You can be forgiven for not having heard of Chotetsu Brikin'ger (often referred to as Ironclad Brikin'ger on the web) as it's one of a handful of Neo Geo CD titles that was never released in MVS cartridge form for arcades or outside of Japan (though according to message boards this VC release is based upon the unreleased MVS ROM). Assuming you can actually find a copy, you'd expect to pay somewhere in excess of $200 for it on eBay, but the real reason it's such a treat to have on the Virtual Console is it's one of the best shooters to appear on the Neo Geo and can hold its own against other respected games in the genre.
You're placed in control of a prop-driven aircraft in a future war in some unknown place fighting off an invasion of some kind - it's fair to say the story isn't hugely important. Enemies are an unremarkable assortment of helicopters and other aircraft in the air and there are tanks or walking robots on the ground. Objects in the game are rendered in 3D and are very well animated, with lots of fine detail to be seen in both ordinary enemies and screen-filling bosses. Explosions are varied and look good with different destruction animations rather than generic orange fireballs. The backgrounds you're horizontally scrolling past are 3D renders, often overlaid with digitised images. Visually it's decent enough even by modern standards; for the Neo Geo it's a revelation, but the real star of the show is the gameplay.
There are three ships to choose from with differences in power and speed, but that's not terribly important, what is interesting is the "option" ball and how it provides players with various strategies for playing the game. It works very much like the option in R-TYPE, although unlike the one in R-TYPE this one is present from the beginning and when separated from your ship it fires up and down rather than straight ahead. Pressing (A) on your Classic Controller Pro (the preferred method for playing this and other Neo Geo titles) will launch the option and holding the button down will cause it to retract. As in R-TYPE this retraction feature can be used to drag it into various places to assist in shooting enemies.
When retracted it provides some protection against enemy fire, but not an unlimited amount so you cannot use it to wade through enemies. Having it docked also changes your weapon fire. The three ships on offer have different main weapons, but with the option docked they're all short-range burst machine gun weapons until you power-up the option. Separate power-ups are available for your option and your ship's weapon: two levels for the option and three for your ship which are indicated by display lights in a panel in the lower left of the screen. Like many shooters there's a super bomb, which is the option firing out a laser that lays waste to everything. This isn't without penalty however, as triggering the super bomb will use one of your power-ups. It makes for some rather novel strategic decisions on the part of the player in how they approach the game and is refreshing to see in a mid-90s shooter.
There are interesting differences from other contemporary shooters too, some of which reference older games in the genre. There is no auto-fire or weapon charging when holding down the fire button: players can only fire as fast as they can physically press the button. That's as old-school as it gets, though you can still play a 2-player game with a friend who can jump in at any time. Unusually you aren't destroyed by contacting enemies - only their shots - and much like Capcom's classic 1943 you only have one life, but your ship can take four hits before being destroyed. Any power-ups you've collected will be released when you're hit and you'll need to collect them again before they fade away. Best of all, like Taito's Darius series, there are branching paths to different levels and endings from the very beginning, providing loads of replay value.
If you're not terribly proficient at shooters then Chotetsu Brikin'ger is very approachable. Regular enemies start out slowly and don't fill the screen; the main challenge is the bosses themselves, all of whom will helpfully have a damage meter so you can see how well you're doing against them. Rather than navigating a maze of bullets, the game is all about recognising boss patterns and reacting to them and is much more in line with games like Salamander, but without the effort required to navigate the playfield to reach them. The game never feels cheap; you get the sense that if only you were good enough you could beat the whole game with one credit, as in the days before continues.
There are four difficulty levels on offer and despite never having an official cart release it seems clear that an arcade version was once on the cards, because the fourth difficulty listed is MVS - a reference to the arcade cart version of Neo Geo games. You only get four credits, but despite not being able to increase beyond that you can still pick up where you left off - if you remembered to save data when prompted at the end of your last game. The next time you start the game you can choose to load the save data which will present you with the last branching path reached in that game; none of which affects your high score.
In a sea of samey shooters, Saurus managed to make a solid shooting experience by taking bits of ones that had come before it, mixing it up with some nicely detailed animation and a decent - if unobtrusive - techno soundtrack. The fact that you can get such a rare game at a fraction of the going rate for the collectable CD version is one of the things that makes the Wii's Virtual Console service so excellent; especially when the game is as good as this one. If you have access to a Japanese Wii then this is well worth a look; otherwise you'll just have to wait!
I love this game and it's the only reason I still have my Neo Geo CDZ system to this day. Great review Sean!
Awesome review Sean, I need to check this out sometime soon!
Should this come to America, then I will download it. It will be my first Neo-Geo title ever, but I am looking into others now, as it is one of the few consoles I have never touched.
Woo hoo, I've been looking forward to this review, welcome to Virtual Console, Neo Geo CD! I did not even realise that the Neo Geo was rendering so much of it in 3D, I thought they were just cleverly shaded sprites, it sounds as if Saurus pushed the Neo Geo hardware with this one. Obviously it is not from an isometric position, but does it takes a similar graphical approach to the bosses and craft as Viewpoint? I defo like shooters which incorporate the R-Type option ball, Last Resort had one, too.
This game typifies why the Virtual Console is so special, rare retro treats made accessible for modern gamers. Please, please, please fly Chotetsu Brikin'ger to the West, SNK . I want to be tapping buttons to this one like Hudson's Takahashi Meijin. Brilliant review, Sean.
Great. Hopefully will come to europe. Nintendo will be forced to release this at 60hz to their dissapointment perhaps(??).
Or the CD audio will be out of sync.
To be honest guys, there's little chance of this coming out here. That's why we're running these reviews as pure import-only pieces. You'll see Sean covering a lot more of these titles in the near future, so if you can't deal with the temptation then I guess you'll have to get yourself a Japanese Wii
@JamieO: It's not really isometric, but yeah, they are trying to visually present it that way.
Cheers for the response @Damo and @Sean_Aaron, if Sean keeps on educating me about all of the goodies exclusive to the Japanese Virtual Console, then saving my pennies for a Japanese Wii will become a serious proposition.
The new focus on import titles is a superb addition to Nintendo Life, there has always been top-class Virtual Console coverage here and this addition differentiates NLife further from other sites. An inspired inclusion, great work Sean.
Awesome review, hope you guys review more Japan only titles in the near future.
@Ratengo: Indeed Space Manbow is ready and waiting.
I do have Ai Choooooooooo Aniki, Mizubaku Daibooooooken, Phelios (arcade) and Parasol Stars in mind!
I still have it,superb graphics,perfect music.
You guys do realize that the VC version of this game is actually the cancelled MVS/AES version, right? Not that's a bad thing or anything like that, but don't be surprised if the music ain't as good as the NGCD version.
What I don't get is why Neo Geo games can't be in the Virtual Console Arcade, as MVS boards have 8 difficulty degrees instead of the most of the time only 4.
And marktheshark is right, this not the NGCD but the unreleased mvs-game. The Wii vc has been even reverse enigenered to make a real mvs cart.
This looks AWESOME. I want all of the NEO GEO shmups, please!
And while we're at it, give to me Space Megaforce and the Thunderforce series.
Nice review! I especially enjoyed your synopsis of the plot
I guess I can only dream of Neo Geo CD games coming to the U.S. sigh
this sounds amazing. it would be a day one download for me if it came stateside. could i ask why it only got an 8, though? i saw nothing negative mentioned in the review...
Mmmm... Maybe instead of a PS3 my next system should be a Japanese Wii.
I don't see why it wouldn't come here. theres nothing particularly culturally specific to it, and obviously we didn't get it the first time so isn't that kind of the point? Anyway, I hope eventually we see it around here it looks totally awesome.
Add me to the list of NA hopefuls for this one!
Neo Geo games are so nice, and this is an incredible looking game, but I'd rather buy the arcade version of Galaga (I beat the 7800 version).
If you guys review this game, you HAVE to review Rondo of Blood too. >
Never heard of this one, but it sure looks nice.
Will there be any other JP VC reviews?
Thanks a lot for the review, Sean! I really hope the game comes out in NA some day.
Yes there will be more Japanese VC reviews. As soon as I get done reviewing WiiWare games!!!
Yes! Do want! I will be eagerly waiting for Ironclad to come to VC!
SNK or D4 Enterprise, whoever is bringing this to the VC, if you are reading this...BRING THIS TO NA!! You have one guaranteed sale right here.
Looks very cool. Bring this to NA.
A shump for Neo Geo. Cool.
@bro2dragons: I don't start out with a baseline of 10 and deduct points, so just because there's nothing negative noted in the review doesn't mean the game necessarily deserves a higher score.
It's a nice shooter and even a "very good" one, but not mindblowing.
Never tried this one before - love the shumps...I'm so behind on my VC releases - money talks...and mine says, "see ya!"
It will be interesting to see if Ironclad follows the standard Hanabi template of giving PAL gamers the original version running in 60hz or treads the dubious downgraded 50hz path of SEGA's Hanabi imports.
May go for ironclad meself
This game looks and sounds great!
The version released in the EU is not the CD release.
According to early comments the game states it runs in 60hz but has borders at the bottom and top of the screen. Confusing, does anyone know if these borders were present in the original NTSC version ala some Street Fighter games?
There is no original version, as it was only eleased oN Neo Geo Cd, which is a different version (different soundtrack). This is the never released cart version (there are even bootleg carts made with the roms of this version)
After some playing, I cannot (yet?) agree with the review/score. The presentation is very good, no question, but for me the gameplay is just mediocre =(.
From what little i have played i am enjoying it. looks good for a game made in 1996. I am sure it will grow on me.
@Alfred ENG - me too. It feels like a great arcade title. Music is great too, very atmospheric
Surprised this released, and so soon!
This may be my first Neo Geo game.... Sounds like a blast.
Quote: "If you're not terribly proficient at shooters then Chotetsu Brikin'ger is very approachable."
Thank you; that's exactly what I needed to know. If it's anything like Star Parodier, then I'm all in
I have the US Version on VC and it's an excellent game. However I am disappinted with the visuals. The screenshots that you have are serveral notches above what I'm seeing. It's just too dark on the real game. Is it the same for the JPN version. Maybe you could insert that in the review, as a potential caveat for NA buyers.
I downloaded this game recently and while I am enjoying it, I completely agree with Rerun's comments above me about the visuals. They look very dark and are a poor representation of what a Neo Geo game should look like. It is still a fun game but not quite what I was expecting.
That's because we apparently got the inferior 2009 cartridge release. In other words, we got screwed. If you want the colorful visuals in the screenshots you'll need to import the CD yourself.
Nintendolife owes us 10$ for falsely reviewing a version we never got in my opinion.
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