|Title: Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday
Rom Player: Gens/Kgen Fusion
Synopsis: Buck Rogers is BACK! And this time he's not very pansy-ass spandex and fighting some bimbo draconian princess! No, he's fighting the deadliest scourge humanity has ever seen... Space Commies! Interested? Read on...
This game is one of the oldest, and most enjoyable RPGs I’ve ever played, for a variety of reasons. Cool story, good gameplay, semi-original setting… This game was awesome. A Buck Rogers RPG doesn’t sound all too thrilling, but I rented and bought this game a long time ago, and I have to say, it’s a well done game that stands on it’s own and manages to avoid the “campiness” of Buck Rogers and actually give the series a dark touch of seriousness that I always thought lacked. Also, there is no Twiki to be found (YAY!). But anyways, let’s get into details:
Gameplay: Get a sandwich or something, this is going to take a while. Ready? Let’s go.
CTD is built using the AD&D system, and the Genesis version of this game uses a very simple, but effective and slightly simplified version of it. First, you create your guys. There are a few types of species and jobs your guys can be, from Human, Desert Runner (Big, ugly Chewbacca wannabes that’ll kill your ass dead if you look at them wrong), or Tinker (Gollum look a likes). Humans can do all the jobs, namely Warrior (kills everything, specializes with a gun/sword type), Medic (Heals you, duh), Rocket Jock (Pilots your ship --- IMPORTANT!), and, even in the depths of space, you still need the classic Rogue to rob everything blind. Tinkers can only be Medics and Desert Runners can be Rocket Jocks, or Warriors, but nothing else. After choosing a species/job, you name your guys, then select skill points to allocate. You start with 8 points and can allocate 4 maximum on a single skill. These skills vary from Zero-Gee maneuvering (for space stations) to Programming/Hacking (for getting doors open) Also, each job has it’s own special skill, be it Combat Tactics for Warriors (to go before your enemy’s turn) to Piloting/Rocket Repair (helps in ship fights and after ship fights).
Okay, now that we have people to cruise the universe in, let’s take a look at the actual GAME…
The game starts off fast, as any good game should. The intro, which introduces you as a faceless grunt in NEO, the New Earth Organization, is pretty good and also informs you of the badguys, RAM! The Russo-American Mercantile (I think that’s it) has almost destroyed Earth, but was fought back by Buck Rogers, space hero. The intro plugs it into your head that Buck is a very big, very important type, and your plebian ass is not going to be seeing him for some time, which is actually cool, because it builds up Buck as a superhuman RAM killing machine. Anyways, you get your first thrilling duty, salvage duty! Yay, this is exciting. But after about five seconds, things start going boom-boom around you as RAM fighters are attacking Earth! You must save the day (of course). Things get a lot better or worse depending on how much you like Random Battles. There is a LOT of battles. Almost a ridiculous amount, really. The only way to tone down the level of battles is to plug in points into your stealth skill. This alleviates some of your pains, but there are a couple reasons you don’t want to do this:
A. Your medics only heal you immediately after a firefight, so you NEED to pick fights if you want to heal. No potions for you, Space Cadet!
B. By plugging points into stealth, you take away valuable points for other skills, like First Aid (revives wounded men/women)
Fortunately, the game does give you a lot of swag from your battles, as well as credits. The only gripe I have is that there are only nine slots! Fortunately, some items are stackable, grenades, and such, but it’s still kind of small.
As long as we’re on the subject of battles, let’s talk about how the combat system works! As this is where you will be spending a LOT of time, the developers have graciously made it both interesting and easy to use. Fights progress in a turn-based fashion, whoever’s fastest/has better tactics skill goes first, and things progress in a “You go/They go” fashion. You can move and shoot all in one turn, which is nice. There are a few limitations, though: If you try to equip a rocket or plasma launcher on your turn, you’ll have to wait a turn before you can fire it. You have unlimited ammo for everything, but those two heavy weapons require one turn to load. When you fire at someone, they will automatically turn to face you, to dodge, I assume. This is important because you can send someone to shoot him in the back, or send a rogue with a mono-sword to do the almighty BACKSTAB!!! (Yes, the game actually prints it like that, exclamation points and all). Your accuracy is measured in percentage, and it goes up when you’re closer, using an accurate gun, or performing a rear attack. It’s not FF tactics, but it’s not entirely strategy-less either. In some places, like Venus, you can take cover behind trees and such that help reduce enemies’ accuracy. Also, you can throw special grenades that prevent certain types of weapons from being used. For example, a chaff grenade will prevent any other type of explosive, even rockets, from penetrating or exploding. Weaponry runs a HUGE list, from cutlasses to Plasma launchers. Also, where the weapon was made affects it’s damage/accuracy/speed. A weapon without a title and a blue background is the worst. A weapon from Luna with a gray background is the best and you should move heaven and hell to get these. Combats are usually fast gun-packed shooting sprees that end quickly in victory for you, though there are some boss fights as well as occasional ambushes. These range from killer robots to a genetically engineered killing machine call a Genny.
But what are you doing when you’re NOT on the ground? Can you fight in a ship? Hell yes. Eventually you hijack a spaceship from RAM with a kickass name, the Maelstrom Rider, and can blow the crap out of other ships. You can even board other ships, take the controls, and fight all the crew until you control the ship! Unfortunately, you can’t take a bigger ship then yours, or even any other ship. All you do is sell it for salvage, but you get money to buy guns, ammo and repairs… for your ship, not for you. Ship combat is a lot like ground combat, but with a lot less moving around. Rather, it measures your distance from 0-5. 0 is point blank/boarding range. 5 is the limits of your sensors. You can’t even hit them at range 5. One jock pilots the craft, though other jocks can take over if the pilot gets injured. Everyone else, even the medic, can hop in a turret and fire lasers, missiles, or a Kinetic Cannon at the bad guys (which can be Pirates, Merucurians, or Ram). Battles are also more easily avoidable in space as you’ll get a sensor alert and be given the choice to flee, talk it out, or fight. Nothing is guaranteed, however. You might board a ship only to be ambushed by hitmen, or have to fight ANOTHER ship after you finish with the first one because the first ship got a distress signal off. These kind of quite frankly AWESOME occurances lead me to believe Space Combat is a helluva lot cooler then ground combat, though the ground combat isn’t bad either. What’s neat is you can just cruise around the solar system capturing ships as long as you want, or pick fight with RAM on stations and planets however many times you wish, as there is no time limit.
When you’re NOT in combat mode, the game goes to a 3/4s isometric view with a spaceship astronaut representing your entire party. The little guy runs where you want him to. Exploration is fun, and when an important event happens, there may be a full-screen image that is well-drawn, especially for Genesis hardware. When important characters, enemies or items are located, there is an animated picture that will appear as the text describes what it is you’re doing or they’re doing. You can be killed out of combat, so beware! There are some timed events in the game, but only on an immediate scale, nothing long-term. By that I mean you usually are timed only when you need to escape immediate death from explosions. You can still be killed by other things like, say, poor conversational choices made when you are being talked to by potentially angry aliens, attempting to break into a gun filled elevator shaft without clearance, being eaten by a killer plant, or going insane by brain disease incurred from something you can’t see or fight. When in space, you can go anywhere in the Solar System… at least until the asteroid belt. This game only takes place in the inner core of Sol, from Mercury to the Asteroids. Fortunately, there is a lot of ground, stations and planets to land on. Your ship doesn’t have clearance EVERYWHERE, and some places need to be found… preferably by someone with skill with piloting (hint hint), but generally most places are accessible at any given time. Beware at the endgame, though: Once you get on board the final area where the final enemy installation is held… you cannot leave! All in all, exploration is an entertaining and an integral part of the game that is not neglected.
Despite the large number of random battles, I feel that the Game play gets a 10 based on the combat system, space combat system, and both space and land-based exploration systems.
PHEW! Thank god the worst is over. Sorry for all that, but I felt it important in order to understand the game. Anyways, let’s move on.
Graphics: Yikes. A mixed bag if ever there was one. The battle and navigation characters are small, simply colored as well as simply animated, but the ship battles are extremely well detailed, and damage is shown on enemy vessels VERY well. Keep firing at the guy’s engines and there’ll be a huge hole in and around his ship. Also, explosions look very nice. The “cutscene” images that appear are much better animated and detailed.
I give it a 6. Those battle icons get mighty ugly after staring at them a while. Ship battle graphics are great, though.
Music/Sound: ARRRGH! Why did the music composers love the sound of organs so much?! There are only a few music tracks in the game, and the only one I can stand is the space exploration one. Even that grates on my nerves after a while. The battle theme is a constant, simple, percussive beat. Mercifully, you can turn the music off in an ingame menu. Sound is a little better. The Screams are all similar, the only differences are when a Genny or monster gets killed. The Laser sounds horrible, all the other weapons sound better, but all are similar sounding though. There is some limited voice work, mostly for countdowns, which emphasizes you’re running out of time to escape. Also, the explosion sounds from a missile kick ass, but can’t save this section of the game from a low score.
I give it a 4. Can’t STAND those songs and the guns/screams sound similar except for animals and explosions.
Originality: This game is more original then I thought it would be at first. The only similar things between this and the awful movie are the characters Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering, and this time they don’t dress up in horrible movie costumes, but actually kind of resemble military officers. The RAM menace is well-done, and Draconians… don’t exist, actually. This doesn’t resemble the movie or TV show, and quite frankly is better then both. Credits to the game developers for cool new weapons like the Needle gun, and Mono-sword, a sword only a MOLECULE thick that can cut through anything! Also, the rockets all look like the old comic book ones: conical pointy-nosed things with atomic engines (of course). Bonus points for not making you a stereotypical “Child of Destiny” or some bullcrap like that: you remain an average joe the entire game. You help NEO, but you’re not at the same level as Buck Rogers at any time during this game.
I give it an 8. They could have gotten a 10 if they didn’t use the Buck Rogers name and look for its ships.
Overall Rating: 9. Not perfect, as those random battles get a little annoying after a while, but most definitely enjoyable, and an original take on RPGs, especially the D&D system. Highly recommended!
Best Cheats: None, sorry. Rob your enemies blind when you defeat them, you can sell all their stuff you don't need. Some of it may even come in handy, who knows?
Game Play: 10
Overall Rating: 9
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