A.D. 2192 – The independent military nation Zias, established on Saturn presumably so no one finds out about its silly name, builds an army of titanium-reinforced killing machines and outfits them all with the “living-fighting computer geo system,” which is apparently much more sinister than having Neo-Geo systems in the cockpits like I had hoped. The Zias fleet begins attacking the United Nations, which for whatever reason is stationed on Jupiter – probably because they needed the space for a Target parking lot no one on Earth knew it was missing anyway. Somehow, the mighty United Nations’ usual stall tactics and easily ignored edicts had no effect on the laser-breathing, flesh-searing deathbot armada. The U.N.’s only option was to equip their final (read: only) space ship with their own Neo-Geo, pat it on its shiny metal hiney, and send it off to take on the entire red-eyed, child-gnashing horde by itself.
“Problem solved!” exclaimed the U.N. and they went back to endlessly negotiating Earth’s world peace.
That’s the ever-so-slightly paraphrased story of the space shooter classic, Android Assault: Revenge of the Bari-Arm for much maligned Sega CD. I’ve always thought that sending one ship to destroy thousands of snarling mechinoids is a terrible idea, yet somehow that’s the only thing that video game protagonists can think to do in times of crisis. From a real-life point of view, if one side of a conflict has a convoy of motorized horrors ready to pry open the other side’s rocket jalopy like a dented can of Cambell’s soup and suck the pilot’s soul though their platinum groinal hoses, the smart money is on the other team.
Though I respect their historical significance and contributions to the industry, I never really liked shoot-‘em-ups – or as some heathens call them, “shmups,” which sounds too much like “schmucks” to be a viable name for anything but the U.N. But Android Assault is different. This shoot-‘em-up has something special that resonates with me to this day; something that makes it one of the few Sega CDs that’s really worth owning.
That something is the soundtrack.
No doubt that the interstellar jams surround the Bari-Arm like a sonorous cocoon and protect it from harm on its suicide mission; given the futility of the ship’s mission, it’s the only realistic explanation for things like “scoring” and “Stage 2.” Many a time have I rocked out to the soundtrack’s robo-righteousness while whizzing around in my 2006 Hyundai Bari-Sonata. In fact, I’ve spent more time listing to Android Assault than actually playing it. It’s taking a spin in my CD-ROM drive right now and I feel like my computer is nearly indestructible as a result.
But there’s a game on this awesome electro-rock album too and despite my position on shoot-‘em-ups, it’s pretty good. Though the graphics are sprite-based, they’re vivid, colorful, and a step above what could have been pulled off on a normal Sega Genesis. From almost serene, rural landscapes (minus the desperate space struggle occurring in the foreground of course) to futuristic factories and cities, Android Assault is a tour de force through a dystopian wasteland spotted with the odd oasis that resists the bloodshed surrounding it. In other words, it’s just as one would imagine a world run by the United Nations.
Vertical and horizontal flying sections – which at the time were not often in the same game – are populated with the expected assortment of upgrades like murderous missiles, lasers of atomic death and that one weapon no one knows how to use properly, so everyone goes for the heat-seekers instead.
I never made it past stage four or five of this seven-stage game and I don’t ever intend to. But that’s not necessarily a negative reflection on Android Assault: The thought of jumping into the cockpit of the Bari-Arm, grabbing that Neo-Geo joystick and blasting away until the soundtrack can no longer deflect the fiery death raining down upon me is still appealing, even though I’ve owned the game since Clinton’s second term. Some games become a chore to play after awhile, but Android Assault is not one of them. Though I’ll never ride the Bari-Arm to victory for the United Nations
I’ll always be willing to give it a shot. For the Sega CD, a system with so little to get excited about, that’s a great accomplishment.
To be fair, I consider another shoot-‘em- up, U.N. Squadron for the Super Nintendo, to be a better game overall. But U.N. Squadron doesn’t have alliteration in the title, it’s named after the same asshats who think Jupiter is a great place to talk about Earth’s problems, and still I can’t figure out how to ram the SNES cart into my car’s CD player. Therefore, Android Assault: Revenge of the Bari-Arm gets my vote as best
soundtrack shoot-‘em-up of all time.