by John Markley2
The Most Hardcore Android Action Games Ever Made
Action games have become a thriving genre on Android devices, thanks to a combination of original titles and the efforts of many developers to give their games of past decades a new life in mobile format. Here’s a look at some of what Android has to offer at the beginning of 2013.
The game that did more than any other to kick off the open-world craze on consoles makes the jump from PlayStation 2 to mobile gaming. In another remarkable testament to how far technology has come since 2001, it makes the transition completely intact – all the dialogue and cut scenes of the original, all of the radio station audio, and, most importantly, all of the expansive open world of the original game. Grand Theft Auto III is almost ideally suited to be a game played on the go, since the missions are generally short, simple, bite-sized affairs, and the real heart and soul of the game – careening about the city wreaking senseless havoc until the police bring you down- can go on for as long or as short a time as you like.
Unfortunately, like many console ports to mobile devices, the controls suffer in the transition, with opinions on this aspect of the game basically peaking at “lukewarm” and going down to “blistering.” (Yes, I know that “blistering” being below “lukewarm” makes no sense. No metaphor is perfect.) If you can get the hang of – or at least make peace with- the controls, however, it provides all the action, humor, and out-of-control insanity and chaos of the original version in a port praised by Brandon Lancaster of (ironically enough) Android Police as “fast, exciting, and extremely addictive.”
For more antisocial action on the go, there’s also the mobile port of the follow-up to GTAIII, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 10th Anniversary Edition. It improves somewhat on the controls of its predecessor, adding more customization options, though they still leave something to be desired. It also adds an auto-save system more suited to the mobile experience and a few conveniences from later games in the series, such as the ability to simply retry a failed mission without needing to travel from your respawn point to wherever the mission starts every time.This time the setting shifts to the 1980s, letting you rampage through We’re-Not-Officially-Calling-It-Miami during the era of the cocaine boom, Scarface, and hideous giant hair.
The Raiden games are a series of vertically scrolling shoot’em ups that made their arcade debut back in 1990. The series has long been considered among the classics of the genre, offering intense action with wave after wave of relentless enemies and the ability to unleash some truly stupendous firepower if you stay alive long enough to accumulate enough power-ups. Raiden Legacy collects four of these games, bringing you the original Raiden, Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2, and Raiden Fighers Jet in one package. This mobile version also features a special “Mission Mode” that lets you replace any unlocked stage, two difficulty levels, and an optional autofire setting. There’s a lot of value here for the fan of classic shooters who doesn’t mind a challenge.
Sonic CD has been one of the most overlooked games in the Sonic series, not through any fault of its own but because it had the bad luck to be released on the ill-fated Sega CD add-on to the Sega Genesis, thereby limiting its potential market to the seven people who actually bought one. That’s a shame, because Sonic CD was an excellent addition to the popular franchise, combining Sonic’s classic high-speed platforming gameplay with the improved technical capabilities made possible by the CD format and throwing in some interesting new mechanics involving time travel.
Previous ports of classic Sonic games to newer platforms have often been of dubious quality, but Sonic CD makes the transition to Android with aplomb, with of Android Rundown calling it “an amazing port of an amazing game.” The resolution has been expanded so that it can be played in 16:9 aspect ratio, and the ability to play as Sonic’s loyal sidekick Tails has been added. As an extra bonus, this mobile version lets you switch between the American and Japanese versions of the original game’s music.
With all the narrowly averted car crashes I’ve seen caused by idiots who can’t stop fiddling with their smartphones even when they’re behind the wheel of a real-life car, it’s only fitting that there should be an Android game dedicated to wildly unsafe and irresponsible driving. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is that game. It puts you behind the wheel of twenty different automobiles as you compete in races around the city while evading the police. The game is set in an open world and leaves you free to choose your own route to the finish line during races and explore the city between.
The game has been widely praised for its impressive graphics and strong controls. It was even acclaimed as Racing Game of the Year right here at Hardcore Droid, where it was praised for its “detailed, cutting edge graphics, tight, smart controls” and “heart-thumping action.”
From its armored sci-fi heroine and 2D side-scrolling shooting/platforming gameplay to a title that’s only slightly subtler than just calling the game Shmetroid, Megatroid is not exactly coy about what it’s influenced by. It’s a retro shooter/platformer inspired by Metroid and other classic side-scrolling games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. However, it has a lot to offer for fans of that style of gameplay The action is intense, it’s quite nice to look at, and it has procedurally generated levels that make the game different every time you play. It also has the very appealing trait of being free – you can buy premium in-game items and bonuses with actual money if you want, but the main game costs nothing.
On the negative side, it’s reputed to have a rather dull storyline, but the appeal of the Metroid games has never been the plot. (Metroid: Other M taught us that much – as cruelly and awkwardly and repetitively as possible.) As an evocation of classic side-scrolling action games, however, it delivers, with Nissa Campbell of Touch Arcade praising it as “a great time while the fun lasts.”
Like some unspeakably evil race of far-future biomechanical monstrosities banished to another dimension beyond space-time as we know it, we’re now reaching far, far back into the distant past. (That probably made no sense to you whatsoever but rest assured that if you were familiar with the back story of the R-Type series you would find it mildly clever.) This is a port of the classic side-scrolling arcade shoot ’em up R-Type, first released into arcades by Irem in 1987.
It brings back all the furious action of the original, with Robert Leedham of Life of Android calling it “hard as nails and a blast to play through.” It’s been widely praised for its excellent controls – and you’ll need them, because R-Type is a legendarily challenging game and this version doesn’t pull any punches. If you’re looking for a truly “hardcore” mobile game, this is it.
Metal Slug 3 is a 2D shooter originally released in 2000 on the Neo Geo. It’s got classic side-scrolling run-and-gun action along the lines of classic shooters like Contra and some great sprite-based graphics. The fact that this runs on a handheld device really goes to show just how far technology has advanced in such a short time, considering that it’s a game originally released on a console best known for being the system where games were $200 each and came on cartridges that were roughly the size of a cereal box. This port has drawn criticism for doing a suboptimal job of translating the original joystick controls to a touchscreen, but despite that weakness it’s been praised as a fun nostalgia trip for shooter fans, with Chris Mitchell of Popzara calling it “one of the coolest arcade ports I’ve seen on iOS and Android devices.”
Happily, the new trend of video games based on movies that aren’t shoddily slapped-together cash-ins has made its way to Android. In The Dark Knight Rises you play as Batman in an open-world third person action/adventure game that Simon Dage of Android Central calls “a perfect companion to the film.” The Android version of the game has gotten some criticism for its unbalanced graphics, with Batman looking conspicuously better and more detailed than other characters, but has still been praised for maintaining the dark, somber atmosphere of Batman’s classic adventures.
This is another 1990’s Neo Geo/arcade game that’s made the journey from monstrously oversized ROM cartridge to quick online download courtesy of SNK Playmore. Blazing Star is an intense side-scrolling shoot’em up, originally released in 1998 and praised by Harry Slater of Pocket Gamer as ” addictive shooting at its very best.” This port brings back all of the action and classic sprite-based graphics of the original, and has an option for two-player simultaneous play via Bluetooth.
Blazing Star by SNK Playmore
Buy it on Google Play
AirAttack HD is a World War II-themed vertically scrolling shoot ’em up. The intense action recalls classic shooters like 1942 or Sky Shark, with waves of enemy aircraft swarming across the screen and bosses filling the air with gunfire, and it’s beautiful to look at too. It also offers four different options for controls, which is certainly a good thing in a genre where fast, precise reactions can make all the difference. AirAttack HD has won widespread praise since its release, with Artem Russakovskii of Android Police raving, “every single little thing about this game is top notch.”
Praised as “a perfect port of a game that was lauded as great” by Matt Demers of Android Police, this is a mobile version of the 1992 X-Men arcade game. It’s a classic side-scrolling beat ’em up that lets you choose your character from one of six classic X-Men. Or, to be more precise, one of five classic X-Men plus Dazzler, making an appearance because this was supposed to be a tie-in game for a failed X-Men animated series called X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men that she appeared in. (I can’t say I recommend watching the first and only episode of the show unless you’re really interested in Marvel Comics history and/or have always wondered what Wolverine would sound like with an inexplicable Australian accent.) It’s got all the levels, action, and hilariously bad quasi-English spoken dialogue of the original. It supports up to four simultaneous players, and you can play it at either standard 4:3 aspect ratio or widen it out to 16:9 to mimic the original arcade game’s huge two-monitor display.
Finally, we round things off with another racing game. Asphalt 7: Heat is the latest entry in the Asphalt series, which has become one of the venerable mainstays of mobile gaming since its debut with Asphalt Urban GT in 2004. Despite its origins in an era where “mobile gaming” mostly meant playing Tetris on a graphing calculator- or, if you were really scraping the bottom of the barrel, getting an N-Gage- the Asphalt franchise has kept up with the times. Asphalt 7 is- provided you can play it at full graphical settings- among the more visually impressive games yet released for a mobile device, with Hardcore Droid’s own Travis Fahs praising it for “some genuinely incredible visuals.”
The downside is that Asphalt 7: Heat is more a graphical update of Asphalt 6 than a proper sequel, with only 3 new tracks included alongside 11 from the previous game, so if you don’t have suitable hardware to play this game at full graphical settings there’s little enticement to buy Asphalt 7 if you already have Asphalt 6. Fortunately, Gameloft is selling it at a price appropriate for what it is rather than charging the price of a full game, so if you have a device that can exploit its full potential you may still want to give Asphalt 7 a look.