As I play more of the vast library of Super Vision games, I'm struck by the realization that nearly all of the titles I own for the system are nothing more than half-assed remakes of already popular games. For example, a few weeks ago I talked about John's Adventure, a game that turned out to be nothing more than a Dr. Mario rip-off. Unfortunately this week is going to be no different, because today I plan on looking at Fatal Craft ... or as I like to call it, Faux-Gradius.
While it wasn't the first 2D shooter, Gradius has done a lot to influence the shoot-em-up market. Even today you'll see bits and pieces lifted wholesale from Konami's popular shooter. But no game is as blatant a rip-off as Fatal Craft, the 1992 Super Vision game from Bon Treasure. To simply say that this game was inspired by Gradius would be a gross understatement. Outside of a few different enemies and bosses, Fatal Craft is the exact carbon copy of Gradius.
I probably don't need to spend too much time going over the basics of this by-the-numbers shoot-em-up, but if you're new to the genre it works like this: You control a spaceship that flies all around the screen shooting at other enemies, picking up power-ups and trying not to get shot down/Craft into the obstacles. Much like Gradius, Fatal Craft has a power-up chart on the bottom of the screen. The way this works is that when you pick up a power-up the game will allow you to choose whether you want that item or want to wait for something better. The first power-up is always speed, but if you wait it out you will be able to select from useful add-ons, including extra firepower and bombs you can shoot in multiple directions.
Of course, you probably already know all this. Because Fatal Craft's power-up system (just like its levels and gameplay) is exactly the same as it is in Gradius. The power-ups are all exact, to the point where it's hard to judge Fatal Craft as anything other than poorly constructed Gradius rip-off. That's not to say that this game isn't fun (it's probably the most enjoyable 2D shooter experience I've had thus far with the Super Vision), but it's hard to recommend a game that is really nothing more than a scaled down version of one of the best arcade shooters around.
There is good news though. Unlike a lot of early Super Vision games, Fatal Craft plays fast and has a solid control scheme. From my experience there were a lot of early generation Super Vision games that suffered from problematic flickers and slow refresh time, yet this doesn't appear to be the case with this game. The action moves fast and there aren't that many technical difficulties along the way. The music is understandably bad, but if you're in it for an exciting 2D shooter then you probably don't care what's coming out of the speaker.
All in all Fatal Craft is a competent imitation or Gradius. But why should we put up with lame rip-offs instead of the real thing? Even if this is a good playing game (and it is, for the most part), there's still something disappointing about playing a game that is essentially somebody else's work. The team behind Fatal Craft prove that they can create a fun (albeit derivative) 2D shooter, I would have preferred they take the time and made something new and original. As it is it's really difficult to look at Fatal Craft without talking about Gradius, and as long as we do that this Super Vision game will always be on the short end of that argument.