Monday, October 1, 2012

So, why aren't people playing Hot Scramble Final?

About a year ago, the "NonGood" NES ROM set featured a slew of ROM dumps of what have been considered the rarest and most valuable pieces of Famicom history, including Safety Rally, Tailor Made, and Z Gundam Hot Scramble Final.

I downloaded the set just to check out these ROMs.
This particular article focuses on Hot Scramble Final.
You can watch some gameplay of it which I upped on Youtube at the time here... after the jump, that is.

Before the ROM was unearthed, "Final" was commonly described as being like the retail "Hot Scramble" but without the side-perspective segments. So when I was actually playing this, I was pretty caught off-guard by how different it is for reasons you wouldn't expect from said description.

"Final", in a sense, feels more like some alternate-universe counterpart, or perhaps some kind of prototype of a game, than what the original Hot Scramble is. When you pop it on first, you get something similar to the attract demo of Hot Scramble, but without the scrolling text... and you may also notice immediately that the music is different in pitch. And the title screen is notably missing the game subtitle.

When you start playing, about the only thing on the screen that has an obvious tie to the normal "Hot Scramble" are the enemy mobile suits you take down. You now have a fairly different HUD showing your life, ammo, and the damage your mobile suilt has taken to key body parts. You also aren't automatically moving forward - this isn't a linear Hot Scramble level, but an all-range battle. The goal of each "Level" is to wipe the screen of enemies. Your controls for that are similar enough to Hot Scramble -  the direction pad turns and rotates your Gundam, A accelerates it forward, and B shoots either your beam gun or your vulcan depending on your ammo and damage.

Levels can take place either in space or on land, with land mostly being different from space in that your rotating is limited to looking up and down a bit. Enemies, meanwhile, mostly differ in how fast they are, how rapidly they can fire, and their movement patterns. All in all, it feels simplistic by modern standards, but the all-range battling on the Famicom was probably pretty technically impressive, especially for a game cart that's so limited in quantity.

As you can see in the video, it's possible you could wipe a screen of enemies quickly, get killed by a single one firing a wave of beamshots at you, or have a fight that drags on for a heck of a long time. I've not yet seen what happens if time runs out, but I'd be on a Game Over.

A few of the people I've shown this video to say that they felt that, oddly enough, it seems like a more polished, superior product to the original Hot Scramble in both visuals and audio. It seems strange, because the visuals in the first-person segments, while not identical, are similar enough, and the audio actually sounds like it uses simpler chiptune instruments in "Final". Perhaps it just goes to show how a few minor changes can make a dramatic difference...?

Well, either all, it seems rather kooky that Bandai still likes keeping this version of "Z Gundam" under wraps. I hope someday they'll acknowledge it's existence again...

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