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My Thoughts on Transformers: Shadows Rising

There have rumors floating around for quite a while that SEGA Amusements was planning to release a sequel to 2013's Transformers: Human Alliance. And naturally, any potential hype was quickly derailed my the much more exciting announcement of House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn.

However, the rumors have now come to fruition. Arcade Heroes recently reported that Transformers: Shadows Rising was on the way and set to be releasing in May. (Heh-heh, that sorta rhymed.) I think the news was sort of eclipsed by House of the Dead hype, but you know...Transformers exists. I figure I might as well give my thoughts on it, even if it doesn't entirely excite me.

First, let's run through the facts. Transformers: Shadows Rising, like Human Alliance before it, is one of those newfangled Deadstorm Pirates-style spray-and-pray machine gun rail shooters. It's not a traditional point-and-shoot, six-bullet, shoot-off-screen-to-reload kinda game. Shadows Rising is just another unlimited-ammo, mounted-gun shooter.

There is, however, one new addition to the gameplay: a context-sensitive, two-way joystick called "Hyperenergy Tech Controls". Like the steering wheel in Deadstorm Pirates, it's centered between Player One and Player Two and serves the purpose of shaking up the gameplay at certain intervals. Apparently, the two-way joystick can be used for powerful attacks or for defense. Since the joystick wasn't wired in the prototype version described on Arcade Heroes, no one really knows how it's supposed to work yet.

Beyond that, the additions in Shadows Rising are fairly small. There are graphical improvements (always a plus for sequels) and a new achievement system. I'm really curious how the achievements will work, because there's no way to save progress in the game as of yet.

Personally, I don't think Transformers: Shadows Rising will do very much for me. I think I'll definitely play through it at least once just for the fun of it, but it probably won't be an experience that sticks with me. I'm becoming very fatigued with all of these mounted-gun shooters we've gotten lately. Not every rail shooter needs to be some machine gun madness in a giant environmental cabinet. It's good to have more traditional experiences every now and then, too. Unfortunately, Time Crisis 5 and The Walking Dead are the only shooters that have even remotely eschewed what's "popular" these days.

Like I said, another spray-and-pray shooter doesn't excite me too much. It's not truly anything special. I will admit that gameplay looks very fast and frenetic, which is good (though that may be a crutch to mask poor character animations, as some have pointed out). Still, I think I can appreciate Transformers: Shadows Rising for what it is. It looks fairly solid, and the achievements are a fun addition that'll certainly increase replay value.

I definitely think the release of Shadows Rising was terrible timing on SEGA's part. The most recently released Transformers film (The Last Knight), was absolute garbage. Heck, they were all garbage. But when The Last Knight gets a 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, you know SEGA screwed up their timing at least a little bit. Perhaps there was poor communication between the licensor and licensee; perhaps SEGA simply overestimated the value of the Transformers brand. From what I've heard, the cinematic Transformers franchise will soon be rebooted, which leaves the Michael Bay-inspired Shadows Rising in an especially awkward position. I can't predict how well Shadows Rising will do when it hits arcades, but with all of these licensing factors actively working against it, I'm a little concerned for its success.

Regardless of the wonky timing, I do have just a few suggestions for SEGA going forward. First and foremost, Shadows Rising NEEDS to be released in a standard cabinet, as well. Not every location can afford a gigantic environmental deluxe cabinet. If SEGA wants Shadows Rising to grace as many venues as possible, it needs to build a more cost-effective, space-conscious standard upright cabinet. I have no doubt that a standard version will come around eventually, though. After all, the first Transformers game had a standard version, and most SEGA games do. Let's hope for the best.

Other than that, I have nothing more to add. Transformers: Shadows Rising is just more of the same in the arcade industry. It's not as exciting as the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-em-up from Raw Thrills, the Exa-Arcadia kit system, all the new indie arcade games of late, or even SEGA's own House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. Shadows Rising looks like it'll be a high-quality game, but it doesn't illicit more than a shrug from me.

But hey, maybe I'll love it when I try it. All I know is that the average rail shooter and racing game looks really dull compared to all the other developments coming out of the arcade industry lately. A game as "average" as Transformers: Shadows Rising does raise a very good point, though: has the standard been raised? Is there now a new precedent for innovation and quality in the arcade industry following impressive developments from Raw Thrills and indie studios? I sure hope so.

So yeah, keep it real. I only wrote this article so my blog wouldn't die this month. I've been busy, and I'm a little tired. The blog is always the first thing to go on my list of priorities. School is much more important.

I'm out. Tell me what you think of Transformers: Shadows Rising in the comments.


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