Halloween draws near! And Fantasy Shooter Month is right behind you! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Game: Undead Line
Console: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Release Year: 1991
I chose Undead Line because it’s a shooter and a game about monsters, making it a Halloween and FSM celebration double-whammy! I was really excited because it blended traditional fantasy enemies (dragons, bugs, slimes) with movie monsters (zombies, poltergeists, and a couple more we’ll see soon). But what I ultimately got was a son of a bitch! Suckered in by its rare-import status, I gazed upon its kick ass box art in much the same way a child gazes upon kick ass box art. It’s got a castle on a floating island hovering over a ravine and a shit ton of lightning! This game has got to be good!
Seriously!? Another walking auto-scroller!? How many of these can there possibly be? The concept is just so stupid. WHY CAN’T MY GUY JUST STOP FUCKING WALKING!?
I’m sorry. Let me start over. You see, this game is hard. Very hard. And I’m writing this right after playing it, so a little of my frustration might leak onto this post. I’ll do my best to contain it. BUT LOOK AT ALL THAT SHIT ON THE SCREEN!!!! That’s an average shot from the game. Just about every moment is full of insects and enemy projectiles. There’s seriously nowhere to move. And your guy is soooooooooooooooo slow! You can make him go faster by collecting power ups, but it’s just so painful to watch your barbarian waddle toward the top of the screen until you get one.
Fuck it. I’ll just stay dead. Wait… are those snakes from Snake, Rattle, ‘n Roll?
So, basically, this game plays like a combination of Elemental Master and Hell! It even has a level select screen like Elemental Master. But this time the levels get names.
I’m a fan of Rock, but Drain is a way better name.
So the levels are as generic as their names with a couple of exceptions. Drain is actually a sewer level, which is something I’ve never really seen in a fantasy game, and Ruins is a haunted house level, and it’s a good one, too. The level takes place on a wooden floor with a bluish dimensional rift below it.
Why do they keep building things over ancient Indian burial grounds?
Touching the rift kills you instantly, making this already hard level harder. Ghosts and glass shards are constantly bombarding you, and Jason Voorhees even shows up to break your balls.
How many kids did those camp counselors let drown?
You see that chest on the left? That’s how you get power ups. You shoot it to cycle through power ups until you find one you want. There’s a ton of weapons (knives, axes, fire, homing crescents (?), exploding blue balls), a force field, healing berries, winged boots to make you faster, money for points, and something that hurts you because this game is Hitler! The chests suck because you’re forced to hit them if you have the homing crescents, and you have to have the homing crescents because they’re the only weapons in the game that can slow down the constant enemy onslaughts. So, if there’s a flood of enemies descending on you and there’s a chest in the vicinity, guess where your crescents are going? It’s as dumbfounding as it is frustration!
To be honest, the game wouldn’t have been so frustrating had I remembered the shield button. I did test all the buttons on the first level: one threw knives, one made a spike ball frantically orbit me, and the other was my shield. I guess because the shield’s animation was so subtle I just didn’t register it; I saw it, but I just didn’t care. I’m so used to holding down the fire button in shooters that the thought of pausing to hold up a shield was something I just couldn’t comprehend. And, much like the great Sherlock Holmes, I unconsciously forgot about it because it wasn’t relevant to my line of work, which is shooting everything apparently.
Shields are for women, Watson.
It wasn’t until I got to the stone golem boss that I rediscovered the shield. It made that fight way more manageable.
I’m glad he stands like that the whole fight.
But even after using the shield, the game was still brutal. Not only does shit fly at you at all times and at every conceivable angle, you only get three hits until you die, and dying sends you back to the beginning of the level. Every time. And there are no check points. Also, levels can take up to five minutes to complete. Long story short: FUCK! There was a time when this screwed me after I beat a boss. It was a sweet-looking fire boss in a huge flaming column spewing from a gigantic hole. The fight was epic, both in scale and in intensity. But I prevailed. And, as my reward, I was given a shiny MacGuffin. It shone brilliantly in the hole’s center. And, like a complete dumb ass, I figured the hole was no longer dangerous because the boss was dead. I regrettably stepped forward to grab my prize.
I plummeted to my death and had to redo the entire level. I turned my Genesis off and walked away. I had children in the room, and I don’t think my mother-in-law likes it when she hears me screaming incoherently in the background while she talks to my wife on the phone.
Really, as hard as this game actually is, I only compounded its difficulty with my stupidity. Like the time I was fighting a dragon boss and just stood there as he blasted me with fire:
Note to self: Dragons breathe fire.
What was I expecting? A giant, orange dragon is inhaling deeply in front of me, and I just stand there? I deserved to die. But, because I had better weapons, I ended up winning. And that’s what’s wrong with this country!
Anyway, beating a boss gives you the shining whatever and takes you to the leveling up screen. I don’t know how the game determines your XP, but I always got a few points I could disseminate between four stats. And they always went towards strength. Because what else does a barbarian need?
After beating the six levels, you’re given a seventh. It’s pretty tough, but not more so than the rest. The final boss is ridiculously hard, though. First, you have to fight Dracula (because why not?), and then you have to fight a huge cyborg skeleton (because why not?). The worse part is actually getting to the skeleton. You have to walk towards him as he shoots lasers at you. It took me several attempts just to get to him. And when I did, this happened:
No, it’s cool. This is exactly what I walked all the way up here for.
After fighting him like a thousand times, I finally beat him. I put the controller down, fell to my side on the couch, and exhaled as I waited for the ending.
Completely vindicated, I decided to take a short break before I played it again. I reasoned that I might have fun during the second round, and I was right. I was able to enjoy the game and relish in all of its stupid moments I missed the first time around. For example, this Scooby Doo scene had me cracking up:
There’s also a part in the game where zombies pour out of doors and swarm you:
You all here for the Thriller remake, too?
But if you stand by a door, they don’t come out for some reason.
Undead Line is a viciously difficult game. With some checkpoints it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’d still be tough, especially with its limited continues and insane amount of on-screen enemies. Like most hard games for me, the second playthrough was much more enjoyable. But beating it was a Herculean feat. I don’t think most people would enjoy this game unless they’re already really good at shooters. It’s just that freaking hard. If you do want to check this one out, it might be best to go in without the intention of beating it.
Thanks for your Playing! I’ve got one more entry for Fantasy Shooter Month, and it happens to be one of my favorite shooters of all time. I’m pretty excited about this one. Make sure you come back soon to check it out!