If you’re a fan of shooters, you should try out Viewpoint. It may not be the best shooter out there, but the innovative art style and difficulty will have you hooked.
Viewpoint was developed by Aicom, a Japanese developer who created games for the Arcade, TurboGrafx-16, NES, SNES and even the GameBoy. The studio was founded in 1988 and later became a subsidiary of Sega Sammy Holdings in 1992. They then parted with Sammy and became known as Yumekobo with funding from SNK.
In 1992 they developed an arcade game known as Viewpoint for SNK hardware. The game was popular enough to later port to home consoles. The Neo Geo CD, Neo Geo, Sega Genesis, FM Towns Marty, Sharp X68000 and the Playstation each received their own port with unique styling to accommodate the hardware. The closest port to the arcade is the Neo Geo CD version.
There were plans to bring Viewpoint to the N64 in 1988 with the title Viewpoint 2064, but the project was scrapped due to development issues.
The Playstation port of the game does have some visual differences from the arcade version. This port was developed by Visual Concepts, a US developer out of California.
It features glossier textures on the enemies and structures and the explosions are more of a pixelated burst instead of the iconic circular Neo Geo explosions. It also changed the music to a faster pace techno soundtrack which has been criticized for its repetitiveness. The game is almost exactly the same with enemy placement and gameplay.
Most shooters are difficult. Viewpoint is no exception. You will die with one hit unless you have a shield, which can take up to three for you. The shield is rare in normal gameplay.
The title screen of the game gives you two options, Start game and Options. Selecting options will bring up a menu where you can change the difficulty, controls, audio, and enter a password. Start Game will start off a new game or one from a password entered in the options menu.
If normal is not working out, you can change the difficulty from normal to easy, hard, very hard and even too hard. Easy will start you out with a shield on your ship and will place more power-ups on the ground. Enemies will also be easier to destroy. Too Hard is well… challenging to say the least.
You will receive passwords for each section at the start of a life. You can also pause the game to see the password. There are 6 levels in all with 3 sections in each. Make sure you make note of the password as soon as you get it. If you get a game over, the code is not shown again. Hold on to these passwords for dear life.
If you have played any other popular shooters such as R-Type or Gradius, you will pick up the controls quick. You have three types of weapons, a regular shot (pressing X), a charge shot (holding X) and a special weapon (triangle).
There are three types of specials that you will encounter. You can see how many you have in the lower right hand corner of the screen. A red orb will indicate a Wave Bomb, this fires a wave of fire ahead of your ship across the entire floor. A green orb indicates a homing bomb that releases a bunch of homing missiles. The blue orb is a nova bomb that kills all enemies in proximity.
Viewpoint is great. It has a unique isometric field and the gameplay is good enough to make it fun. The game is very hard, like frustratingly hard. To me this makes a good shooter. If it was any easier, I would hate the game.
There are several flaws in the gameplay that annoyed me. First, I noticed that I could not immediately pause the game when I started a new life. Enemies were flying right by me and there was nothing I could do. This was not a controller issue but part of the game. It is also prevalent when you un-pause the game. There is a delay with the sound and the pause for a short period of time. You can still control the ship and shoot, but no pause. This may have been intentional to eliminate the cheating pause turbos on some controllers. It could also be due to the fact this game was ported to 6 consoles. Not all of them can be perfect. If you have experience with any of the other ports of this game and know if they have the same issue, I would like to hear about it in the comments below.
The other thing that annoyed me was the fact that it is just harder to line up shots with the isometric view. I am normally a fan of this perspective, but I found that I needed to rely on the floor grid to line up some shots. Add a floating ship to the equation and you’re really doing some eyeballing to maneuver and shoot.
Lastly, the game really doesn’t have a coercive and appealing theme. Sure the graphics are ‘cool’, but the game lacks the personality of shooters like RayStorm or RayCrisis by Working Designs. It also fails to add any new mechanics to the shooter genre. Most of the ideas are pawned from other games.
I did really enjoy the concept of interacting with things that were not enemies to progress in the game. The GIF to the right shows a part of the first level where you need to shoot spinners to open gates to progress. There were three of these in a row, and I sure as hell died at least 5 times until I could figure out the best way to open them.
The 3D artwork and enemies are well done. You don’t have much time to appreciate them as you struggle to live but they do look cool. There are only a few types of enemies in the game and they are just re-skinned in the other levels. It would have been nice to see more variety. The bosses do look great.
I know that seems like a lot of cons for a review that is titled ‘Sweet’, but the game is fun to play, primarily due to its difficulty. You strive to get to that next section to get a password. Once you have this, you can continue from this point at any time from the title screen. At least the game knows it’s hard as hell.