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SummarySaving the city and getting the babes has never been better!
The GoodCobra Mission was a pretty odd sight to see when it first got released, nowadays we know that the sub-genre of hentai rpgs is a dime a dozen on Japan, but around 92 hardly any gaijin knew about them, and even fewer would guess that one of them would actually make the jump to western shores. The first one that did jump was Cobra Mission, a legendary game without any doubt, that would become the "Akira" of the genre to those few lucky ones that managed to get it on it's first run (or that got a hold of a pirate copy around the same time like I did).
Anyway, here's the deal: you are the stereotypical heroic P.I. that gets summoned by your old fling/partner Faythe to Cobra Island, a small city off the coast of Florida. Once you get to the island you see just why Faythe called you: the once heavenly island has been taken over by some overpowering sob, and has turned it's city into the typical japanese urban hell that seems to be a fixture of the nation's fiction: gangs rule the streets, crime runs rampant and the political/security powers that be do nothing either because they are- A) gone B) corrupt. or C) Being blackmailed with something to prevent them from doing anything. You have seen it before on animé and movies, and you have seen it before on novels and manga, but while you have seen it before on videogames too, it's been under the guise of cheap beat 'em ups like Final Fight, Bare Knuckle, etc.etc. How about playing that cheesy 80's "urban wasteland" setting under a comprehensive console-like rpg gameplay? Now that's interesting, isn't it?
As the super-duper P.I. it's your job thus to clean the town area by area to finally liberate the island of badass Kaizer's (that's the guy's name) rule of terror. And who knows, maybe you'll get your reward with Faythe if you play your cards right...save the world, kill the bad guy, get the girl... man life is so damn hard!!
Using an effective Zelda-ish top down perspective, you scroll around town fighting randomly generated punks, salary-men and other urban nightmares with a remarkably interesting fighting system that switches the display to a first person view of the enemy with your mouse turning into an icon of your current weapon and with your object being to click with it on the enemy illustration. The system is turn-based so you can instead use an item like a grenade/bomb (or run away) and is interesting for two reasons: first it incorporates the notion of weak points, which means that the damage you deal depends on where you click on your enemy! And second, it visually incorporates the chaos of combat by turning your mouse pointer into a jittery shaking mess that makes precision aiming a tad difficult. This shaking depends also on your specific stats and weapons, so if you've trained your agility and got yourself a precise weapon your mouse pointer will become increasingly steadier and allow you to hit those weakpoints!!
When entering a location the game turns into your average Final Fantasy clone with you bumping into npcs and plants/crates in an effort to gather information and secret items. Yes, each npc will spout seemingly uncalled-for gameplay information as if they were signposts when questioned, but what did you expect? It's a japanese rpg!!
The gameplay divides the game into a series of areas (south Cobra, west Cobra, etc.) that become available as you progress through the game, with each area being a locked-out location that is under the rule of some gang leader or the like that must be defeated. For instance the first area is blocked because the train can't be used. Why? the train operator's daughter has been kidnapped! And guess who's holding her hostage as his naughty private sex toy?? That's right, the resident badass thug, which you must defeat in order to move to the next area and repeat the process. Hardly innovative, but dynamic and well-paced for the game, the variety in the areas and enemies keeps the formula fresh (ie. the industrial sector has a robotic monstruosity as the bad boss which is cooking his own scheme) and the addition of adventure touches (get a job as a delivery boy to infiltrate a particular hideout!) adds the finishing touch that prevents it from degenerating into an escalating tournament towards the big bad boss at the end (which is really the core gameplay concept). Each area is also a fully populated city district, with lots of optional areas to explore and sidequests to perform, which only add to the gameplay and build up the experience.
Moving on, there's another notorious detail in Cobra Mission, and that's the fact that for each area you clear, you'll get to rescue a babe... and yes boys and girls, unlike most rpgs where you get a stupid sword or some thingamaging, for your troubles the damsel in distress will go out with you in sexually explicit dates told via nice-looking hentai pics! Yup, Cobra Mission is THAT kind of a game. There be sex in here, and not just on those "dates" but also as hidden extras in the form of a photo trading junkie that will give you nice H-pics in exchange for female underwear (....!!????!) and also in the form of razy dialogues and descriptions, which incorporate the typical politically incorrect Megatech humor that stays more or less in the context of the game and provides a cohesive experience with some comedy relief every now and then (instead of reaching the pure parody levels of Knights of Xentar). A good choice in my opinion.
The BadThe rpg angle is typical japanese horsecrap, you know the deal: leveling up is good, and that's all you need to know. Similarly weapon/equipment handling is always the same: the big gun is better than the small gun: Get the big gun...
The graphics are very good when you look at the combat sequences or the close-up illustrations, all sharply rendered in the standard animé style. But the main game takes place in a pretty small window and the graphics there leave a lot to be desired: flat backgrounds (floors actually), poorly animated SD characters, and generally poor quality. The sound is pretty forgetable also.
Last but not least by the end of the game things turned towards the sci-fi in a major way, which didn't kill the game but ended it under a stupidly bizarre tone that frankly never satisfied me and that broke the continuity and coherence of the game.... aww but what the heck it's not as if it was the story of the century right? After all it's RPG Final Fight!! With nudity!
The Bottom LineYour typical Japanese rpg that wins by setting itself on an original urban setting and providing a comprehensive and entertaining (if simplified) gameplay experience with the added bonus of sexually-oriented content. And for once the sex is actually just that: an added bonus, a feature that only complements an already solid gameplay and that provides the proverbial icing on the already superb cake.
Recommended for any hardcore gamer and specially for console-style rpgers looking for something that's both classic and new at the same time.