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Neo Geo CD: Mutation Nation review

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From the game's intro: "In the year 20XX, the city has become a slum. The experiment that has destroyed this city has become a dim memory." Ok...um, I have no clue what's going on. Apparently, some weird scientist has created an army of mutants...they pretty much just run around looking at each other all day long. It's kind of like Baraka says at the end of Mortal Kombat Gold: "How do we rule a realm with no one in it!?"...well, I guess you put someone in it, in fact how about two guys with nothing better to do than run around killing everything they see? Yeah, that's the ticket...

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What's it all about?
It's a 2D, arcade-y beat'em up that pits you against endless hordes of mutants. For the most part, you(and a buddy) run around beating the crap out of everything that moves until you reach the level boss, and mercelessly beat it as well. Using a barrage of lethal martial arts combos, jump kicks, flying uppercuts and a grab or two, you beat the living hell out of anything your path. If things get to be more than you can handle, you always have special moves to save your butt. Charging up one of the various types(acquired by picking up powerups found in the levels), will generally lay waste to just about anything on the screen...

Graphics - Rock solid, big and beefy sprites with loads of detail. The two main "hero" characters look great, and have some nice animation for the various combos they can perform and other things. The backgrounds are excellent, with lots of gritty detail that fits the mood nicely. The enemies have an adequate amount of animation, though they do seem a little stiff during certain actions. Bosses, on the other hand, are really something to see. Most are, at least, twice as big as everyone else, and do a really good job of making you feel the whole "Holy Crap!" shock value that any good boss instills into players.

Sound - The music is very, um, SNES-like...and that's about the best way I can describe it. It mostly consists of heavily synthesized guitar, and a variety of generic "action" beats. Sound effects are pretty much more of the same with the various grunts, screams and groans of your character and the enemies. About the only thing that really seems to stand out are the various stereo effects with stuff going on on the right side of the screen coming out of the right speaker, and the same for the left side/left speaker. It's a nice, little effect.

Control - Smooth to the point of almost being too loose. The gameplay itself is very arcade-ish, and the control really reflects it as you character moves quickly across the screen and never really seems to lock onto anything. All in all, it's not bad. Though the combo system isn't nearly as deep as anything found on Sega's Streets of Rage or Capcom's Final Fight, it is easy enough to pull off with its simple combinations of using the various buttons along with a direction on the pad. A quick note for those of you with a Classics Converter: The turbo feature really comes in handy for boss fights.

AI - Cheap as hell! For the most part, the regular enemies will try to gang up on you every chance they get...then proceed to knock you down, then wait for you to get up...and knock you down again. You can get out of it with some good timing(and luck), but sometimes it can be really rough. They also have this annoying tendency to jump *all* the time...thus enabling them to get away with you just tapping them with two hits as they fly ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SCREEN. Bosses are pretty much the same way...but they'll often times flatten you....stand there....wait for you to get up...then do it again....and again, until you die. Literally, most of the time, the first time you are knocked down during a boss fight is the last time you get up until you die.

Replay value - Moderate. It's definitely something you can just pick up and jump right into...no learning and/or thinking required, which is the game's greatest asset as well as its biggest flaw. With a buddy, it's great fun to just tear through the cheap-ass hordes and, especially, the bosses...and as the game gives you unlimited continues, you're guaranteed to have a full game every time. After you get your fill of it all though, going back by yourself may not have much appeal...even on higher difficulty levels(playing on Hard just seems to increase the life meters of the bosses, everything else is about the same).

Load Times - Not bad at all. This one follows the typical early Neo CD title syndrome of "Load once...and never again". Past that, and it's not anything to get upset about it, the game will pause for a slight second before and after mid-boss fights and at the beginning of new levels...

Tips for better gaming experiences:
Make good use of the three kinds of combos the characters can perform:

1. The "Pop Up" combo is performed by holding Up on the pad while attacking. This will unleash a series of attacks that knocks the enemy up in the air at which point you can pop them a few more times. It's a good one to use for those enemies that like the lash back after a combo, as it generally gives you some great distance once you finish the combo.

2. The "Slam Attack" combo is performed by holding Down on the pad while attacking. This vicious attack lands a serious flurry of punches on the enemy that ends with some sort of crowning move that slams them to the ground *really* hard, thus bouncing them back up for a final hit of your choice. This is the most powerful of the combos, and your best shot at inflicting some serious hurt on the overly cheap bosses.

3. The "Regular" combo is performed simply by just hitting the attack button a series of times in a row. It's nice for non-boss enemies as it generally sends them flying across the screen and into others.

For more in-depth info on Mutation Nation, be sure to check out the excellent Mini-FAQ by Toxic.

Rating: 75(out of 100) - A great bit of old school fun, especially with a buddy. Excellent graphics, fast arcade-like action and some fun combos will have you taking this one for a stroll until you begin to yearn for something a bit deeper...

 
 Yeehaw....mutant cowboy!  No mutant is safe from the vicious air combos...
   
 Good, gooey fun!  The special charge moves kill almost anything on the screen in a variety of goofy ways.
For more info: 
Publisher: SNK
Developer: SNK
Size: 1 CD
Memory Usage: None
No. of players: 2(simultaneously)

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