Abadox: The Deadly Inner War
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Natsume
  • Publisher:
    • JP Natsume
    • US Milton Bradley
  • Released:
    • JP 12/15/1989
    • US March 1990
Score: 70%

This review was published on 11/14/2016.

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War is a shoot 'em up video game developed by Natsume for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on December 15, 1989, and North America in March 1990. Natsume published the game in Japan and the toy manufacturer, Milton Bradley, published it in North America. This game basically rips off Life Force, a shoot 'em up released by Konami in the late 1980s, which itself ripped off Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer. Perhaps it's better to say these games were merely inspired by their source material, but either way, they all feature a similar theme. That is, people getting miniaturized and injected into an organism of some kind. As derivative as it is, Abadox is still one of the better shoot 'em ups on the NES. It's a little too hard for its own good, though.

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In the year 5012, a planet named Abadox gets eaten by a giant alien organism. For something to eat a whole planet, it's got to be pretty big. This alien organism was known as Parasitis, which sounds more like a medical disorder than anything else. Shortly after consuming Abadox, Parasitis took the shape and size of the planet and began searching the galaxy for more planets to consume. The World Alive Force tries to stop Parasitis, but fails. Nearly all of The World Alive Force was wiped out during the battle, leaving behind only a single hospital ship. Parasitis devours this lone hospital ship, which apparently has Princess Maria on board. Having been delayed by a faulty energy drive, Second Lieutenant Nazal witnesses the destruction of his fellow fighters and heads into the body of Parasitis in an attempt to rescue the Princess. Will he succeed? Well, that all depends on how good you are at shoot 'em ups. Considering how hard this game is, though, the answer to that question is likely no.

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While the environments of this game certainly take a lot of inspiration from Life Force, you control a little spaceman instead of a spaceship, which is more reminiscent of Section Z. This doesn't do anything other than make you a bigger target, which is bad, because you die in one hit. You do have unlimited continues, but the game is still no walk in the park. In any case, the d-pad is used to fly in all eight directions and the B button fires your little gun. Whenever you begin a life, your speed is excruciatingly slow, plus your starting gun has a low rate of fire and shoots microscopic bullets. This will likely give first time players a bad impression of the game, prompting them to write it off as another mediocre shooter. However, much like Gradius and Life Force, things start to pick up once you pick up a few power-ups.

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Blue scorpions will appear every so often, and they'll drop power-ups when shot down. These power-ups include one that increases your speed, which can be stacked, twin missiles that then become homing missiles when upgraded, a shield that negates damage once or twice, and an orbiting barrier. Getting more of the barrier power-up will increase the number of orbiters you have, for up to four, and they block projectiles and certain enemies, but will be destroyed after sustaining too much damage. Pushing the A button will change the distance of the orbiters, while holding it will cause them to pulsate. There are also different guns, like one that shoots a three way shot of rings, another that fires a five way arch of tiny bullets, and a laser gun. The game gets a lot easier once you have a few power-ups, but you lose everything when you die. Power-ups are essential in this game, because you're almost completely defenseless without them.

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Stages scroll automatically as enemies fly towards you, shooting projectiles in a typically successful attempt to end your life. For most of the game, the stages play in the perspective of a horizontally scrolling shooter, also referred to as a side-scrolling shooter. However, some stages will change things up on you by switching to a vertically scrolling perspective. During these stages, you view action from a top-down perspective, and you move downwards instead of going from left to right. Other than that, these stages don't play any differently from the regular ones, but the different orientation does make them feel different. That different feel goes a long way to prevent the game from getting stale, as it provides some much needed variety. This is one of the things that stand out Abadox from the typical shoot 'em up. It should be noted, however, that Life Force also did the same thing, and it did so before Abadox.

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The big draw to the game is the theme of its environments. Instead of the typical space shooter themes like outer space and mechanized fortresses, you're exploring the innards of a giant alien beast. Every stage is themed after a different part of its body, like the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. This results in some interesting stage design, like how the mouth area has teeth that move up and down in an attempt to chew you into pieces. There's even an escape sequence near the end where you leave from the alien's rectum. Much of the stages come down to carefully navigating around the walls and ceilings, as they often have strange shapes, and touching any solid objects will instantly kill you. The environment is just as much as your enemy as the enemies themselves. Speaking of, the enemies also reflect the organic theme, being that they're usually things like floating eyeballs, brains, and even cilia. This game sticks to the theme even better than Life Force did. However, there's a nice change of scenery later on in the form of a mechanized stage. Additionally, all of this is represented quite well thanks to the graphics, which are fairly decent for the time.

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Each stage is broken up into two parts, both of which have a boss at the end. The boss design in this game is creative and delightfully gruesome. There's a very alien-like quality to all the bosses, many of which look like they came out of a H.R. Giger film. You've got a skeletal zombie-like dog with a one eyed snake attached to its back, a zombie-like shark, a malformed face with eyes that come out of their sockets, a gross being with a big eye in its chest, and just about everything has a mouth on it for some bizarre reason. Cool designs aside, the bosses also play fine. The first few bosses have simple attack patterns, but the later ones will spam the screen with projectiles. Many bosses have safe spots you can stay in to avoid all their attacks, but this isn't the case for the harder ones further into the game. The fights themselves aren't anything mind blowing, but they're decent enough and creative.

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If you want a good 8-bit shoot 'em up, then consider checking out Abadox. The graphics are good, the music's decent, the environments, enemies, and bosses are creative, and it's just good fun. And the organic theme, while far from original, is still pretty neat and it's better executed than Life Force. Be warned that it does have an extremely high difficulty level, though. There's also no two player mode, so you'll have to go this one alone.

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