S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Natsume
  • Publishers:
    • JP Natsume
    • US Natsume
    • UK Infogrames
  • Released:
    • JP 06/22/1990
    • US June 1991
    • UK 1992
Score: 75%

This review was published on 11/11/2016.

S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team is a shoot 'em up video game developed by Natsume for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on June 22, 1990, North America in June 1991, and Europe in 1992. Natsume published the game in Japan and North America and Infogrames published it in Europe. The game went by different titles in each region: it was known as "Final Mission" in Japan and "Action in New York" in Europe and Australia. This game was heavily inspired by an arcade classic made by Capcom in 1988 called Forgotten Worlds. While many may have forgotten about Forgotten Worlds, Natsume certainly didn't, considering it more or less ripped that game off wholesale. That's okay, though, because while Natsume's work might be a little on the derivative side, S.C.A.T. is still a pretty good game.

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Despite its North American title, this game isn't about scatological humor. Instead, it's about an alien invasion. It's the year 2029 and humanity faces a threat completely unlike anything it has ever faced before. An alien force led by the Supreme Commander Vile Malmort has shown up and planted an "Astrotube" in the ruins of New York City. This nefarious tube connects New York City to Vile Malmort's space station, allowing his forces to easily invade the whole planet. With little time to act, the President assembled the greatest scientific minds from around the world in an attempt to avert this crisis. After plenty of research, the scientists succeed in creating mankind's last hope; the Special Cybernetic Attack Team, or S.C.A.T. for short. Couldn't they have come up with a better name? In any case, the team is literally comprised of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver, both of whom were cybernetically enhanced for combat. It's now up to this dynamic duo to save Earth.

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There's a surprisingly crisp voice clip at the beginning of the game. Like, it sounds really good, which is astonishing given that this is the NES. The rest of the sound effects aren't half bad, either. More importantly, the music is rock solid, with a nice assortment of 8-bit tunes that'll tune-up any car. The graphics are also decent by the NES' standards, featuring detailed backgrounds, nice foregrounds, and decent sprites. Stage one has a lightning effect in the background that looks pretty neat. The color palette is also good, although all the environments are kind of dark. The animations are a little stiff, but they do still get the job done. Some of Natsume's later games on the NES certainly look better, but this is still one of the better looking games on the system.

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In the one player mode, you can choose to play as either Arnold or Sigourney, but the two player co-op mode forces Arnold on player one and Sigourney on player two. This is merely cosmetic, as the two play identically. Anyway, instead of flying around in a tiny spaceship like most shoot 'em ups, your Contra-like character sprite is equipped with something or other that gives them unlimited flight. Functionally, this isn't any different from controlling a spaceship, but you do have a much bigger hit box, so it's harder to dodge bullets. Thankfully, unlike most shoot 'em ups, you actually have a life bar, meaning you don't die in one hit. As for the controls, you use the d-pad to smoothly fly in all eight directions and the B button to fire your gun. The gun can only be fired in two directions depending on which way your character is facing, and your character faces whichever direction you're moving in. Unfortunately, this means there's no way to strafe, but that's made up for in other ways.

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Something you'll notice right away is that there are two orbs floating alongside your character. These orbs also fire bullets when you fire your gun, making them similar to the Options from the Gradius series. By default, the orbs will automatically orbit around your character, but they can be locked into place by pressing the A button. Pressing the A button again will unlock the orbs, putting them back into orbiting mode. This is extremely useful, as it enables you to fire in directions that your gun normally can't target, like up and down. Plus, this could potentially allow you to shoot in three directions at the same time. Strategically locking the orbs in different spots depending on the current situation is a crucial part of the game. For example, if there are enemies coming at you from two sides, you can fire your gun at one side and have the orbs cover the other. By the end of the game, you'll love these orbs more than your own mother.

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Occasionally, tiny canisters will appear, and destroying them will reveal a power-up. Power-ups come in the form of square plates with letters on them, with each letter symbolizing a different one, and they're all rather self explanatory. Three of the possible power-ups you'll encounter will modify the shots of your primary gun, changing your bullets to lasers, a wide beam, or bombs. The other power-ups include one that increases your movement speed and the rate of fire of your orbs, and another that gives you more life bars. Strangely, the power-up panels will stay in place for a few seconds and then quickly fly away. If you're not fast enough, you'll miss your chance to grab them. Other than that, this is a pretty standard power-up system.

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On your action packed mission to save Earth, you'll fly past ruined cities, secret underground facilities, giant elevator shafts leading to outer space, and enemy battleships. Every stage consists of you flying around, dodging enemy bullets while pelting them with your own. All stages automatically scroll either horizontally or vertically, though it's most commonly the former. Often, a single stage will change things up on you, switching between horizontal and vertical scrolling. Enemies appear from all open sides of the screen, keeping you on your toes at all times. And as usual, a boss awaits your presence at the end of each stage. These typically take the form of massive machines or ships with multiple destructible parts. The game gets very hard later on, but it graciously lets you continue an unlimited amount of times. There's nothing too original on display here, but the stages all play fairly well, and the bosses are decent enough.

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Besides the different titles, there are some other differences between each version of the game, some bigger than others. The North American and European versions of the game are mostly identical, but Arnold and Sigourney were renamed to Silver Man and Sparks in the European version, though their character portraits remain unchanged. Also, the team name was changed from Special Cybernetic Attack Team to Special Attack Team. However, the Japanese version has far more and far bigger differences. First off, the opening story cinematic is totally different, depicting the destruction of a few cities prior to the alien invasion. Secondly, the voice clip at the beginning is completely unintelligible. Thirdly, there's no map screen or character select, and the two characters have been replaced with nearly identical palette swaps. Lastly, the difficulty was much higher in the Japanese version, as you start off with only three life bars instead of six and lose upgrades upon getting hit. The orbs also have weaker firepower and function differently, being aligned by your movements instead of rotating in a set pattern. Due to all that, the North American and European versions are better.

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Lots of Americans probably skipped over this game due to the horrible name it got there, which is a shame, because it's good. It's got good graphics, good music, and most important of all, good game play. The orb system is the most unique thing about this game, and it certainly enhances the experience by providing additional strategic depth. Another big selling point is the two player simultaneous co-op mode. Don't be fooled by the scatological name, because this is still a good game.

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