Top Gun - NDS - Review
Many of you will come to remember the movie Top Gun as Tom Cruise’s first real action flick and the game has spawned a barely memorable game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. So several years later, it has come to this reviewer’s surprise that that Top Gun is back, only this time on new technology. While it’s great to have an arcade-styled flight combat simulator you can play on the go, Top Gun for the Nintendo DS barely makes it to the “danger zone.”
There’s no real story in the game’s single-player campaign mode despite the fact that you get to pick from four of the movie’s main characters like Maverick (Tom Cruise) or the slick and determined-to-be-better-than-everyone Iceman (played by Val Kilmer in the movie). The only real sense that you’re playing a game based on the movie is the short blurbs during character selection that fills you in on the fact that Maverick still feels the loss of his buddy Goose. The game’s campaign mode takes you through a number of missions, each with their own objectives to complete, and no rewards at the end. What you do get is a chance to fly three different jet fighters like the F-14, an F-16 and an F/A-18.
The missions’ structure is the single-player campaign mode’s biggest strength as well as its weakness. You start with a series of training exercises that give you an idea of how your fighter jets maneuvers as well as its weapons, be it machine gun fire or rockets and missiles. While you do have to watch your altitude, your plane won’t realistically stall on you if you manage to climb over the fighter jet’s limits. You can even lock on to your enemy using the B button. After finishing routine training missions, you’ll be going up against enemies that crossed over no-fly zones, protect aircraft carriers or play wingman to fellow pilots. Yet, as I mentioned, the missions are also the weakest part of the game since many of the game’s missions start feeling like you’re just completing the same tasks repeatedly.
Here’s the good and bad news, though. You will see a lot of combat in these unfriendly skies and there are times when the enemy is good at keeping up with you in battle but the bad news is that combat becomes just as repetitive as the missions themselves. Sure, it’s fun to be chasing an enemy fighter down and waiting for the lock-on reticule to turn red but after awhile it just becomes a bore. Worse yet, if an enemy does get a lock on your jet, all you have to do is move side-to-side and your enemy somehow loses sight of you. If you think you’ll be doing some fancy flying or cool aerial moves in this game you will be in for quite a disappointment.
As far as the controls are concerned, Top Gun manages to make flying simple and easy for those gamers that simply want to pick up and start playing without little instruction. The DS’s touch screen is hardly used here since all it does it give you a radar view of the action (e.g. how many friendly fighters or enemies are in the area) and the option to switch from missiles to rockets or even change the view from third-person to first-person. There is also a multiplayer mode here that allows you to play with up to four players using a single card (other DS owners can download the multiplayer mode) or multiple ones. While multiplayer allows you to pick your planes, mission time, battle area and frag count. It’s basically a deathmatch game that isn’t as fun as it could have been.
Top Gun is also not a very good-looking game but then again it’s hard for a flight-combat game to look good when all you’ll see are clouds. There are some missions that take you close to the sea and some that highlight canyons but it’s nothing particularly eye pleasing. Even the fighter jets don’t look so hot, although the explosions do look decent enough.
As for the game’s sound is concerned, Harold Faltermeyer’s main theme score from the movie plays during the main menu screen and that’s about the only thing you’ll hear that will remind you of Top Gun. There are some guitar riffs that play during the game’s missions but they’re not as good as the original score. As far as the sound effects are concerned, there’s nothing really that stands out except for the explosions. You’ll hear your character announce that the enemy has a lock on him but that’s about it.
Top Gun is not a bad game but it’s also not a very good one if you’re expecting an action-packed arcade-styled flight combat game. Its missions do give you a lot to do but what you do starts to become way too repetitive to be any real fun. On top of that, the actual combat isn’t as fun as it could have been leaving us a game that is just a bland handheld action game hardly worth the time or money.
Review Scoring Details for Top Gun
The game’s controls are simplistic enough that very little skill is necessary even in the game’s most intense dogfights. The touch screen is just barely utilized so don’t expect much in terms of unique DS features but the worst part is that the missions start to become too familiar and the combat itself just loses its appeal after the third mission.
The unfriendly skies look particularly bland in this game and even the F-14s don’t look as cool as they should be. There are some nice explosions but it’s nothing special. In short, don’t expect much from the visuals.
The movie’s still too-cool opening theme music plays in the beginning and then it’s just the same heavy guitar riffs and little in terms of sound effects. What you will hear a lot of is your pilot repeating the same “He’s got a lock on me!” phrase repeatedly. Trust me when I say you’ll be lowering the volume.
Certain mission objects are hardly a challenge while others will have you replaying the same mission. The challenge comes with the fact that there are no checkpoints so if you mess up in the middle of a mission you’ll have to start it all over again from the beginning.
While it’s based on the 80s' Tom Cruise movie of the same name, you won’t feel like you’re taking control of the likes of Maverick, Iceman, Jester or Slider. There are a decent number of missions, including bonus missions, but with only a limited number of fighter jets to control these missions just start feeling the same. Add a lackluster multiplayer mode and there’s not much reason to want to play this game.
You can play with up to four players using multiple cards or play using a single card other DS owners can download. The multiplayer mode isn’t big on options so be prepared to get bored with this mode very quickly.
Unfortunately, Top Gun rarely rises above it’s recycled mission structure and repetitive dogfights that ultimately makes this a forgettable experience. As a fan of flight-combat sims it would have been great to have a portable game but as it stands this one just doesn’t have what it takes to be a real top gun.