Thank goodness for the internet. With this fantastic informational tool, I’m able to discover things I had no idea existed before. Let’s take video games for example. Pre-internet, who really thought about all the Japanese video games that never left the land of the rising sun? I know I didn’t. Now there is a plethora of Super Famicom games on my radar and I’m going to review them for you. First on the hit list: Undercover Cops.
Cover Blown Cops
The year is 2043. Major cities all over the world have been ravaged by nuclear war. When the town of Chrono Grande received the nuclear shower show, everything went to hell there. Law enforcement dissipated and crime flourished. In the chaos, a special military government was formed and they appointed a mysterious sweeper organization to clean up the town. The members of this sweeper group called themselves “undercover cops.” But they are not really undercover cops. Not unless you call jumping into a crime-infested area and beating the crap out of anything that moves as being undercover!
Controls and Gameplay
The basic controls are elementary. Press Y to attack, use B to jump, A is for utilization of a special move which takes a small portion of your health with it. You also have the option of employing the L trigger button to make the dash maneuver automatic (otherwise tapping left or right twice on the control pad to perform it). Combining some of these buttons together allows variety to your attacks. The start button will let you pause the game or make a selection. Finally, successfully pressing a certain button combination after jumping into the air will unleash a devastating Super Special Move which steals a huge chunk of your life meter. But it’ll kill every enemy on-screen instantly sans the bosses.
In a way, it’s like any typical brawler. The first stage is your generic industrial stage and you get to beat up on guys that look like each other. Big whoop, right? Well this game does a few things to distinguish itself from the pack.
First off let’s talk about the weapons you can pick up. Some are run-of-the-mill like crates and oil drums. However some are peculiar. Take for example being able to throw a frozen tuna at your opponent! Bet you didn’t see that one coming! My personal favorite weapon in the game is the 6 foot utility pole. You’ll find it embedded in the ground. Tapping Y when near it will make your character pull it out of the earth and ready for action. You can hit the thugs swarming around you a good 5-6 times before it crumbles away. You can even have the option of swinging in a 360 motion! It’s great when you’re surrounded!
And let me take a moment to address some of the items you can pick up to replenish health; live animals on the run for instance! Roosters, pigs, chicks, mice, fish, frogs and snails are yours if you can catch them. Now that’s good eatin’!
Another notable thing about Undercover Cops are the bosses. The first boss looks human at first, but after you hit him a few times he bursts out of his skin to reveal what it truly is: A cyborg!. There are two ways to kill this boss. The conventional way or by throwing him into the trash compacter on the right side of the screen! Truly epic. Unfortunately, there aren’t alternative ways to kill the other bosses in the game. The second stage’s boss is a gargantuan punk rock woman. Each time you combo her and send her to the ground, she cries like a big fat baby. I must say all the bosses in this game are quite memorable.
There are five stages in all and the goal is to wipe the streets of crime and locate and apprehend Dr. Crayborn who is the mastermind behind all of this mess. Between stages, the points you earn are tallied up and if you meet or exceed the border score for the level you’ll earn a 1-up.
The game is a joy to play, so although most of the enemies you face and the stages you visit aren’t anything to write home about, the control you have over your character makes the game a success. Even just tapping Y while hitting your opponents produces a combo that’s fun to watch the first dozen times or so. Jump kicking, throwing, cracking someone’s skull with your bare hands and those screen-filling Super Special Moves makes each hero a pleasure to play with. It sometimes feels like I’m playing a beat em up/fighter hybrid due to how your undercover cop controls.
You have three people to choose from and they all have different reasons for joining the sweeper organization. Zan is the martial artist who only uses his feet. Rosa is the street brawler with a tragic past. And Matt is the hulking ex-football player. Zan and Rosa have a very similar feel to them while Matt is the strongest, but slowest of the bunch.
Unfortunately the game isn’t perfect. Above all other things, I expect beat em ups to have two player cooperative play. It’s missing here! 🙁 The game was released in 1995 for the Super Famicom, so there’s no good reason why it couldn’t be included. I noticed slowdown, sometimes severe during certain parts of the game. That deterred the fun factor a little for me. Also some of the enemies can get pretty cheap to the point of frustration. Y’know, I’m trying to preserve my lives and continues for the later stages, but even some of the level 1 baddies steal a life from me here and there solely due to standing over me and hitting me when I try to get up or sneaking in hits when my back is turned. That’s not fair!
There are a few options at your disposal. The difficulty level has three tiers from easy to hard, you can select from 1 to 5 continues, you can configure the special moves to the A button and the dash technique to the L trigger, you have a choice of stereo and mono sound and there’s options to sample the music and sound effects of the game.
Graphics and Sound
I think the graphics are solid. Even though some of the stage settings are uninspired, there is detail in the backgrounds. I am spoiled because I have seen some footage of the arcade version which is superior graphically. I think the sprites could have been bigger but at least they are highly detailed and are capable of evoking emotion. All in all not bad, but I have seen much better on the SNES.
In addition, sound is a weak point to Undercover Cops. Few if any compositions are above average. I kinda liked stage three’s music and the tune heard when fighting the final boss, but everything else I could leave. This is another game I encountered that uses what sounds like elevator music in a few stages. I’m not a fan and wish more beat em ups would use music that pumps the gamer up for action. Is that too much to ask?
On the plus side, some of the sound bites are hilarious. When you character eats something, they express their enjoyment. For example Zan says “Good!” and Rosa says “Mmm!” There’s a guy in the game that likes to hit you with a baseball bat. When he does, it points his finger at you and starts laughing. There are plenty more examples. Sound effects like these go a long way in breathing life to a video game.
To my knowledge, the Super Nintendo has a weak beat em up catalog which could have been bolstered a little by this title. Undercover Cops is a solid game which fans of the genre should play for what it does differently. Lack of a two player option is unforgivable for a 1995 title and I think many of the sprites should be bigger than what they are. Also music is a disappointment and there is slowdown that will trip you up at times. And let’s not forget the utter cheapness of certain enemies.
Though it skimped on a few features and details that would have made it the brawler on Nintendo’s 16-bit machine, I overall had a good experience. So I recommend Undercover Cops to SNES beat em up fans who are starving for another game in the genre to play.
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