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Reviews (0-9 / A-M)

Dr. Toppel's Tankentai (Japan)

987 (1-2 Players)



Overview and game play

Dr. Toppel’s Tankentai is a Japanese vertically scrolling shooter with cartoon style graphics for one to two players. The objective of the game is to fly through various levels destroying enemies to attain the highest score possible. Stage 1 begins with the players craft, a green object, flying over a blue rocky landscape containing brightly coloured rocks with spots on them scattered around. Enemies that look like butterflies fly in pre-defined formations towards the player. Upon pressing button 1, the players’ craft shoots a single, round green bullet upwards. If all enemies in an attack formation are destroyed, any one of several power-ups or rewards can be left behind. The power-ups themselves are not random, and with enough practice, a player can memorize what power-ups any given wave of enemies will yield and therefore will know which waves are better to attack than others. Power ups range from coloured bags, (blue, yellow or red), that add varying amounts to the players score to speed up’s, weapon upgrades and orbs that when collected are positioned immediately in front of the players craft, thereby acting as a shield and significantly increasing the players firepower. If an oncoming enemy bullet hits an orb, it will be destroyed. Pressing button 2 will free the orb from the front of the players’ craft, allowing it to trail around the craft as if on a rope. The orb can then fire sideways and diagonally to attack enemies positioned on the sides of the game area. If button 2 is pressed again, the orb (or orbs if more have been collected) will freeze in their current position that can be useful for attacking certain types of enemies or for handling multiple attacks.



When the players craft is hit, one of the 3 lives he starts with is lost and the game resumes at the nearest restart point behind where the player reached. All power-ups accrued by the player prior to the time of death are also lost which can mean a premature game is imminent as the undeveloped craft is no match for some of the adversaries in the later levels of the game. Manufacturers of other horizontally and vertically scrolling shooters have also used this method of revoking all power-ups earned by the player in a previous life or attempt, but this is not always popular among games players unless the game design is particularly strong or has some way of compensating the player for the loss of power-ups, perhaps by providing several opportunities to regain power-ups upon starting the next life. In the case of Dr. Toppel’s Tanketai, no special favours are granted to a player who has lost a life and one must take whatever opportunities arise to regain the power-ups that were lost. 



The sprite-based graphics of Dr. Toppel’s Tankentai are clear and colourful and in a cartoon style that appears to be skewed towards a younger audience. Enemies explode in fireworks when shot and backgrounds scroll smoothly along, as does the players craft. The boss characters that appear at the end of each level are not scary nor do they look too tough to defeat. However, some imagination has been put into their design to enhance the game play. The boss of stage 1, for example, is a flying crab that spits out hundreds of tiny bullets at the player and follows a predefined flight path. Shooting the crabs eyes will destroy it, and weak points in other boss characters must be found to progress further in the game. Most of the enemies and even the players’ craft are ordinary looking and not very memorable. Perhaps with better design the characters in the game could have enhanced the game play. 




Music in Dr. Toppel’s Tankentai is appropriate for a cartoon style game aimed at a young audience and plays along in the background in a carefree, jolly way and continues even when a player looses a life. Only when the game is over does the music adopt a more sedate and serious tone, but otherwise it’s all happy and cutesy. The sound effects for collection of power-up’s and shooting are about average for a late 80’s shooter but the sound effect for the death of the player is not particularly convincing as it sounds similar to a crash or clap rather than an explosion or convincing death sound.



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