(Super Nintendo)

UN Squadron (Super Nintendo)

Game Review

UN Squadron Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Frear

Another Capcom classic

With various versions of Street Fighter II, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, a bunch of Mega Man games and two exclusive Final Fight sequels, the SNES was a good machine to own for Capcom fans. They also released many other games on the platform including U.N. Squadron, a frantic side-scrolling shooter originally released in arcades in 1989.

The game is based on Area 88, one of the first manga translated for North America, and tells the tale of Shin Kazama, a pilot tricked into joining a foreign legion. Working as a mercenary pilot, he takes on many dangerous missions as he hopes to buy his freedom. The mission in this game is to stop the advancing forces of the “evil Project 4.” In gaming terms, this means you get to blow lots of stuff up.

Gameplay is straightforward. You move your aircraft about the screen shooting both airborne and land-based foes. You have an energy meter that may appear to make things easy, but actually this is just to lull you into a false sense of security. Take one hit and the meter will flash “Danger"; take a second and it’s all over. After a while the meter partially refills but take enough hits and the warning will be stuck permanently. Controls are responsive, but should the screen get too cluttered then the game does unfortunately suffer from slowdown. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often but it is a little annoying.

The SNES version is not an exact replica of the coin-op, but it is not simply a port with bits missing – although disappointingly the two-player mode is omitted. Some levels are different or modified to a degree and there are some additions too, including a wider range of weapons and the ability to purchase different aircraft.

Presentation is good, with multi-layered stages, including both background and foreground scenery. There’s a wide range of enemies and some great character designs that will be familiar to fans of the manga/anime including the other two playable characters: Micky and Greg.

There are lots of sounds for the various weapons and explosions, as well as a collision sound effect that almost makes you feel the impact. The music is even more impressive with several adventurous tracks matching the exciting gameplay. It’s not all action though with other (equally good) tracks taking on a sinister or melancholic sound. Many are catchy and it’s a pity those pesky people keep shooting at your ship, preventing you from just lolling back to enjoy the tunes.

You begin the game with three lives and three credits and have ten main levels to tackle. Locations include the desert, a forest and the sea. All levels offer something of interest but dogfighting in the clouds is a highlight. The game steadily gets more difficult as you progress, although it does offer some flexibility in the order the stages are tackled. However, the game can seem quite tough from the start, even on the easy difficulty setting: the opening stage starts off with a few enemies for you to fire at but you quickly find yourself facing attacks from all directions and have to weave around bullets to survive. With plenty of room to manoeuvre it’s not actually that troublesome, but it can be a bit overwhelming for an opening level and you may find yourself losing a life. Later levels are genuinely tough with narrow passageways and more difficult enemies. but luckily you can use your money to help out.

Before each stage you have the opportunity to purchase a different aircraft and additional weaponry such as cluster shots, napalm and powerful lasers. You can’t afford much when you start but after earning a bit of money from cleared stages you will have to decide whether to upgrade your ship or stick with what you’ve already got. If you go for the latter option this allows you to try and save up for something even better, but does make things harder for you in the meantime. You should also give some thought to the weapons you buy as some are better suited to certain stages than others. The pilot you pick at the start of the game also offers more to consider than just which portrait you want onscreen, as each has different abilities – for example Greg recovers from damage quicker than the others but benefits least from power-ups.

A good way to earn money is from the optional stages where you attack supply convoys. You swoop down to attack, then turn around and repeat. Despite having a time limit, these stages are largely risk-free and are quite useful if you have your eye on one of the more expensive aircraft.

The highlight of each stage is the end of level bosses. There’s quite a range including a Stealth Bomber, a nuclear submarine and a fortress that requires several passes to destroy. They are quite large and impressive looking and prove to be a tough challenge – especially if you had to use up your special weapons to get to them in the first place.

Working out the best way to tackle each stage, taking out the bosses and figuring out a weapon-buying strategy that works for you means the game will keep you occupied for some time – and there are three difficulty levels for you to try out. Should you be some kind of shmup master who can clear the hard mode using only your nipples, a fourth difficulty setting is available (via some button holding) to provide you with the challenge you crave.

Conclusion

The opening level may seem a little too tough but the difficulty curve is otherwise well judged in what is a challenging game. The occasional instances of slowdown are unfortunate but there’s not much else to fault with this excellent shooter. With some great music, varied levels, exciting action and interesting bosses, U.N. Squadron is a game that’s enjoyable to play through again and again.

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User Comments (32)

Sean_Aaron

#1

Sean_Aaron said:

One of my favourite Capcom arcade games. Sounds like this is a worthwhile port - now we just need a Virtual Console release!

DazzaAdmin

#2

Dazza said:

And to think that Mega Drive owning naysayers used to say that the SNES couldn't handle a quality shmup. UN Squadron proved em wrong, it was one of my favourite games back then. Top stuff!

Great retro review as always Mr Frear

Roo

#3

Roo said:

Oh yes! That opening level is a bit rough, but the rest of it is superb. Not a clue why this isn't on Virtual Console already - it's a classic.

Scottie

#4

Scottie said:

Wow this looks brilliant, is there much chance of it coming to the VC then really?

Shiryu

#5

Shiryu said:

Funny, I just finished yesterday a remix of the level 1 theme song (Frontbase Assault). Will be out soonish! As for the game, well, what can I say that Sean up there on the first post hasn't already said? This is indeed one of my all time favorite shmups ever on any system. Sure, the SNES did loose the 2 player coop mode (Capcom seemed to had that trouble with early CPS1 to SNES conversions, like "Final Fight" and "Magic Sword" going all solo) but the extended single player campaign more then made up for it, it's like this conversion is "UN Squadron 1.5". As for it's chances on the VC, this should be trickier, because as stated early on the review UN Squadron is based of a manga/anime series called Area 88 which is still up to today my favorite manga ever (EVER, people, EVER!) and I reckon Capcom no longer holds the rights to this, so you will find the CPS1 pseudo sequel "Carrier Air Wing" (w/ Sean Connery! True!) bundled with their CPS packs for other consoles, but you never see UN Squadron in any of those because of this... but who knows, Capcom are planing on revisiting one of their older games and "UN Squadron" is up in the running. Can you imagine a proper sequel? I have been doing so for many years, but for now, I will just have to keep on playing the original. Great review. =)

outrun2sp

#6

outrun2sp said:

A good port of the arcade and although one player is one of the best shmups on the machine.

ejamer

#7

ejamer said:

There aren't a lot of games that would be instant buys for me on Virtual Console, but UN Squadron is one of them. Great, great game!

The_Fox

#8

The_Fox said:

I remember being surprised at the quality of this one despite the bland name and terrible box art.

Boman

#9

Boman said:

Shmups are my favourite genre of games.
But for some reason I never liked this one.

Tasuki

#14

Tasuki said:

I remember renting this game along with a Super Nintendo from a local video store before the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. The thing I remember most when I first played this game was how beautiful the graphics were and how great the music was. I never did finish the game but I did manage to get to the last level after doing those convoy mission over and over and over to get enought money for the Stealth Bomber. Yep it brings back memories now. I hope they do bring this game to the Wii VC.

MrHeli

#20

MrHeli said:

THE game I'm waiting for on VC... Swapped it along with around 15 other games and my SNES back in the day, for a....... JAGUAR.....oh dear

Shiryu

#21

Shiryu said:

Shin on the GameBoy...cool avatar, Dave. I did in fact at one point had the videoclip running with colors that made it look like the game was running on the Game Boy, but I decided that would be better suited when and if I ever make a 8-bit chiptune cover of that song. =)

JamieOStaff

#22

JamieO said:

Great review @Other Dave :)

I do not know that much about Manga, but like the other gamers on this board, I have loads of fond memories for SNES Area 88/ U.N. Squadron. Dave is spot on, lots of SNES shooters became infamous for their slowdown. I like the design of U.N. Squadron as well, CPS-1 era Capcom was simply an ace time period for arcade titles.

There is something about shooters which were based upon aeroplanes, which added variety to a multitude of space and sci-fi shmups, that I really liked. I love Tecmo's helicopter/ jeep shooter Silkworm (1988), on Arcade and Amiga for that, too. I think that shooters with shops add a bit of a tactical edge to a game's power-up management. Capcom's Forgotten Worlds (MD, 1989) and Namco's Ordyne (PCE, 1989) were good for including shops.

Good point by @Shiryu (comment 5) about U.N. Squadron's licencing issues and as Shriyu mentioned Carrier Air Wing (1990) is class too. My understanding is that Carrier Air Wing is one of the unconverted, it has not had a home console port, not even on the PS2 and PSP 'Capcom Classics' compilations. For console gamers, wanting to play Carrier Air Wing, it is even more elusive than U.N. Squadron. That is a shame, no two ways about it. :(

WanderFan91

#23

WanderFan91 said:

I've played Super Earth Defense Force on the SNES for as long as I remember, and I never minded the slowdown.

Shiryu

#24

Shiryu said:

SNES own Gradius III also had slowdown. It in fact helped with gameplay on later, busy screens.

@JamieO Great taste, Silkworm and S.W.I.V. are two of my favorite Amiga shmups ever! Also, UN Squadron on the Amiga feature 2 player coop, but was a straight, as faithful as it could be port of the arcade version. I beleive the ultimate perfect version of the game would be a mix of both SNES and Amiga/Arcade... with 3 players coop!

JamieOStaff

#25

JamieO said:

@Shiryu Cool mate, 3 player co-op would rule! I never played Amiga UN Squadron, but S.W.I.V was quality. The Sales Curve did such a fine job to make a pseudo sequel to Silkworm, switch to a vertical perspective and still maintain the core style from the original.
I have two, maybe even three, Amigas gathering dust in a box. Sadly, I have become so lazy with my retro computer games playing. I have lost the patience for disc, or tape, load times.
It would be great if 'load free' Amiga games were made available on Virtual Console. ;)

@Starboy91 I have never played SNES Super EDF. I'm collecting Japanese Super Famicom games at the moment, so if you recommend it, I will add it to my hunt and wanted list. I do not mind slowdown too much either. I enjoy the little niggles inherent in retro titles, especially if it results from the devs pushing the hardware.
Like Shiryu says regarding Gradius III, some of the classic retro mags used to say that the slowdown gave the gamer breathing space to dodge bullets and obstacles. I think that Konami struggled with that title, because it was so early in the SNES's development. Perhaps if they had developed it after the stirling work that they achieved with Contra III: The Alien Wars, they may have been able to make it smoother. :)

WanderFan91

#26

WanderFan91 said:

@JamieO - it's a decent shmup, with cool features like choosing the weapon (eight to choose from, but the best weapon is the Homing Gun) before starting each stage and leveling up (all the way to five); the more you level up, the more powerful your shots become. It's got a cool soundtrack, too, but the sound effects obstruct the music, so the only way to listen to the whole thing without worrying about obstruction from sound effects is by listening to the in-game sound test. The game's got six stages, but I've only ever been able to get up to the fourth stage boss. One of my cousins, who's younger than I am, has been able to get very far into the game; he even said he mastered it, iirc. The game's got a shield system (a type of health system); you start with three, but after getting up to Level 5, if the gauge becomes full (the more enemies you shoot, the gradually fuller the gauge becomes), you earn another shield (up to five). It's one of the very first shmups I've played, and I still find it enjoyable. I still to this day am trying to get past the fourth stage. The game's got limited continues, and two difficulty settings. Your ship also has two "wing men" that can either stay next to it, rotate around it, or, if you press a certain button, make them follow your moves. And, if you've leveled up to five, well, they can get close to the enemies to attack them themselves (by a press of a button). You can also choose between the three different speed settings during the game (via a button), but I barely bother to change speed settings. Haven't played it since Summer of '09. One button shoots, the other button activates/deactivates your "wing men", and the last one of the three changes speed settings.
Whew! That's a mouthful! :$ But, it's a game I can recommend. :)


I've also played Gradius III (both arcade original version and SNES port), and I find it fun, albeit difficult. I've managed to get farther in the SNES port than I have in the arcade orignal.

JamieOStaff

#27

JamieO said:

@Starboy91 Whoa, thanks lots mate, that was a detailed synopsis of Super EDF. You have piqued my interest, I will keep my eyes peeled on a boxed with instructions Super Famicom version.
I am not actually that good at shmups, so I may struggle with Super EDF when I get it. However, I find that it is one genre in which perseverance pays off, I like the sound of its levelling up system.

As for Gradius III, I am a bit of an unusual Gradius player. I basically only allow myself to have one life, because I like to hoard my power ups early on. I always go for all the options, with powered up lasers and I constantly try to save '?' icons for a shield. Then I try to see how far I can get with a fully powered ship. I do not even bother with the extra lives which I accumulate. Take into account that I have not completed any Gradius game using this method, so it is not a particularly effective strategy. lol.

It is past 1am in the UK, so I'm going to head off to bed now, but I just want to say that it is good to back chatting about 'retro' with you guys. I have been so busy writing my dissertation, I have missed talking about classic games with retro enthusiasts, like Starboy91 etc. It is finished now, so I will be actively ranting about chunky ole 8 megabit cartridge games again. Nice one! :)

Rerun

#29

Rerun said:

The guys over at ScrewAttack rate this as their All-Time favorite SHMUP. I have never played this game. I am so hoping for a VC release!

NINTENBOY

#31

NINTENBOY said:

One of the best games on the super nintendo hands down! When the heck are going to put this on the virtual console! ARE YOU LISTENING NINTENDO!!

Kenji

#32

Kenji said:

I remember spending hours grinding on the convoy levels so I could afford the best equipment. It was worth it,

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