Platform: Arcade (Taito F1 System hardware) Developer: Taito Publisher: Taito Released: 1992 Genre: Top-Down Shooter - Arena Players: 1-2 (Co-op)
Dead Connection is a game that takes elements of games before it- most notably Robotron: 2084/Smash T.V. and crosshair shooters such as Cabal- melds them together, then adds its own ideas to make something just as great, topped off with Taito's trademark charm. As one of four maverick cops in 1953, you must bring peace back to the big city by killing everyone in the evil crime syndicate! And when I say everyone, I mean it. No-one in Nerozzia's gigantic crime gang is safe from the bloody hand of justice.
From Robotron: 2084 and Smash T.V., Dead Connection takes the basic game mechanics. In a confined area, with no scrolling whatsoever, enemies will constantly pour in and you have to take them out. Unlike its predecessors, Dead Connection doesn't use a twinstick control scheme, but this doesn't detract from the game at all. Instead, you have a normal joystick, a Shot button (the game will auto-aim for you, tilting shots to the left or right where appropriate, and you get a melee attack) and the Dodge button, something the game nicks from Cabal and the like. This button can be used to duck in place, or dive to avoid damage and, critically, kill enemies if you crash into them. This makes actually avoiding enemy fire a bit easier, and encourages you to keep hopping about, knocking over gangsters and avoiding fire. Overall, the game goes at a slower pace and has less enemies, but the relatively confined space is very reminiscent of Williams' arena shooters, and its additions in the form of dodging (and a health meter) work well.
From Cabal and other crosshair shooters like it, Dead Connection also takes the idea of environmental damage, and expands upon it. As well as being able to completely destroy each of the eight stages (ranging from a junkyard to a gangster's garden party which you totally wreck) which adds to the fun, you can use the environement to your advantage. Oil drums can be knocked over or blown up, you can hide behind doors and curtains, hop over bannisters, and a lot of the stuff you destroy hides special items to help you. This does mean that sometimes the game will slow down when too much destruction is going on (the most severe is Stage 5 which slows to a crawl when you use the exploding box) and this becomes a serious problem in co-op mode, which is a real shame. The detailed art style means that you really get to see the destruction you can wage against each location, and adds a feeling of satisfaction to the already-great mechanics.
So it's these two elements- the overall mechanics that show an arena shooter can work without twinsticks, and the amount of destruction you can ravage upon each stage- that make Dead Connection highly recommended. The game gets the other elements right as well- the graphics are nicely detailed, especially as you destroy each stage, the soundtrack is another hit from members of ZUNTATA, and stuff like the amusing voice samples and badly-translated cut-scenes add to its charm. It's also just the right length- long enough to make beating it in one credit a bit of a challenge, but short enough that it doesn't get too repetitive. Once you reach Stage 7, the appeal does start to dampen a bit as less interactive parts of the stage are present, but at least it's near the end rather than halfway through. If you're OK with a completely ridiculous game that lets you destroy a lot of property and take a bite out of crime, you shouldn't hesitate to look up Dead Connection.
For being everything I love about video games, Dead Connection is awarded...
In a sentence, Dead Connection is... The best gangster video game ever made.