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Flak Attack - December 1, 1999 by SkiBum
Game:Flak AttackCompany:Konami
Type:ShooterPlayers:1/2

Here is what I considered to be a very good shoot-em-up game. The premise behind Flak Attack is that the bad guys came and bombed your "secret" base, which was obviously not very secret. After all, how did they manage to find and bomb your base? Obviously, being miffed, you jump into your advanced MX-5000 fighter jet and decide to take revenge! If there is more to this story, I don't know what it is. Regardless of the story, Flak Attack will definitly provide you with some exciting shoot-em-up action.
I remembered this game as MX-5000. I used to play it all of the time at the bowling alley in DuBois, PA and again later at one of the recreation centers in Ft Sill, OK while I was attending basic training and AIT for the US Army (which, by the way was also the first time I saw and played, get this, Combat School!). Imagine my excitment when I got to see this game finally emulated in MAME, although it is the Japenese version known as Flak Attack. From what I can tell, though, it is the same game as MX-5000, just a different name. This was probably one of my most favorite scrolling shoot-em-up games and ranks, in my opinion, right up there with Sky Shark!
I imagine that most of you readers are wondering what is so special about this game from all of the other of millions of shoot-em-up games that are out there? Yes, from first looks, it does play much like just about nearly every other shoot-em-up that was quite popular in the later half of the 80's and early 90's (before the arcades got polluted with all of the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat knockoffs!). It has the endless waves of enemies that must be destroyed as well as the end level bosses. The player is some supership that has both a regular, forward shooting weapon to shoot down enemy planes and bombs to blow up enemy tanks and anti-aircraft artillery. However, that is where the similarities end.
There are some standout features that I really liked about this game, though. First was the graphics. They are big, bright and coloreful. The player's plane and the enemy planes and ground units are also nice and big with alot of detail. The backgrounds were also nicely detailed, beginning with the big city at the beginning of the game. The volcanoes in the second level really look cool, with the bright red and orange lava flows. The explosion sprites are also pretty cool, especially when hitting ground targets. I have to admit, I also thought the way the player's plane comes blasting out of the swimming pool at the very beginning of the game was pretty cool!
Flak Attack also features some of the best background music for a game of this vintage. The sound FX are also good and appropriate. They also do not get irritating like some games I have experienced. The explosion sound resulting from connecting a ground unit with a bomb is also very satisfying.
The number and variety of enemy planes and ground units as well as the differing locations portrayed help keep this game from being repetitive . Not only is there the enemy, but sometimes Nature itself can be a problem. Take those volcanoes in the second stage, for example. They throw up rocks that the player must shoot, not to mention those damn boulders coming out of the big lava lake just before the end boss. It seems like I almost always lose a ship during that part of the game! This also shows how difficult this game can be; however, if played enough times, a pattern can be figured out since everything seems to appear in the same locations from game to game.
The stages are also sufficiently long enough to provide a good variaty of action during the stage, but not so long that they seem to drag out. The action also seems to be well paced, not so hectic as to overwhelm the player, but not so easy that anybody can just walk right through the game. Flak Attack is certainly difficult enough to give even veteran players a satisfying challenge. One of the biggest factors is that in the default settings, Flak Attack only gives the player two planes to start with (most games of this type gives the player three planes/ships). Additional planes are awarded for high scores, however. To put the difficulty in perspective, the best I have done is to get to near the end of the third stage in all my playing! To help mitigate the difficulty, up to three additional credits can be used for continues. After the third continue is used up, the game will force the players to start at the beginning. I'll have to play with the dip switch settings to see if more planes and/or continues are allowed.
The way to powerup the weapons is unique. Instead of shooting up some special formation of enemy planes or a mini-boss like most other games, there are two colored bars that fill up just below the score indicator. The top, blue bar is labeled "plane" and the bottom, yellow bar is labeled "tank". As the player shoots down enemy planes, the blue "plane" bar fills up. When it gets full, an anti-aircraft weapon powerup icon appears on the background. As the player bombs ground targets, the yellow "tank" bar fills up. When it does, a bomb powerup icon appears. The player than just "pick up" the powerup by running over it with his plane. There is also a speed powerup that makes the player's plane manuaver faster that randomly appears under ground targets. The downside is that everything can only be powered up for three levels. The first level is what the player starts with, pea-shooter weapon and single bomb. The second level is faster shooting lasers and triple bombs. The third level is dual lasers and 5-way bombs. Unfortanatly, like most other shooters, if the player is hit, he/she "loses" his/her powered up weapons and must start the new plane with the level one "pea-shooter" weapons again. The good thing, though is the filled part of the powerup bars remain, not only at the start of a new plane, but also for continued games. At the end of a stage, though, the partially filled powerup bars are converted to bonus points and the new stage starts with empty powerup bars, although the player does get to keep any powered up weapons earned. As far as I can remember, this is the only shooter I have seen that awards powerups that way.
Another unique feature of Flak Attack is the way end stage bosses are taken on. The player's plane "swoops" in and can be manuavered and pointed in multiple directions, not just towards the top of the screen. It is possible to get up behind the boss and lay in some bombs. It appears that only bombs will work against the boss itself, but the regular weapon will take out any rockets that may be launched against the player.
This game performs very well in MAME, at least on my Pentium 233MMX based machine. It also performed on my slower Pentium 166MMX machine quite well. I don't know how it will perform on slower machines, but it seems like this game is best served running on at least a higher end Pentium (150mhz and up).
The controls consist of a standard 8-way joystick and two buttons, fire and bombs. The game can be played fairly well with a keyboard, but a decent joystick or gamepad would be much better. Of course, if you are one of the fortunate few that have a Hot-Rod or Stick-It type controller, than by all means, use it! I tried it with my Stick-It controller and it is about as good as it will get short of playing on an actual cabinet! If I can find the actual game cabinet, I sure would love to add it to my collection down in the basement!
If I have any gripes about this game, I do wish that it provided simutaneous dual player instead of alternating. I also wish the game started the player with three planes instead of just two. However, these are very minor gripes.
Overall, I find this to still be a very enjoyable shoot-em-up game. If you like these types of games, then I highly suggest giving this one a try!
Graphics
8
8
Sound
Play Control
9
9
Challenge
Replay Value
9
9
Performance

Screen Shots

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1999 EmuViews