Review by Overdrive

Reviewed: 11/29/03

Some great ideas are here — too bad the actual game didn't always live up to them

Have you ever played a game that should have been so much better than what it was — a game that has some great ideas that you actually haven't seen repeated in countless other games in its genre, but just fell short in overall execution?
Well, that is what you get with Image Fight, a NES shooter created by Irem. The designers came up with a great concept to introduce the actual plot, a great system for special weapons and a few fun boss fights. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is pretty stale and bland.
Let's start with the positives first. When playing a shooter, have you ever wondered exactly how YOU became the one being in existence capable of destroying the forces of evil? No need to wonder in this game because your spaceship isn't immediately thrust into the actual mission. Instead, you must complete five ''training'' stages and average a score of 90% or better to advance to the three ''actual'' game stages. To be honest, these practice stages are exactly like the game stages, but it is rather ingenious to essentially tell the player that they have to prove their worth to earn the right to undergo a dangerous mission.
This game also earns points on its use of special weapons. At several points on each level, an orb will appear on screen that if shot, will release one of two power-ups. You will either get a small ''option'' ship (blue shoot straight up, while the direction of a red option's shot is determined by the direction of your flight) or an attachment. Fly into the attachment to get one of many special weapons (homing missiles and diagonal shots, for example). If the attachment is hit, it is destroyed (as opposed to you being killed) and you can then pick up a replacement when one appears.
Picking the correct special weapon and correct color of option can make a huge difference in boss fights, as you'll have to shoot behind or to one side of your ship to be able to win easily in more than one encounter.
Speaking of the bosses, I felt Irem did a fine job with several of these battles, making the end of most levels a fun experience. The boss of the final practice level is a definite highlight of this game, as it takes a solid amount of skill combined with the appropriate weapons to defeat.
However, with the exception of the boss battles, the majority of the levels are really lacking in fun and difficulty. For me, the main challenge in this game (not counting bosses) was surviving long enough to get my initial power-ups. From there, it was easy to breeze through the majority of each level, as my gunfire blasted through most of the opposition before they could mount much of an offensive against me. While some of the levels had tricky spots (typically created by walls and other obstacles), the overall challenge level was much lower than many games of this sort that I've played.
A lot of the levels really blend together, too, due to bland backgrounds. For most of the game, you'll be staring at plain blue or black backgrounds with only a few exceptions (the fifth practice level being the most notable). It just seems they could have done something more with this game's graphics to make it more appealing.

Graphics/Sound: 3 -- While this game does have a couple of attractive levels and boss designs, overall it has a sparse and bland appearance. For the most part, the music was unappealing, as well. While it isn't, by any means, the worst NES game in this category, it's far from the best.

Gameplay: 8 -- There are a lot of positives in this category. From the special weapons system to the entertaining boss fights, this game is fun to play. By pressing the ''A'' button, you can control your plane's speed on an ''1'' to ''4'' scale (with ''4'' being the fastest). However, I noted that for the most part, going any higher than ''2'' was unnecessary -- and would actually make the ship somewhat difficult to control, especially in any sort of close quarters.

Challenge: 5 -- The challenge is pretty uneven in this game. For a ship with no special weapons or options, even the early parts of the first stage can be difficult. For a fully powered-up ship, nearly everything (with the exception of a few bosses and a couple of areas where steering skill is more important than firepower) had the potential to be easy.

Replay Value: 4 -- Odds are that if you have this game, you have a number of other shooters more worth your playing time. I look at this as more of a nostalgia replay. It's the sort of game to pick up every few years, play for a while and put away again.

Overall: 5 -- The rating number that signifies pure mediocrity is the only one I can justify giving this game. While it does some things very well, it is sub par in other categories. In the grand scheme of things, that equates to a purely average effort in a genre that has no shortage of excellent games.

Rating: 5

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