Happy Mother’s Day!
Cover art by whoever does the cover art for GWAR albums.
RELEASE DATE: 12/09/89 – (JP), 01/90 – (US), 11/90 – (EU)
As a word, Truxton means nothing; it’s up there with “undiscovery” on the video game gibberish list. Tatsujin – the original Japanese title for Truxton – means “Expert.” As in, if you’re not an expert, back away from the arcade cabinet/Mega Drive. Toaplan, the game’s developer, created several shoot-em-ups before and after Tatsujin: Tiger-Heli, Twin Cobra, and the infamous Zero Wing to name three. Tatsujin is their only shmup with a difficulty level for a title. For good reason. Whatever name you give it, this shoot-em-up will bruise your pride and leave you questioning your skills.
They may look like poop brains with eyes, but they’re fierce just the same.
Truxton has a story that involves made-up words like “Belery” and “Borogo.” Here’s the abridged version: you’re a fighter pilot named Tom who has to shoot as many Gidans as possible. Who are the Gidans? Presumably an evil alien race, I dunno, who cares. All that matters is that they’re not human and you are. If there’s another ship on screen, kill it. It’s probably for their own good.
I hate you all, for some reason!
Tom’s spacecraft starts off with an unlimited bullet spread and a couple bombs. You either use ‘A’ to manually fire (and destroy your thumb) or hold down ‘C’ to rapid-fire. There’s no penalty for the latter, so unless you’re some sort of purist with made-up rules in their head, rapid-fire away! ‘B’ unleashes a screen-clearing bomb, with an incredibly metal image of a skull in an almost pentagram.
Power-ups come in the form of skull-shaped capsules and provide everything from a change of weapons to speed and power boosts. There are three different weapons: the Power Shot, which is the aforementioned spread of bullets; the Thunder Laser, a blue lightning attack that locks onto the enemy; and the Truxton Beam, a green wall of power. Each weapon can be upgraded twice through accumulating power boosts. Five power boosts upgrade your weapon to level 2, while ten get you to level 3. At their peak, the Truxton Beam and the Thunder Laser have five-way spread (the latter dominates the entire screen), while the Power Shot has a five way spread and a rainbow shield that protects you from danger. All three are excellent, but the best weapon for the stage usually depends on the stage’s enemy types and their movement patterns.
Like Cosmic Bowling, but with bullets.
Like any intense shoot-em-up that rarely lets the player breathe, you’ll need every power-up that Truxton gives you. Even if that extra bomb seems unnecessary or your weapons are completely powered-up, collect the boosts and the bombs anyway. If you die when your weapon is Level 3, you lose ten power boosts (five if you’re at Level 2), but if you manage to stockpile over ten boosts and then die, you’ll restart with your weapon still at Level 3. Hard, but doable, and especially important for later levels where it’s impossible to progress without powered-up weapons.
Got bombs? Save them for the minibosses. The regular enemies that creepy crawl in droves across the screen won’t get in your way too often, but the minibosses are complete buttheads. There’s usually two or three of them at once, they’re just large enough to take over the screen, and they spew projectiles and blasts (usually at the same time) from their many alien orifices. Even the enormous screen-filling bosses aren’t as obnoxious.
Nobody’s setting me up the bomb!
While the shooting action is stellar, Truxton‘s environments and enemies are nondescript and forgettable. The stages all take place on asteroids: Blue Asteroid, Red Asteroid, Orchid Asteroid, olé! These are the literal stage names and more or less summarize what you can expect to see; though there are also occasional periods where your ship is drifting in space and little is happening. The enemies aren’t much better. Their generic, cluttered designs will have you aching to annihilate the Gidans in full.
That explosion off to the left was my ship, now and forever more.
If Tatsujin means “Expert,” then Truxton, as a made-up word, could mean just about anything. I’m calling it now: Truxton means “Bastard.” It’s a game that hates you, your gaming skills, and your pride as a gamer. If you’re the type of expert who refuses to be bested by some goofily named shoot-em-up, Truxton will get under your skin and sit a spell.