Knife Edge: Nose Gunner (N64) (1998)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Dull graphics, sharp gameplay
Story: Above Average
In the future, colonization finally reaches Mars. When the settlers suddenly fall under attack from mysterious forces, Second Lieutenant Michael Samson, the gunner of the warship codenamed Knife Edge, sees his unit deployed to save the day. He's hot-blooded, and he's trigger-happy, but that's good, because he'll need to kick serious ass where he's going. While the story may not be on the same level as that of Crystal Dynamics' Solar Eclipse, its plot still makes some effort with the mystery of the villains. The writing can be corny, and the dialogue involves just three characters, but this simple approach gets the job done.
Gameplay: Above Average
Kemco's Knife Edge: Nose Gunner is a 4-Player rail shooter that shouldn't be judged by its cover. Beneath its mediocre graphics lies an unusual combination of features, namely its story mode's strong multiplayer focus and its dodging system.
The story mode supports up to a quartet of Players simultaneously, enabling a party size not seen in the genre since Namco's Galaxian^3. Each Player controls a vulcan cannon turret, along with one of 5 cool special weapons: a homing missile launcher, a plasma torpedo launcher, a heavy bomb launcher, a shotgun-like flak cannon, and twin laser blasters. Except for the extra-special megabombs that can damage every enemy on the screen, all of the weapons have infinite ammo. Just being able to spit out so much firepower at once makes the Knife Edge feel like a real assault craft, and overwhelming the opposition with the combined might of your friends is a lot of fun.
If the blazing gunplay isn't enough, there's the dodging system. While Michael is supposedly a mere nose gunner, he's given a limited amount of control over the ship's movements. At any time, he can lean the Knife Edge to the sides to avoid attacks or to find a better angle from which to shoot bad guys. This evasive leaning maneuver more closely resembles the one in Nintendo's Yoshi's Safari than the one in Namco's Time Crisis, because Michael can dodge in multiple directions. It doesn't guarantee total protection, but it's very easy to use, and it encourages our hero to try out different angles of fire.
The level and enemy designs aren't bad at all. The 6 lengthy stages have Michael flying across a wide variety of terrain, including winding ravines, a sprawling city, underground volcanoes, frozen ruins, and more. Almost every stage contains multiple routes, too. Just as eye-catching as the scenery are the bad guys, who consist of everything from bizarre fighter ships to hulking super tanks, from robot soldiers to transforming weapon platforms, and even from animated ruins to murderous giant amoebae.
Controls: Above Average
The controls are responsive. Moving the targeting cursor is easy (with either the control stick or the D-Pad, due to the fact that the N64 doesn't support lightguns of any kind). Changing special weapons might feel strange at first, because no two Players may equip the same special weapon at once, although coordinating the ship's firepower can be mastered quickly.
On the whole, the unspectacular textures and the dark colors make for disappointing graphics. Still, Knife Edge has its share of nice visual effects. The explosions flare up with a smoky haze, and shooting a pool of water will create little splashes and ripples. However, the sizes of the stages may be the most impressive thing here. The draw distance is huge, and there is virtually no pop-up at all.
Like the graphics, the sound effects are a mix of both the bland and the not-so-bland. On one hand, a couple of enemy attacks are oddly silent. On the other, the Knife Edge's vulcan cannons and the explosions boom out loudly. A few of the tunes are inspired and really convey the excitement and danger of Michael's mission.
Overall: Above Average
Knife Edge: Nose Gunner is a rail shooter whose lackluster visual and audio effects conceal an impressive set of gameplay features. Its awesome cooperative 4-Player support, its ship's absolutely badass weaponry, its simple yet flexible dodging system, and its varied level and enemy designs will provide plenty to enjoy for serious fans of the genre.