Red Sunset
for Amstrad CPC

Company: ESP Soft
Year: 2020
Genre: Action
Theme: Flight / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 1014
Review by LostInSpace (2023-10-21)

Conversions of Capcom shoot'em up classics such as U.N. Squadron and 1943: The Battle of Midway were released for the Amstrad CPC, which were not only technically impressive ports, but also looked particularly faithful to the original because of the wide colour palette. Due to the low frame rate, however, the fun factor lagged behind the arcade versions. But who cared in the late 80s when you could play the game directly on your own home computer at any time?

Under the title Red Sunset, another shoot'em up in this classic arcade style appeared in 2020. Expectations were high for this commercial release, which could open a new chapter in the effective utilisation of the hardware. The demos already showed impressively fast action. The full version includes 3 levels and a cute background story drawn in manga style.

The stylish splash screen

In the New Kyoto of 2125, the hero Takeshi is forced to free his sister Sakura from the clutches of “The Red Hand” gang before sunset. Fortunately, his grandfather Akiyama Azuma has two planetary gliders in his hangar. These flying machines hover a few metres above the ground or water and are of course equipped with a cannon. The first section leads through a forest-and-river landscape, then an underground cave is flown traversed to finally meet the mean kidnappers in the city of Hashimoto.

The two gliders differ mainly in their shooting power: either intensely concentrated forward or somewhat broader, but weaker. If you have already completed one of the levels, you can skip it again at any time via the start menu. The initial 3 lives are therefore intended for one level each. That is why a continue function was omitted.

As with many newer engines for the Amstrad, all sprites in Red Sunset are quite small and their projectiles are only a few pixels in size, but they are strikingly coloured so that the fast movement is still easily recognisable against the high-contrast background. The enemies fly in formations on fixed paths. On a cockpit display at the bottom of the screen, these various attacks are named with futuristic designations and announced in advance. Each level also has an intermediate boss and a final boss, all of which also have a fixed movement pattern and match the arcade style with their many times larger sprite very well.

The constant bombardment of flying enemies and also immobile ground objects keeps the player non-stop in action. Elements familiar from other vertical scrollers, such as barriers, can be found from level 2 onwards: Under the time pressure of the scrolling image, passages must first be shot through at offset positions in order to fly through them. However, the player sometimes has to cope with the somewhat awkward controls, which often prevent the movement through the narrow passages by a few pixels.

Getting pretty tight!

The player receives power-ups by shooting down two gliders flying next to each other. These so-called Delta Squads appear after a certain number of enemy waves. Depending on the colour of the coin released in this way, you receive an additional bomb (destroys all enemies), a shield (temporary invulnerability) or a shooting power booster. With the cannon at its maximum, the final bosses are quite easy to pass. Often, however, even minor carelessness takes its toll and the power-ups are lost early on. The dynamic soundtracks for each level always support further motivation.

Red Sunset delivers a balance between keeping all those classic elements of a vertical shooter together with an impressive game speed. The stylisation through manga elements and Japanese characters give Red Sunset a particularly memorable touch. Nevertheless, my personal impression is rather restrained, because on the one hand, a technically brilliant utilisation of the hardware was achieved, but on the other hand, due to the high demands, already the middle of the second level was almost out of my reach. For better shoot'em up players than me, Red Sunset still has the best prospects of becoming a classic as well.

Comments (3) [Post comment]


that's a hell of a cover!

Posted on Mastodon