The Shump You Never Played –
The Dreamcast had a rabid fan base of both players as well as developers. Some dedicated developers continued to produce Dreamcast games years after the system was officially abandoned by Sega. Under Defeat is one such game. Never released outside of Japan, this highly collectable title is now available digitally from Microsoft’s Games on Demand service. Rising Star Games has now made it easy for American gamers to play this forgotten title but it is a 2D Shooter, or Shump, that has as acquired taste.
2D shooters are not exactly known for having an important story but Under Defeat tries to justify the shoot-everything gameplay by creating some type of alternative WWII setting that players will not really care about. Herein is the first problem – the screen ratio, but more specifically, the text. Ported from a 4:3 screen ratio and low res screens, making the jump to HD and wide screen format isn’t exactly easy on the eyes, specifically the opening scene, since the screen is heavily letterboxed with dead area on the perimeter of the screen. The opening images are nearly impossible to read too thanks tiny text too. However, the developers created this title for the hardcore players and it even shines through with this HD port as there is an option to rotate the screen in 90 degree increments and then expand to fill if desired. Undoubtedly it would be super cool to simply rotate your TV 90 degrees to play this vertical 2D shooter but this isn’t an option for most players unless you have a badass TV wall mount.
Under Defeat is not a bullet hell shooter but still very challenging with one hit kills and only three lives. It is not without a gimmick, however, as aiming your helicopter is unique. When the attack button is not pressed, the direction of your craft will tilt from side to side depending on movement and a meter will grow. This allows players to shoot on an angle instead of just shooting straight ahead as well as release a more powerful attack. This is a critical skill to learn and requires a learning curve. When I first started, I didn’t really understand how aiming was directly tied into the direction of movement. Like most other vertical shooters, I just shot forward and tried to stay alive. That didn’t last long. In fact, I couldn’t even beat the first stage. Like this game’s origins and screen rotation options, gameplay is also more for the hardcore instead of pick-up-and-play. Luckily, there is an option to assign the direction of your shots with the right analog stick and I found this to be the most comfortable way to play.
Since this is a port of a Dreamcast title, don’t expect to be blown away from the graphics but the lower poly count visuals work just fine and the “HD” upgrade really helps set this game for a modern audience. There is an option to play with the original screen ratio but the squished size makes this the unfavorable way to play but still nice to see its inclusion. It is also important to point out that Under Defeat is a very challenging game. Even putting the game on “Easy” and jacking up the lives count to the maximum amount I still could only make it a few levels in before seeing Game Over. The only way to progress and see all the levels in the game is to simply get better with practice and have flawless runs. It sucks there is no endless continue option so players can see everything the game has to offer further solidifying the fact that this is a hardcore game that demands a hardcore audience.
Given the lower price point of $20 and care taken to bring this title to US shores for the first time, this Under Defeat has always been a labor of love. It isn’t the best shooter, will only hold your attention for a couple of hours, but having this neglected title become so easily accessible deserves respect even though many gamers will overlook it.
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com