No matter how creative the enemies are or how beautiful the graphics are, the main quality that players will sometimes be looking for in a 2D side-scroller is the level design. And while they may not exactly be aware of it, the level design will always make or break a game in terms of player experience. After all, you can’t simply have multiple levels with different kinds of set dressing on it and pass it off as a great level design if all levels are simply the same in terms of layout.
Fortunately for us, Phantom Gear is excellent in that aspect. Each level brings a unique aesthetic to it that fits the world while also bringing in unique mechanics for each of them. So join Josephine in her quest to recover a piece of the Artifact stolen by the Ocular Force across multiple levels of smooth gameplay and frantic combat.
Before heading on to specifics for each level, there are a couple of key things that will be equally true for almost all of them. Phantom Gear's levels are designed to be one big level split into multiple sections. It follows a checkpoint system, and whenever you die, you will be simply transported to the last checkpoint you reached. As with most platformers made for the Sega Genesis, you only have a limited number of lives, and if you run out of them, you’d have to start the entire game over. A way to take this down a notch is that the levels with some of the more difficult sections will contain an extra life. These extra life pickups also respawn whenever you die, which also means that you effectively get unlimited lives if you choose to always try and pick them up.
Aside from checkpoints, there are also various shops strewn across the levels, allowing you to spend your hard-earned green orbs to upgrade your abilities, give you extra lives, or equip different weapons. Some of these shops contain extra juicy stuff, but they are located on alternate routes within the level, so be on the lookout for these routes!
With those out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each level. There are eight levels in the game, and while this may seem low in number, remember that each level is one huge linear track that is split into multiple sections. This means that the actual game length would be longer than the eight levels that Phantom Gear presents you with.
The first level that we’ll encounter is City Lab, and this is where Josephine’s journey begins. This level mostly aims to introduce the player to how Phantom Gear works, introducing you to the different enemies and obstacles within the world and showing you just how maneuverable Josephine is.
Next, we have the Under City Cave, the source of the city’s power by way of geothermal energy. This is essentially a magma-filled level with plenty of lava-based obstacles along the way. And for a person like Josephine, her augments can only carry her so far when it comes to the heat inside the cave.
Valley Forest is the third level, which is the staple greenery level that consists of multiple robotic animals, influenced by the Ocular Force. A bit of foreshadowing here but there’s a huge surprise waiting for you when you reach the end of the level. You better gear up!
The first level that provides a break from all the jumping and shooting, Blast Journey has Josephine taking to the skies, riding a missile towards her next destination. A homage to the retro side-scrolling shooters, Josephine must be able to survive the onslaught of flying enemies that this level spawns to survive the trip.
A platformer wouldn’t be complete without an ice level, and Phantom Gear is no exception. The Snowy Mines contains all the usual trappings of an ice level, with plenty of slippery floors and harsh snowstorms.
Another auto-scrolling level, but this time, Josephine is grounded. Hot Pursuit sees her on a motorcycle chasing a train owned by the Ocular Force. Naturally, there will be plenty of shooting involved, and it’s your job to dodge bullets from enemies while dishing out your version of pain to them.
Fallen City is a glimpse of what would happen to other cities in the world if the Ocular Force is left unchecked. With plenty of failed experiments and junk from the factories of the Force, it elevates the Ocular Force from a bunch of random grunts wearing masks to a legitimate threat to Josephine’s world.
The atmosphere set by Fallen City is perfect for the game’s penultimate level because once you enter Ocular Force Headquarters, there’s no going back. The final level of the game will test all of the skills that you acquired throughout the game. And seeing as this is the final level, you better be prepared for the final boss as well.
With all this information in tow, it’s ultimately up to you how you would tackle the dangers strewn across each level. Whether you choose to blast through enemies haphazardly or take a more careful approach, at the end of the day, it is Josephine's mission to recover the stolen piece of the Artifact and put an end to the Ocular Force’s dreams of world domination once and for all.
If screenshots and a little bit of blurb won’t do for you and would love to see most of these levels in action, fear not, because you can head on over to Phantom Gear’s Kickstarter page to download a demo. And if you feel like the demo wouldn’t be enough for you to experience the lightning-fast frenzy of the game, the full game will be available soon, and pre-ordering it would be a great idea. Check out the game's Steam page and put it on your wish list! Join our Discord for discussion, news, and updates!
Happy Birthday You Animal!
This July 9th, Donkey Kong will be celebrating his 40th birthday! Or at least in our world. Canonically, not much is known about his age, but he sure has been at the top of his game for a long time now. He has acted both as an antagonist and protagonist and has shown up in a whole lot of genres of games. But the ape with the red tie still lives on to this day as one of the more popular characters in the pantheon of Nintendo IPs.
Known as one of the first platformers to have ever existed, the original Donkey Kong game was actually about Mario, then known as Jumpman, well before he found his fame in Super Mario Bros. It featured the plumber trying to rescue his girlfriend, Pauline, from DK’s clutches. And while people who know their DK lore will tell you that the Donkey Kong in this game was actually a younger Cranky Kong, that game will continue to live on in our world as the birth of this iconic ape.
Having sold more than 48 million units worldwide across 36 different Donkey Kong titles, Donkey Kong is probably the most profitable ape that Nintendo has ever put out, and with good reason. Spawning critically and commercially acclaimed games of various genres will put any character on the map, and DK has it in spades.
Of course, aside from playing Donkey Kong games and (hopefully) a surprise announcement or two from Nintendo to complete the number of his games to 40, the best way to celebrate his 40th anniversary is by knowing more about him. And what better way to do that than by hearing about some really interesting trivia about our ape of the hour?
Donkey Kong 64 hits the sweet spot in terms of a 3D platformer during the N64 era, and for good reason. It featured controls that made sense, mechanical breadth, and an emphasis on exploration. And while it doesn’t hold up quite as nicely as Super Mario 64, it still did its job as a solid entry to the series back then.
However, one surprising thing that you need to consider if you want to beat the game is that to do so, you must be able to clear 100m in the original Donkey Kong game twice to progress in the game! It’s not even a side quest or a hidden mini-game. It’s a requirement if you want to see the ending. So you better know how to play the original DK if you want to finish DK64.
It’s On like What?
This one’s especially weird. The saying “It’s on like Donkey Kong” is patented and trademarked. Nintendo is known for being fierce when defending their IPs and Donkey Kong is no exception.
As for why you would ever want to say that or how it even came about, the phrase is actually just a variation on saying “It’s on.”, but adding Donkey Kong in the mix somehow made it more humorous and sharper. And Ice Cube was the first person who publicly said it in one of his raps with a very NSFW title. So, yeah, maybe try to stay away from saying that in public.
Ever wondered why no one is legally trying to fight about Donkey Kong and King Kong’s obvious resemblance, especially with them both being Kongs and them both being apes who kidnapped ladies? Well, there was a lawsuit revolving around that similarity. Universal Studios tried to sue Nintendo for allegedly infringing on copyright, and they did this when they saw Nintendo raking in a huge $180 million in sales for the original DK game.
The only problem with that was Universal didn’t own King Kong because the story and character was already in public domain by the time DK showed up. Which meant that Universal wouldn’t be able to get a slice of the cash pie that they thought they would get a lick of.
Due to the time period that the original Donkey Kong game was released, it was unprecedented to have protagonists that are ladies in video games. Yeah, those were pretty bad times. But this is made even more apparent when the current generations take a look at these older titles and question why they can’t play as a different gender.
Mike Mika, a video game developer, had a daughter who was pretty disappointed about not being able to “play the girl” despite there being a sprite for Pauline. So as someone adept at game code, he studied and hacked into the original Donkey Kong’s code so that his daughter could play the girl and have Mario be DK’s hostage. What a great dad!
While not the first game to introduce cutscenes to the video gaming world, it was surely one that helped popularize the concept. The original arcade version of Donkey Kong opened with a scene where Donkey Kong climbs a set of ladders with Pauline in tow, then stomps his feet to create the first level’s layout before taunting Mario and setting the stage for the entire game.
This is quite significant for several reasons. Donkey Kong turned out to be more popular than anyone ever expected, which, in turn, had more eyes set upon it. And with that many people seeing it, it inadvertently caused these same people to expect stories to be told in their games, which propagated the use of cutscenes in video games.
Mario, Questionable Pet Owner
Hoping he won’t mistreat you, Lil pupper!
Yep, you read that right. Mario owned Donkey Kong, keeping the poor guy as a pet. So why did Donkey Kong even try to kidnap Pauline? Apparently, it’s because Mario was such a bad master that DK got frustrated with the whole ordeal and kidnapped Mario’s then-girlfriend as revenge.
At least now you know why that game has the villain as its titular character. DK was just a sad little ape pet who just wanted to be loved by his master. Humans are the real evil or something. But hey, at least Mario became more animal friendly in the later games, right? After all, he would crush goombas underfoot so that he can rescue Princess Peach in later games. Wait a minute...
Happy Early 40th anniversary to you, Donkey Kong! Maybe we should bake a giant banana cake, eh? We're set to stream some Diddy Kong Racing, or play some Super Smash Bros. Our plan for the big day? Nothing but Donkey Kong all day long. No matter which way you want to celebrate him turning 40, you've still got time to round out your collection of all 36 titles!
So there you have it, some sweet trivia about our favorite anthropoid. Which of these was the most interesting for you? Did you already know any of these? Or maybe you want us to know something about Donkey Kong that we didn’t mention in our list? Let us know over on our twitter page!
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