Friday, February 15, 2013

Back in the Back in the CCCR: Lazer Invasion

at 5:03 PM

Looks like this feature is back by request, just in time for the holidays! Toady I've got quite a treat for you: a game about lazers!

Apparently though, in this case "lazers" means helicopters... armed with machine guns and missiles. Why the fucky-cake is it called Lazer Invasion? Well, it's not, it's called Laser* Invasion, but I choose not to observe that spelling. It's a ridiculous name to start with, conjuring images of extraterrestrial UFOs firing lazerbeams - while piloted by lazerbeams - taking over the world. XCOM, with the grey aliens replaced by lazers, is what I was seeing in my head. Even if that image was low on the make-sense-o-meter, I felt that two things were for sure: this game will have lazers, and this game will have invasion, be it alien or wartime. I guess maybe in some tiny sense it delivers on Mister 2 there (army not aliens), but as for the lazer action, I'm still looking.
Check out all three gameplay styles.

This was a '91 Konami NES game, leading one to expect high production value. Remember, late-period NES was COMPETING with SNES (not to mention Sega's Genesis), so the games had to look and smell good. Lazervasion does not disappoint. It switches between a first-person arcade flight shooter (like After Burner or Star Fox), an Operation Wolf-style shooting gallery, and Eye of the Beholder style labyrinths.  What is this, Getsu Fuuma Den? Anyone? Jesus, read the blog. It was also released with its very own peripheral, the LazerScope. Don't think that zany proprietary one-game-only controllers were an invention of Wii developers.
The scope sits over your eye and you yell "Fiiiire!" to shoot. It's as if Konami knew that in a scant two decades, every game would be controlled by yelling the word "Fire!".
Since neither I nor anyone gives a shit about the weird-ass LazerScope that presumably worked about as effectively as a skeleton flyin' off a hot tin roof, the game also supported the Zapper, or for those disinterested in light guns altogether (or running on an emulator - certainly NOT me), the standard NES controller. I don't fully understand how the flying or maze portions could control with a light gun, so the gamepad was probably necessary for 2/3 of the game anyway. Invasion of the Lazers gets a gentle pat on the back right away for offering three totally different controllers - a lesser game would be completely bound to its peripheral (Duck Hunt, I'm looking at you). As we relearned with Wii, a successful game needs to support as many control styles as possible - many didn't, and I'd love to say they failed as a result, but who fucking knows. The point is, the fan-pleasingest were those that supported Wiimote, Classic Controller, Mote/Nunchuk, GCN controller, et al. So Invasion earns cujos for being ahead of its time, setting a standard that many games even in 2013 don't observe.

The second control customization option that leads me to highlight Lazer Invasion shocked me so thoroughly that I was able to power the entire Eastern Seaboard for the subsequent three weeks. That's how Electro got made, right? When he played Lazer Invasion and said "holy dear mother of God - you can invert the controls?! In a Japanese NES game made in 1991?"? It's a fair reaction. Even in the PS2 era there were games still omitting this option. It's the main reason I invented this feature, so that I would have a place to bitch about games not offering proper axis inversion. As a matter of fact, I was so positive that LazVas wouldn't offer inversion that I didn't even check! When I started playing the first flight level, I was all "weakkkkkkkkkkk, non-inverted controls", then started dealing with it because I still wanted to play the game. After running out of continues and being sent back to the main menu, I checked out the options, and to my surprise, Barack Obama is black!

The verdict? Lazer Invasion gets an even Doc Brown wasn't this ahead of his time out of 10
Find the lazer in this image

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