Final Mission

Are you ready for a challenge?

Final Mission (a.k.a. S.C.A.T. Special Cybernetic Attack Team) is a side-scrolling shooter developed by Natsume and was released in 1990 in Japan (1991 in the United States).

It’s a hard game. Seriously. My understanding is that there are subtle differences between the Japanese and American version, namely the Japanese version is a lot harder, and guess what I played? The Japanese version.

This shooter closely resembles Contra in many respects. The heroes look similar, the weapon upgrades are similar, even the sound effects are similar. The main difference is that the heroes use jetpacks to float around the level, and have orbital cannons. These cannons circle around the heroes as they move around, but they can also be locked in place in order to target enemies in harder-to-reach areas (i.e. top or bottom of the screen).

The hero only has three bars of health to begin with – although you gain another bar of health every 10,000 points – once you’ve been hit three times the game is over. I would suspect that the average player wouldn’t be able to beat the first level on their first six tries, so that’s some indication of how difficult it is. Stage 4 and 5 are particularly difficult, with laser beam cannons, indestructible ships that take up 3/8 of the screen, and enemies that scatter multiple bullets across the screen.

On the up side, there are only 5 stages and 5 bosses in the entire game (although there are some mid-level encounters as well). This makes it a relatively short game. On the one hand, such a difficult game shouldn’t go on any longer than that, but on the other hand, it’s just lazy. I mean, why not have 12 stages that gradually increase in difficulty rather than 5 stages that weed out all but the serious gamers. I kind of saw it as a personal challenge, so I went ahead and beat the stupid game (though not without the help of an emulator).

Gameplay

Okay, I do have to admit this is a pretty fun game. It’s a bit of a button masher, because one button is used to fire and the other to lock your orbital cannons, so really you’re only using one button 95% of the time. The overall difficulty is a bit ridiculous, and I still think it would have been better with more stages.

Graphics

Not very good. Again, slight differences here in the American release vs. the Japanese release, but the original game’s graphics aren’t good even by NES standards. Backgrounds are primitive, and the heroes and enemies look even worse. The gameplay certainly matters more to me than the graphics, but it does seem a little lazy, like other aspects of the game.

Sound & Music

All the sound effects could very well be direct rip-offs of Contra and I would be none the wiser. However, I liked the Contra sound effects so that’s not saying much. The music was anything but memorable. It was kind of just there. The only thing that could redeem a game like this is really intense music, but again there was nothing overly memorable there.

Overall 5/10

Okay, so it probably sounds like I didn’t really like this game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun shooter if you have a lot of patience and time to kill. It has its moments, but there are definitely better games out there. The reason I couldn’t give it less than a 5 is because it’s actually a fully developed (well, sort of), functional game. I don’t think I would play it again now that I’ve finished it, but maybe I would try the 2 player co-op mode. Check it out for yourself!

This video demonstrates some of the differences between the Japanese version and North American version:

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