Title: Mars Matrix: Hyper Solid Shooting
Developer: Capcom and Takumi
Publisher: Capcom
Date Published: 2000
Platforms: Arcade (Capcom CPS-2 hardware), Sega Dreamcast

Mars Matrix: Hyper Solid Shooting was a game that I learned of during the fall 2003 game course at our university. It was shown in the "parade of unusual game ideas".

At first glance, the game is far from unusual, though. Mars Matrix is a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up game. in spirit of Galaga.

Except that it was released in 2000.

Thus, Mars Matrix takes a game concept that is older than time itself (well, been around at least since 1981...) and makes a contemporary game. It is your object to save the world. (Surprisingly, this time your task is to save Mars instead of the Earth...) You're flying forward with your ship. Those eeeevil enemy spaceships fly at you from the top of the screen. Well, sometimes you need to fly sideways, but it scrolls automagically anyway. You shoot at stuff. They blow up. And there's small spaceships and bigger spaceships and "bosses". Woohoo. Yawn.

Well, actually the game does have its gimmics. The game isn't all about trying to dodge bullets and memorize flying patterns. You can choose between two different ships - the other (Mosquito 02) is more manoeuverable but fires straight away, while the other (guess how it's named? Mosquito 01!) fires at slightly wider spread. One interesting feature is that you can store energy at times. You can collect the shots that enemies fire at you and send them back - this looks rather cool at times. Collect powerups and fire a bit bigger shots.

The graphics are pretty good, even though it's not as epic as most of the other CPS-2 games - clearly, the title hasn't been developed as much as many other titles, but knowing the nature of the thing, it isn't that surprising really. The intro sequence is pretty interesting. There's epic video clips of evil invading ships. There's flashing graphics. There's scrolling text that explains the back story, except that is scrolls pretty damn fast and is visible so short time that I'll probably need MAME's pause feature to read the thing.

I have heard Dreamcast version also has some other gimmics like ability to "buy" more features. I have heard the playability isn't any worse. The arcade version works pretty well in MAME, and is a whole lot of much fun in small doses.

The availability of this game is debatable, though I suspect the Dreamcast game is probably available at least somewhere if you ask really nicely. MAMErs may be disappointed to hear that Capcom probably doesn't like the idea of emulating the game in any way (well, duh!), and the "unofficially available" ROM set is, to use the proper terms of the trade, quite r@r3 - None of the l33t s1t3z have it (but since I don't know what's l33t or n0t, I probably visited all wrong sites!). I found my copy from edonkey after weeks of searching, especially annoying since the file is approximately 20 megs and it downloads pretty slowly. Wish they made a PC version of this thing...

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