Elevator Action Returns (Saturn) Review

There’s something to be said for continuity. If you took the Mario character featured in Donkey Kong, and compared him to the modern version seen in Super Mario Galaxy, without having witnessing the quarter century of slow evolution between them, it would probably seem like a pretty jarring and dramatic change. Maybe. Okay, well, probably not. The point is, that compared to the original Elevator Action, Returns is fucking bonkers.  Maybe there could have been a smooth and logical progression from wacky cartoon capers to high-octane blast-a-thon, but… yeah, there wasn’t.

Now in all truth, Returns probably doesn’t have too much higher a bodycount than the original did, but that classic certainly didn’t have blood splattering on walls, nor was it this serious in tone.  Returns actually turns the “plot” of it’s forebear around somewhat.  Rather than being a thief or spy of some sort, you now are a representative of “The Man,” attempting to dismantle a revolutionary group trying to spark a new world order.  In lieu of your scuzzy, everyman equipment from the previous game (a grappling hook, a saturday night special and an old beat up hatchback), being an agent of the establishment has the benefit of endowing you with some high-powered equipment.  In level two, for example, you make an extravagant entrance by needlessly smashing a helicopter through a window.  Awesome.

You can choose between one of three vaguely 80s-ish anime characters, and it would certainly behoove you to get a second player in on the action.  This is one of those games that was meant for coop, and things are twice as difficult if you go it alone.  The first level is pretty much classic Elevator Action, but after that, they bear almost no resemblance to the original.  They still involve waiting around for elevators, and they still task you with entering all the orange doors, but despite these carry-overs, the game feels like an entirely new franchise.  It’s certainly not a cheap attempt to cash in on the reputation of the first game, but watery-eyed nostalgia addicts might come away slightly disappointed.

For such a relatively low-key release (in Japan only), this is a pretty high production game.  The character sprites are lo-res, but very well-animated, and the backgrounds are simply gorgeous and loaded with details.  Explosions occur frequently, sometimes for no logical reason, and enemies writhe in agony as they burn to death (and some of them sound exactly like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, as they holler “yikes!”).  If the game itself is somewhat shallow, it at least has the eye-candy to back it up.

And honestly, Elevator Action Returns is a little bit shallow.  Things usually move at a fairly slow pace, but at other times there can be so much going on that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the action.  And when you notice that half your health bar is suddenly gone, and you haven’t the slightest idea how it happened, you might find yourself cursing the hyper detailed graphics you were just admiring.  But still, this is a late 90s arcade game, so such madness should come as no surprise.

Elevator Action Returns can also be found in Taito Legends 2 for PS2 and Xbox, although the emulation is a little off in those versions.  It tends to be somewhat pricey on the Saturn though, so TL2 might be the way to go, as it’s one of the best game compilations out there.  Either way, give Elevator Action’s gonzo sequel a try.  It’s a great game to stumble through with a drinking buddy every now and then, but don’t expect to play it over and over again like you would with a Contra or a Metal Slug.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on January 27, 2009.

One Response to “Elevator Action Returns (Saturn) Review”

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