A devastating World War ravaged the Earth for 70 agonizing years beginning at the end of the 20th Century. During the later stages of the war, an automated battle system named “K.O.S.” (Killer Operating System) was developed. Central to the “K.O.S.” program was a highly sophisticated neural net, which included the compilation of all biotechnology data available. This made the “K.O.S.” an extremely efficient and highly adaptable weapon, able to rapidly determine and generate the most effective response to any external threat. It became known simply as KAOS.
KAOS turned the tides of war, and the war ended with the establishment of the “Commonwealth of Earth.” The new government promised to establish a utopia, and its first move was to order the destruction of all the weapons of war.
KAOS was ordered shut down and all other weapon systems destroyed. The world rejoiced and weapons were torn apart at a record pace.
What no one realized was that KAOS had become a sentient being, with only one goal: SURVIVAL! It turned off all external signs of operation, and began secretly creating a massive army of weapons and brutal creatures.
Without warning, KAOS released its armies on the world to destroy its new found enemy, all of humanity! The only weapon of war remaining was a lone Tech-Wing Fighter!!
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to pilot the Tech-Wing Fighter, enter KAOS and destroy it from within! The fate of humanity is in your able hands!!
Alarm condition red!! This is a Red Alarm!!!
This is the story of Red Alarm, taken from the well designed instruction manual. I must admit it isn’t really relevant for the game, because the levels are loosely put together and you won’t find any story developments, but who needs a well thought-out story in a shooter anyway? It’s about the action…
After turning on the Virtual Boy and going through the usual adjustments like IPD, Focus and Automatic Pause, you’ll see an atmospheric intro, which shows your Tech-Wing starting from its home base, before the quite simple title screen shows up. On this, you can make some more adjustments before dropping yourself into the action. You can choose one of four different controller configurations and three levels of difficulty; plus, brightness and depth of the graphics can be adjusted. After selecting “Start” in the main menu, the first of six big levels starts with a speech sample (“Here we go!”) and a short tracking shot.
Here, the most noticeable characteristic of Red Alarm instantly grabs your attention: the unusual graphics, because the game is presented completely in wire-frame graphics! You won’t find any surfaces or textures; all objects only consist of red lines and are, of course, transparent. Additionally, the range of vision is very limited; you can’t look into the level more than the length of like six Tech Fighters, which is understandable though, since all the red lines would have blurred into a thick red mist if the range of vision would have been too high. So only the rough plopping in of them isn’t a nice sight; a soft fading in would have looked much better. As controversial as the peculiar graphical concept of Red Alarm might be – one might love it while the next one hates it – it fascinates with its very own appeal and an awesome 3D environment.
After only a few meters into the first level you are getting attacked by the first enemies, and from this point you are in the middle of the action, which hardly lets you come to rest throughout the entire game. All the time, projectiles and rockets fly around your ears while hostile ships, mechs or automated defensive weapons want to make an end of you. And at the same time, you don’t only have to have an eye on your shield energy, which decreases with every hit you take, but you also have only a limited amount of fuel for every level, so idling around will be punished at the latest when you explode with an empty tank and the Game Over screen appears. Power-ups, which sometimes appear out of destroyed enemies, increase the number of simultaneously firing homing missiles, give you a turbo, or repair your shields. All the five big levels are divided into two parts; after a long, winding passage, you will have to fight a boss in a separate area; the sixth and last level only consists of such an area, in which the final boss awaits you.
Luckily, in all this, you’re backed by well made controls, which present themselves complexly but highly intuitively. While you move the Tech-Wing in every direction with the left pad, with the right pad, you can perform extremely useful, jerky evasive maneuvers upward, downward, to the left or to the right. If you hold down the L Trigger while controlling your Tech-Wing with the left pad, the results are faster maneuvers and a smaller turning circle. The A and B Buttons are used for accelerating and braking, while next to a complete standstill, there are 2 different levels of acceleration as well as a reverse gear and a turbo mode, which you can only activate, however, if you are in possession of the corresponding item. Using the Select Button, you can choose one of four different camera perspectives: the standard view, which is placed well behind your Tech-Wing, one directly behind your fighter, a cockpit view as well as a view shifted slightly to the right and above. Lastly, the R Trigger is probably the most important button, since it fires your Balkan Cannon. In addition, you can fire off homing missiles at targeted enemies by tapping it quickly.
After each level (or death), you can then marvel at this once again in a complete replay. While you review all the action, you have, among other things, the opportunity to freely rotate the camera around your Tech-Wing, to zoom, to tilt the picture, or to let all the action run faster or in slow motion.
The love for detail of the developers also should not remain unmentioned, so for example, a lot of tiny people scurry about in a mech hangar around the big war machines and flee from you when you fly over them, or you can land on the ground and little stands like the Virtual Boy’s come out at the bottom of the ship. The game is full of so-called “Easter eggs,” little hidden gimmicks, which usually only become visible if you shoot a certain place in a level. So eager seekers will, among other things, meet a kangaroo family, which, once you kill the mother, starts firing at you like crazy, a wire-frame Virtual Boy or a small house complete with little people and furniture!
Also the sound knows how to impress. A driving soundtrack underlines the action, plus explosions and firing noises, a lot of little speech samples like “Here we go!,” “Good Luck!” or “T&E Soft presents,” and other things like a warning siren, which starts beeping once your fuel is low.
A loss is the missing save function and the a-bit-too-small extent. The levels are absolutely not too small, but after you have played through all six of them in about two hours and have sent KAOS to the happy hunting grounds, you have seen everything, and there won’t be anything else to do besides the other difficulty levels or going for high scores. But thanks to the missing save function, this is not really motivating. A gallery with your Easter eggs found, a high score list or any unlockable extras would have been a good addition.
But don’t let this scare you, because until you’ve played through Red Alarm, the best, most entertaining shooting action awaits you. The unmistakable qualities of the T&E Soft game and the relatively low purchase price only allow one result: a must-have!
Red Alarm is one of the games which shouldn’t be missing in any Virtual Boy collection. The well worked-out game mechanics, the gripping soundscape and, last but not least, the exhilarating 3D experience make the T&E Soft shooter an outstanding title. Only the missing long-term motivation leaves a tear in my eye…