Superb story-driven anime run and gun
I don't much like "run and gun" games, neither of the side-scrolling or overhead variety. I prefer games with less frantic, more thoughtful gameplay, preferably with exploration possibilities and no pressure from endlessly spawning enemies. The customary high difficulty of these games annoys me to no end. I can't stand games without a save feature. Famous titles like Alien Breed
and Chaos Engine
have left me cold and frustrated. Okay, okay, so I suck at arcade-style games. But I reserve the right to dislike them for this or the aforementioned reasons.
Imagine how surprised I was when I stumbled across Die Bahnwelt
while submitting Sharp X68000 games to the database. I started playing it just for gameplay description and screenshots - and found myself turning away from the monitor hours later, after having completed two stages full of addictive adrenaline-raising gunplay.
Don't think Die Bahnwelt
is some sort of a watered-down shooter. It does have frenzied, non-stop battles against hordes of respawning foes. It is as action-heavy (maybe even more so) than other games of the kind I tried. So why did I enjoy it so much?
Because this game doesn't create artificial challenges and instead gives me real ones. It is designed in such a way that I can always be prepared for battle without wrecking my nerves just because I know that if I lose now I'll have to restart the whole thing. Lack of a save feature is a leftover from the arcades; there is no reason to limit (let alone omit) it in video and computer games. None. For me, the impossibility to save my game means only one thing: I lose interest towards such a game. I have enough worries in my real life to waste time on replaying areas I have already beaten
just to show everyone what a badass gamer I am. If I have a choice between that and having poor reflexes but actually enjoying my games, I'll choose the second without the briefest moment of hesitation.
With this rant out of the way, let's go back to the review: Die Bahnwelt
allows you to save anywhere
, which means a great deal to me and makes playing the game infinitely more fun. In addition, your health regenerates automatically if you stand still. What does this mean? This means you won't be trapped into unwinnable situations. I actually dislike regenerating health in FPSs, but in a game with much heavier and more fast-paced action, it proves to be a great tactical addition. The game is full of tough battles against multiple foes or ferocious bosses that seem nearly impossible when you try to tackle them the first time. But instead of disrespecting me by sending me back to the beginning of the game (or even the beginning of the stage) whenever I fail, Die Bahnwelt
gives me a fair chance to try again until I finally master it. The game is challenging at all times, but it is never frustrating.
More cool features: you have an AI-controlled companion fighting by your side throughout the whole game. You can even have limited control over her (well, it's mostly her) by issuing orders such as "stay close", "conserve ammo", "go nuts", etc. This adds tactical depth to the gunplay: you can combine forces to assault a single powerful foe, or draw attention of weaker annoying enemies to your companion while you blast at those heavily armored turrets, etc. What's more, the AI is surprisingly capable. It will definitely never win a battle for you, but you always feel that there is somebody helping you in tough fights.
You start the game with a default weapon that has unlimited ammo but is fairly weak. During the course of the game you'll gain access to all sorts of other firearms, each with its own attack patterns and type of ammo. Each character can carry up to four weapons, and they can be switched at any time. It is fun to figure out which weapon to use in which situations, and planning ahead, wondering whether you should spare the precious ammo or just unleash everything you've got on the foes.
The shooting just feels good. You can shoot in eight directions, and often the choice of an angle is crucial to winning a battle. The action is extremely fast and furious, and it is simply satisfying to hammer the trigger button until those pesky robots explode in fires. The simplicity of Die Bahnwelt
is graceful. The game feels slick and smooth, with perfect controls that never impede you. To this you should add beautiful graphics (the power of Sharp X68000 really comes through here) and a strong soundtrack, both of which contribute so much to the game's atmosphere.
The levels of Die Bahnwelt
are claustrophobic mazes that are fun and rewarding to explore because you never know where you might find a new powerful weapon or an ammo cache. In general it pays off to search everywhere, map the area in your mind (though there are also map terminals that show you an overview), find the few safe spots where enemies don't respawn, and proceed fully prepared to the exit heavily guarded by maniacal spinning droids, turrets, and armored robots.Die Bahnwelt
was made by this company
, sadly unknown to most non-Japanese players. Glodia specialized in RPGs (such as this outstanding work
), and it shows. Die Bahnwelt
has no RPG elements, but it feels like an RPG - in a good way. It is story-driven, so there will be anime cutscenes, drama, and suspense, just with fast-paced shooting instead of tedious turn-based battles. There are even a few friendly areas where you can talk to NPCs, and you can always talk to your companion to evaluate the situation. Overall, from the moment you start Die Bahnwelt
, you feel that the designers wanted to apply their experience in RPG-making to a game from another genre. The game is cinematic and doesn't feel arcadish in the least; you become genuinely immersed in its world instead of being constantly reminded that you are playing an arcade game for the score. That is, in my opinion, one of its greatest achievements.
I wonder what would happen if Die Bahnwelt
had real RPG elements. What unbelievably even-more-awesome game it would have been then. After all, exploring those huge mazes, vanquishing hordes of respawning enemies and getting nothing for your trouble is not that rewarding. I stubbornly search for slightest RPG elements everywhere because I need this sense of reward for overcoming gameplay obstacles (yes, I'm spoiled and I don't have any action gaming skills, so there). I really enjoyed Die Bahnwelt
even without those RPG elements, but I can't help thinking of the hypothetical ecstasy of experience points and levels.
Perhaps just a few more customization options would have elevated the game above and beyond all related titles. There are weapons and ammo to be found, but no power-ups, equipment, protective means, or other items besides those plot-related ones you'll need to complete an area. The action does get monotonous after a while, and is (for my tastes) too intense. Enemies respawn with such alarming frequency that in many areas you'll find it next to impossible to stay still and rest. But that just might be me, because action-heavy top-down shooters is not my thing.
The Bottom LineDie Bahnwelt
is a sadly forgotten gem. It is clear that the game's creators put their souls into it. I had plenty of fun playing this game, and I think that means a lot coming from someone who doesn't really like the genre it belongs to. With Sharp X68000 emulation made accessible to everyone, there is really no excuse for you to ignore this unknown classic.