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Category: MAME GAMES (roms) for PC

Top Hunter - MAME

Top Hunter
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Galaxy’s most experienced bounty hunters, Roddy and Cathy are called up to deal with colonial piracy, embodied in the group of thugs know as ‘Klaptons’. The duo travels through four worlds and their task is always the same: eliminate one of the four Klapton bosses. — Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy is a side-scrolling platformer released by SNK in 1994. Upon its release, the game received mainly above average ratings, uniformly praising its graphics and short yet enjoyable gameplay.

Now, I’m not going to be all that much positive about Top Hunter at all. Being somewhat a spiritual predecessor to the 1996 Metal Slug, playing Top Hunter will probably feel like a deja vú to all the veteran gamers experienced with the Metal Slug series—really, the omnipresent Metal-Slug-ish touch is already there and you’re aware of it. Yet, it doesn’t quite feel as good yet—remember that whole two years separate the two games.

Visuals are exactly what would one expect from SNK and their NeoGeo hardware, and indeed, they fall nothing short of gorgeous. The screen resolution of the original NeoGeo cabinets kind of hurts one’s eyes today—but being harsh on the game only for that wouldn't be really fair, because the main reason it looks so jagged and pixel-ey is, that the imagery wasn’t supposed to be projected on a flat screen but on a CRT.

The critics of the time also praised the game for the player’s ability to jump from the foreground into the background. Now, what the actual f@!#!? — Each level basically consists of two parallel routes, between which you can freely switch by pressing one of the game buttons. — How the hell is that a good thing, though? On the contrary, it is one of the most clumsiest gameplay mechanics I’ve ever seen in a video game! It’s like the devs wanted to do a classic isometric brawler originally, but then found the programming behind it to be too much of a hassle and said: well, screw this, let’s do two platformers in one! Geez!

Which brings me to the controls and gameplay as such. As it is usual with SNK titles, the game explains to you how to play it at the beginning. And the control scheme itself is nothing too complicated, really, after all it was meant to be played by kids, right? Yet—as I’ve said already—the actual controls feel incredibly clumsy. Two kinds of punch attack on one button would have probably be ok, I guess, but it would have make sense for a human being to have super-flexible hands that can protract ten times its normal length in the first place, which it doesn’t. Jump button gets easily confused with the ‘switch lane’ button. Weapons dropped by dead enemies are picked up by crouching instead of traditionally pressing attack button (which is a unspoken convention of the brawler genre). And the list goes on and on.

The most irritating thing, however, is the fact that although the game features two playable characters, if you play solo you can’t f@#king choose which one you’d like to play. Instead of a character choice dialogue á la Metal Slug or Alien vs. Predator, you’re stuck with this ancient mechanics from Mario, where player one plays one character and the player two plays the second character, and second character only. Duh! It’s 1994, I want to play as the cool blonde chick, damn!

All and all, if you’d ask me for my opinion, I’d rather play the whole Metal Slug all over again instead of Top Hunter. That’s what the Top Hunter could (and should) have looked like, but didn’t. That’s where all the basic ideas of this 1994 piece got completely polished and ready to rock’n’roll. And it’s really a shame, because I think the premise of a bounty hunter duo, hunting down space pirates, was cool. The infantile and cartoon-ey graphics completely kills that for me, though. Which wouldn’t have been the case, if it featured at least a small droplet of the specific humor we know from the Metal Slug, because then one could easily take it as a parody and satire exactly like the MS series. But no, Top Hunter is just a childish little platformer with clumsy controls. Plain and simple.