin-off featuring one of the main antagonists of the Aero games.

The game was released for both Super Nintendo and the Megadrive, like the previous titles.

The "story" as it is takes place concurrently with Aero the Acro-bat 2. When Zero leaves that game at the mid-point.

The game starts well enough, with a somewhat interesting premise. Told via well done cutscenes, with slightly animated great artwork.

Our story begins as we see Zero receiving this message from an old girlfriend of his.

His homeland island is under attack. An evil lumberjack named Jacques Le Sheets has taken over the forest (hey, that doesn't sound as ridiculous as our main character's name, so I'll give it a pass..).

And why you might ask? To provide his supply of paper to print counterfeit money, of course! No, really!

"Le Sheets" (sigh..) already captured Zero's friends and families. Because that wasn't motivation enough for our hero apparently.

But the problem is, our Aero series' main bad guy, the murderous clown Edgar Ektor, doesn't want to allow him a break from his mission to stop Aero. But this was all pretty pointless, just to drop in the main baddie's name, since Zero do so nevertheless (which explains why he was absent from most of Aero 2 and the final stages).

But as our hero arrive on his island, his plane is taken down and crashes on the beach...

Now Zero's going to have to make his way on foot to reach the factory located in the middle of the forest on the other side of the island!

The story is punctuated by a few cutscenes here and there.

Also there's a map of the island showing Zero's progression. This adventure will take him from cliffs to a volcano, then a toxic waste sewers to finally reach the paper factory where the other squirrels are held captive.

In the end Zero will free and receive the help from his friend Amy.

Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel is part good game, part mascot platformer parody and part bad ideas mixed in together.

Like Aero, Zero suffers from being able to perform too many actions and a confusing buttons layout.

The gameplay is akin to these numerous fast-paced sidescrolling platformer "Sonic clones" at the time.

Zero can do a ton of movements - nothing to shy from, say, Sam Fisher nowadays. There's a ton of actions he can execute. One button is the attack button, to throw shurikens or perform a "Kamikaze Slam" attack when in mid-air.perform. Then is the jump button, Zero can do a spinning double jump, the quicker you double-press it the higher he jumps. For some reason keeping the down direction on the D-pad while doing a "jump", Zero will use his nunchuks. Finally the last button is to view around, but pressing it in mid-jump will have Zero glide. Yeah, there's a gliding system to stay above ground, didn't I tell you? Zero's a kamikaze Flying Squirrel!

Why can he do all this? Because he's so EXTREEEEEME!!

Basically, anything Aero the Acro-Bat can do, he can do better!

You can collect shurikens in the stages. There are all kinds of enemies around to stop you, as well as a few unique boss battles.

Despite what the gameplay might make you think, the game doesn't exactly lend itself to speed running through the scenery. There's so many enemies and traps around, you better dial down your running speed (and he gets pretty fast pretty quick). But you can glide around as much as you want, as long as you stay in the sky there's not as many dangers lying around.

The game tries to break the rhythm by offering some awful Battletoads-style riding segment. They're perhaps the worst parts of the entire game, these sort of motorboat sequences have only ever been made good and fun in Crash Bandicoot in my eyes...

There's also an epic mecha figh, the closest this game ever gets to the frenetic action from Rocket Knight.

Finally there are some bonus stages you can find via inflatable doors, but be careful not to blow those too much or they'll explode your only access t those!

If anything, this game has some great production values. It's a great looking game. Colorful, featuring some gorgeous backgrounds and sprites. Lovely colors.

The music is also on part with most of the best Sunsoft productions. Fun catchy music, and well made sound effects.

Although they recycle a few assets from both previous Aero games here and there.

The game is kind of super easy to rush through, staying in gliding mode you can skip most of the levels.

They gave a  great redesign to this originally pretty bland character in the original games.

The Megadrive and SNES versions aren't that much different honestly. The music is pretty different though. The SNES only adds a few effect such as a nice screen distortion in the lava stages or transparent clouds over some screens (it was released a few months later). But it's the same overall game visually underneath all the little FXs.

Despite his over-the-top "hardcore" appearance, Zero is a funny cartoon-style game. Not that far from, say, Saturday morning cartoons really. With some tight precise platforming controls.

Overall, it's a fun game, Recommended for fans of the genre.

It's a fun little title, all things considered. 

It looks nice visually, it has a decent atmosphere and different enough from the main Aero games to justify the spin-off. And it's also challenging enough.

But the whole gliding-thing takes some getting used to.

It always feels like kinda awkward controls even after playing through this whole game to the end. There's just so many stuff you can do! But otherwise it controls great and answers to the eye.

Following the port of Aero on the Game Boy Advance, a port of Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel was also planned for 2003, but it sadly never made it that far into production for some reason. Which I think is really too bad, I mean with all the shovelware released on Nintendo's handheld system, surely one decent little obscure platformer would have been nice.

I give it:
2 / 3 Bruces!

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