In the brief time I've spent with the Game Boy Advance, I have been really impressed with the quality of the titles available. I fancied checking out another game to review, and, having perused various lists, I spotted a title that caught my eye. Developed by Shin'en, Iridion 3D was a launch title for the GBA platform that showcased some particularly fancy graphics for a handheld title, especially for the time.
The game's story, such as it is, is pretty minimalist. Earth is under threat from Iridion forces, who have launched an attack and are in the process of laying mines in orbit around the planet, as well as in the Pacific Ocean. Piloting an experimental SHN fighter craft, it's up to you to take down the Iridion foes and liberate Earth.
Viewed from a third-person perspective, the player must guide their attack ship through 7 stages of shooting action - so far so familiar - but the main difference here is the game's perspective. Anyone remember those ultra-cool 3D tunnel sections from Stardust on the Amiga? If so, you'll be pretty familiar with Iridion 3D has to offer since it takes the same concept and turns it into an entire game!
Each level features a series of waves of enemy fighter craft, many of which will shoot projectiles at your location and must be avoided. Although protected by an outer shield, you ship is fairly fragile and won't stand up to any serious level of punishment, so you'll need to move around the screen constantly to avoid danger. Make it through to the end of the level and you'll get a brief interlude where you are shown a wireframe image of an encroaching boss encounter. These are standard shoot 'em up encounters where you must identify and exploit the boss' vulnerable area(s), all whilst not being blown out of the sky yourself.
The game does not support any save functions, but there is a password system that rewards you with a code when you manage to beat a level; entering the password at the title screen enables you to resume playing from where you left off, which is a handy feature to have. The password system also has codes for unlocking extra features, such as an art gallery, plus some in-game cheats if you're struggling.
|Navigating the asteroid belt|
On a technical level then, Iridion 3D is quite a showcase for the what the GBA hardware can do. This is an extremely fast-paced game that includes plenty of large sprites, scaling effects, not to mention the scrolling, 3D play-field (possibly pre-rendered animations?). Also, consider that the game manages to hit a full 60 frames without skipping a beat and you've got yourself one seriously attractive game, at least for a handheld.
I must also give special mention to the game's accompanying music. If you're a fan of Chris Huelsbeck and similar musicians, then the digi-synth soundtrack is sure to delight; it turns out Shin'en was founded by a bunch of ex-Amiga demosceners, so the that probably explains the style!
|Dragons made of lava...cool!|
The next gripe I have is with the weapon upgrade system. Despite the fact that the game includes multiple blasters with which to upgrade your ship, only a couple of them are actually any use. Weapons persist through each level, which is fine, but then you discover that the one you really need - the yellow starburst - appears on the third level and that's your single chance to acquire it; miss it and you might as well restart the game when playing on the harder difficulty settings.
Ultimately, Iridion 3D is makes for an excellent technical demo for the hardware, but much less so as a game. That's not to say that fans of the genre won't find it devoid of fun (at least not initially), but it's never a good thing when a game leaves you feeling frustrated, which this one certainly did. It might keep you amused for an hour or so, but there are better shoot 'em ups out there.