Only released in Japan, Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie is a gem in the shoot-em-up genre. It's based on the Macross anime series, where giant humanoid aliens known as Zentradi attempt to destroy all of humanity. And they would have succeeded, if not for the overpowered spaceship Macross. Now it's up to the humans to strike back against the evil aliens.
These days, the shoot-em-up genre is underappreciated, but back in the 16-bit era they were unstoppable. The arcades, Mega Drive and even the PC Engine all experienced a surge in these addictive games. The Super NES, on the other hand, didn't have the same gigantic library of quality shooters, mostly due to the system's slow processor. Games like Gradius III and Super R-Type were plagued by horrible slowdown problems.
Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie is a must-play for anybody who owns a Super NES and loves quality shoot-em-ups. It is immensely beautiful; perhaps even the best looking shooter on Nintendo's 16-bit console. The amount of detail in the backgrounds is unbelievable, and the use of parallax movement is effective in a way you rarely see. This is on display right from the beginning of the game, when a Zentradi ship teleports right in front of the player. Then, seconds later, the ship explodes, pushing (yes, pushing) your Valkyrie to the top of the screen.
While the graphics stand out, the gameplay is generic shoot-em-up fodder. The most important thing is the ship itself, which, much like in the anime series, can transform into three different styles -- the Fighter (a common space fighter built for speed), the Gerwalk (a mix of robot and fighter with medium speed), and the Humanoid robot (that is the slowest but often has the most powerful weapons).
The power-ups are also painfully basic, giving the player better fire power and recovering health. The first makes your ship stronger, but it will only power up the mode you're currently in. You'll actually need six of these power-up items to fully upgrade your ship. As for the health, it works to repair the damage you have taken. It's important to remember that your health decreases every time you get hit. Withstand too many shots and it's game over.
But all this time Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie has been holding an ace up its sleeve -- mind control! While not firing any weapons, your ship will be surrounded by the power of the Yellow Lantern. Okay ... not really. It's just the color yellow in space. But the important thing is that this power is capable of making your enemies change sides and work for you. Not only is this a cool gameplay gimmick, but it's also satisfying. And better still, these computer-controlled helpers are both invincible and attack continuously.
The sounds are in line with what you would expect from this type of game. It offers an amazing soundtrack that made me really feel like I was in the middle of an intense space war. Unfortunately, the sound effects don't stand out, especially compared to the music. Thankfully they don't get in the way of the wonderful soundtrack.
The difficulty is high on the max level, though Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie does offer a fair challenge. The cool thing is the game forces you to choose the other forms, giving you added variety.
It's weird this game didn't get an international release, especially when you see some of the titles that made the trip overseas. Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie plays a lot like R-type III, but doesn't have the frustrating slowdowns you normally expect from the Super NES. This is a quality 2D shoot-em-up on a platform with only a handful of shooters.