Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Geimos (NES)

Rail shooter
Checkpoints ON
1 Difficulty level
6 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Wixel / Ascii Entertainment (Corporation)
Published by Ascii Entertainment in 1985

According to the game's instruction manual, in the distant future an alien race is disrupting the peace in the galaxy. Earth's defense forces then launch a fleet of space fighter crafts to try and stop the invasion. They must battle the enemy across six planets of our solar system: Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. Take those as designations for the levels, in a neverending adventure that forces you to keep fighting as the game loops over and over.

As a complement to the *aham* non-stop action, the game also comes with a soundtrack that might not make anyone's ears bleed but certainly adds to the endurance test with a brief Star Wars-like snippet at the start of the stage and a four-note beeping noise that's repeated non-stop until the stage itself is finished.

With such primitive video game efforts like Geimos, pretty much all that's left besides the fairly tedious gameplay is trying to understand the context of the market at the time of its release. Geimos is a rail shooter, but one that lacks the all-encompassing influence provided by Space Harrier – simply because it came out before Sega's classic. Hence its main visual influence being Capcom's Exerion, even though that's not a rail but an extremely odd vertical shooter instead.

Lovely craters to the left, the endlessness of the universe to the right

Another influence imprinted in the gameplay comes from Xevious, since button B fires your main shot while button A drops bombs aimed at hitting ground targets. Geimos lacks autofire, so the best way to enjoy the game is to get a turbo controller, activate rapid fire for both buttons and keep them pressed at all times. Flying enemies arrive in waves that start shooting at you as soon as they've travelled enough into the screen, ground targets are mostly harmless but every once in a while an angry turret will show up firing several scattered shots towards your location.

Once you've defeated the regular enemies a large mothership called Phobos will warp into the center of the screen. If you fail to destroy it in time (20 seconds), it will warp out and you'll have to play the level again. If you succeed in destroying the mothership it explodes and you move on to the next stage/planet. The main background and colors change accordingly, in what's certainly the most variation you'll come across while playing the game. And once Phobos is once again blasted into oblivion in Pluto you're sent back to Earth with no fanfare, no ending message, no sign of clear victory at all.

Apart from the timeout constraint on the boss fight, dying is another occurrence that sends you back to the start of the level regardless of where you stand in it. Dying is also the only means for the player to see his/her life stock or the current stage/round that's being played. However, since you're forever stuck with the same firepower and all stages have the same short duration, there's actually not much hassle from deaths in Geimos once you've got used to the game's overly repetitive patterns. Phobos can be destroyed with any particular method every single time, for example (you can't pause when fighting it though, which is just a minor harmless observation of course). The extend routine starts with 20.000 points and proceeds with 70.000 points, with a new extra life awarded at every 70.000 points after that.

Earth is under attack!
(courtesy of YouTube user FamicomGuide)

An interesting additon in Geimos is the possibility to play the game with a different approach as to how the screen behaves (use the SELECT button). Mode A offers the regular experience where your ship moves around freely. Mode B, on the other hand, fixes the ship at the bottom center of the screen while everything else moves around you. Despite adding a reticle to the ship's aim, the latter is quite confusing and tough to get used to, that's why most people will certainly opt for Mode A. Whatever the chosen mode, the difficulty increases and maxes out by the second loop, after that it's all a matter of how long you can hold on to your strategies until you counterstop the game.

Once I got used to how things worked I decided I coud try to max out the score, and so I did. In the picture below the counterstop came in round 45 of mode A, which corresponds to the 3rd stage in the 8th loop. I can't say I was either thrilled or actually amused by the experience, but it wasn't that horrible either. Most of the time it was just a matter of flying low, destroying targets as they approached and moving around before getting hit by enemy fire.

That's Geimos in a nutshell, folks!