First on the operating table? Why, it's none other than:
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking Fur Fighters was another shit kiddies game - indeed it appears to be the result of a sleazy hotel-room rendezvous between Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo Kazooie. Even if it was, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing...but it isn't. No - it's far more than that: It's one of the best shoot 'em ups on the Dreamcast - FACT. Look beyond the stylised cartoon visuals and super-deformed furry characters and what you have in Fur Fighters is a decidedly adult themed, and often slightly risque take on the 3rd person shooter genre - and it's also a damned good adventure to boot.
The back story is pretty original too. Basically, there are six playable characters to control, all of which have different abilities - one can swim, another can glide, whilst another can climb etc etc etc. These characters were all once members of an elite military unit, the titular Fur Fighters, that put an evil genius behind bars. With the task completed, the Fur Fighters retired to a quaint seaside village to have kids, read the Telegraph, eat crumpets and just generally wither away. Possibly with the intention of dying alone in a piss soaked bedsit. Thing is, the old nemesis (General Viggo) has done his time, got out of the slammer and launched into a revenge-fuelled campaign against the dudes who put him behind bars. How so? By kidnapping the Fur Fighter's kids, naturally. Comparisons to Gary Glitter aside, this obviously pisses the Fur Fighters off a bit, so naturally they dive straight back into the fray to get their offspring back and shut down Viggo once and for all...
As you can probably see from the screen grabs, it's a beautiful little game - the (VGA compatible) worlds which you have to shoot your way through are really well done and full of little details and tongue in cheek humour . In the opening level you have to blast your way to the top of the World Quack Centre in the heart of New Quack City (no prizes for guessing where the level is meant to be set, and yes Fur Fighters was released prior to 9/11 - I don't think it would have seen the light of day otherwise), and in the lobby of the aforementioned skyscraper is a games store selling these little delights:
Metropolis Sheep Racer
Resident Weevil or Quack, anyone?
Each of the worlds is accessed from a central hub stage set within the tranquil surroundings of the Fur Fighters' home village and all require items salvaged from previous worlds in order to get past the guard at the door. So, in order to get into the space centre you need to acquire a degree in astrophysics; whilst getting access to New Quack City requires a subway token etc.
One major area where Fur Fighters excels though, is in the sound department. Whilst the voices of the characters are ridiculous Star Wing-style garbled bollocks, the music and sound effects are stunning for a game this old. I've played 360 games with music and sound effects several leagues below those on display in Fur Fighters, so top marks to Bizarre Creations for truly squeezing the best out of the Dreamcast's sound gubbins. Remarkable.
So, to top it off - I love Fur Fighters. It's good looking, fun to play, full of logical puzzles and features some great script writing and humour (check out General Viggo's pet human!). If you get the chance to buy this game, do yourself a favour and snap it up. And if you can't find the DC version, there's also a cell shaded PS2 port knocking about...but it'd be unpatriotic of me to recommend buying that...
Stay tuned for more updates in the coming days - I've managed to get my mud-covered claws on some truly mind-blowing games this week. Mind-blowing, oh yes!