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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mars Matrix Review

Original Release:
Japan: November 9, 2000
North America: April 30, 2001

Game Details:
1-2 Players
VMU enabled
Standard Controller, Arcade Stick
Jump Pak enabled

Mars Matrix is a vertical scrolling shooter by the collaborated efforts of Takumi (Dev) and the renowned Capcom (Publisher, Hardware), for release in early 2000 for the coin-op market. The game takes some gameplay cues from their previous collaborative release (Giga Wing) with the barrier system (seems like a Takumi signature mechanic) making a return. Six stages of bullet hell action await you. At your disposal is your standard rapid fire gun (upgradable up to 8 levels with proper EXP gained through combos and cube collecting), an awesome "Piercing Cannon" (a very powerful short range projectile), and the Gravity Hole Bomb (exhaust the GHB meter and in return, clear the screen of all enemy fire and inflict good damage). As stated earlier, the shield barrier system (dubbed "Mosquito") is at your disposal and quite frankly is a major aspect to survival in the game. A barrier will envelope your aircraft and absorb incoming enemy fire. Releasing said shield will send collected enemy fire right back at them! It's a wonderful wrinkle to the genre that honestly becomes quite satisfying to use with some practice. The DC port is great conversion, receiving a perfect port with little to no loading, minor enhancements and much appreciated game modes like Elite mode, Score Challenge mode, and a cool Shop mode where you can purchase customizable features for your ship, artwork and high level play videos by veteran players.


Powered by Capcom's legendary (and Proprietary) CPS-2 board, the graphics as a result are of the old school 2D variety. Regardless of such, the 2D sprite work in the game is well done and pre-rendered sprite art is quite nice for those that can appreciate the medium. Color vibrancy is spot on where it counts the most... which is very important for a game of this nature. Enemy fire and collectible items seem throughout the screen are seldom mistaken from one another. As a side note, even though the game is a vertical shmup, the games display was designed with a horizontal aspect in mind, which is quite uncommon for the vertical shooter genre.

The audio is quite a standout in its own right. Sound effects from explosions, bullet fire, mosquito activation and other acts that solicits audio effects are quite sharp, crisp and adds to the manic action that is seen on screen. The soundtrack is also well done. Everything is loud, proud and does justice to the product. Not the most catchy tunes you'll ever hear, but it does elevate the action quite nicely in old school fashion.

With SO many high caliber shmup titles taking a piece of the humble pie on the good old Dreamcast, Mars Matrix is certainly one offering that can perhaps get overlooked and lost in the shuffle. Make no mistake though, like praise worthy titles in the genre like Ikaruga and Under Defeat, Mars Matrix may not deliver the goods to the visual senses, but it easily does in the gameplay dept!


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