Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Burning Angels (PC Engine)

Checkpoints OFF
3 Difficulty levels
5 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by naxat soft
Published by naxat soft in 1990

The introduction to Burning Angels shows one of the “angels” – girls who pilot spaceships – being kidnapped by nasty evildoers. I wonder if there was supposed to be some inspirational connection with Charlie’s Angels, since the two remaining girls responsible for rescueing the kidnapped one always appear in sexy outfits while controlling their respective ships, kinda like what you’d expect from an edgy serial starred by strong female leads. The “burning” part of the title certainly refers to the special weapons these girls are able to deploy, so brace up for a fast, reflex-driven vertical shooter as you choose one of them to rescue your colleague.

Despite its strong run-of-the-mill nature, Burning Angels tries to be a little different by having two screen modes to choose from. Not only can you play the game in full screen resolution, but you can also shrink it horizontally in order to emulate an arcadey feel on your TV set. I didn’t like this mode at all, it seemed unnatural with everything looking horribly compressed. A real TATE mode would’ve been better, but I guess it was too much to ask from a console game back in 1990. Co-op play was a much more feasible asset, and if you like to shmup with a friend then this one is yet another choice for some serious shooting cooperation.

3rd stage stones cannot be destroyed, only slowed down

When playing solo, you can choose one of the two heroines who pilot two different spaceships: the Dragon and the "Phenix". Both travel at the same speed but have a very distinct arsenal. The Dragon ship is equipped with a wave shot as its main weapon, with fixed pods and long-range missiles. The "Phenix" ship shoots what seems to be bubbles, has rotating pods and short-range exploding missiles. All icons are released by a pink carrier: P increases the ship's power, B activates the auxiliary pods, M activates the missiles and L refills a bit of the health meter. After a while stars start appearing: collect them in order to fill the "burning" bar located between both ship's huds. If this bar is at the blue level, press combinations of buttons I or II with SELECT and watch as both ships merge in order to unleash a devastating attack. Button I + SELECT will turn the ship's firepower into a deadly laser beam, while button II + SELECT will render the ship invincible as it assumes the form of a flaming phoenix. Pressing SELECT without combining it with any of the buttons has no results whatsoever.

Every time you get hit you lose a little health and part of your firepower is reduced. First you lose the missiles, then the pods and then one power-up level until you get back to the default shot (it takes two Ps to max out the main weapon). Pods are capable of inflicting damage and absorbing bullets, and represent the best defense against some enemies who shoot only when they get very close to the bottom of the screen. It was pretty clear to me after just a few tries that the Dragon ship is better than the "Phenix", whose only advantage is a more powerful missile attack. There's no problem if you're able to keep all power-ups with the "Phenix", but once you start getting hit and you lose power it's really tough to keep up with the enemy waves. The rotating pods are also very unreliable when trying to block incoming bullets.

One of the trademarks in Burning Angels is how aggressive the initial bosses are. Their attacks are blazing fast and practically demand that you activate the burning attack if you want to get past them unharmed. Getting rammed by them also takes away a much larger chunk of health. A good strategy is to activate the burning attack before their nastier moves, knowing that the burning power is used only when you actually press the fire button. The third boss, for instance, can be defeated really fast before he does his initial clockwise arc if you use the burning laser for a brief while. In all cases, burning energy must be properly managed because it's not easy to refill the bar up to the blue level once you deplete it completely.

Intro to Burning Angels
(courtesy of YouTube user kingarthurpendragon)

It's safe to assume people will recognize qualities in this game, such as the frantic pace of most stages, a few nice BGMs here and there (despite the weak audio) and a humble albeit decent character design - our ladies meet and talk in between stages; one of them pilots the ship in a hoverbike fashion, the other sits back in the cockpit. Graphics are okay for the rather generic sci-fi motif, with some occasional layers of parallax and mid-bosses to spice up the action.

The only real issues I see in the game are the excess of enemies coming from the bottom of the screen from stage 3 onwards, the cumbersome way of deploying the burning attack (regular button with choice through SELECT would be much better), the lack of a high score buffer and the highly unstable scoring system. Example: sometimes you get out of the first stage with 120.000 points, but most of the time you'll only get 90.000 points, perhaps even less. At first I thought it was related to speed kills, but it doesn't seem to be the case, and destructible parts are not to be seen. I just can't figure out what influences what. Another prime example is the large ship that appears at the very beginning of the game: watch the score counter and try to get 10.000 points. In my case, 9 out of 10 times I only scored 5.000.

Burning Angels has no CONTINUES, but the game is on the short side and gives a decent challenge. The difficulty spike in stage 3 might incur in a mild frustration factor, and the best way to deal with it is to master the burning attack. Once you do it health isn't much of a problem because there are plenty of L items to help you go the distance. And the strangest thing of all: bosses become easier as the game reaches the end. My 1CC high score was achieved with Dragon on NORMAL, with regular (wide) screen resolution.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Silpheed (Sega CD)

Checkpoints OFF
2 Difficulty levels
12 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Game Arts

Published by Game Arts in 1993

Available in a few PC formats since 1986, Silpheed graced the Sega CD library in 1993, wowing gamers with sleek polygon visuals and a sci-fi presentation that remains astonishing to this day. Polygons are what caused heated comparisons with Star Fox on the SNES, which came out the same year and proved to be a smash hit among shooter fans. Although this comparison helped fuel the competition between Sega and Nintendo during the 16-bit wars, it was without a doubt a foolish one. After all, Silpheed is a true vertical shmup, and Star Fox is one of the few rail shooters available for the SNES. Polygons are the whole basis and foundation of Star Fox, whereas Silpheed mixes them with sprites in order to create the illusion of an intergalactic war, complete with massively huge battleships, deadly lasers and lots of debris flying everywhere.

In the year 3076, tactical fighter spacecraft SA-77 Silpheed must travel 64 light years until reaching the Earth. You're its pilot and your mission is to take down a cosmic bad guy. Besides the game itself, your journey is conveyed by a series of cool polygon animated intermissions with great voice-over narrations. The introdution, for instance, is one of the most epic I've ever seen in any shmup, and I can just wonder how amazing it must've been to witness such awesomeness back in 1993 (I arrived quite late to the party). There is, however, a wide gap between these animated visuals and the actual gameplay, in what I consider to be the defining aspect whether or not someone will endorse Silpheed as a great shmup.

Watch out for the planet!

The first time you see your ship it's hard not to think of it as a wimpy looking spacecraft. The vertical perspective is tilted, and the ship gets even tinier as you move up the screen. The starting background for the first level isn't that impressive, the music is kinda cheesy and your guns feel slightly underpowered as waves of enemies swarm by in a familiar fashion many will immediately associate with Galaga. Nevertheless, there's an underlying heartbeat of greater things to come, hinted by a battleship that's reduced to shreds by a series of giant lasers just before the boss fight. A treacherous asteroid belt follows in the second level. By the time the third stage starts and a huge spaceship gets in the way of your bullets, it's quite obvious that Silpheed has many tricks up its sleeve, and loads of charm to attest its reputation of a Sega CD must-have.

With the exception of the first stage, every time a new level starts you halt at a weapon selection screen so that you can equip the ship. It’s possible to carry one main weapon on each side of the Silpheed, so you’re always shooting pair combinations of forward beam, wide beam, phalanx beam (best one in my opinion) and auto-aiming shot. These weapons are not instantly available - a new one is added for every 40.000 points you score. You can also assign one of the following optional weapons for each stage: graviton bomb (blocks bullets), EM defense system (shield), photon torpedo (slight homing ability) and anti-matter bomb (very powerful). They appear at random with every 50.000 points, and you can't use the same one in two consecutive stages. The use of optional weapons is limited, and its stock is automatically filled the more enemies you kill.

Lives in Silpheed work according to a health meter with 6 hits. After the 6th hit you get a message of "no shield". Getting hit again will cause "weapon failure", where only one of your selected main weapons will work. A further hit will trigger "engine failure", impairing movement and terribly slowing down the ship. In this condition, the next hit you take means GAME OVER. To recover health you must take repair items by destroying crystals that come from the top (you also get some health back in between stages). The crystals will also release bonus points (1.000 to 10.000), extra energy for the optional weapons and items for screen wipe-out and temporary invincibility. Sometimes you have to be sharp to get these items, they come staggering down and it's very easy to lose them when you're trying to dodge all the incoming fire.

Silpheed: stage 4
(courtesy of YouTube user Arcingi)

Despite the pale impressions from the first stage, the gameplay in Silpheed is smooth as silk and gets quite intense in later levels. Enemies will arrive in the most diverse formations from all sides, armed with aimed shots, kamikaze movement patterns and a wide variety of bullet spreads. Sometimes there’s so much going on that a few seconds of distraction are enough to reach a no-shield situation. More than the actual dodging, getting used to enemy behavior is the key to success in this game. Using the optional weapons wisely is also a good thing to do.

Silpheed is all about atmosphere, exuding an unique charm especially among other 16-bit shooters. The aesthetic effect that results from the use of polygon pre-rendered backgrounds is amazing. I feel like I’m fighting the death star from Star Wars every time I approach the 2nd boss. And the descent into a space fortress in stage 4 is even more impressive. Sound effects are great and most of the music evokes the outer space theme quite nicely, even though there’s a scratchy undertone to the whole audio in the game. And let’s not forget about the radio voice-over and this guy shouting useful tips such as “turn left” or “watch out for the cannon”, which adds greatly to the sense of action. He reminds me of the B-52’s lead singer when he yells “look at the size of that thing!”. Shmup shack, bay-beeeee… Gosh, I must be really old to remember these things.

Online sources point to two tougher difficulty levels, but I didn't get any results by doing the command sequences to get them. Once the credit is over you get a screen showing your score and stats for enemies destroyed and weapons fired. Don't press anything if you want to play for keepsies and register your performance! My new 1CC high score on NORMAL is just a little bit above the previous one I had.

A last note about the game: it received a sequel for the Playstation 2 called Silpheed - The Lost Planet, which supposedly preserves the same feel and atmosphere of the Sega CD chapter. Is it any good? I expect to find out soon!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chaos Field (Dreamcast)

Checkpoints OFF
3 Difficulty levels
5 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Milestone

Published by Milestone/Able Corporation in 2004

Some bullet hell shooters are really friendly towards the player on his/her first try. A classic example would be the DoDonPachi games, because they have simple controls that don't impose any heavy influence in a quick gaming session. And then there are bullet hell shmups that will teach you the meaning of rape on your first go. Game in question: Chaos Field. First Milestone shooter and, quite frankly, my favorite so far. A game that scares neophytes and doesn't want to make any friends. It floods the screen with bullets and leaves you dizzy with what seems to be a plethora of controls to manage. No, most people do not have fun on their first contact with Chaos Field. However, as intimidating and cruel as it is, the game does get addictive after a while.

Being a boss rush is what people seem to remember most about Chaos Field. Three bosses per stage (hereby named "phases"), with absolutely no cannon fodder. This departure from the norm creates interesting gameplay situations, all of which require strategy, memorization and a deep knowledge of scoring devices. Never mind the mildly washed out graphics, upon which some primitive textures (for Dreamcast standards) are applied. What lacks in graphical flair is more than compensated by the amazing techno soundtrack and a neat scoring system, a combination that's ultimately what drives me the most to enjoy a shmup. As its name implies, at first glance Chaos Field came off as a chaotic experience, so the first thing I had to do was find a comfortable controller configuration in order to start the journey.

Shooting is the main form of attack. Secondary firepower consists of a short-range sword, a lock-on attack and the "wing-layer", basically a bullet sponge that works as a shield. The last control input is the field shifter: upon the press of a button you switch from order field to chaos field and vice-versa (you'll know which mode you're on by the display below the score counter). Imagine two parallel realities sharing the same space. Order field is the starting/default mode. In chaos field the whole game acquires a red tint and enemy aggression doubles, but you get a boost in firepower and the lock-on shot is capable of locking on to bullets as well. You can't shift between the fields at will - a new shift is only possible after a few seconds, when a surrounding aura appears in front of the ship while you hear a subtle sound cue.

Ifumi gives some trouble to boss 1-3

Getting used to all these controls is no easy task, and it took me a while to do it. Bear in mind that the original arcade game has only three buttons, which calls for button combinations in order to trigger the special attacks. Fortunately the Dreamcast version allows mapping of all controls, and after trying out several configurations this is what I came up with: shot (A), sword (X), lock-on (B), wing-layer (R) and field shift (L). Once the control was set up, it was time to get used to the meta gauge, which is the fuel for lock-on and wing-layer. Each of these special attacks consumes one cell of the gauge. Destroying boss parts with the regular firepower or the lock-on will release meta cubes/sparks that get automatically drawn to the ship if you stop shooting for a split second, refilling the gauge. If the gauge is full the cubes will change color and add to the score, and if you lose a life you'll receive a small batch of meta cubes to refill the gauge.

The purpose of using lock-on and wing-layer attacks is to build up a multiplier combo. Every absorbed bullet and every boss part or bullet that gets locked onto adds to the multiplier. There is a timer that decreases whenever no bullets are being blocked or no bullets/boss parts are being targeted, and if the timer runs out the combo is lost. Therefore, the meta gauge must be kept filled so that you have enough fuel to keep the combo going (remember that bullets blocked by the sword don't count). Meta cubes are more easily obtained in order field, so a basic rule in the game is to always refill it in the order field before going into chaos field for better combo possibilities.

There are three characters to choose from, each one demanding a completely different gameplay approach since their weapons are widely distinct from each other. Hal’s the most balanced one, with a nice round wing-layer that’s perfect to nullify turrets. Ifumi’s laser (which would eventually make it to Radirgy, Milestone's second shmup) is weaker, but her wing-layer rotates around her. Jinn is the most awkward to use because of the way his shots work, as in a series of explosions. Hal is a no-brainer because he’s clearly the best choice both for surviving and for scoring.

In line with the complexity of its control scheme, the true joy of Chaos Field lies in its details. Here are a few hints I came up with:
  • watch the introduction tutorial to have an idea of where the hitbox of your ship is located;
  • there are aimed bullets and non-aimed bullets; most of the time the mindless non-aimed bullet spams from bosses can be easily avoided by knowing where to stand (remember to block bullets with the sword when needed);
  • purple bullets and homing lasers cannot be neutralized/blocked; if possible, destroy their sources as fast as you can;
  • while there’s no smart bomb anywhere in the game, this dear panic function we shmuppers all love is actually hidden within the gameplay: every time you switch fields all blockable bullets are melted, giving the player an invaluable tool to evade hairy situations;
  • the sword can be activated in up to three consecutive slashes; slash and time it wisely for better results, since there’s a slight delay after its animation is over; this delay often interferes with your field shifting or special weapon usage;
  • enemy behavior is ALWAYS the same; no rank, no surprises, the secret is to memorize and conquer;
  • though you have plenty of time to kill the bosses, all fights are timed; timing out is bad because you don't reap the points you'd normally get from them, so pay attention to their health bar;
  • in-between boss encounters the combo might be lost; activate the lock-on to freeze the timer temporarily and keep the chain going.

Professional chaining on the first phase of Chaos Field with pilot Hal
(courtesy of YouTube user MaximilianoDent)

Chaos Field is tough, but offers an excellent rush once you start to understand its scoring system. One of the turning points for me was when I started coming out of the first stage with over 20 million points and both extends already activated (first with 8 and second with 20 million). In my opinion the trickiest chain to pull off is in boss 3-2, that’s why getting a decent combo in stage 3 always felt good. And even though I can chain the whole last stage, the tension provided by the last boss always kept me from reaching the 9.999 maximum combo. I did it only once while practicing, but more frustrating than not reaching the desired combo value is losing it all right before the boss dies.

The Japanese Dreamcast received a straight port from the arcade game, packed with a brief albeit cool intro. Loading times are almost negligible, and the few cut scenes are instantaneously skippable. The necessary slowdown seems to be too much at times, and I heard reports saying this version has it in excess (a comparison with the PS2 port might be done someday). It bugs me that the game keeps track of your play time and saves your control configuration, yet it doesn’t save high scores. And why no level select for practice? There should be a law forcing companies to add it in bullet hell shooters!

And did I mention the mesmerizing soundtrack? [yes, I did, I know] Techno is not my thing, but when you’re dancing with that rotating globe in stage 2 amidst all those bullet showers I can't help but feel I'm experiencing pure shmup bliss. Try it after cranking up the volume for best results!

My 1CC clear was achieved with Hal, with a max combo of 7.124 (NORMAL).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Predator 2 (Master System)

Checkpoints ON
1 Difficulty level
7 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Teeny Weeny Games
Published by Acclaim/Tec Toy in 1993

Hidden within the Master System library lies this movie adaptation turned into an arena scrolling shooter. Different from the Mega Drive game, which used an isometric view with no automatic scrolling, Predator 2 for the Master System looks like a horizontal take on the same style of Gun.Smoke - the difference is that our hero, Lieutenant Harrigan (played in the movie by Danny Glover) is able to shoot in 8 directions while the action goes from left to right. A minor deviation from the norm is that if you stay put scrolling is haulted, but you can't go backwards.

The game was officially released in 1992, but my copy is the one released by Tec Toy in Brazil in 1993. Teeny Weeny Games is long gone from the gaming world, and judging from their contribution here it's no wonder nobody knows who they were. Predator 2 is a yawn-inducing experience to say the least, and even for fans of the Predator franchise it falls short in practically all aspects. There is some value in the graphics, but the lack of variety, the dodgy hit detection and the repetitive design all contribute to restrict its appeal to masochists and nostalgia buffs.

Two shoeshiners and a hostage - where's the predator?

Those who've seen the movie know that Harrigan the cop has two threats to face: drug dealers and the alien creature itself. Predator 2, the SMS game, is infested with drug dealers. In fact, they're the only enemies you encounter during most of the time, with a few predators appearing sparsely in the last couple of levels. Whenever you kill a moving enemy (a drug dealer), a drug sack will fall to the ground. They're all sent to the "drug squad" once taken, just like all other loose drug bits you collect here and there. Strangely enough, no stationary crooks will ever have drugs on them.

The only weapons Harrigan can count on are his default firearm (which is actually very effective) and a handful of special items you'll find lying on the ground. Grenades are the only thing that hit the baddies shooting you from windows. Machine guns, rifles, spread shots and later on alien predator discs all have limited ammo, and are cycled with the default gun by using the other button in the controller. Occasionally the red aiming reticle from the predator will appear, and if your head is caught inside its center you're dead meat, regardless of health left. Health, by the way, is what makes Predator 2 a relatively easy romp: it's fully restored every time you take the jacket item. Health is also fully replenished when you get the 1UP icon. Since you can withstand a good deal of damage, after a while gameplay becomes a matter of surviving long enough until you get to the next health jacket. And even though the game is checkpoint-based, the damage applied on bosses does not reset if you die facing them. Racking up extra lives is made easy by the fact that besides 1UPs there are also extends given for every 100.000 points scored.

In Predator 2 cleaning the town from the scum isn't enough, our hero has the extra mission of rescuing hostages spread around the stages. Do not let any of them pass by or die within the predator's mortal reticle - after the third lost hostage it's GAME OVER, no matter how many lives you have. The game gets cheap in certain points, with hostages getting almost instantaneously killed after appearing on-screen (gotta be fast on these ones). Other than that, the bulk of the challenge lies in boss fights, when respawning enemies might eventually overwhelm the player. There are no CONTINUES, but the game gives you a password to start again in later levels.

Lt. Harrigan eventually meets his doom
(courtesy of YouTube user djvatio)

Although the main character is given a nice animation when he moves and walks around firing his weapons, everything else in the game is of subpar design. Your hit detection perception has to be adjusted to the way the AI deals with enemies - some of them will move just below your line of sight, closing in and causing lots of damage by contact while you're not able to even hit them. Shooting in diagonals is possible, but it's a pain to get it right. As for regular enemy resilience, absolutely all of them share the same hit points, be it a burglar or a predator. It gets boring after a while.

The action takes place on the streets, on rooftops, inside something that's supposed to be a slaughterhouse, on the subway (the best looking level due to the moving train) and inside the alien spaceship. Looks change, but other than that you have the same enemies coming out of doors, sniping inside hatches or spawning from the sides, with one or two bikers speeding by and very few helicopters dropping bombs. The music is nothing special, eventually BGMs start repeating themselves and mostly resemble some platforming cop game instead of a badass showdown against an alien menace.

Since scrolling can be halted by staying put, it's possible to rack up points and eventually counterstop the game just by standing still and killing any respawning bad guy. Of course there's no fun in doing that. I got to the end once and that's enough. Apparently I won a huge bonus when I beat the game, probably one million.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thunderbolt II (Mega Drive)

Checkpoints OFF
3 Difficulty levels
8 Stages
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Sun Green (Gamtec)
Published by Super Chip in 1995

I have absolutely no idea how rare this game is, but judging from the scarce information available online I assume it's quite an underground oddity. There seems to be a shady connection with Taiwanese company Gamtec (from Magic Girl and Adventurous Boy fame), but this is mostly associated with the Famicom Thunderbolt II, which is completely distinct from its Mega Drive counterpart. In the case of the Mega Drive, Super Chip is the name printed on the cartridge, while Sun Green shows up at the start screen, with no evident signs of Gamtec on it. EDIT 2011-10-12 a trustful source told me it's indeed Gamtec behind Sun Green :) Don't ask me about a first Thunderbolt, it's an unsolved mystery as far as I know of.

Often disregarded by some as official games, unlicensed material such as these are a delight for the collector, and I couldn't resist the urge of playing it right away once I got it. My initial impressions were good for a change, since the standards on unlicensed Mega Drive shmups are rather low. Scrolling was surprisingly smooth, visuals weren't a total waste and the overall feel reminded me of Dangerous Seed and Verytex. Sure these impressions were properly put to the test, and a couple of days later I had already beaten the game.

Space frogs and meteors?

Every stage starts with a glimpse of the upcoming boss and a one-line cryptic message about it. Default speed is very slow, but the first couple of enemies you kill will immediately drop speed-up items (S). You can't tell from where the remainder of the power-ups will appear, but once they do they will all come down the screen in short staggering movements. The power-up (P) provides three different weapons according to its cycling colors: green (default) is the straightforward shot, blue is a Star Soldier-like pattern and gray gives you a wave weapon. After the third consecutive color collected the weapon reaches its maximum power, and the best thing about it is that all weapons are equally useful. I did have a preference for the wave shot nonetheless.

Additional weapons are acquired by taking the extra icons M and H. M activates two blue energy balls that chase enemies around the screen; they start out pretty slow, but become quite effective when maxed out. H activates a pair of rotating orbs that absorb enemy bullets, whose speed increases the more you power it up. Lastly, the yellow power-up provides extra bombs. These bombs have a mildly delayed screen-clearing ability, meaning you've got to be careful with nearby bullets once a bomb is used or you might get hit and lose some energy.

Thunderbolt II doesn't offer too much in the way of challenge thanks to the health bar. You only die if this health bar is depleted, and the constant supply of energy recovery items (heart-shaped icons) certainly help the player even more. There's no limit to the amount of bombs you can stock, and on top of that you get an extra life for every 60.000 points. The game only starts to offer some real resistance in the last couple of stages, with a few bigger enemies with erratic behavior and bosses that require a bit more focus to be killed. Every surplus power-up collected is worth 1.000 points, so keeping the same weapons without getting hit throughout the whole game will certainly lead to a higher score (when you're hit twice in a row the weapons start powering down).

Attract mode for Thunderbolt II
(courtesy of YouTube user sukalah32x)

Unfortunately, while the weapon system is well thought out and effective, the game lacks in graphical design and enemy variety. Scrolling is smooth and there are a couple of parallax-heavy stages, but the bulk of the backgrounds is undoubtedly uninspired. A good thing is that slowdown is minimum and negligible. In the 5th level the music starts repeating itself, and even though it's not grating in any way it's just not capable of providing any extra motivation for those who crave good music while blasting everything.

Besides all the shortcomings and a considerable "meh" flavor, Thunderbolt II manages to be the most balanced of all unlicensed Mega Drive shmups I know. Although influenced by licensed material, it avoids ripping them off blatantly (with the glaring exception of the DNA lizards from Darwin 4081) and at least gets it right on the genre basics. Be warned though that it won't work properly on a Sega Genesis + 32X setup (graphical/gameplay glitches). I had to dust off my old Japanese console to play it.

My final score for the game is shown below (NORMAL), taken right after I killed the last boss. There is a hi-score indication, but it doesn't work and the score that should be preserved disappears after the credit is over.

Note: this text was cross-posted with minor changes on Sega-16.