Review by AGBear
Reviewed: 05/02/03 | Updated: 05/02/03
Arr mateys! Set sail for awesome blasting action!
The Ocean Hunter was released in arcades in 1998. Although it's not one of the most well known Sega arcade games, it's one of the best they have ever made and well worth tracking down. I'll explain why.
A strange category to mark for once, as Ocean Hunter is such a mixed bag. The underwater creatures look superb, and have reams of animation. The underwater flashes and puffs of smoke look fantastic too. However, the divers and other humans look comparatively shoddy, and some of the texturing work leaves a lot to be desired. It makes the game seem a little cheap and rushed, which is disappointing.
Any music in the game as limited and very quiet, drowned out by the sounds of gunfire. However, all of the sound effects are brilliant. You can hear the muffled talk of divers, the hiss of sea serpents, the bubbling of underwater vents- when playing this game in a deluxe cabinet, the audio experience is superb. The lack of music does detract from the game, however, and would have made the whole game a lot more dramatic.
By now you may be wondering why a game with average graphics and sound can score so highly. This is a classic example of graphics vs. gameplay- the idiosyncrasies in the graphics are countered by the gameplay, which is just unbelievably good.
Players take control of a deep-sea diver (or two), who's off in search of buried treasure. As everyone knows, the best source of treasure is always deep within the layer of a hideous sea creature. It's your job to wipe out the evil denizens of the sea and steal their gold. What this boils down to is a shoot-em-up, only one that has cabinet mounted machine guns. It's closest to the other Sega shooters Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns, although it's much better than either of those.
Ocean Hunter is an on rails shooter, the only freedom of movement is that of the gun's cursor. Some people consider this a weakness in a game like this, but I like to look upon it as a strength. Why? Because it means you don't have to move around and can concentrate on blowing **** up. It also means that the developers spend less time working on paths through the game and can refine the playing experience.
From what I have played in the Ocean Hunter, there are no branching paths throughout it. If this is the case, it's a shame as it reduces the Lastability of the game. However, when a game is this good you're unlikely to care to be honest. It's fun enough to play the same route over and over. Besides, remember this is an arcade game- you're not going to sit playing it for hours on end.
Ocean Hunter has some of the most colourful and imaginative enemies I've ever seen in a shooting game. As you are under the sea (cue dancing crab bursting into song) you will encounter sharks, barracuda, sea snakes and so on. Sega manage to keep these enemies fresh as the game continues, without making them all seem the same. Sometimes there are shoals of sharks chasing fellow divers through the sea. Sometimes you encounter sea snakes that pop out of caves. The sea is a virtually limitless place to be in, and the game reflects this- you never feel like you're playing some game, it feels more like an underwater exploration.
What good would a shooting game be without bosses? As expected, Ocean Hunter's are worthy of the standards set by the sub-bosses and in-game enemies. You will face sea monsters such as the Kraken (a legendary giant octopus, and surely one of the most awesome moments in game history) Leviathan (giant, and I mean GIANT shark) and many others. Without spoiling the game, I can assure you that dedicated gamers will not be disappointed by the later levels.
The most important thing of all is that Ocean Hunter is barrels (argh) of fun. Shooting down sharks and the like may sound sadistic, but thanks to the force-feedback guns and atmospheric sound it's a sheer joy to play. With better graphics, it would also be absolutely terrifying. In a way, the ropey graphics help to shape the game's fun image as opposed to a serious blaster. That's one way for Sega to keep Greenpeace at bay!
Another great thing about the Ocean Hunter is the sheer size of the thing. There are around 7-8 massive levels, the most I've ever heard of in an arcade shooter. Most only have around 3 or 4. You're getting a lot of game for your money. And it's hard- damn hard. I've never got past the level 3 boss. You'll be gobbling coins by the later stages, but like the very best arcades, it's never impossible.
Rail shooting refined to the highest degree imaginable, the Ocean Hunter is a great game that always manages to turn heads in the local arcade. With its combination of thrills and atmosphere combined with a fun and funky vibe, it's difficult to see how you could not like it. Highly recommended.
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