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Space Griffon
Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Panther Software
Publisher:  Panther Software
Features:  VMS, Jump Pack
Ratings:  Rating Pending
Memory Req.:  
Info:  http://
One of the first Playstation games made, way back in 1995, Panther Software's Space Griffon was a halfway decent attempt at combining a first-person shooter with anime cutscenes in an adventure game. The story was remarkably close to Capcom's Resident Evil, but set on the Moon, and the game got mixed to bad reviews at the time, mostly due to the really slow pace of the game's action, and overabundantly annoying anime cutscenes, featuring really awful voice acting. Five years later, Space Griffon appears on the Dreamcast, and it's like Panther was in some sort of suspended animation. This is shot for shot, the same, slow-moving shooter as on the PS, but now it just looks a lot better- sometimes. You know you're in for an interesting time with a game when there are NO screenshots on the package, I always say...

The game does move at a high resolution 60 fps, and has a few nice mech designs here and there, but the PS game also ran in high res, and had the same mechs. The only new additions are the redesigns on the main characters (they're a bit more ethnically mixed now), and the main character no longer describes every single object he picks up over and over. The story is the same as before, and anyone who hadn't heard of SG before will be crying "ripoff!", even though the game was done LONG before Resident Evil. Anyway, Earth loses contact with it's military base on the Moon, and sends a rescue group up to see what's going on. When they arrive, things are grim, indeed- the lights are out, all the robots are out gunning for them and there are weird looking monsters all over the place. Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Well, according to my definition of fun- clanking about in the dark, shooting at enemies with almost no AI (if they see you, they shoot- if they don't see you...well, you get the rest), and looking for keycards and better weapons is NOT much fun. I guess this is what's considered a simulation, rather than an adventure game, due to the realistically slow movements of your mech, and lack of in game music, but the execution here is so lackluster that you'll find yourself falling asleep after about 3 hours (about a third of the time it takes to finish this game). I have to admit, I rather enjoyed the Playstation version- when I finally played it about 2+ years ago. So, as Yogi Berra said, it was like "deja vu all over again" with the DC version. Even though the game was in Japanese, I knew just about every plot twist and location of each item as I played through this port. What made it worse, was not being able to skip some of (well, most of) the LONG stretches of cutscenes and dialogue that bring the game to a complete halt- even when you're fighting enemies!

There is some actual strategy involved in the game- you have a limited amount of ammunition, and weapons, and randomly wasting shots will leave you out of luck later on in the game, when you really need them. About halfway through the game, you get an upgraded version of your mech, but you lose one form of mobility, and almost all your previous weapons! You'd figure that with all your team along, you'd get some sort of help, but nooooo- they always seem to be arguing, getting separated, killed off, or have other things to do. Occasionally, one or two will roll up and tell you what to do, but that's the extent of their assistance- it also means a lot of talking and/or a long cutscene is soon to follow!

Back to the graphics- or lack of them. I know that the space station is supposed to be dark, but what's with the total lack of lighting effects? The mechs should have been equipped with some sort of headlights, no? you do see some slightly cheesy lighting going on when you blow big stuff up, but it's akin to blinking really fast for a second or two. The draw distance is awful as well, I guess to keep up the smooth frame rate. But, it's the same as on the PS, so THAT excuse is shot to hell. It's as if Panther dragged the same code, kicking and screaming onto the DC hardware. The lack of music isn't really a game killer for me, but this game really needs something like music, to add a feeling of something other than tedium. The walls and floors are constructed of the same repeating tiles, which wouldn't be bad, if there were more variety in the levels. Later on in the game, you get to explore some caves, and a few of the areas have ramps and rounded hallways, but you'll be using the automap almost all the time, despite the fact that you can't go back to some floors you've already cleared out. Yes, the game is VERY linear, too- which gives it next to no replay value.

As much as I love mech games, I really can't recommend this one to you as a "must have" title. But, if you're one of those patient sort who enjoys playing anything through to the end, you might get some enjoyment from Space Griffon. But even then, make sure you pick up one of these from the bargain bin- there's no excuse for buying this one up new- unless you'd like to keep it in a time capsule of your own, and compare it to the version that's bound to come out five years from now... which should look even better than this one does- but play exactly the same.

Greg Wilcox

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