Monday, March 14, 2011

Hellfire vs Hellfire S Comparison

ヘルファイヤーS

Hellfire S

Platform: PC Engine CD-ROM

Genre: Shooter

Released: April 12, 1991

Developed by: Toaplan

 Published by: NEC

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 Hellfire is a game developed by the prestigious Toaplan, the developer responsible for well known greats such as Tatsujin (Truxton), Kyokyoku Tiger (Twin Cobra), Batsugun, and Zero Wing. The game was initially released in arcades in 1989, and received a somewhat well known Genesis/MegaDrive port the following year. The game is most notable for it's 8-way shooting mechanic, and for being extremely difficult to complete.


Hellfire also got a lesser known PC Engine CD-ROM make over released in Japan, titled Hellfire S. I'm going to go over the various differences between the Genesis/MegaDrive and the PC Engine ports rather than focus on reviewing the game, since it's not really an import-only title, nor is it particularly unknown. I'll be looking at the graphical, audio, and gameplay differences below.


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 Graphical Differences

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Genesis Version
PC Engine Version

 The PC Engine conversion has a nicer looking title screen, and the Hellfire logo looks much sharper.

 

Genesis Version
PC Engine Version

There are some noticeable differences right away. Each game features a different HUD, to me the Genesis HUD looks a bit more appealing, but they are most likely different due to the fact that the PCE version included a 2 player mode. The sprites look much sharper in the PCE version, and the backgrounds have been altered slightly.

 

Genesis Version
PC Engine Version
Genesis Version
PC Engine Version
Genesis Version
PC Engine Version
Genesis Version
PC Engine Version
Genesis Version
PC Engine Version

 The areas often look different and some backgrounds are altered. Enemy bullets are brighter and more apparent in the PCE version. The main aesthetic difference between the two versions is that the PCE version generally tries to look more crisp and colorful, and the Genesis version goes for a more monotone visual appearance (likely because it was trying to stick to the arcade version). It comes down to a matter of taste really, as the PCE's slight improvements aren't enough to consider it better all around, but some may prefer how the artwork was handled here. I enjoy the shading effects that can be found on most of the backgrounds and sprites in the Genesis port over the cleaner looking PCE ones.

 

Genesis Version
PC Engine Version

 Strangely, the explosion animations are worse in the PC Engine version. The Genesis ones are much smoother, the PC Engine ones are kind of rough and look pretty pixelated.


Genesis Version
PC Engine Version

Your ship's beams look and fire slightly different in each version. This could be considered a bit of a gameplay difference as well. Once you've increased your ship's firepower twice, you begin to fire 2 beams instead of having the pea shooter gun. Once you collect 4, you fire 3 beams. Once you collect 5, your ship is at max power (picture above is a fully powered ship). The difference is that once your ship begins firing multiple beams, the PCE version shoots them out as one long beam that hits multiple times, whereas the Genesis version shoots out one wave at a time. The long wave attack featured in the PCE version feels more formidable.


your ship changes color in the Genesis port

It's also worth noting that for some reason, your ship doesn't change color when you switch your firing direction in the PCE version. Your beam still becomes a different color, but your ship is always the same color. This might have been to stop any confusion that may have been had while playing with another person, but I wouldn't imagine it would have become much of a problem.

 

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 Gameplay Differences

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First and foremost, the PC Engine conversion is much easier. There are numerous reasons for this, but the most apparent two are: your ship has increased firepower, and when your ship is destroyed you respawn instantly. If you've played the Genesis version, you already know how much easier this would make things. There are some other subtleties that lower the overall challenge too. 

  •  No Hellfire Canon

    • A instantly noticeable gameplay difference is the removal of the Hellfire weapon. In the Genesis version, pressing C uses your ships super beam attack. The attack clears out everything in front of you and does some big damage to bosses. I'm not exactly sure why it was removed, but it might have something to do with the fact that the regular PCE controller only has 2 buttons.

      this attack was removed from the PC Engine version
  •  2 Player Mode

    • 2 Player mode is featured in the PCE conversion, and it's inclusion is the biggest thing the PCE version has over the Genesis one.

  •  Speed Up Option

    • In the options menu, you can opt to fix your ship at a faster default speed. This makes the game a lot easier, because the regular default speed is VERY slow.

  •  No Stock Change

    • In the Genesis version, you can change your life stock from 3 to 4 in the options. It's fixed at 4 in the PCE version.

  •  Power Up Changes

    •  The Genesis version features a satellite power up. Basically, it hovers around the screen absorbing bullets and attacking enemies. This power up is not present in the PCE version in any form.

    •  The power up that allows you to take a hit before being destroyed now allows you to take 2 hits.

    •  The "P" power ups appear nearly twice as frequently. This could be partially due to the removal of the Hellfire attack and satellite power ups (thus making other power ups appear more often), but it was likely a change made to lower the difficulty. It is possible to have a fully powered ship in the first level very early on. In the Genesis version, you won't be fully powered (assuming you haven't died and have collected every power up so far) until a little before the mini-boss.

  •  Instant Respawn

    • Dying in the Genesis version stops the game and restarts the level, putting you at a checkpoint. In the PCE version you respawn instantly, with some invincibility frames. This makes things a LOT less frustrating, but removes a large element of the challenge that was present in the Genesis port.

  •  Hellfire S Features A Story and Narrative

    • The other big addition to the game, and perhaps a diving force behind the decision to remake it, is the fact that the game features some kind of plot line. There is an opening cinematic and anime-style cinematic sections with voice acting between stages.

right then
so this is the pilot huh? good luck you poor thing

 

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 Music and Audio Differences

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The PCE version features an arranged soundtrack. The songs are heavily altered and now feature more of a light synth sound. The Genesis port sticks closely to the Arcade game's music. This just comes down to a matter of opinion, but personally I'd take the Genesis music over the PCE arrangements any day. The Genesis music is just great. Below are all three versions of opening stage's music. Listening to them will give you a solid idea of what was changed, as the changes carry on throughout the game.

 

Arcade Music

 

Genesis Music

 

PC Engine Music

 

Another point worth mentioning that the PCE version has boss music (plays the music played on the title menu). There is no change in music when you fight a boss in the Genesis port. The sound effects were altered too. The most noticeable sfx difference is the sound your ship makes when firing. It's not exactly "worse", but strangely different. Not really a point worth going into in detail though.


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 Ending Comments

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The PC Engine remake offers the better presentation. The visuals are generally more crisp, everything just looks smoother. The inclusion of 2 player is of course a great feature too. The story scenes don't really do anything for me, but I suppose they may be welcomed by some. The visual improvements are nice, but I like the overcast feel the Genesis port has. The backgrounds in the Genesis port look much cooler, but the PCE version undeniably has the better looking sprite work. The arranged OST isn't particularly good, but it's not bad. The songs happen to be very good in the first place, so it's held up by that. The Genesis version gets my vote for the better soundtrack easily though, the faster pace of the songs accompany the game much better. I would have liked to see the PCE version take advantage of the CD-ROM's wonderful Red Book audio capabilities in a different way, by doing a rock arrangement of the OST instead. The songs would transition very well into rock themed arrangements.


I would suggest you try this out if you're a fan of Hellfire or Toaplan shooters, as the gameplay is still great stuff. It's not up to par with some of Toaplan's other great Genesis-era entries, but Hellfire remains one of my favorites nonetheless. The eased up difficulty is nice in a way too, the Genesis version is so brutally unforgiving that playing the PCE version can feel refreshing. It's not one of the more expensive PCE shooter imports, but it can still go for fairly expensive. A nice game to own for shooter fans and big time Toaplan fans.

 

2 comments:

  1. Hi

    As a result of reading this, I purchased a copy of Helfire S from Japan. I am in the UK, today Hellfire arrived so excitedly I popped it into my cd/dvd drive, i run windows 7. All that happens is itunes opens up ! ! !

    Hellllllppppppppp, any idea what i must do to get this cd rom to play?

    cheers

    david

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice review! This game (PC Engine version) is now on my want list.

    ReplyDelete