Does anyone remember the success that was Capcom's Gun Survivor
? Apparently Capcom does, although what they remember may not be what I recall: the sole blemish on the Resident Evil
franchise's storied history. Apparently, the decision was made to develop yet another light-gun translation of a recognized survival-horror franchise -- in this case, Dino Crisis
. Of course, the generic survival-horror story had to be changed considerably in order to make everything fit snugly into the confines of a time elapsing arcade shooter, so expect very little as far as a cohesive plot and intriguing story elements are concerned. Instead, what you get are waves of saurian targets onscreen, awkward controls, a few unintelligible cutscenes, and some very brief bang for your buck.
The premise of Dino Stalker
is a fairly convoluted mess. You're Mike Wired, a crack World War II fighter pilot, engaged in a heated dogfight in the skies over the Pacific. After your plane is gunned down, you eject, hoping to parachute safely to the waters below, when an enemy pilot bears down and decides to put a few bullets into your gut. Luckily, in cheap Hollywood sci-fi movie fashion, time seems to stop, and you are shifted to an altogether different world, with a countdown timer strapped to your arm and a high-tech rifle in your hands. After a little instruction from a mysterious voice from the future, you embark on a mission to kill lots of dinosaurs and save the future from itself. Wow!
If you've pointed a plastic gun at a screen before, you can jump right into Dino Stalker
without glancing at the manual, but you'll find there's a but more to this game than simply pulling the trigger. Most light-gun shooters are on rails, but with the Gun Survivor
series, you control your character's movement, although you're generally restricted to a fairly small path. While the timer is quickly counting down to oblivion, you need to quickly race through each stage, and the techniques you have available to you can make this all-too-brief trek somewhat easier. When you don't want to simply fire single shots, you can engage the snipe mode, which zooms forward to a preset distance and allows you to pick off dinosaurs with single shots. When surrounded (which doesn't happen all that often) you can auto-lock on to a nearby enemy. Alternating between activating this auto-lock mode, and firing off a few shots, will get you through most of the game with ease. The onscreen radar is also useful, pointing out where all the enemies are relative to your position, also indicating whether they are hostile or if you remain undetected.
Sadly, the very nature of Dino Stalker's
gameplay excludes the possibility for exploration or strategic combat. Your time limit is very short, at least if playing on the normal or harder difficulty settings, so you can't take the time to snipe each enemy or shoot up the environment in search of items. You'll usually just follow the track, racing from start to finish, leading up to the most exciting bits, the boss battles.
graphics and sound are downright primitive by today's standards. There's an abundant use of fog to cover up the short draw distance, and aside from an abundance of foliage in the first few stages and a neon-sign littered street later in the game, you'll find that there's very little that jumps out at you visually. It's really too bad that the best-looking aspect of the game, the dinosaurs, aren't even that spectacular. Very little distinguishes the prehistoric beasts in this game from the models used in the first-generation PlayStation Dino Crisis
While there are fourteen different beasts to eliminate, the textures from one dinosaur to the next look identical, with perhaps a change in palette being the sole distinguishing feature. The sole exception to this is found in some of the larger dinosaurs, the bosses in particular, who can look downright scary during some of the more intense bits. The weapon effects are rudimentarily rendered, with very weak looking flame effects and generally unsatisfying visual feedback during what should be exciting firefights. You'll also rarely hear a bellowing dinosaur roar or any other aural impetus. The only thing that's scary here is the ticking of the clock indicating that your game will be over if you don't hurry up. The music is a bland, arcade-suited compilation that generically sets the theme for a foot race, but doesn't do the trick if you're looking for anything to inspire suspense or excitement.