While the run-and-gun genre generally evolved into the side-scrolling blast-a-thons we all know and love, there were a few titles during the early arcade days that took a more overhead perspective like Capcom's popular Commando arcade release. It was this direction that developer Saurus took when it came time to put together their overhead gunner Shock Troopers. And although the game doesn't have quite the strategy and platforming of SNKs Metal Slug series, it does possess a unique charm that will appeal to anyone who just loves to blow stuff up and not a whole lot else.
Completing levels in Shock Troopers basically revolves around blasting your way through the various terrain in each level and squaring off against a boss at the end. You'll certainly have plenty of offensive fire-power at your disposal with both a firearm and special attack to make use of. There are eight characters to choose from, each with their own distinct type of fire-power and special attack. The majority of your shooting will come from your primary weapon, but occasionally you'll need to toss a grenade to level the playing field. Shock Troopers even allows you to hold down the fire button and strafe while keeping your direction of firing intact.
To help things along, you'll find a barrage of items to pick up along the way including ammo, life, and weapons. And as if this wasn't enough, you've always got an evasive maneuver at your fingertips for those times when the action and enemy fire become a bit too intense. You'll soon find that your survival in the game revolves heavily around the careful balance of evading enemies and picking up special items, especially the life-giving power-ups.
There are two modes to choose from. Lonely Wolf allows you to choose one specific character to work your way through the game, but if you need a little variety, there's always the Team Mode. This allows you to choose three different characters and then switch between them on the fly as you play through the levels. Both are quite fun, but being able to have several characters with varying types of fire-power and special attacks does give the experience a bit more strategy. And when you toss in the responsive and simple play controls, you've got not only an intense run-and-gun experience, but one that's smooth and enjoyable to play as well.
Visually, Shock Troopers never strays too far from 'ordinary' and you'd be advised to keep your expectations in check when it comes to the graphical presentation of this title. There are moments where you'll get a tiny dose of eye candy, but for the most part the terrain is fairly basic and tends to vary only in theme and colour palette. The characters and enemies feature some nice animations but you can't help but wish the game offered a little more in terms of visuals.
There are some nice chip tune rock tracks throughout the levels, something Neo Geo fans will likely appreciate. The catchy tunes do get a bit overshadowed at times by the loud sound effects and annoying moaning noises enemies make when you take them out, but it's still a solid audio package for those who appreciate this '90s arcade audio style.
Shock Troopers succeeds in offering up an intense and explosive run-and-gun experience that allows players to flex their fire-power muscle without really having to think much about it. The different modes offer a good amount of variety, but it would have been nice to see a bit more challenge in the level designs and boss fights. If you can hold out until SNK release Shock Troopers 2nd Squad on the Virtual Console then you'll likely find it more satisfying than this sometimes one-dimensional shoot-fest, but if you're a fan of blasting your way through levels with reckless abandon, then it's still well worth a look.