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CONSOLE: NES DEVELOPER: Tamtrex PUBLISHER: Irem
RELEASE DATE (NA): February 1991 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Manipulating gravity will save your butt!

Metal Storm is a game I consider to be one of those special hidden gems for the original NES. It wasn't exactly the most popular game on the market (I have yet to hear of Metal Storm II: The Steel Tempest) or anything to that effect yet. But I will say this: there definitely should have been a sequel, and it should have been given the exact title that I just created and showed to you.

The basic storyline behind this wacky game is that a "massive computer" is aiming to destroy the Earth! The only thing that can save it is a... well, it's sort of a mech-type character. (I clearly have not done my research on this one... hold on a second...) Okay, so you are the mech known as the M-308 Gunner. You weigh 2.1 tons, you are nine feet tall, and you are made of a geopolyum alloy (I wish I was the one making this zany trash up, but I'm not). And that mech character will be controlled by YOU, the player! Yay! ...yes, I wish I could say more in this regard but no, there really is nothing much else to say. There's not even an introductory story sequence here; you're immediately thrust into the action, of which there is plenty.

To the untrained gamer, this might look like just another average platforming shooter (which is sort of is). You can walk, jump, and shoot -- very typical. However, there is one specific dynamic that sets this game apart from the others: this mech can reverse his own gravity at will! Yes, at any time in the game, you can manipulate yourself and walk along the ceiling! I cannot recall off the top of my head any other NES game that has this style of gameplay. Oh wait, yes, I can -- I forgot Gravity Man's stage in Mega Man 5. Well, to be fair, this game came out first, so the trippy programmers at the very unknown Tamtex thought of it first! And while you are transitioning your gravitational stance, you convert yourself into an injury-resistant flaming ball of some sort. I am unaware of the boiling point of the geopolyum alloy, and so I can't be bothered to explain how a mech can heat itself so quickly and so easily. Not only is the gravity alteration a very nice and occasionally butt-saving feature, it is also essential to completing certain stages in the game (such as those which scroll both vertically and horizontally, and also against certain bosses which would otherwise be hellishly impossible to tackle). It's not just a privilege -- it's a necessity. Of course, even with this feature, the mech will need some assistance as he fights against wave after wave of pain-in-the-ass robotic nuisances. Along the way are powerups to both his weapon and shielding abilities that will assist him in his quest... of course, if you "lose a life", you lose that stuff, which is unpleasant. I put "lose a life" in quotations because... well... you're not a living organism. The controls are actually pretty darn good; I don't have complaints about the reaction time or awkwardness of things. I do, however, have to say that to play this game efficiently, you will need to have quick reflexes. No slowpokes or arthritis boasters need apply.

The graphics in this game, in general, are fair. It's not the most detailed game in the NES library, but it's alright. The walking animation of the main character, on the other hand, impresses me, what with it being so smooth and fluid and all! The backgrounds in this game (which sometimes even have wacky scrolling effects) are rather unusual. Most of them look like those Magic Eye pictures I used to stare at when I was a young lad. Also, the explosions are purple, but it sure takes a punch at the orange standard. The final bosses of the stages are also large and detailed, which makes for excellent eye candy while I'm trying to play. The music and sound in this game are interesting. Everything has a very techy feel to it. The music actually seems to reflect the difficulty and general nature of the area which you are traversing through. The first level has a somewhat cheerful tune flowing through it, while the second level's music is much more daunting and evil!! Yikes! The sound effects are sort of cheesy too -- expect many pings and poogs scattered about. That does not detract from the amusement I get from the game though! Nope!

Overall, this is a fun game that will keep you at the edge of your couch for a while. The only true qualm I can really discuss at the moment is its difficulty. On "Normal" mode, it's a pretty tough game -- there are a couple of bosses in particular that will force you never to blink, for if you do, you'll die in an explosive deathly fashion. "Normal" mode is at least do-able. On the "Expert" mode, which you can access only after you complete the first difficulty level (or you have a special password that you snagged from a buddy or online source), you'd better be on some kind of powerful drug. "Expert" mode is not for the weak-willed, the weak-thumbed, or even those people who believe that sanity is a virtue. You've been warned. So try this game out -- it's still fun even if you can only manage to get through a few levels.


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