Arrow Flash

Arrow Flash c'est un 'shooty-shooty' by Renovation, although the Megadrive release seems to have been released directly by Sega - no mention of Renovation anywhere in the packaging or on the title screen. A guy I know on IRC and DP (hello Kamino) loves a Renovation shooter, and believe me, he's one of many.

It's a left-to-righter, with relatively simple backgrounds - they change once each level about halfway through, at just about the point where you think to yourself "Christ, this is getting boring", which is probably for the best. You'll need aspirins for the first half of stage 3, trust me on this. Powerups are pretty straightforward: missiles (yay, the pickup is cumulative), three different types of laser fire, speed, sideguns (like Option in Gradius, a clone that follows you around and fires when you do) and an energy shield. You also have the "Arrow Flash" weapon, which is either chargeable (by holding down the AF button) or a stock item (which then means you have a set amount, but get opportunities to collect more during the game).

The unique feature of this game is the trance button - you can use this to alternate between a spacesuit form and a "sleek, maneuverable space combat craft". This is more useful than it sounds, in that it has an effect on the size of your ship (important for dodging asteroids, navigating tight areas, etc), the pattern of your shots (when you have any of the laser pickups) and the way your Arrow Flash weapon works. In "space combat craft" mode, the AF button "lets loose a wide-angle laser blast that wipes out everything in the area!", whereas the spacesuit dude becomes a flaming invulnerable blob you can navigate into the various enemies for kill frenzy fun.

The music isn't bad, some stages are better than others, the animations and enemy designs are certainly up to par, the difficulty level is just right (and adjustable if it isn't). Any flaws? Well, continue starts you from the beginning of each stage, but even this could be considered an advantage, as with only five initial stages before you "penetrate the complex" (I don't know if that's a metaphor or not, I only got to the end of stage five before giving up to write this), it gives the game greater longevity.

Here's a hot tip for you, stolen from "The Official Sega Mega Drive Power Tips Book": On the options screen at the start of the game, set the Arrow Flash to charge. o to the original game screen and wait for the demo to finish. Once you're back on the title screen, start the game. When you want to use the Arrow Flash, hold down button C for a few seconds and then release - your Arrow Flash will last three or four times longer than it should.

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