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CONSOLE: Neo Geo DEVELOPER: Sammy Studios PUBLISHER: SNK
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 11, 1996 GENRE: Isometric Shooter PLAYERS: 1-2
// review by Jeff

Here's MY viewpoint: this game's insane!

You came here looking for a review of Viewpoint. Interestingly enough, a review of Viewpoint would actually BE my viewpoint. Isn't that something? Well, here's my viewpoint: this game rubs me the wrong way, like stroking a cat from the tail forward. It's not as though I am pained by anything here, but still, the discomfort of playing this game reminds me of whenever I sit in something gooey: unpleasant without malady.

If I give a scoff to this game, it's not because of anything I see. Although the Neo Geo couldn't really produce three-dimensional graphics, Viewpoint sure knows how to try and fake it. The entire game is displayed from an isometric overhead perspective, a feat not widely used in shmups but popularized nearly a full decade earlier, courtesy of Sega's Zaxxon. But the game looks phenomenal given its age, particularly the rather large bosses that appear to be made of polygons, but in fact are just extremely detailed sprites. You can almost feel the approach of weird fish and Slinky-style creatures. While the backgrounds don't have much in the way of 3D properties, all enemies seem to exude an impressive level of depth for an actually-2D title. This effect can be attributed to a Mr. N. Yamaguchi, a proclaimed "Polygonizer" in the credits.

The music is nothing to angrily bark at, either. I anticipated a standard soundtrack for a game not exactly in the forefront of anyone's gaming library, chock full of ominous tones and fast-paced interludes of auditory tension. What I received, however, was funk. You're basically enjoying a house record during the entire flight. That's one way to pass the time traveling in outer space. There are even samples of James Brown's legendary shouts during boss fights. If that isn't the definition of epic, then clearly I haven't read the dictionary close enough. I wish the regular in-game sound effects were as interesting, but the "pyoom-pyoom-pyoom" of your little gun just doesn't cut the proverbial mustard.


Whoa! Cool visuals! This is totally awes--oh, I'm dead.

No, these two factors do not hinder my love affair with Viewpoint. In fact, they improve the game's tolerability. The problem lies in the fact that Viewpoint is mind-bogglingly difficult, so much so that I declare it almost unplayable. Dare I do it: I will officially announce that Viewpoint is unplayable by humans. Only a robotic brain capable of making decisions at the speed of light is able to finish this game. Running along the same vein as other bullet hell shooters -- the shmups that literally litter your screen with chaotic streams of bullets, with only an infinitesimal possibility of survival. While not at the same level as some of the more infamous examples, Viewpoint, particularly during boss spars, can and will give your nerves and reflexes brutal exercise. That is, if you can get that far. The stages alone will give you more than enough trouble with unimaginable perils: flipping floors, doors that require you to shoot rotating switches to open, spiked walls, enormous slugs crossing your path, leaping lava flumes... and this list doesn't even include the enemies. You're in for hell. There are only six stages to be found in the game. Consider yourself lucky to see two of them.

The biggest flaw comes in the weapon system... er, shall I say, severe lack of weapon system. You get a puny weapon to start with, though you can charge it up for a more powerful attack. You can also attain a pair of drones to help take down enemies, as well as an inventory of up to three different bombs at a time, the availability of which are few and far between. But as for actual weapon upgrades, you get nothing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Additional generic term meaning zero. (Oh, I guess that was one, too.) You're going to have to survive off your own questionable courage and the reflexes of a hyperattentive hummingbird. It's bad enough that you have to survive the stages themselves with such a depleted arsenal, but fighting bosses feels like an uphill battle where the hill is replaced with a vertical slope. And aside from taking forever to defeat, the odds are stacked against you that the boss will allow you to survive long enough to see the next level, what with their irritating multiple forms, incessant bullet storms, and any other obstacles wishing your demise during each fight. (Add to this the fifth level, which requires you to fight all previous bosses in sequence again, and you have yourself the medicinal formula for lunacy.) To add insult to injury, should you lose a life, you respawn much further back than preferred, which, in turn, acts as a deterrent to the will to continue.

Viewpoint could have been a solid contender in its genre, and its presentation certainly would support such greatness. It is, however, extremely unfair in its gameplay and difficulty, so much so that the game is practically unfinishable and flawed to the point of unplayability. Had there been a greater balance of difficulty, alongside a more fair offensive system, the game would have truly thrived. But as it stands, I can only maintain one viewpoint, one of exasperation. Look elsewhere for more pleasant shmupping.


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