Ai Senshi Nicol
Ai Senshi Nicol is a typical “save the damsel” story, with an unusual science fiction background. Nicol and his girlfriend Stella invent a machine that can transfer things through different dimensions. An evil Demon Bull King from the planet Dairass gets word of this machine, and demands Nicol sell it to him. The hero refuses, so the Demon King has his henchmen kidnap Stella while the two are together on a date. Nicol then quickly returns to his lab, only to find the parts for the machine are gone. Luckily, the project is unfinished, and Nicol just happens to have the final piece in his possession. He then sets out for Dairass to save Stella and reclaim the machine parts. The overhead perspective makes this game feel very similar to the overhead segments of Sunsoft’s NES game Blaster Master. Each level is a small maze, as you destroy bricks and hunt around for power-ups in order to be able to proceed. Your journey will take you across seven continents on Dairass in total, with each area containing three of the machine parts, many of which are guarded by mid-bosses. In stark contrast to other overhead games, Nicol can jump, so there’s some simple platforming added to the typical shooting action. Many levels are also filled with pits. These will drop you to the lowest level in the stage, which is usually filled with enemies and lava. Once you leave this area, you’ll return from the spot where you fell. Like many exploration-based, open-ended games, Ai Senshi Nicol can become tedious when wandering around the same areas over and over, looking for the things you’ve missed. This is especially true when dealing with the respawning enemies. Still, it controls remarkably well – you can move and shoot in eight directions, unlike many other titles in the genre, and the power-ups you obtain over the course of the game provide a solid sense of progression. The visuals and music are excellent, as well. Finally, the goofy opening cutscene and overly earnest ending, written entirely in English, give it a very particular charm.