Tempest 2000

Tempest 2000
Game Name: Tempest 2000
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Interplay
Developer(s): Atari / High Voltage
Genre(s): Shooter
Release Date: February 1997
Serial Number: T-12516H-50
Region: PAL

Tempest was a breathtaking experience in the arcade.
It arrived on the scene in 1980 and there was nothing quite like it; and I’d argue that there’s been nothing quite like it since.
It is still one of my top 10 ten games and only stories of how often the now aging colour vector displays break down prevent me from installing a cabinet at home.

Tempest 2000 Sega Saturn ScreenshotThe game itself is quite difficult to explain – you control a cannon that moves around one end of a wire frame shape (which changes from level to level) and you must prevent various
enemies from getting to your end of the frame.
They start at the opposite end and (initially at least) slowly make their way toward you. Some fire at you, others just want to get to your end of the frame and move toward your
cannon – contact with an enemy or bullet results in you losing a life.

The levels vary wildly in layout – initially tube-shaped levels see your cannon move around the top end of the tube; the enemies swarming around at the bottom of the level before moving up the tube toward you.
These level layouts soon give way to wilder designs – one looks like a huge bowling alley, another warped into a figure of eight.

Tempest 2000 Sega Saturn ScreenshotThe cannon is highly maneuverable due to the excellent paddle control scheme which features a lovely sense of inertia. Twisting the paddle controller quickly and letting go will result in it spinning on for a few revolutions before brilliantly applied friction brings it to a stop – and your on-screen cannon accurately
follows this.

The game is quite hardcore due to its highly abstract look and high difficulty level despite the high speed that you can move and shoot in this game.
Later levels increase the speed and ferocity of the enemies and new ones are introduced. One great idea is the spiker. When a level is cleared, your cannon zooms down to the other end of the frame – spikers leave a spike behind as they move up the frame and your cannon can be skewered on one if you don’t quickly shoot the spike away or move to a safe spot at the level’s end.
There is also the pulsar which electrifies its part of the frame which will take your cannon out if it is in line with the pulsar when it does this trick.

Tempest 2000 Sega Saturn Gameplay ScreenshotThe game’s graphics were accompanied by great sound effects – the deep base of a pulsar pulsing, and the whoosh you hear when zooming down the frame at the end of the level are only two highlights.

The UK indie coder Jeff Minter created a remake of this game for Atari’s last great hope – the Jaguar which if reviews are to be believed was more or less the only game on that console worth playing.
Perhaps I’m being unkind to the console (and I have to admit to not playing any Jaguar game) but this game was certainly the reason to buy the console around the time it was
The game was called Tempest 2000 and it was ported to the PlayStation; renamed Tempest X and featured some gameplay tweaks, and also the Saturn where it retained its original moniker and gameplay.

There are two main reasons I approached this game with caution. First of all the display – how could those needle sharp glowing colour vectors which were part of the game experience be adapted for a TV? Also, how could the sublimely subtle control be replicated on a digital pad?

The game has been given a new graphical overcoat – and it looks great.
The levels and enemies are still abstract, but they, and the levels now feature some lovely shading effects that update the look of the game without compromising its feel.
The sounds have been slightly retouched too and are accompanied by techno-type tracks. (You’ll have to cut me some slack here as I’m too old to know what that means).
They are pleasing and fit into the game very well.

Tempest 2000 Sega Saturn Gameplay ScreenshotThe control isn’t as good as the arcade original – nothing is a replacement for a paddle – but the new scheme is perfectly serviceable.
You move the cannon left/right or clockwise/anti-clockwise (depending on the level design) by using left and right on the d-pad. This does take some getting used to – especially on the levels you rotate around as the controls are sometimes the opposite of what you might think they should be.
This problem is reminiscent of the one you get in flying games or 1st person shooters where moving or looking up and down is the reverse of what you expect it to be on the control stick (indeed many games allow you to select which scheme you want as game players seem to be split on this).
Another example of this is in Micro Machines when the cars are moving down the screen and the left/right controls are reversed. It feels a bit weird at first but you soon adapt to it if you aren’t fortunate enough to find them second nature.

Tempest 2000 on Saturn gives you 4 modes of play:

Original is a remake of the original game and frankly isn’t a very accurate one – Minter has admitted to cobbling this together from memory and some details are missing.
It’s OK but the original game hasn’t been satisfactory recreated for me on any medium but the original cabinet.

Then there is Tempest Plus which is the original game but with the new visuals and sounds and its all the better for it.
There is also a 2 player battle mode (called Duel) which has each player on their own side of the level shooting at each other. It looks pretty good but I have to admit to not having any experience of playing this mode.

However the star of the show is Tempest 2000 mode which adds new enemies and gameplay features to go with the new look and feel. Powerups now shoot up the level towards you after dispatching enemies and if you catch them with your cannon you get stuff like increased firepower, a jump move which is very useful – allowing you to avoid enemies that reach your end of the level, and even a droid buddy who joins in with you blasting away at the enemies under CPU control.

There are new enemies – these include demon heads with detachable horns that fly at you after you destroy the head, UFOs that fly above the level and become a problem when you start jumping off the level, and mirrors that will deflect your shots back at you if you fire at them at the wrong time.

These are all great additions to the game and really up its pace and complexity.
If you collect enough powerups you also get a warp token. Collect enough of these and at the end of the level you get to play a bonus game – the more successful you are at this game the further forward you warp through levels (and earn a big bonus). These bonus games are very different from the main game and inject a change of pace into proceedings.

This is a quite brilliant and unique game – but one for those who are into their manic shooters.

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