Friday, May 7, 2021

Cosmos Cop (NES)

Rail shooter
Checkpoints OFF
1 Difficulty level
6 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Mega Soft
Published by Gluk in 1991

Even those who have not lived it somehow know that the 80s was an awesome decade, especially when talking about video games and the delight they provided kids at home. The NES specifically was an endless fountain of fun for pretty much everyone, but even the best electronic systems couldn't deliver great games only. They also had their share of average titles, as well as the truly bad cartridges almost no one would dare to rent or buy. And then there were those games released by companies such as NTDEC/Mega Soft/Caltron, which in mediocrity terms are in a category of their own.

The more you dig into any video game library the more you learn, and this is as true now as it was back then. NTDEC wasn't on my radar as a child, therefore here I am very late to the party to share my less than enthusiastic impressions of yet another unlicensed product from the company. A rail shooter marketed at the time as having the same thrills as Sega's amazing Space Harrier, Cosmos Cop is another demonstration of the lousy work from some of the same people who delivered stuff like Magic Carpet 1001 (just check the end credits to see it). Although it can't really be qualified as torture, it does stand out as a truly shabby effort that smears the genre's flair for excitement and wonder.

The terror legion from alienation space invaded galaxy!
(courtesy of YouTube user DarkMurdoc666)

Cosmos Cop puts you inside a giant mecha that flies forward in a mission to save the galaxy from outer space scumbags. It’s a simple game with a simple objective: to defeat a giant boss after five short levels of straightforward shooting with very little variety. The scrolling surface never changes from its initial dark blue color, only the background in the distance does in order to reflect the themes for each stage, which is always preceded by a quick message describing the next mission. The first level is a "defensive" area, followed by a flight towards volcanoes, an enemy arsenal, an energy station, the mandatory end-of-game fortress and of course the final boss. This last enemy, in fact, seems to have been the object of most of the design efforts because it's got a really creepy and menacing look. Honestly speaking, it's the single highlight of the whole game.

Button B fires your regular cannon (with autofire) and button A deploys the so-called neutron missile, a supposedly more powerful attack that has limited ammo and no autofire. Each life comes with an energy gauge that allows you to take a few hits before dying. What's particularly weird about Cosmos Cop is the way enemy bullets are fired at the player. They deviate from the norm in that all projectiles explode into cross or × shaped patterns of four bullets that spread out in varying angles according to the enemy that fired them. In that sense, it's not enough to just dodge. You also need to keep your space until all expanding bullets have cleared the area.

Due to the peculiar nature of the enemy fire, losing lots of energy in a short period of time during a quick bullet shower is quite common in the beginning. Lost energy is recovered by collecting the P icon that approaches floating by (the only item you'll come across in the whole game). Besides refilling the energy gauge, this icon is also responsible for adding a few more neutron missiles to the stock. Energy is fully replenished at the start of a new level as well.

As I mentioned above you don't face any sort of boss until you reach the end of the game, but it can be quite hard to preserve health and not die on the way. The good news is that you're granted with an extra life for every 10.000 points you score. If it weren't for this somewhat merciful extend routine Cosmos Cop would certainly be more a challenge, regardless of how bare bones it looks like with all those generic formations of saucers, drones and rocks. At least it scrolls at a decent pace and doesn't incur in any slowdown or flicker.

The impending dangers of the volcano area

In the constricted realm of NES rail shooters it's very easy to mistake this game for Cosmic Epsilon due to their names looking alike. However, while Cosmos Cop's stale experience fails to leave any lasting impression, Cosmic Epsilon might possibly be the best 8-bit rail shooter ever created. Just take note of that if you happen to stumble upon both of them in any game discussion or in your next garage sale. Note that besides the standalone Spanish release by Gluk, Cosmos Cop is also included in the famous Caltron 6-in-1 multicart.

I beat Cosmos Cop in my first attempt playing it, but wasn't fast enough to pause and take the picture of my score (there's no hi-score buffering anywhere and the game halts at the credits screen). Then I played it once more and got a better result, shown in the picture below. It was quite quick, after all a full credit lasts about just 12 minutes!

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