Sawbuck Gamer

ARC Squadron

Glass Effect

ARC Squadron does away with the joystick—and the joy.

By Drew Toal • December 3, 2012

Many who play at least a few minutes of ARC Squadron will immediately think of the famous interplanetary dogfight game Star Fox, but I see Total Eclipse. The 1993 space shooter bucked the trend on the Panasonic 3DO, in which most games paired impressive graphics with a miserable game. Total Eclipse was visually unremarkable, but unaccountably fun to play. Like Eclipse, ARC Squadron puts you in control of an agile space fighter, and it throws a figurative and literal meteor shower of obstacles your way. Small flicks of your index finger control lasers, barrel rolls, missile volleys and other maneuvers that would make Chappy Sinclair proud.

Despite superficial similarities to Total Eclipse, though, ARC Squadron has more in common with the rest of the 3DO’s glitzy dross. It looks really great, and it works well enough. But there’s something about piloting a fighter without a joystick that drains a lot of the fun out of the whole experience. And with all the pretty space junk flying at you, your view quickly gets crowded and messy (especially on the smaller phone screen). As wave after wave of enemy ships, mines, and floating bombs clutter the sunless horizon, I find there is only one thing on my mind: Where’s the Death Blossom when I need it?

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  • DrKumAndGo

    Did anyone anywhere actually buy a 3D0? CSB: I got to use one only because a friend’s parents worked for a game company and therefore had basically ALL the games and ALL the systems at their office. … I remember it had a party game that was pretty good, but maybe not good enough to justify the inflation-adjusted price tag of $1100.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Yeah, the 3DO and Neo-Geo home system were both ridiculously overpriced, so I never had any hope of owning either one.

      • Asinus

        Even a used NEO-GEO (not CD) was still really expensive the last time I checked. It was a totally kick-ass idea for a console, though. 

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           In third grade, the Neo Geo had this mythic status. A $700 game console, whose cartridges each cost as much as an NES individually? It must be the most amazing system ever.

        • Asinus

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus – at the time, though, there was no price that would have seemed unreasonable to play the arcade version of Samurai Showdown at home. Fortunately, I never had that kind of money to blow on something like that, so I could just play them on MAME a few years later. Once again, the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!

      • George_Liquor

        The 3DO had an ass-backward business model from the start. I think that, had 3DO given the console makers a cut of the revenue from game sales, the consoles could have sold at a price low enough to compete with Nintendo & Sega. 

        It’s not that bad a videogame system, really. It sported built-in memory for game saves; a rare feature back then. It wasn’t really a 3D powerhouse, but some of the better-looking games were comparable to early PS1 titles, at least. The license fees for game developers were really low, so it had great 3rd party support. It had arcade-perfect ports of Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Bust-A-Move, and the only version of Star Control 2 to hit any console. Had it not been saddled with such a huge price tag, I think it could have stayed pretty competitive. 

    • Army_Of_Fun

      We had one. I think my mom paid $400 for it.

      The party game may have been “Twisted: The Game Show”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twisted:_The_Game_Show

      It’s a decent title. The video portions have a very backyard production vibe to them that’s kind of endearing. Like it was the product of some college kids just having a good time.

      The 3DO had some worthwhile games. My favorites being Return Fire and Star Fighter. There were also a lot of cross platform EA titles released for the system that I have fond memories of like Road Rash, FIFA, Madden and Theme Park.

    • Asinus

      My best friend in HS had one so I was familiar with it. It seemed more like a cut-scene/FMV delivery vehicle. Madden on it was visually impressive, but they always did these overly-long cut aways to the ref. The “first down” call became a sort of joke among us– the ref would (I think) turn, and then unnaturally slowly make the first down arm signal, and then say “First down” and the crowd would cheer, but it sounded like children saying, “YAY!” They should have hired a real ref to do that shit instead of just having someone sort of be a ref (or, you know, just not do the FMV cuts at all). That’s really all I remember about the system: First Down. (YAY!)

      • Army_Of_Fun

        The clips in that Madden were bad and they slowed the game down. This was back in the day of single speed CD drives, so loading off the disc was painful.

        That ‘ref’ also said “offsides” in a very effeminate manner, something that greatly amused me when I was 13.

        • Asinus

          I forgot about that! After I posted that, I had to go to youtube to see if there was Madden 3DO video, and there is. I don’t think I’ve seen that since I was 15 or so, and with the “stunningness” of the graphics far behind us all I notice is how long it takes to get into an actual game. Yeah, when everyone was playing with the Genesis, 3DO had a lot of “wow” factor, but now it’s just so emblematic of my biggest pet peeve– taking forever to actually be able to play the damn game. The videos were neat at first and probably sold a lot of systems, but after a while, enough! Just knock it off and get to the gameplay. 

  • WorldCivilizations

    This is as good a time as I’ll get to plug Sean O’Connor’s games. They’re pretty old little games for Windows, and one of my favorites is Critical Mass, where you have top-down control of a ship leading a squadron of ships. You give the ship inputs (thrust, missiles, turning), then execute to advance the action about 1 second – not so much turn-based as real-time broken into turns. It’s really cool. The best game of the bunch is Slay, a strategy game which is also on iOS. Anyway, this is the guy’s site:

    http://www.windowsgames.co.uk/index.html

    • Army_Of_Fun

      I dumped a ton of hours into demos for Slay and Mother of all Battles.

  • dmikester

    Just to comment on the game, this one really let me down, especially after all the hype on various mobile game review sites as being the BEST THING EVAR.  Drew’s review is right on the money; the lack of a joystick feels like the game is getting in its own way and saps a lot of the fun out of the experience, and the difficulty level is all over the place which leads to lots of frustration.  Definitely not recommended.

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    I like Sawbuck Gamer, but I’d encourage you guys (for my own selfish purposes) to review more android games.  I know the iOS world is much bigger, but it also already gets a lot more coverage.  And I don’t need much of a review for browser games, since they cost me nothing to check out for myself.  After my last mp3 player died, I chose Android because of the flash support.  That turned out to just shy of a total lie, and definitely a disappointment when the industry conspired against me personally by dropping its support.  But now Android is what I have and it works well enough for browsing and music that I’m not buying anything else.  But finding good cheap games for it is difficult, and finding intelligent reviews for android games is even harder.  I’m sure there are other people who feel this way.  Probably 20, maybe even 30 if you count the whole world.  So those 3 dozen people would really appreciate more of a focus on android.  thanks.

    tldr: I’m a whiny entitled miserly reader who wants you to retool this column to cater to my bad decisions.