Blog:D-Force (Super NES) & Verytex (Mega Drive)
Shooters, shmups — whatever you want to call them, they were everywhere in the early 1990s, and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis was a shoot-em-up powerhouse. The Super Famicom/Super NES was not, or at least that's the reputation it had.
Games like D-Force (Dimension Force in Japan) from publisher Asmik (the one with the pink dinosaur as the mascot) didn't help dispel that notion. It's about as generic as it gets on the "Snezz." To make up for that, developer Cream added a heaping helping of Mode 7, as any good early SNES game would.
You see, every other stage is an "exploration" stage during which you can switch between altitudes. Other games like Blade Eagle for the Master System and Vertical Force for the Virtual Boy tried this, but in those only your ship moved. Here, the entire background zooms in and out. It MIGHT have been cool back then, but it's cheesy now.
These so-called exploration stages have other problems. It's sometimes hard to tell what's background decoration and what can hurt you if you fly into it. It's also possible to fly into enemies above you (that you can't see) as you raise your altitude.
When you lose all your choppers, you spin out of control. Well, the background spins and you crash while an annoying whirring noise loops. That gets obnoxious after the 5th or 10th time.
While I only learned of Cream's involvement in the development of this game from someone's resume, it fits in with some of their other games. Not only is it rather sterile, it's a bit clunky as well. The collision detection is off, and enemies — especially bosses and mid-bosses — bounce and zoom around a lot. Sometimes there's just too much going on on-screen, which causes that customary SNES slowdown.
Months earlier, Asmik released a shooter for the Japanese Mega Drive called Verytex, developed by Opera House. One thing it has that D-Force doesn't is some great sound work by Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, and Yoshio "JKL" Furukawa.
Verytex is bland in its own right, but it's much more enjoyable than D-Force in every way. I thought maybe the excellent music was clouding my judgment, so I muted it — nope, still better.
Some other differences include a choice of three main weapons you can pick up along the way, instead of just powering up your base weapon. You also have the ability to use bombs, which would have been very helpful in D-Force.
Then there are the similarities. In both games, you have a main weapon and homing missiles. Both games have mid-bosses, and they're both "paint-by-numbers" vertical shooters. That may not sound like much, but the more I compare the two, the more similar they feel on some molecular level, despite different developers.
This might be a stretch, but could those structural similarities be because of a common client? Both games appear to have been done for or through a company called ISCO, which is even mentioned in Verytex's ending credits. D-Force has little in the way of credits, but there is someone from ISCO given special thanks, and we've made several connections between Cream and ISCO. As far as we can tell, this company ISCO usually subcontracted to other companies, but I feel like they may have commissioned these games, rather than the publisher, and then sold them to Asmik, similar to what happened with Wurm for the NES. (See our Shouichi Yoshikawa interview.) However, that's purely speculation on my part.
Videos by "Vysethedetermined2" and "10min Gameplay" on YouTube