Welcome to -- RETRO GAME DAISUKI ! -- a blog about the wonderful world of Japanese retro video games (ARCADE / PC-88 / X68K / MEGA DRIVE / SATURN / PlayStation / PC-ENGINE). Re-live the strangest games from the 80's and 90's. Retro games were our youth!
Author : HERZOG
-- Playing video games since the 80's ! --
Still trying to translate all the posts from my old blog. Please see this post for more info.
Also, please excuse any grammar and any other related errors you may find on this blog, as English is not my first language.
■NOW, HERE AT LAST. IN THE HISTORY OF PERSONAL COMPUTERS. THE ULTIMATE GAME HAS BEEN COMPLETED…。 HYPER・SHOOTING, HIGH QUALITY・SCROLLING, FORMATION・PLAY, MULTIPLE・ENDINGS, EPIC・STORY... ENTER THE 「FINAL ZONE」!
● Title: ファイナルゾーン ● Genre: Shooting ● Release Date: 1986.5 ● Developer: WOLF TEAM ● Publisher: TELENET JAPAN ● Media: 5" 2D Floppy Disk x2 ● System Specific: PC-8801/SR
「FINAL ZONE」is a side-scrolling shooting game developed by WOLF TEAM when they still were a subsidiary studio of TELENET JAPAN.
The game was released in 1986 which was a major breakthrough year in the history of PC gaming.
At the time FINAL ZONE was hyped a great deal by TELENET, but unfortunately the game fell way short of what it promised to be.
Overall FINAL ZONE was received as a highly innovative and ambitious game but plagued with all sorts of critical flaws.
The FINAL ZONE name surprisingly made a comeback 4 years later in 1990 with two more games :「FINAL ZONE II」(PCE CD-ROM2) and「FZ SENKI AXIS」(X68/MD).
FINAL ZONE II is a direct sequel to this game and was produced by TELENET without the involvement of WOLF TEAM. Sadly the game turned out to be a shallow and uninspired shooting game, and thus it was met with mostly negative reviews.
FZ SENKI AXIS in contrast was the most successful of the FINAL ZONE games and also the most known. It is however unrelated story and gameplay wise to the other games in the trilogy, something most likely due to TELENET owning the rights of the original game.
■THE STORY OF FINAL ZONE
At the end of a long and devastating war that wore down the world's most powerful nations, all weapons of mass destruction were declared illegal by the reunified world government.
The remaining weapons were set for destruction and further production was banned. This pact at long last marked the end of the war.
In the small island of Mauka located somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction is believed to have been developed in secret by the renegade PHARAOH ARMY.
This weapon of unprecedented destructive power is known only through intelligence reports as the「GN-16B」.
Finding themselves without the appropriate conditions to carry out a frontal assault. The world's military leaders have assembled an elite special forces unit codenamed「BLACK COBRA」to infiltrate the island and destroy the GN-16B.
This top-secret operation will be given the codename of「FINAL ZONE」.
Make sure to read the in-game character files for some amusing game facts from the programmers.
【CAPTAIN HOWARD・BOWIE】 The only survivor of the elite phantom team 「WOLF」. He's an expert in all manner of armaments and guerrilla tactics. CAPT. BOWIE is a condecorated war hero and the leader of BLACK COBRA.
【RANDY・HANSEN】 A demolition expert and former street fighting champion. His favorite weapon is the bazooka.
【CARL・JOWE】 A half-indian and expert tracksman who specializes in guerrilla warfare. He's lethal with the bowgun.
【DAKOTA・BOMBER】 A merciless English nobleman who's earned the nickname of 「MACHINE GUN MADMAN」for his tendency to go into frenzied shooting outbursts. He's feared even among his own comrades.
【RIN・MOMOKO】 An specialist in espionage and seduction. She looks oriental but rumors indicate she's of German descent. Her two most deadly weapons are the knife and her sensual body.
■GAME INFORMATION 【PLAYER CONTROLS 】
[ 2 ] [ 4 ] [ 6 ] [ 8 ] ... Player movement. [ SPACE ] ... Shoot. [ X] ... Grenade. [ Z ] ... Formation tactics [ F1 ] ... Save State [ F2 ] ... Load State
FINAL ZONE is a vertical scrolling shooting game similar to 「WOLF OF THE BATTLEFIELD」 (1985) or 「怒 IKARI」 (1986), except that for some reason you can only shoot in 1 direction (upward).
You take control of the main character CAPT. BOWIE but also can choose up to 2 support characters (point man) that can provide you with additional backing firepower.
Note that if your right point man dies during a mission (and they will die, you can count on it), he or she will remain dead for the remaining of the campaign.
On the left side of the screen you can see a satellite image of the battle map. Your main objective is to break through the enemy lines and reach the uppermost part of the map. Once there the enemy troops will stage a「Last Stand」which you must overcome in order to clear the level.
Overall, I strongly suggest to avoid using any support characters. They're completely broken in this version and will only make the game substantially harder to clear. ■GAME OVERVIEW
I think the best way to describe FINAL ZONE is as a complete and utter「Conceptual Nightmare」.
The game attempted to be groundbreaking by implementing various original gameplay concepts that were ahead of their time back in 1986. I'm talking about stuff like tactical-oriented gameplay mechanics, squad-based combat, permanent character deaths, and so on.
Unfortunately none of the novel gameplay concepts that the game introduced ever even came close to work out as one can only guess the programmers intended. In fact, most of them were so poorly implemented that they ended up working in detriment of the overall gameplay experience.
Ironically in their quest for innovation WOLF TEAM seems to have neglected some of the most basic aspects of the game. Like for example the mind-boggling fact that you and your squadmates can only shoot upward in a side-scrolling game that by all indications seems designed for 8-way shooting action.
It also doesn't help that the enemies in the game will never get tired of exploiting your inability to shoot in more directions, since unsurprisingly they don't have the same handicap.
To add even more to the misery, the PC-88 version of the game was rushed to meet its release date since TELENET hyped the game up the wazoo. The PC-88 version offers no joystick support and has a completely broken A.I. pathfinding.
But what really takes the cake here and is actually one of my all-time favourite programmer omissions, is the lack of item icons.
That's right, you didn't read it wrong. This version has no item icons of any kind, which means all the weapons, ammo, and health power ups present in the game are invisible to the human eye.
■SHARP X1 VERSION
Released nearly 7 months after the PC-88 version, the SHARP X1 version of FINAL ZONE fixed some (not all of them unfortunately) of the most critical issues found in the original release.
The 3 most notable fixes found in this version are : added joystick support, slightly improved squadmate A.I., and new item icons.
Sadly I can't go into deeper detail about this version since I don't own a physical copy of it and the only disk images I've found of the game on the net seem to be based on the same hacked (it has infinite health & ammo) and copy protected disk rip.
This rip basically only allows you to play the first stage before the game comes up with this cute disk copy warning screen :
You can also play the last stage and watch the ending credits since the rip comes with save state at that point. However with only 2 playable stages and cheats enabled, I can't really get a decent enough impression of the game.
Thus if any of you has working disk images of the SHARP X1 version of FINAL ZONE by all means please let me know. ■CLOSING COMMENT
The case of FINAL ZONE is a very curious one. It's obvious WOLF TEAM tried very hard not to turn it into another WOLF OF THE BATTLEFIELD, but in doing so they forgot to at least nail down its basic gameplay formula.
Ironically the game would've been a lot better if it had been just a WOLF OF THE BATTLEFIELD clone.
FINAL ZONE was also released in cartridge format for the original MSX. Like it was the case with all multiplatform games released on the MSX, the game looks a generation behind the other PC versions. However, the MSX version added boss fights at the end of each level, which are definitely better than well... nothing.
Hmmm... FINAL ZONE is definitely one of the strangest WOLF TEAM releases....
^^^ a party? gosh sounds like fun, i'll just click that link a few dozen times, what could go wrong i've been debating picking this one up for a while, but from the sound of it, maybe i should just leave it be. it sounds much more interesting as an experiment than as a game. do you have any thoughts on the original vs. the genesis port? incidentally, if you haven't gotten an x1 copy of the game yet, you might find it at the tokugawa corp. forums.
@sharc Sorry for the late reply, I was absent for a while. The GENESIS/MEGADRIVE port is basically the same as the X68k version sans the animated cutscenes and other minor graphical effects. It was the same case with GRANADA, and maybe ARCUS ODYSSEY. I can see the why of the removal of the animated intro, since the X68k versions dedicated a floppy disk just for storing it. However, I think they should have at least used some static images. The lack of storyline scenes does hurt.