Grobda (Arcade) (1984)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Zapping and shielding fun
It's the bad guy's turn to shine, so to say. The Grobda battle tank, originally a common enemy faced by the Solvalou starfighter, now serves as the hero in its own game, where it goes head-to-head against other sci-fi tanks in a tournament to see who's the best.
Gameplay: Above Average
Namco's Grobda is an unusual action shooter in many ways, starting with it being a spin-off from Xevious that plays completely differently. The former villain drives around in single-screen arenas here, attacking with an awesome turbo laser cannon and blocking returning fire with an energy shield.
Possessing killer reflexes is vital, but there is a surprising tactical depth to this game, too. Using the shield costs energy that slowly regenerates, and activating it while moving or firing at the same time will drain energy even faster, so surviving the advanced rounds requires careful management of every action. Furthermore, defeated opponents' explosions count as deadly splash damage that can blow up anyone else who touches them (including the Grobda), and the wreckage they leave behind can also impede the movement of others.
Perhaps most startling of all is the pace of the action. Things happen surprisingly fast in this game, and a round can be over in seconds, due to the sheer speed of everyone's projectiles and the fact that the Grobda and most types of opponents get wasted with a single hit.
The Grobda handles responsively. Moving around in the eight cardinal directions, firing its cannon, and using its shield are all easy to do. Although the controls don't feature the twin-joystick setup of Midway's Robotron, they still allow a direction to be tapped to adjust the Grobda's aim without making it turn on its tracks.
The simple arenas may not show off the lush scenery associated with Xevious, but that doesn't mean the characters aren't animated smoothly. The Grobda's laser beams pulse attractively with shifting colors, while the way its shield's hues indicate the remaining amount of energy is a handy touch.
The sound effects are clearly stronger, and we're not just talking about the nifty vocal sample that says, "Get ready!," at the beginning of every round. The Grobda's cannonfire bursts out much more loudly than the Solvalou's tinkling particle beams, and the opponents blow up with a roaring crunch. Best of all is the Grobda's engine noise, which realistically winds up from a low idle while sitting still to a high rumble while driving forward at full speed.
Grobda is a fascinating follow-up to Xevious, featuring a cool combination of regenerating energy, potent weaponry, splash damage, and movement-impeding wreckage. Those who love sci-fi tanks, whether or not they're crazy about the earlier game, will find plenty of fun with this action shooter.