Reviewed by Malc.

I've got to be honest, AM2 didn't appeal to me at all when I first played it. Blocky graphics, a nondescript spaceship and forgettable music didn't do much to endear me to it. And so, with lots of better things to play I shelved it for another day.

With the release of NeoRage, the first properly available NeoGeo emulator I gave it a good long blast!

Apart from poor first impressions, AM2 is downright confusing too. Fortunately I have the manual handy: after a quick read, the extent of the weapons system and depth of the game becomes apparent. (There's a table of what the icons do at the bottom for those who don't own the original) It becomes a surprisingly complex affair: there are 11 different armours in total, available by buying them at end-level pitstops or by collecting 3 armour icons in sequence. As well as these, icons to multiply your firepower and armour energy, and others which do various other helpful or annoying things pop up during the game. Some armours need you to hold the main button down for a beam blast, and other use the second button. You really need to spend the first couple of games practising how they all work.

Once you have an inkling of the system, playing the game becomes a lot more fun. The story is mercifully brief, some twaddle about 200 year wars and SYD-RX and his pal going out to search and destroy the dreadful enemy "Fulver" before he annihilates all life in the Galaxy. The game itself is a mix of Starforce, Xevious, and the old Atari ST Plutos. Not very helpful I know, but if you've played any of those games you'll recognise elements from them all. It's your standard vertically scrolling affair, with a decidedly unusual set of graphics. They're not bad, but look very tiled and repetitive, and you'll wonder why the rom is so large! Bosses and some backgrounds are huge and fairly impressive though, with a good set of varied and sneaky attacks. Gathering the right icons becomes compulsive before long, adding a bit of depth to the proceedings, and sussing out the best way to kill the bosses is rewarding and enjoyable. Level Two's mothership is a good example - trying to get access to certain areas to blast off sections of it is a game in itself.

To get the most out of it, play with a friend, and set the difficulty to MVS (that's halfway between medium and hard). That way you'll experience all the Bosses' attacks before they prematurely die, and capture some of that frenzied fight-for-life situation the best shooters are famous for.

Score 8/10

Here's a badly laid-out table or two of Collectable Items and Armours:

S Increase speed
L Increase laser power
M Increase missile power
G saves 1 gold (currency)
upside-down letters decreases power of that item - needless to say try and avoid these!

E Regain 4 units of energy C Takes armour away
E Regain full energy bar K Keeps power gauge until life lost
Upside down E Remove 8 units of energy (er, doesn't an upside down E look the same?) W Warps ahead 4 screens
G Saves 1 gold R Warps back 4 screens
G Saves 10 Gold

SHOTGUN Anti-ground - 2 straight missiles
HOMING 6 homing air to ground missiles
SHIELD Block attacks by using this barrier. Holding down A will release an energy bomb.
PHOENIX Hold down A, and get a TerraCresta-like Phoenix blast
FIRE Flame thrower - damages ground and air enemies
SIDE Laser guns home in and attack enemies
BUBBLE Shrink-wraps enemies in a water bubble
NUCLEAR Nuclear missiles destroy ground enemies, and weaken ones in the air
BLACK HOLE A subspace missile which destroys ground enemies, and sucks the air ones into the black hole (groovy!)
LASER Holding down the A button makes a Slapfight style ship with laser attacks
THUNDER Destroys all enemies by using electromagnetic thunder (sounds a bit technical to me)

line.gif 0.1 K

Launching from your high-speed space carrier - The Dolphin. Whenever the 'PUSH C BUTTON' appears, it means you can access the armour you've collected or bought.

Level one, and you're fighting a sub-boss on a grid. The graphics are intricate and a bit messy at times.

The NUKE II starship stands in your way. Shoot his bits off, or alternatively get a giant screwdriver and dismantle him.

Level 2, showing off the Slapfight-style attack. Various smaller enemy pieces combine to form...

...the level 2 boss - Eclipse - which is astoundingly massive. If you think about it, what chance would you really have in your tiny fighter eh?

After you destroy most of it, you can fly inside to blast the core. There's another 4 levels after this, which doesn't seem like much, but they ain't easy and you'll need all your hard-won shmup skills to get to the end. Intriguingly, the manual states that 'Still light years in the future "Fulvar" the spaceship/Humanoid transformer waits to destroy you'. Looking forward to meeting him... I've got something to say about THAT!

... later on that day... was having so much fun decided to play it some more. This is the apparition that greets you inside the mothership. Try and stay underneath it, as the lasers beside it are deadly.

A pretty dull level, the moonbase. Lots of scope for collecting armour weapons here. I like how you don't immediately get access to many weapons without trying hard - unlike Super Aleste, which throws them all at you at once.

A level 4 midboss seems familiar. This time he's much harder, but thats only because there an awful lot of ground emplacements attacking too.

I'm a bit stuck here, this boss is a complete git. There are side forcefields which trap your ship and make it all treacly to move, and when the homing missiles pop out you really don't stand a chance. Only option is to stay WELL away from the forcefields, but that means you get too close to the other guns. Not nice.


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie