Wolf Fang (Saturn) Review

I have to admit that Wolf Fang sat on my shelf for a number of years before I actually bothered to try it.  It’s a pretty low-profile title, and rarely gets mentioned in discussions of great games.  I guess that’s due to the nature of it being a so-called “borderliner;” it’s not quite a “proper” shoot-em-up, and any time the Saturn is discussed, all anyone wants to talk about are the terrific shmups available for the system (understandably so).  But for those willing to go slightly – just slightly – beyond the strict definitions of that genre, Wolf Fang will be a very pleasant surprise.

The game plays pretty similarly to Atomic Runner, which is no surprise since they were both made by Data East.  It’s sort of a “shmup with gravity;” half Contra, half Gradius.  You start the game by building your robot, but Armored Core this ain’t; all you do is pick a subweapon, melee attack, and a set of legs.  If you feel burdened by this choice, a couple presets are also available.  Once the game begins, you’re treated to a wonderful voice clip, as the announcer sings (yes, sings) “commence your attack!”  It’s awesome, in a “rocket launcher” sort of way, and just one of many charming little vocal flourishes throughout the game.

Once you’re done laughing, it’s time to commence your attack for real.  Wolf Fang is basically about cruising around in a big mech, shooting the shit out of a variety of artillery, usually of the robot persuasion.  Your suit makes for a pretty large target, but luckily you can endure a number of hits before it blows up.  In a very cool touch, even after your mech bites the dust, you can make your last stand as the tiny little pilot.  You’re pretty vulnerable out in the elements like that, as a single enemy attack can end your game, but you do have the advantage of being a much smaller target.

Also helping you even the odds are other little robotless men, who, if your mech is in tact, will hitch a ride on it and shoot independently of you; often handily picking off enemies behind you.  When you take damage, they go flying off in a very Yoshi’s Islandesque way, which is often the only way you’ll know you took a hit; the game isn’t great about letting you know when you’ve taken damage, and you’ll sometimes make an “OOMF” noise for no apparent reason.  If you don’t have your robot, the little men will just follow you around like lost souls.

I had to toy with the button mapping in the options menu to get a comfortable layout (turn “voice” off while you’re there; trust me), but as far as responsiveness goes, the controls are absolutely perfect.  They do take a moment to get used to though, since you continue shooting in one direction as long as you hold the fire button, but it’s really an optimal set-up for this type of game. You can double jump, and changing directions in mid air is as fast as you can move your thumb.

Those gamers who insist on beating games in a single credit will have their work cut out for them here.  Things start out blazing, but tantalizingly doable.  Most of the enemy fire can be avoided, and with practice I was able to get through the first several levels without continuing.  But by the end of the campaign, Wolf Fang started showing it’s arcade roots, politely demanding regular sacrifices of extra credits in that sly way arcade games do; by subtly promising that this boss is sooooo close to dying.  That’s not to say that the difficulty is cheap, but it was certainly a bit much for my paltry skills.  Still, with some practice, I was able to see the “easy” ending in as few as three credits.  The hardest route, however, shook me upside down until all my virtual change had emptied from my pockets.  I guess I hadn’t yet mentioned that there are multiple paths you can take through the game, but yeah, there are.

Back to the game’s difficulty: I’d be willing to swear under oath that things actually gets harder if you have the audacity to change the difficulty to Easy.  It feels like the game is picking on you, but I guess you sort of deserve it.  With a game this brutal, turning down the difficulty is like begging a bully to stop picking on you; you’re just asking for more.  But the same way you secretly wanted to get picked on because your father never disciplined you, you’ll enjoy the hell out of Wolf Fang’s depraved cruelty.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on January 16, 2009.

5 Responses to “Wolf Fang (Saturn) Review”

  1. For your next review, have your friend Diego write a guest review of the “GameDay” series. Get this party poppin’.

  2. Yeah, Diego needs to get it crackin’ in here.

  3. PG, you should probably click that youtube link. Think you’d like it.

  4. Yeah, I liked it. And of course, now I’m more pissed about a broken Saturn and in addict-level need of playing Wolf Fang.

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