How do you feel about major environmental issues? Are you concerned about global warming affecting the status of our atmosphere and the levels of our oceans? Does deforestation cause you mental anguish at the thoughts of decreased oxygen output and animal populations? Does excessive corporate carbon emissions give your lungs reason to simultaneously shout and cough black puffs? Wouldn't it be great to solve all of these problems without having to make much effort or attend lively but dulling hippie rappies? Luckily, Capcom has just the thing for you: Eco Fighters.
Eco Fighters puts you in the cockpit of a couple of unnamed fighter jets. Despite being an arcade game that doesn't boast a significant number of cutscenes aside from being told your objective at the beginning of each mission, the characters actually have backstories. Player 1 is "Ice P. Moly" and Player 2 is a girl called "Neneh Moly". No, I didn't make those names up, and I don't believe I ever could. Ice loves sky voyaging more than life itself and works in research with the Skydal Industries Specialists Network. Neneh (not to be confused with Neneh Cherry, the only other person I have ever heard of with that prename and originator of the now-famed Buffalo Stance) is a sixteen-year-old researcher at the Forestal Advanced Education Network and is an intelligent young lady. She also keeps a young chickadee on her shoulder for no apparent reason, as that's not a suitable location to raise a chicken. The two Moly siblings are called forth by their genius uncle, Dr. Moly, to help solve all the problems of the Earth by destroying all the globally polluting operations of one "Kernel Goyolk" by shooting everything. That's right: he's no Colonel, he's a Kernel. Like corn. As in, "This game is so corny."
Once Dr. Moly tosses you into the fray of fighting against eco-terrorism with his short-winded spiel at the beginning of all seven horizontal shooter stages, you have to follow the basic shmup procedure of battling it out with a metaphorical boatload of ships that want you dead so they can continue to suck the life out of Mother Earth. In other words, it's your standard shooter... except for one major difference. Both of your eco-fighting ships are equipped with giant balls!
Yes, I said giant balls.
Burning tons of fossil fuels to save the rainforest. Seems legit.
Attached to your ship is a giant ball. Yes, I keep saying it over and over again, and why not. That ball is where all of your firepower comes from, but the neat thing about it is that it boasts 360° rotation capability! Thanks to the power of your arcade joystick, it can point wherever you like, or you can just continuously rotate it in circles to toss plasma fire all over town, forgetting that there are innocent civilians down there trying to buy loaves of artisan kumquat bread from a farmer's market vendor. This does make life a little easier, as you can basically shoot anywhere without having to move, but it also allows for ships to come from anywhere on screen without the developer giving a flying filbert about whether you can handle it... because you can.
The Eco Fighters can also collect crystals dropped by enemies to power up (or "level up" for hip folks) your weapons to Level 2, 3, 4, and MAX. Max Power. I believe Homer Simpson briefly changed his name to that. And believe me, you'd be extra wise to get as many crystals as you can; Level 1 is so weak, you might as well be pummeling Goyolk's army with custard instead of bullets.
Otherwise, it's your standard goofy shmup that tries to shove environmental issues down your throat with a crusty plunger of naturalist justice. It's a very pretty shooter, though. Compared to shooters of the past, this one has a far more whimsical and cartoonish art style, especially with the characters themselves. Dr. Moly looks like a cantankerous scientist pulled straight out of a Disney scrap heap, and Kernel Goyolk is the spiritual lovechild of Data East's Karnov character. As for the in-game action graphics themselves, they're standard for their time. Bosses are pretty large, however, and no slouch to look at. It's hard to really say much about the soundtrack, as it's heavily hidden behind non-stop gunfire. Nothing stands out as particularly memorable. Shame they didn't put their patented "Q-Sound" technology to the test! Dr. Moly and Goyolk both have voice acting as well, but it's in Japanese no matter what.
The presentation suffers a bit more with an imperfect translation. Just the first stage alone has you fighting against the negative effects of "deforestration". Don't you just get forestrated when the forests are being taken down by corporate greed?
All in all, Eco Fighters will interest fans of the shooter genre, but I highly doubt it will be memorable enough to enter many Top 10 lists. Still, it was cute for its time and definitely a step above the slough of standard military top-down shooters that glutted the arcades in the early 90s. Eco Fighters is one of Capcom's prettier and sliiiiiiightly more innovative shooters. If there isn't an arcade nearby you luckily enough to have grabbed a cabinet of this, Eco Fighters is available as part of the Capcom Classics Collection on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PSP to see for yourself if you're a suitable eco-fighter.
Then fill out an application for Greenpeace. I'm sure they would consider "finishing a Capcom shooter" as adequate experience.