There's just something about this game that says THIS IS COOL. Maybe it's the game design. Or maybe it's the atmosphere of shifting elevators and shooting down baddies-a-plenty. Whatever it is, this game has a unique aura all its own
Sequel to the 1980's original, EAR is quite different; it's much more action-oriented
Select from one of 3 characters, each possessing different talents in 3 categories: power, speed and gun. The standard gun has endless ammunition, while their respective bomb-type weapon is on a limited count. Each character's bomb is unique
The Arnold-like guy (Jad the Taff) has a sensor bomb. When a bad guy gets too close it explodes -- the shrapnel taking out any bloke caught in its path. The other guy (Kart Bradfield) throws a fire bomb that explodes the length of the screen and sets anyone in its path on fire. The girl (Edie Burret) has a unique flame attack that stays onscreen for about six seconds, so if you throw one bomb left and one right, you'll build yourself a nice little makeshift force field. Though it lacks the length of Kart's fire bomb, the trade-off is that Edie's bombs last longer
The varying strategy of each bomb definitely adds a little ''oomph!'' to the game play experience. For example, say you're using Edie. You're on one floor and the bad guys are gathered around the elevator right above you. In this case throw a bomb onto the elevator, which will cause the elevator floor to catch fire. Then the shaft moves up and ta-daaa! It's one big barbecue party! Another favorite tactic when I'm Edie is the ole ''sitting duck'' trick. If there's a door nearby, I'll drop a bomb that will ignite the doorway... then wait to see if any enemies come out the door... and if they do... instantly..... ''AAAHHHHH!'' A thing of beauty, folks
If I'm Kart and I see a bunch of bad guys down below me... why, I'll just loft one of my handy bombs down and BANG! It's like killing 10 birds with one stone. By the way, enemies set on fire look great. Reminds me of Metal Slug and Crusader: No Remorse
Each character is vastly different and not just merely cosmetically so. It's nice to know that while I may have a favorite character, should I get tired of using him or her the other two are always there. In the original Elevator Action you could only use one character. Here's some more info on the varying protagonists:
Speaking of upgrades, in EAR you have to the ability to shoot your gun at an upward angle. This adds some extra spice to the game play
There's plenty of blood to be found here. There are two options for gore: normal and hard. On hard all the gore is intact. You'll see enemies' blood stain the walls, and crushed bodies will produce blood that seeps above or below an elevator... sick. More on the violence mode:
Let's examine the methods now that you can employ to take out the bad guys. I call it ''The Dozens.'' What are The Dozens you ask? Follow me young Grasshopper. I present to you... THE DOZENS!
1). Standard gun. This is the most basic fundamental. Most enemies take one shot to die. You can stand and shoot, duck and shoot, or shoot at an upward angle. However, you cannot run and shoot nor can you jump and shoot
2). Bomb weapon. As previously elaborated. Remember, there's a limited bomb supply
3). Pick up the deadly machine gun (100 bullets) or a rocket launcher (20 rockets) scattered during play. If you aim your rocket launcher on a floor above you where baddies are loitering, they'll be killed by the impact. Nice, huh? Once either weapon runs out it's back to your standard issue gun
4). Jump kick. Nothing like a good ole kick to the temple. Stand close and press jump, or you can run at them and then press jump
5). Swift blow RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES. I love this move. Just stand real close to an enemy and press the shoot button. Instead of firing the gun, it'll be a headshot. KA-POW! Should the enemy be near the edge when this occurs, you can send the poor fella sailing down to his horrible demise!
6). Barrels. Shoot and they roll. From here you can shoot it again and it'll explode, setting enemies nearby on fire, OR you can let it roll on so that it'll crush the baddies. Sometimes when you let it roll, after a while it just suddenly combusts and explodes... sometimes it may even roll down a floor and KA-BAAAM! Choices, choices...
7). Toxic barrels. Shoot them once and they immediately erupt in wild fire. (Works like Edie's bomb where it stays blazin' for bout six seconds)
8). Box of bombs
Shoot or jump kick specially designated boxes. This act will unleash explosives that immediately set the length of the floor on fire in a flash
(Just like Kart's bomb)
9). Electric bolt death. In the later levels there are electric zones. Anyone who comes into contact is toast. It's my guilty pleasure to lure the dumb bad guys in.... *evil crackle*
10). Mine attack. Scattered in the later stages, if you get too close you have 3 seconds to run...
11). Forest Fire Domino Affect. When an enemy is set on fire he may set one of his buddies near by on fire as well. Before you know it, it can spread like the Black Plague! Misery loves company
12). PRAYING MANTIS SHAOLIN TOKYO DEATH ELEVATOR CRUSH! This is my favorite by far. It doesn't happen often though. Enemies can be crushed under an elevator. Doing so will cause blood to seep under the elevator floor. And always be aware of your position, you are just as susceptible as the bad guys!
Now let's talk about the bad guys. After all, what good is an action game without some cool enemies to kill? EAR features your typical group of thugs, misfits, punks, goons, parasites and malcontents
The blue and red jacket sporting punks are like the equivalent of Ninja Turtles' foot soldiers. Though the red jacket guys can be tough
Then you have your trench coat wearing tough dudes
Little orange suit wearing guys (who take 3 shots to kill. And you must crouch+shoot since they're so short)
Jet pack goons. SWAT like thugs with shields, etc.
Then comes my personal favorite: the malpracticed monster. He's bald, shirtless, and of a hue not of this earth. These tough hombres take two shots to go down on most accounts, and they carry two guns, one in each hand! I guess they were an experiment gone wrong (or right, depending on your point of view). One shot crumples them over, then in Resident Evil fashion they rise back up. Make sure you eliminate them swiftly. If you let them roam for too long, they get restless and start laughing maniacally while spraying bullets with reckless abandon!
There are different death animations according to the method you employ
The controls are great. Use the D-Pad to move him or her in the desired direction, double-tap to run. Up to move up in an elevator, and a simple down press to go down. Very responsive. The only thing that feels a little sluggish is the jumping, but it's not that bad. My other very minor complaint is the double-tap command to run. I much rather have an option to make running L or R, as was the case with KEIO YUGEKITAI
There are four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard and Very Hard
Like Metal Slug, there are six levels. And like MS, EAR's levels have funky names (e.g. Cross the Breeze, Vermilion Sun, etc.) The stages have you traversing sewers, enemy fortresses and airports to name a few. Some enemies are out in the open, others hide behind doors and barrels looking to ambush you. The level layouts are nice and well balanced. They take you up, down, left and right
I found the lack of ''big bosses'' disappointing. Some levels have no bosses at all. Others have one of those ''dozens of foot soldier guys coming at you followed by a couple elite guys'' gimmicks. The end boss was also disappointing. Just imagine how much better it would be if at the end of each level there was a nasty boss waiting to crush you; boss chases that take you through elevators and likewise moving and rotating platforms... *sigh* 'Tis a shame. But I don't see this as the game lacking; rather, simply wanting more
So what is your mission? You go through each level locating several red doors. Approach red doors and simply press up. You now have disarmed an enemy bomb. Clear all red doors and you'll get to level's end soon enough. EAR has blue doors; when entered you can select a random bonus -- food, points or bombs. You will also find similar icons inside various debris and crates scattered throughout the six stages
You have a life bar and 3 continues, 2 lives per continues. Once you lose a continue you have the choice to select any one of the 3 characters, so you aren't stuck to the end with the one you started out with
Like the original, you can shoot the lights out. This causes hallways to darken. When there's a fire on a darkened floor, it's very atmospheric. My friend who is a big fan of EAR claims that the shattered light bulb glass can actually kill a bad guy... but I, nor he, for that matter, have been able to fully confirm as of this writing...
Speaking of atmospheric, I find night time to be the best time to play EAR. At night everything seems to come alive...
The graphics aren't great by any stretch of the imagination. The sprites aren't big and detail on characters are somewhat lacking because of the limited sprite size. Still, the graphics serves the game well. They are what they are, and there's enough color to go around so the scenery doesn't ever really get too boring. And they kinda grow on you. At least they did to me
In the first stage there's graffiti plastered on the walls. Offbeat sayings that fit in extremely well with the game's urban-gritty atmosphere
''CRUSH THE OLD ORDER!!'' ''CREATE A NEW SOCIETY!''
EAR's just a good old fashioned mid 90s arcade 2D action game. One that you can complete in 35 to 45 minutes. You don't have to wipe out a chunk of your schedule to make time for this game. There are no ten minute FMV scenes, no thousand word texts, all you do is hit the start button and have fun. That's the charm of Elevator Action Returns
As a bonus, when you beat the game you can play the arcade original hit in all its glory! Great for historians and newcomers alike
And to put the icing on the cake, EAR supports 2 players so you and a friend can go nuts. This provides some social fun that reminds me of the great 2 player outings I had as a youth. Your high scores are recorded. There's even little comments left for you. Reminds me of the good old days when that laser tag company Q*Zar was around. e.g. Dodge the shots, Not bad, No problem, etc. If you leave your initials as AAA it will comment WHO IS THIS??
Makes me feel sorry for those whose initials are really AAA... Capcom in later games would insert CAP automatically in place of AAA... damn
If you're an arcade action type gamer who appreciates 2D gaming and you have an import playable Saturn, you owe it to yourself to get this game. It can be a bit expensive, though
Although there probably isn't any one technical thing in particular about Elevator Action Returns that would overly impress anyone, there's just something unique and interesting about this game I can't quite put my finger on
The more I played, the more I appreciated it. EAR reminds me of not just the good old days but also what video games are all about: that is, simple pleasures and brilliant creative nuances adding up to a very enjoyable blaster. They simply don't make games like this anymore
(Special thanks to Kent Rittenhouse for supplying some of these shots)