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First Impressions: Phalanx

Posted by Sean Aaron

Another great old-school shooter for WiiWare

Most of you will probably remember Phalanx as a SNES game, however that was just a port of a game that was developed for the Sharp X68000, a home computer sold exclusively in Japan from 1987-1993. The Sharp X68k (as it was commonly known) used hardware similar to arcade systems of the time; as a result it was capable of running some quite impressive games - like Phalanx.

When you first start it up you'll see a rather lengthy intro which is a direct lift from the original X68k version, right down to the start screen: the only addition is a prompt to press "+" to start. The screens that follow also look like an old 16-bit computer screen with low-res graphics and chunky fonts (completely in English - very import-friendly). Amongst other options is the ability to choose between X68k Mode or Wii Mode.

X68k Mode is the original game; not so much a WiiWare offering as what would be a Virtual Console game if the X68k were supported. The action is smooth and the sound is excellent - honestly this could be an arcade game. The smooth movement and detail outstrips anything you're likely to have seen on an SNES or Mega Drive. Best of all in the options screen you can play all 15 audio tracks and 87 sound effects!

The game looks much like R-TYPE in design, though enemies are larger and the difficulty is amped up. Comparing video of the X68k and SNES versions of Phalanx it's clear that the original is the more challenging game, though the level structure and enemies are similar. There's an interesting power-up system at play here: you can collect up to four additional weapon types which include lasers, a chargeable shot, homing shots and a spread gun. Guns are fired with the (1) button (the game is played with the remote alone NES-style or optionally using the Classic Controller), but whilst the gun type changes when you grab the matching icon you retain the ability to toggle through previously obtained weapons using (A). Pressing (2) will launch one of four different "bomb" attacks, however this will expend your currently enabled weapon, so there's a bit of strategic decision-making required on the part of the player. There are also missiles you can get via a pick-up which are fired automatically and eventually run out, and a power-up which raises the power level of all weapons in your stockpile.

The game features the usual array of enemy space ships, sub-bosses and bosses. The boss fights are rather lengthy and bosses have multiple methods of attack and are large and nicely animated. You're able to destroy specific parts of boss ships which adds some strategy, allowing the player to take out different enemy weapons as they see fit.

Game levels take place on an alien planet through different environments: city, underwater, forest, etc. Once you've cleared a level you'll be able to start a future game there; sadly high scores only appear to be recorded for finishing the game with only one score visible for each difficulty and no initials for bragging rights. You have a limit of 5 continues, which should be enough for a skilled player to complete the game: it's challenging, but not unfair and above all, fun!

The Wii Mode of the game looks very similar to X68k Mode. There's some additional small enemies and some of the bosses and enemies have different colours from the X68k Mode (pink instead of yellow, for example). The biggest difference is some cute-em-up changes: mines from the original game are replaced with round kitties, mines in the underwater level boss fight have smiley faces, etc. It's likely this mode was created just to allow the game to be sold as WiiWare as Nintendo have rejected attempts to sell emulated games outside of the Virtual Console in the past. It doesn't seem like a mistake that "Wii Mode" is treated more like an extra on the game - the default setting is X68k mode - so Zoom seems to have pulled off a stealth emulation on WiiWare in this case!

Given the worldwide release of the SNES port of Phalanx, it's quite likely we'll see a release of this brilliant arcade-quality shooter worldwide in the near future. When that day comes old-school shooter fans can rejoice!


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User Comments (25)



JamieO said:

X68k Mode sounds ace, I didn't realise that it would take precedence over the Wii mode, but from what you have said, I am pleased that the authentic version is available. The use of power-ups to strategically work your way through the levels sounds cool, but if the difficulty is ramped up more than R-Type, it is most likely that I will not make much progress in this one!
Quality first impressions, Sean.



Djungelurban said:

WHHHAAAT! O_o It's harder? I thought the SNES version is plenty hard myself, don't want it harder than that... So I don't know... I like it's level design, but yeah... Don't know about this...



Shiryu said:

Love the original SNES version, can't see nothing wrong with a remake of the Sharp version. Looking forward to it, wish there were more shmups on the service.



Sean_Aaron said:

The main challenge is the boss fights. It also helps that your ship can take three hits before being destroyed and you can boost your starting number of lives to 5. If you've played any number of arcade shooters in the past you'll do fine.



plasticcoated said:

Wooo, was it a 'new' game or SNES port? The nature of the GBA's 16bit hardware suggests the latter.



plasticcoated said:

I vaguely remember almost buying it but buying Gradius Advance instead... might get this WW version.



bro2dragons said:

sounds good, but these developers either need to start sending me wii points or stop making good games... i'm gonna be SO behind when next year rolls around.



Zork2 said:

I'll get it. I wish they would add X68k to the virtual console though. They had a lot of neat games on that system (which we never got to play).



Sean_Aaron said:

I suspect the main thing preventing an X68k Virtual Console would be that the library is %95+ arcade ports and whilst they might be better quality than what you'd find on other systems with the VCA, MSX and other VC ports already available there'd be an awful lot of overlap.

In case anyone's interested here's a Wikipedia list of 79 games for the X68k.



JamieO said:

Regarding the Wikipedia X68k games list: One of my favourite retro racing games is arcade Chase HQ, does anyone know how the X68k compares to the PC Engine port?
Its sprites look nice and large in this X68000 you tube video, it is full screen with no ugly top border, plus it has the lovely sunset level intact. I am not convinced by its scrolling, or its shortened track layout, though.



Djungelurban said:

Wouldn't you prefer a release of the Arcade version of Chase HQ then? Who knows, maybe they'll throw in some Wii Wheel support aswell! Haha...



JamieO said:

@Djungelurban I would snap up a VCA release of Chase HQ faster than you could say "punch the pedal!", that would make my day. The variety of '80s cars means that licensing issues would probably stop it coming out, though. I was just wondering how the X68k conversion stood up, because it has never really received a truly arcade accurate console, or computer port. It would give me a gage as to how powerful the X68k was, I do not know much about it as a retro machine, you see.



worrybomb said:

Great impressions, Sean. I'm a shmup fan so I'm hoping Phalanx gets a release here in the US. WiiWare has been lacking in the shoot'em up department and if it keeps the 500 Nintendo Points price tag, then that's a plus for me.



SwerdMurd said:

This is NOT harder than R-Type. Not even close IMO--original R-Type is one of the harder classic-style massive-hit-box shoot em ups available.

This is a great game though...just don't be expecting any Level 6's from R-Type 1.



Sean_Aaron said:

Well, given that I could get to the 3rd or 4th boss in R-Type on one credit and I cannot do the same here, that was my basis for saying that. R-TYPE's routine enemies are more challenging, but I find the boss battles less difficult than Phalanx's -- that second one is my current bugbear!



DarkEdi said:

i wish the final boss is the oldman attacking with noisy banjo notes and you must stop it to bring balance to cosmos. Or it´ll fail with him.

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