Alas, another Jaleco action game showed the NES that 8 bit games weren’t going down without a fight. Shatterhand brought a new gameplay experience, shocking graphics, and a cool story to boot….(or shall i say fist?). And like other Jaleco games (like Operation Logic Bomb or Totally Rad), the game has that “it’s so ridiculous it’s good” quality when it comes to the storyline and cover-art.
story: According to the box, the main character packs a punch with the power of 100 missiles. You can’t get much more super-powered than that! It interesting to compare the box art between the Japanese and U.S. versions. Just go here.
The manual describes the story. It involves cybernetic technology (in the year 2030) to replace missing limbs lost in war (somehow I have my doubts we will have these by that year). There is a group of rebels (called Metal Command) who use this technology for their nefarious goals. A group of heroes (called LORD) induct Steve Hermann to go up against Metal Command after he was given a pair of cybernetic hands.
Gameplay: For most of the game, you rely on your fists to get through the stages. But don’t fret, these are super-powered cyborg fists. You can collect powerups along the way to create a little droid that helps take care of distant enemies. Collecting three squares on the top screen gets a new robot sidekick to appear. Some robots specialize in flame throwing, tossing giant bouncing discs, long lasers, and swinging a short range sword. These droids can assist that specialize in different forms of combat. It takes some real strategy figuring out the best ways to take advantage of their powers. Sometimes it helps to think outside the box. And it helps to not simply collect every new power-up you run across. Be selective! You can also latch onto fences to gain upward mobility.
The game consists of five opening stages tha you can select like Mega Man. There are horizontal and vertical stages to fight through. While there are too many of the stereotypical “factory” graphic sets, the environments are still highly detailed. There are some much-needed outdoor scenes (and an underwater one). There is also a zero gravity stage similar to Metal Storm, Mega Man 5, or Wendy’s Which Way on Gameboy Color.
Graphics: Again, some of these late era games look fantastic. This one is no different. The game is loaded with detail and features rare NES parallax scrolling. The game also has some decent animation (such as with the main character). We all remember the bad animation of Bayou Billy where you hit a button and his fists/kicks transcend the space/time continuum and appear automatically outstretched (like a Tiger LCD game). There are lots of various baddies as well including robotic soldiers, mech swordsmen, or human adversaries. There are (of course) bosses also. While they tend to be small, they do have creative attack patterns. They mostly include larger mechs with guns or swords. One stage has a ghost-type enemy that floats around. The final boss is neat, but much smaller than many last-stage bosses (like Castlevania 3 or Totally Rad). However, it can be argued that sometimes small bosses are actually tougher due to their increased mobility.
Music and sound: The music is upbeat and memorable (after repeated plays). It may not be Mega Man 2, Castlevania 3, or Skyshark, but it gets the job done.
At the end, you have to fight all the bosses a second time on a long final stage (like Mega Man X).
Jaleco didn’t only hit grand slams with their Bases Loaded series and other sports games. They made quite memorable action games that didn’t get the attention they deserved. Part of this reason might be the somewhat “silly” presentation that graced many of their games. Personally, I think that just adds to the charm.