Name: UN Squadron
Format: Super Nintendo
Genre: Shoot 'em' Up
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1992 (UK)
Is it true? Is it really true!? There is another Super Nintendo review on RetroGameGeeks!?! AND IT’S BY OLLY023!?! Now, you think you’ve seen everything, yeah? Wrong, but it’s cool…
Yup, this Segaite loves more than just F-Zero on the SNES, no matter how disappointing the main first party titles felt being played in retrospect. UN Squadron stands tall alongside F-Zero as one of those games I initially revisited through emulated means that blew me away with how darn great it truly was, standing the test of time as a darn fine game.
Originally released in the arcade by Capcom way back in 1989, it hit the home console market by way of the SNES a couple years later in Japan (where it was known as Area 88, being based off the anime of the same name) and North America in 1991, before finally touching down in Europe come the end of 1992. Although derived from the arcade, it was clearly a beast of its own, with the arcade to console differences being night and day. With whole new exclusive features, practically remixed levels, an all-original soundtrack utilising the SNES’ own chip.
So let’s talk presentation! Things kick start with plot accompanied by a sassy little cut scene. Who doesn’t love a 16-bit cut scene!? Yeah! You’re informed that only a “mad man” would take on the mission you presume you’ll be rockin’. So you know it’s time for craziness. The graphics from the off are, quite simply; beautiful. By far some of the best uses of the Super Nintendo’s graphical capabilities are showcased right here. Imagine a game where that gimmicky-ass Mode 7 is put to good use! Seems unfathomable, but here it is, folks. Fair use of the available colours are had in abundance and there’s an impressive (especially for the system) amount of things going on on-screen at once, with little to no slowdown whatsoever. Which is exactly what I want from my shooters as is and exactly what I would expect for a machine touted for its technically superior stock power than a Genesis/MD. The sprites are large, easily identifiable and very well-crafted pieces of pixel art.
Fans of the side-scrolling shoot ‘em up genre will only be pleased by UN Squadron on the SNES, as you blast your way through hordes of villainous foes. You get the opportunity for some freedom of choice within the game, including character, upgrades and ships. The way this works, other than the obvious character select option: at the start of a level you get the opportunity to do upgrades to customise your ship/weaponry to your personal liking. The sense of open destruction never felt so good with a dog bone in hand. That sounds filth and odd. But you get the point. All the genre conventions are here, in nowt but a good way. So you can feel comfort in the familiar surroundings, while letting all the uniqueness of the title sink in for itself. Woopah!
Musically speaking, UN Squadron is absolutely outstanding. Seriously, some of – if not the very best – music featured on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. No word of a lie, sirs and sirettes. With that rockin’ MIDI guitar on the go and synth-laden goodness, your ears are taken on a fitting journey for one so full of PEW PEW SHOOT SHOOT BOOM!! I like it at least, I know there’s a good few out there in agreement, too. It’s probably the best sounding Capcom title that isn’t Disneyfied at the very, very least. I dunno, actually. I just know it sounds damn good and you should love it, too. Mad props to Mari Yamaguchi for his fantastic work here. The general level themes will have you humming along in no time, while the reoccurring boss theme will get you prepped for intense action every time. It’s really rather wonderful.
Verdict:- The bottom line here is that UN Squadron is very likely not just the best game Capcom released for Nintendo's 16-bit system, but possibly the best game on the system. FULL STOP.
High marks in all areas and entirely deservedly so, this side-scrolling shooter has stood the test of time as a purely wonderful game that works entirely to the strengths of both the genre and the machine it's on without uncovering too many, if any, of its weaknesses.
A true testament as to when games get it right.
Second Opinion:- Capcom were in many ways showing off when this game was made, in fact most of their entire Snes library is pure gold but UN Squadron easily stands out as one of the really top tier examples.
Sometimes a little bit too damn hard for it's own good and with no Transbot style Type D weapon this can sometimes shoot itself in the face however for skilled players there is a huge challenge to be had playing this. An essential game to play for Nintendo's premier console and that's no lie.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10
But yes, Olly023. We get it! Now how does it plaaaayyy!?
Alright, hold your flight sticks a second. I’ll tell you exactly how it plays: perfectly. Yup. I really can’t fault this one, especially going back and trying to pick a part as much as possible. It’s simply brilliant in every single way. The natural learning curve that keeps it simple, before casually notching up the difficulty means it all comes with time, effort and practice. As mentioned previously, it pretty much wraps you up with the confidence of genre knowledge. If you’ve played a Capcom shooter before, it’s unlikely you won’t know what to expect. But it’s the sheer refinements to the genre by them which makes it so darn good and an absolute shining example of a shooter done right. As it is Capcom, you get your typical (to them) life bar to keep an eye on as the game rolls on.
If you’re going for a complete run-through, once you know what you’re doing of course, you should be able to crack on and beat the game within an hour. Memorisation is necessary but not remotely on the level of a bullet-hell/Cave-style shooter, where muscle-memory and quick response/reflexes are the order of the day and the half the tension is built around those one hit kills. It’s here where the aforementioned life bar adds that different dimension. It’s safe to say that overall? I bloody love this game. It’s as simple as that. Although it is F-Zero I say is my favourite game on the SNES, this may well technically be the best and certainly a disgracefully close second. My preference would be the North American cart, which shouldn’t set you back too much from a collection standpoint due to the rifeness of all things SNES Stateside. But PAL or Japanese will work just as well, because whatever the region the game remains tops.
If you haven’t played UN Squadron, do so immediately. If you don’t, you’re missing out on Capcom’s best game on the Super Nintendo. There. I said it. Deal.