Oh, how I love Capcom. Not only are they churning out games for the Dreamcast left and right, but they also seem to be one of the few publishers left out there who still believes there’s a market for the genuine old-school arcade experience. And that’s Cannon Spike! It’s an incredibly addictive game that blends a number of tried-and-true arcade genres together into a really tight package, while tossing a few old friends in for the ride. This is precisely the kind of game I’d be jamming money into down at the arcade, if such a place existed any longer.
Cannon Spike is a shooter, which requires you to dodge a nearly constant stream of bullets from enemy attacks. Fans drawn to the disc because Psikyo’s name is on it shouldn’t be disappointed. But the game also has more similarities to the likes of Smash TV, than your average traditional scrolling shooter. For the most part, the levels are broken down into small areas crowded with enemies that must be dispatched before you can move on to the next area. A lock on feature lets you circle strafe enemies, as your zipping around and avoiding attacks, and it’s a necessary tool, as prioritizing enemies is pretty vital to the success.
Cannon Spike lets you choose from a roster of playable characters, including some old Capcom favorites like Cammy from Street Fighter, Arthur from Ghouls & Ghosts, and BB Hood from Darkstalkers. Even the Blue Bomber, Megaman himself is playable! Naturally, each character brings his or her own strengths to the table, as well as special attacks. Of course, no shooter would be complete without its share of bosses, and Cannon Spike delivers in spades. This game has bosses, sub-bosses, mini-bosses, and just about every other kind of boss encounter I can think of.
The graphics are nice and sharp and really showcase some of the crazy designs well. Environments are varied and often feature nods to older Capcom games and every level feels like an event. You could be fighting an undead gorilla shooting bees in one level and an attack helicopter in the next. It’s frantic, crazy fun, and in typical Psikyo fashion, the game mixes up the levels, so you never quite know which one you’ll be playing in which order. The music is upbeat and memorable, and while there are some voice clips, they’re left in the native Japanese.
So what about replay value? Well, like most coin-op style games, Cannon Spike can be over rather quickly, especially if you’re quick with the Continues. The main attraction here is geared toward gamers who enjoy replaying to perfect their game and work on their scores, or try to beat the game on one credit or <gasp> even one life. If you aren’t that type of gamer, there’s still a hefty roster of characters that will make it worthwhile to go through it more than a few times.
In the end, I have nothing but praise for Cannon Spike. It’s so addictive and so much fun, that I’ve found myself losing great chunks of my day to it. It looks great and plays even better. It also doesn’t fall back on cheap tactics. When I die, I feel like I’ve earned that death, and that’s the kind of game design that keeps me coming back for more. It’s a game that makes me want to polish up my performance and improve at it. But above all, it’s just an absolute blast to play. Games of this type seem to be a dying breed these days, so I’ll take them every chance I can get.
Graphics: The character models aren’t terribly complex, but everything still looks fantastic and moves fast. It’s like an explosion of arcade eye candy right in yo face!
Audio: The music makes me want to jump in and play. There’s a little bit of voice work, but it hasn’t been localized.
Control: Spot on analog stick movement and a directional-firing lock allowed me to spray my death in every direction with ease. I’m pretty sure it also strengthened by right trigger finger.
Overall Value: It’s a quick-fix arcade experience through and through, but enjoyable enough to keep coming back again and again. I have no doubt I got my money’s worth and I’ll still be coming back to it years from now.