Time Crisis (Arcade, PS) (1995, 1996)
Review by Faididi and Co.
So much action, so little time
Prince Sherudo Garo, the cruel former ruler of a small European country, is enraged at the goody-goody republic that has come to replace him. He recruits an evil mercenary company and kidnaps the president's lovely daughter, threatening to murder her if his mad demands aren't met by sundown. Coming to save the day is Richard Miller, an agent of the Vital Situation Swift Elimination organization (VSSE), which apparently trains its members to be one-man armies. The story is seamlessly woven into the gameplay, and every event is beautifully scripted, from the suspenseful intro movies to the ultra-climactic ending.
Forget everything you've seen before in rail shooters. Namco's Time Crisis redefines its genre with its brilliantly simple and intuitive cover-taking system. Basically, whenever Richard leans out into the open, he and the bad guys can shoot at each other. Then, whenever he ducks behind cover, he'll reload his weapon and avoid all enemy attacks, but he also won't be able to shoot back. The clock is constantly ticking away, so Richard can't hide forever, but this feature alone adds a fantastic dynamism to the action. You'll no longer have to wonder why the hero in a rail shooter can't kneel behind a wall or duck an incoming rocket.
The cover-taking system is all the more impressive for being paired with the exotic level design. To reach the hostage, Richard will need to blast his way through Garo's island castle estate in 3 stages, each being further divided into several areas. The setting's myriad pillars and columns make perfect spots for Richard to hide behind as he battles across the corridors, stairs, courtyards, and richy decorated chambers. The castle isn't without its modern amenities, either, adding further to the memorable scenery and challenges. For example, at the cargo lift area, Richard must dodge heavy swinging chains while continuing to gun down bad guys at the same time.
Less obvious but equally important to the uniqueness of Time Crisis is its relatively realistic approach to its enemy design. Unlike the highly predictable villains in other rail shooters, the bad guys here don't have perfect accuracy and don't behave on strictly predetermined timers. The majority of their shots will miss, allowing our hero to take calculated risks in leaning out to return fire. Furthermore, all the regular enemies die with a single shot, and even the bosses don't take a dozen hits to defeat. Then, as a huge relief to trigger-happy Players, this game doesn't contain friendly targets of any sort, which means there are no co-agents or hostages idiotically running across Richard's lines of fire. All of this gives the gunfights in Time Crisis a truly movie-like feel that no other game can hope to emulate.
With the lightgun properly calibrated, the controls are flawless. Using the pedal switch for the cover-taking and the leaning-out motions can't be any easier, and ducking behind cover to reload feels far, far more natural than the genre's old standard of shooting the lightgun off-screen.
Like Sega's Virtua Cop, Time Crisis utilizes true 3D visuals that are drawn entirely in real time, but it pushes the boundaries further with its sheer attention to detail. Not only are the characters impressively rendered, but the colorfully constructed castle environments are packed with interactive objects. Priceless artifacts explode into shards when bullets tear through them, while mirrors reflect the images of characters before they're shattered by more stray shots.
The audio work is just as impressive. The gunfire sounds different depending on where it occurs, whether cracking sharply across open courtyards or echoing within narrow stone corridors, and the plentiful ambience effects breathe more life into the game's world, from the screeching of car tires to the crackling of fires sparked by the deafening explosions. The bad guys spout out several phrases and give out painful death groans as they engage and get wasted by Richard. Completing the atmosphere is the vividly inspired and driving music.
Creatively designed and polished to perfection, Time Crisis is an exceptional rail shooter in every respect. Its wonderfully engaging cover-taking system, intensely cinematic gunfights, breathtakingly animated world, and astounding audio effects all come together to deliver an experience like nothing else.
Port: Excellent (PS)
The PS version of Time Crisis may understandably display scaled-down graphics, but the visuals remain respectable. The loading periods are brief, and slowdown is nonexistent, keeping the action as quick as ever. The GunCon is easy to calibrate, too, and it maintains a high degree of accuracy. The original arcade mode is reason enough to play this port, but it also comes with a bonus mode that is essentially a sequel, dealing with another mission that Richard undertakes shortly after the Sercian incident. Set at a hotel complex, it features completely new areas with multiple paths and bosses, along with 5 different endings and its own set of music. Those who love the arcade original will have a blast with this port and its full-fledged extra mission.