Search and Rescue Review—Search and Destroy
We’ve been treated to quite a number of obscure SNK arcade games in the Minis program, starting with one of their first, Ozma Wars, working forward in time to this title, Search and Rescue or SAR, released in 1990. Although the game is well over 20 years old, the scenario could be from a game today—you play a space marine who boards a derelict starship in order to see what went wrong. Which of course, means horrible and hostile aliens you must blast into pulps of gore with a variety of over-the-top weapons.
Of course, the catch is, being a game from 1990, the graphics are 2D, not 3D. Your space marine also looks more like something out of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers than the currently in vogue bald, middle-aged armor-clad guy. Though in the opening cutscene, he does wear an armored space suit—but once inside the ship he apparently decides to dress more casually in a green jumpsuit.
At first glance, it seems to be a run and gun game like Ikari Warriors or Guerrilla War, only exploring the interior of the doomed spaceship instead of a jungle battlefield. But while you do move through the ship vertically, up towards the top of the screen, sometimes you can move through it horizontally, as well. It actually reminds me of some of the survival-style shooters like Dracula – Undead Awakening or Age of Zombies.
Indeed, while the enemies apparently are aliens (at least as depicted on the cabinet art), they really look like zombies. At least the most common enemy does. There’s actually quite a variety of aliens to blast, ranging from green piles of slime to what looks suspiciously like the Xenomorph from Alien, as well as many mechanical monsters. Everything from tanks to mecha to a flying hand that grabs you.
Still, in those games, the playing field was an enclosed arena; this lets you roam from area to area, so there is very much an exploration factor. Sometimes you are faced with environmental hazards, such as gas spurting from the walls or the floor giving way. You also need to jump over some pits from time to time.
This jumping is accomplished by using the dodge button. Took me a while to figure it out, but when you press it, the guy seemingly just rolls in the direction you are moving in. But apparently he dives in the air first, so you can use it to jump over things.
At the end of each level (there seem to be three areas in a level and four levels in total), you are confronted by a boss. Interestingly, the screen displays text about the boss you are going to fight: its name, its type, its attack, and its size and weight. What, no blood type? I guess because they are male monsters.
Search and Rescue is one of those games that is seemingly designed to suck down quarters by being hard but allowing continues. So progressing through it doesn’t really test your patience, as you’re back in the action almost immediately (and since credits are free here, without denting your pocketbook, though I think those are out of style).
As with all G1M2 arcade-to-Minis conversions, you have the ability to set various options, like the difficulty and number of lives, to change the controls, and to save/load the game state. The last of these is always useful, but here it’s mostly used to save your progress in the game in between sessions (as you can continue freely). Some of these SNK arcade conversions have suffered from tiny bits of slowdown, nothing bad but noticeable. This one seems completely free of them.
The graphics are remarkably good, if a bit lacking in colors—everything is a pale green, purple, grey, or orange. The enemies you shoot really do explode into chunks of gore, but the blood is purplish, not red. This might have been done on purpose, though, since they are aliens. I really didn’t notice the sound much except when I fell into a pit. Oops.
When I first started playing it, I feared it would be another Victory Road, nonsensical and not much fun. But once you get into it, Search and Rescue is quite enjoyable, one of the better games SNK has made. At least one that I’ve had the most fun with. My only complaint is that it’s somewhat short, as the game was over well before I expected it to be. The ending is also a little underwhelming. Not Mass Effect 3 bad, but still disappointing.