Run Saber
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Horisoft
  • Publisher:
    • Atlus
  • Released:
    • US 06/08/1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 80%

This review was published on 06/20/2017.

Run Saber is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Horisoft and published by Atlus for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in North America on June 8, 1993, and Europe in 1993. This game is basically a clone of Strider, a fantastic side-scrolling action game developed by Capcom that originally came out in the arcades in 1989 before being ported to home platforms like the Sega Genesis. Don't take that description as a slight against Run Saber, however. Despite its derivative nature, this is actually a game that's worth checking out. It may not be quite as fantastic as the genuine Strider, but Run Saber is still a perfectly solid title for the SNES. Unfortunately, not many people outside of hardcore old school gamers are aware of this game's quality or even its existence. That's a problem I hope to correct by publishing this review, so please take the time to read it.

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The year is 2998 A.D. and the Earth's atmosphere has become so contaminated with pollution that it was almost completely inhospitable to human life. Mankind's last shot at a clean planet rests in the hands of a scientist named Dr. Gordon Bruford. Dr. Bruford developed a revolutionary technological program known as "The Earth Renaissance Project," which would clean everything up by subjecting the Earth's stratosphere to lethal amounts of radioactive energy. To survive this, mankind would have to leave the planet for a whole year. However, just as this plan was being enacted, something went horribly wrong! In a malicious effort to gain control of Earth, Dr. Bruford secretly stayed behind and subjected himself to the massive amounts of radiation, mutating him into a powerful mutant. Immediately after that, Dr. Bruford began cloning mutants to build an army to aid him in his conquest. Project Run Saber was then initiated, which involved sending three powerful cyborg warriors to deal with the armies of mutants. Sadly, one of the cyborgs defected, so only two are left to combat Dr. Bruford's forces.

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Before you begin the game proper, you're able to pick from one of two characters: a man named Allen or a woman known as Sheena. As the game's title implies, both of them can run and they're armed with sabers. Their capabilities are mostly the same, except Allen has a thunder saber that he swings horizontally, and Sheena has an ice saber that she swings vertically. Basic movement is handled by the d-pad, the B button is for jumping, and the Y button is for slashing your character's saber. The X button activates a powerful bomb attack that hits everyone on the screen for massive damage, but you have a limited supply of these that must be replenished by collecting more from enemies. In addition to additional bombs, you can get more health and a power-up that extends the range of your saber. Also, pressing either the L or R shoulder button does a Mega Man-like slide along the ground that can hurt enemies. The controls are precise and intuitive, but they're a bit more complex than what's in Strider.

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Like Strider, your characters move with the grace of swans in this game. They'll majestically flip through the air as you jump around. Despite the acrobatics, they can swing their sabers at any time. Likewise, not only are attacks extremely responsive, but they can be done almost as quickly as you can conceivably press the button. That makes the act of ripping enemies to shreds rather delightful. Another thing from Strider that this game nonchalantly copies is the ability to climb walls and ceilings. All you have to do to cling to a wall or ceiling is touch it. Once clung to a surface, you use the d-pad to climb around. It's that simple. However, while this is certainly intuitive, it can sometimes be too easy to stick to surfaces, potentially resulting in some unwanted results. Sometimes, this will even put you in sticky situations. Barring any more terrible puns, this isn't too terrible of an issue, but like my puns, it can be slightly annoying at times.

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Besides the standard stuff, there are a couple of special moves at your disposal. The simplest one is in the game's title: running. To run, you double tap the d-pad in the direction you wish to run in. There are other, slightly more complex maneuvers, however. Holding up on the d-pad while jumping does a deadly somersault that can damage enemies, which is similar to the Screw Attack from Metroid, but it can't go as high as a regular jump. On the other hand, holding down or diagonally downwards while in the air will do a kick in that direction. If an enemy that takes more than one hit is struck by this kick, you'll bounce off of them, Super Mario style. On top of all that, some enemy bullets can be demolished with your trusty saber, which doesn't require any special button presses, but does feel cool. Strangely, you can also change the color of your character by pressing the select button after the game is paused. At any rate, the extra moves add an extra layer of depth to the game.

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This game has five stages in it, and they're all pleasantly action packed. The first stage takes place in a military stronghold known as the Taj Base, where mutants spring forth in continuous streams from all sides of the screen. For the second stage, you'll be taking a hazardous stroll in Tong City, a futuristic Chinatown with statues that morph into spear tossing soldiers. The third stage deviates from the game's overall industrial theme by being set in a valley with many natural threats and jungle-like vines you can swing on. While linear, stages often have you going right, left, up, and down. Due to that, there's an arrow at the top of the screen that points in the direction you need to go, but stages are generally straightforward enough for this to not be necessary. There's also no pesky timer, so you can take your time, although the action is so intense that you'll probably never stop moving.

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Each stage typically has more than one boss; one or more mini-bosses, and a main boss at the end. The first major boss is a jet that flies through the sky as you hold onto it for dear life, fighting mutants that break out of its various parts. The sprite rotations during this fight are handled by the SNES' fancy Mode-7 effect, so they look pretty good. The other bosses aren't as technologically impressive, but are often interesting in other ways. For instance, the second boss is a giant skeletal woman in a dress who shoots lasers at you with her fingertip while lying on her side. The most interesting of them all is this boss that starts off as a lowly eagle, but upon being defeated, gets its decapitated head snatched away by a mutant lizard. Later on in that same stage, the eagle's head returns in a robotic body with kung-fu abilities. The bosses are definitely one of the more standout features of this game.

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Unlike Strider, this game allows for two players to play together cooperatively. You can choose this option on the title screen, but it's also possible for a second player to jump in at any time by pressing the start button on the second controller. The second player must use the character that the first player isn't using, but since both are mostly the same, that's not much of an issue. The nicest thing about cooperative play is that players can immediately come back upon dying, provided they have enough lives and continues. Oddly enough, the same can be done with only a single player. However, once all lives and continues are exhausted for both players, the game will be over, so don't think this makes the game too easy. Either way, the game is already good fun alone, but like with many things in life, it's even better with a friend.

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Decent graphics, decent music, decent controls, decent stages, and decent bosses; this game is decent all around. As derivative as it is, Run Saber gives Strider a run for its money. If you like Strider, and who doesn't, then Run Saber will be a treat.

Word Count: 1,403

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