Monday, 3 October 2016

Scorpius (X68000)

As you look through the screenshots for this post, you'll notice that they're mainly from the first two stages. That's because this game is brutally, incredibly difficult, and though some of the difficulty comes from stupid, unfair design decisions, such as obstacles that are impossible to avoid without foreknowledge of their location, a lot of it does simply come down to the fact that Scorpius is just a game that just seems to be designed entirely around the player's tears.

It's a horizontally-scrolling shooting game, and the gimmick that gives the game its title is that each of the three ships has a retractible scorpion-like tail that extends from their rear. The tail fires shots from the end, though aiming it takes a fair bit of getting used, as the tail moves in a manner vaguely similar to (though much harder to get the hang of) your dragon's tail in Irem's 1989 arcade game Dragon Breed. You can also put the tail away, and shoot normally, which is the best thing to do in most circumstances. Don't, however, neglect to learn how to control the tail, since it becomes absolutely vital to survival as soon as the middle of stage 2.

The game's big claim to fame is that it was put out by Shinseisha, the publishers of the legendary arcade magazine Gamest. It's clearly was a labour of love, too: the graphics and sound are both of a very high quality, especially when you take into account that this was a 1991 release, it could easily have come out two or three years later and still fit in fine among its contemporaries. Of course, the other side of the coin is that it's definitely made solely for an audience of super hardcore arcade fans. There are no concessions or allowances made for players who don't have either the skill to play well, or the fortitude to learn. I have to admit that I eventually fell short on both counts. Scorpius is just too hard for me! I had to give up after a straight hour's play, I managed to get to the third stage, then losing all my remaining lives within seconds. I'm ashamed to say it, but I was almost in tears.

It's easily much more difficult than even more modern danmaku-style shooting games, but with that level of extreme difficulty comes the physical sensation that comes along with all the best shooters. While reaching and fighting the second boss, I was on edge the whole time,feeling immense pressure and tension, followed by incredible, though brief, relief when the stage was done. All I can say is that if you want that kind of feeling, and you think you have the fortitude to stick with the game, and push through the trauma it inflicts, Scorpius is one you should seek out. No-one will think any less of you if you don't, though.

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