Captain Zoli's Review

Native Demo

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Too Bad It's Only a Demo.

Duranik, discouraged by their inability to find a publisher, discontinued their work on the eagerly awaited 2D shooter, Native, in 1997--much to the dismay of Atari Jaguar owners everywhere. The game saw a brief hope of completion with the Native Reborn project in 1999, but has since been abandoned once again. All that remains of the once promising project are a few screenshots, a couple of concept videos, and this single level demo CD.

In the case of most 2D style shooters, story isn't really all that important. In the case of Native, it's impossible to tell if there is any attempt at story since the demo is so short. Really, the importance of a story in this type of game is negligible--so invent a story that fits the level and get to blasting aliens--if it is worth it to go through all that story line stuff, that is.

Native Demo doesn't offer the player anything special to choose from in the way of game modes or options. There is one level to play and replay at length. There aren't any other options or game modes to choose from. Certainly, had the game been completed, there would have been all the options that are standard to the genre, but unfortunately this did not come to pass.

It is impossible to play the Native Demo and not immediately think of the great 2D side-scrolling shooters, like R-Type. Native owes a great debt to those types of games and has borrowed heavily from them--especially in the game-play department. At this point in its development, there is not any aspect of the game-play presented in Native that distinguishes it from R-Type or the myriad R-Type clones that have been marketed over the years on countless platforms. The good part about this is the game-play model is a tried and true, rock solid model and it serves well in Native.

Probably the single most important aspect of a well-executed 2D shooter is control. 2D shooters are based on memorization of patterns and the ability to quickly and precisely execute movement to dodge enemies and their firepower. Without control, a 2D shooter is worthless. Luckily, even at this early stage in development, Native exhibits the kind of control required to make it a first class example of a 2D shooter. It is easy for the player to maneuver the space ship around the enemy fire, and to return fire. Tight controls really added to the promise of this demo. The game also features no noticeable slowdown, which also adds to the gaming experience.

The visual experience that is delivered by the demo is a testament to the quality of Duranik's work. The sprites for the player's ship and the enemy ships are sharp and quite detailed. The backgrounds are largely space, as to be expected, but there are some interesting vapor cloud effects and, as the level progresses, large mechanical style pieces which join the fray on the top and bottom of the screen, giving the player a feeling of flying into a really large space ship or other such structure. All are standards of the genre, but all are very well executed here.

Everything is not wine and roses, however. The first and probably most obvious issue is there is no sound in the Native Demo. Of course, had the game been finished, this would have been rectified. It's unfortunate, especially considering the quality of the rest of the game. Another slight issue is that it is an R-Type clone. Again, this is probably something that would have been addressed as more of the game had been completed and more features were added. The most obvious issue with the game is that it is short, even for a demo. One level is all that is here; and, although it is very good, it isn't enough.

After playing through the Native Demo several times it becomes apparent to even the Jaguar neophyte that the Atari Jaguar is uniquely suited to this style of game. It also becomes apparent that Native would most likely have been a fine example of a classic 2D shooter in the style of the classic, R-Type. Although it requires a JagCD and bypass cartridge, developer's alpine setup, or one of the other systems available to play demos and aftermarket homebrew applications, the Native Demo is certainly worth the trouble. It is especially worth it to those gamers that love the classic style 2D shooters that are so few in number on Atari's 64-bit beast.

3 out of 5

Posted April 14, 2005.

Copyright 2004-2005 Ronnie Richardson. All rights reserved.