I bet most people love a good game starring GIANT MECHS. I bet even more people love good games starring GIANT MECHS wielding LASER SWORDS, their enormous and effortlessly impressive metal frames contrasting beautifully against the frequent tiny human figures dashing around their feet and other mundane miscellanea such as cars and lamp posts added mostly to give the thrilling mech on mech action a suitably epic sense of scale. So I bet just about everyone would love playing Zoom’s Genocide 2, a game starring GIANT MECHS with LASER SWORDS whose attract sequence ranking table orders players based not on something as ordinary as their score but on the time taken take clear the game, encouraging high-risk speedy play above all else.
Comparisons to Mad Stalker are as inevitable as they are understandable – both games ask the player to control a melee-focussed mech violently engaging with everything standing between them and the right hand side of the screen after all – but aren’t entirely accurate. Family Soft’s Guardian Heroes inspiring bash ’em up is more concerned with the fighting itself, the locations something flat (and beautiful) for you to stand on as you fluidly combo enemies into oblivion, whereas Genocide 2 aims to be more of a side-scrolling action game with fighting in it – think of Sega’s timeless Shinobi series and you’re on the right track.
And much like Sega’s ninja horse/tech-surfboard/Mecha-Godzilla sim there’s a shocking amount of flexibility and flow to your hulking robo-suit’s movements, with everything from dash-jumps over fighter jets to majestic somersaults onto industrial conveyor belts possessing a “natural” weight and momentum to them that somehow feels responsive and right, even though nobody has any idea what these imaginary things should feel like at all. It’s also possible for your Tracer Type 184 mech (height: 12.87m, weight: 12.9t) to block incoming attacks while standing or crouching simply by holding down the attack button, and while you can’t defend against everything that comes your way it does mean your giant playable sprite doesn’t have to eat all the damage thrown at it and you have a real say in the ebb and flow of battle. Betty, your rather sweetly named spherical summonable assistance (also available in homing “Mad Betty” form, amongst other temporary power ups), can also be called out for a short period of time (shown by the auto-recharging “Betty” bar at the top-left of the screenshots) to physically intercept incoming bullets and also damage anything in her path at the same time, shooting out in a controllable straight line whenever you attack before returning to hover above your Tracer’s head.
This more thoughtful attitude towards the action carries through to the breathtaking boss battles as well, with “hit them in the face a lot until they fall over” style tactics not only a very bad idea but at times completely ineffective. Genocide 2 teaches its players this important lesson at the earliest opportunity, its first boss an apparently invincible a centaur-like robot… until you realise you have to leap onto its back and smack the weak spot that only appears when it vents after performing an attack. The second boss, a construction-inspired loader/crane sort of thing with three separate health bars, reinforces this more mindful approach to mayhem by inviting you to knock out both of its supportive arms before leaping on top rather than simply thrashing away at the nearest chunk of metal. Even with Genocide 2’s focus on speedy completion the game as a whole rewards accuracy and attention above all else, leaping around like an over-enthusiastic grasshopper on a bouncy castle only leaving you vulnerable to attack and less likely to land those important hits in the right place at the right time.
You can see this “thoughtful action” design just as much in the art as you do the gameplay, with each of Genocide 2’s six areas not only leading directly from one to the next but also telling a further mini-story within themselves, secretive sewer runs breaking out onto the busy city streets above, brawls across enemy-laden aircraft carrier decks finishing with a leap on the back of a plane and taking off into the skies to land elsewhere (and then soon crashing into the forest below). If you look closely you’ll notice the game takes place in a single day, the game’s backgrounds going from starry night to blue skies before finishing on a warm sunset – it’s another little thread for you to follow, another minor piece of evidence that proves your actions are moving things forward, that there’s real urgency and immediacy to the task at hand. Countless smaller details and unique events further compliment these already busy scenes: Enemy mechs might be hiding under canvas sheets in a warehouse, waiting to rip off the covers and fight when you draw near. You might find yourself falling into a pit full of mechanical waste, causing a lone enemy to rise out of the garbage and using these chunks of discarded metal against you. Cave walls shimmer in the heat as lava-drenched mechs rise up from the hot pools of the substance below, and thoroughly evil cape-wearers gesticulate from the palms of gigantic robotic hands. You want to get further just to see what the game’s going to show you next, regardless of how invested or otherwise you may be in the finer points of the game’s mechanics and time attack style ranking system.
It’s worth pointing out that all of the above that only applies to the X68k version I’ve shown here and the slightly reworked and even harder to obtain FM-Towns double pack release, Genocide Square (featuring a redone intro and outro as well as tweaks to your little Betty). The Super Famicom version of the game may be the easiest one to get your hands on but it does play some areas out of order, almost entirely skip the opening stage, shrinks some large foes down to a more ordinary size (not unexpected, but always disappointing), change the plot and… I think it’s best to say it reminds me of a mediocre Nineties console port of an impressive game that in its arcade home came on a fancy PCB with all of those wonderful sprite-scaling bells and whistles. It’s the same but… but not, like listening to The Ride of the Valkyries played on the kazoo. Luckily for everyone this excellent original is available to buy – regardless of where you live – thanks to its international digital availability via Project EGG.