A platform shoot ‘em up, with RPG elements (and big mobile suits), for the Super Famicom by Square and Omiya Soft. Released in Japan in 1996, following on from Front Mission.

Gun Hazard is unlike the other Front Mission games which are isometric strategy games. Instead, the action takes place in side scrolling levels, as you march your armored suit through cities, military bases, Siberian tundra, and the eastern European countryside, pretty much blowing hell out of anything in your path. The gameplay is very reminiscent of Assault Suits Leynos and Assault Suits Valken, though tending towards the former’s lazier pacing and more calculating game style. In fact, many of the programmers responsible for ‘Valken worked on Gun Hazard, including project leader Toshiro Tsuchida. What differentiates it from these games however is the inclusion of experience and purchasing. Experience and cash are gained in battle, and your character levels up when the required number of XP are gained. As you level up, your hit points increase, and you can use more powerful weaponry. The money can be spent in the shops dotted around the map, on weapons, fuel for your mobile suit, and other equipment. These features make it difficult to pigeonhole, because the case could be made that Gun Hazard is an action RPG with the battles being played out as platform levels. In addition, the levels are laid out on local maps, allowing you to choose your next destination, with new levels and locales becoming available as you progress. Leynos and Valken both tell strong stories, and this element is present more-so in Gun Hazard. At points in the battle, your allies and enemies pop up on screen for a little chat before the carnage resumes. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t been translated yet, so the plot is still unclear unless you know Japanese. (Not me) The story isn’t the typical shoot ‘em up plot though, with new allies being encountered in the heat of battle, and bitter enemies sometimes being forced to agree to grudging alliances. You feel a sense of progress playing Gun Hazard, with equipment taken for granted in other games having to be earned, and the story unfolding and changing as you advance in the game.

Set in the near future, the plot concerns the orbital lift platform built in 2024, which 12 years later has become redundant. The robots used in its construction have since been employed in combat roles around the world, leading to increased global instability. You play the role of Albert Grabner, who when the game opens in sun drenched Scandinavia, is given the task of protecting your president from assassination by the rebel army of Colonel Ark Halbland. It’s hinted that Halbland has set his sights on the orbital lift project. But what advantage in the global battlefield could the abandoned platform hold?

Graphically, Gun Hazard is distinctive and captivating, taking the sun washed style of SNES RPGs and combining it with the mechanized ethos of the shoot ‘em up. The army of assault suits marching through a rural village in the former Yugoslavia, the shoot out in the cathedral as you return to Helsinki, and the battles fought over bridges in windswept Siberia are all sights you will never forget. All this accented by gorgeous lighting effects, beautifully designed mecha, and wonderfully stylized character designs. This is set to the music composed by Nobuo Umatsu and Yasunori Mitsuda, which like the graphics combines elements of RPG scores (sounding very Final Fantasy-like in places) with the feeling of the platform shoot ‘em up; and sound effects that convey successfully the size and imposing nature of the mobile suits.

Super Play issue 37.

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