Iridion II Game Boy Advance Review

Launching with the Game Boy Advance in North America, Iridion was developer Shin'ens main product. It was an impressive game visually, pushing the hardware past the notion that this was just a portable Super Nintendo. What the game lacked in the gameplay department, it made up for in visual awe. Iridion II fixes the first games major problem, and still keeps the innovative graphics engine alive.

Switching from a ridiculous behind-the-ship viewpoint to a more traditional vertical showcase, Iridion II doesn't stray from the formula. The weapons system is a little interesting, offering a full array of weapons to be powered up through the stages, plus full selection before the struggle begins. Bullets are fewer in number, excluding the bosses. The biggest threat comes from opposing ships smashing into your hull.

That makes the boss fights a fantastic battle each time, leaving little room for mistake, and as is the case with the final adversary, sometimes completely ridiculous. There are those moments strewn about in the game where there is no avoiding taking a hit, and on the hardest difficulties, that's just not acceptable. Still, when the game is flowing as it should, it's an intense firefight, and creating a situation like that on a portable screen is hardly an easy task.

Part of that does come from the graphics engine, featuring a stunning looping backdrop that looks like it's a masterpiece. It's not long before you realize it's just a small animation repeating itself, yet even then, it doesn't lose its impact. New are overlaid sprites that scale in much like the classic Konami shooter Axelay. It's a great way to showcase depth through these long trenches.

Enemy design will seem familiar to those who plowed through the goofy Genesis entry Bio Hazard Battle and Neo Geo favorite Viewpoint. They're not quite polygonal, but not quite sprites either. Oddly, Iridion II actually borrows from Viewpoint, copying the gate sequences in which players must shoot a gear to pass. Animation is smooth, especially for rendered ships.

The controls are annoying, requiring both shoulders to be pressed simultaneously to launch a bomb. The B button serves as a power-up assignment, which is wasteful considering this can be set to automatic, at least in certain modes. There are no custom controller maps either, making this decision aggravating.

Praised constantly for their sound work, Shin'en almost makes up for the control snafu with a classic, memorable soundtrack. Manfred Linzner provides the music as he did in the original (and the developer's recent Nanostray on the DS), and his talents are put to perfect use. This is great music to fly to, upbeat, catchy, and fantastically composed.

While it fails to break any new ground (it doesn't even try to), Iridion II is a decent throwback to shooters before they became overly complicated. It's simple brief fun, and it's short enough that they didn't even bother with back up. This is a password save title. Whether or not you need to write them down depends on your skill and how long of a session you have. That said, this a great road title, perfect for a car ride and solid enough to play through a few times.

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