Once upon a time, side-scrolling platformers were everywhere. There were easy ones, hard ones and some that were downright insane! It was a brilliant time full of some amazing games, as well as some truly horrid ones. In this ocean of platformers, a science fiction game where you play as a police officer who slowly turns into a cybernetic E.S.W.A.T officer.
Back in the day, I absolutely loved E.S.W.A.T. However, it had been over 15 years since I last played it. So I’ve now gone back to it to see what I think of it now. Here’s what I thought.
The game features a very cyberpunk style storyline that, as mentioned, involves your character becoming a cyborg as you progress through the levels. As someone who is a huge fan of cyberpunk, and an even bigger fan of Ghost in the Shell specifically, that is a big draw for me when it comes to the game.
Platformers of the time often had trouble creating and portraying a storyline, and to be honest, E.S.W.A.T does suffer from some of the more common difficulties in this regard. Things like cutscenes with detailed dialogue and story progression weren’t really a thing for the genre. That meant that the developers had to show you the storyline, rather than tell you. E.S.W.A.T manages to do this, giving you just enough information through the levels and enemies that you can understand what it going on.
The story, itself, is pretty good. It features a pretty common cyberpunk theme and doesn’t offer much in the way of originality for the genre… But it is good enough to give you some background and reasoning to continue through the onslaught of enemies.
The gameplay of E.S.W.A.T revolves around traversing various different platforming levels, shooting enemies as you go. You can shoot horizontally and vertically, which you will need to do very often in order to clear a safe path. One thing of interest is that, if you progress enough to move to a different screen after killing the enemies and then return to that screen, the enemies respawn. This means that you’ll never be able to completely clear a level and make your life easier.
Because of that, as well as the sheer number of enemies and their placements, I can definitely say that E.S.W.A.T lived up to the typically difficult and challenging gameplay of the era. You have to memorise enemy locations and attack patterns, as some have delayed attacks whilst others have constant machinegun fire.
Personally, I adore the challenge that older platforming games give you. It makes the game feel like much better value for money, and also creates a sense of achievement every time you progress further into E.S.W.A.T. Some people may not like the fact that you cannot just breeze through the game with no problems the first time you play it, but I find that to be really good game design.
For a 16-Bit era game, E.S.W.A.T features some really good graphics. Each character sprite is easily identifiable, and the location of each level is easily discernable. The animation for attacks is done very well, with each sprite switching between animation graphics smoothly. From a game development point of view, they have done a really good job at making the sprites switching without any noticeable delay.
The level design is also very well thought out with some careful planning obviously going into each one of them. This means that the graphics work brilliantly with the gameplay mechanics, coming together to form a brilliantly cohesive experience.
And That’s All Folks
E.S.W.A.T is a really fun game for the MegaDrive, or Genesis in the States, that offers both entertainment and challenge. It features some really exciting gameplay and great 16-bit graphics that really blend together to create a wonderful experience. The storyline could have been more unique and original, but it gives just enough to make you want to keep playing.
Have you played E.S.W.A.T before? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below!