up by Taito
originally released in the arcades in 1994 running on their F3
hardware, and later ported to the Sega Saturn
In a similar manner to the original Elevator Action, the objective is to locate and defuse a series of bombs that have been planted throughout the buildings in which the game takes place, conveniently hidden behind red doors; And, as in the original, the primary means of getting about the level is by means of the game's numerous lifts and escalators. To describe the pacing of, I would place it midway between the tense and considered gameplay found in the likes of Rolling Thunder or Shinobi, and the all out twitch gameplay of Metal Slug. There's far fewer hiding places in Returns than would be found in the former two, but you still find yourself evading bullets by hopping on a convenient elevator, or taking out a number of enemies at once through a well placed shot to an explosive barrel.
That said, enemies come at you in droves once the action picks up, and you are very much reliant on skilled gun play to deal with them. Fortunately, you also come equipped with a supply of grenades, and more of these can be obtained by entering blue doors. These doors also contain health refills, but the selection of the power-ups is by player controlled roulette, with varying sizes of health refills and numbers of grenades available, intermixed with point bonuses. Inside large crates that can be shot open, you'll also find power-ups in the form of a rocket launcher and machine gun.
The character controlled by the player has a reasonable repertoire of actions. While full eight-way control of the direction of fire isn't given, shots can be angled upwards so that airborne enemies can be taken out before they land, or badguys on a platform above you can be got at should a clear shot become available. One minor irritation in the controls is that jumping is not possible when crouching, and it takes just a fraction too long for the onscreen character to stand up, leading to a few annoying deaths. This aside though, the controls are hard to fault.
Elevator Action2 Returns uses a rather zoomed out view compared with Rolling Thunder et al, with four storeys visible at once. This succeeds in giving the impression that you are in a large building with a lot going on around you. The variety of levels found in the game is an aspect worth noting. Over the course of the six levels, you'll visit an airport, an oil rig, and an underground railway station, all depicted in meticulous detail. In fact, it's the attention to detail that lends the game much of its charm. For example, explosions in the sewers cause manhole covers to unseat, and shooting a fuse box kills the lights in that corridor, making them die with a fluorescent flicker. Although small, all the sprites are very well animated. The way the player's character reaches nervously behind them to open a door sticks in the mind particularly. I'd also have to mention at least once the cool Akira inspired flying gun platforms that patrol the fourth level.
Taito's in-house musicians, Zuntata have created a great soundtrack for the game. Calm and considered, it compliments the gameplay perfectly. There's even a "fighting on into the night" moment as you scale the heights of the unfinished shopping centre of level 3. Like the graphics, the sound has a similarly endearing detail. Fire a missile down a corridor, and you can hear the shattering of light fittings, and splintering of wooden crates. Frequent use is made of voice samples, with enemies left behind screaming "I'll get you next time." Unfortunately, these seem strangely out of place in the game.
Much criticism has been levelled at Elevator Action2 Returns for being too short lived. It is true that most people will finish the game within a few days of getting it (it took me two weeks, but I'm a bit naff), but I think this is very much a case of quality over quantity. The short playtime is attributable to its mid-90s arcade origins. With a two player co-op mode, and the challenge of obtaining a new hi-score, it would be a lie to say that it has no replay value. While it lasts, this is a very enjoyable game, and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending it to anyone who's into platform action games.
As a bonus, the Saturn version includes a port of the original Elevator Action which is unlocked once the game is completed.
MAME rom name: elevactr