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Bio-Hazard Battle

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Coming out of cryogenic sleep, you are a pilot of a Bioship that has to find a safe place on the world Avaron for the last remaining human beings. Released in 1992, this side scrolling (to be clear it scrolls on its own) biological spaceship shooter for the Sega Genesis is now available on Wii’s Virtual Console and Steam. My younger brother Peter and I played this game this past weekend and finished it. We used the 99 lives cheat though, because I don’t do well with the punishing mechanics found in retro games (I suck at them).

From the Bio-Hazard Battle Manual:

During G-Biowar I (the first global biowar), a powerful new form of retrovirus was released as a deadly reprisal from the enemy. The viruses unleashed biological forces which couldn’t be stopped, leaving the planet filled with new and deadly forms of life.

Only a few survivors remain in suspended animation in O.P. Odysseus, an orbiting platform circling Avaron. The space station’s purpose is to keep the surviving humans alive until Avaron is habitable again. The crew of the Odysseus have been frozen in cryogenic tanks for hundreds of years, and now the onboard computer has awakened them.

Computer probes show that conditions on Avaron are hostile, but livable. The question is: where can the crew of Odysseus set up a colony? This is the question you have been assigned to answer. You must pilot a Bioship to Avaron, fly over the areas which the probes have labeled least hostile, and check out the conditions there. Find a new home for the last survivors of G-Biowar I!

 

You shoot and dodge your way though each level collecting Energy Seeds (see screenshot and section below) to change your weapon *or* power up your current weapon by collecting multiple Energy Seeds of the same colour. All Bioships start out with the Green Energy Seed weapon and it is the standard weapon for all ships.

 

Energy Seeds
energy-seeds

Energy Seeds are scattered by the space station along the flight path your Bioship will take. There are four types of Seeds, Yellow, Orange, Blue and Green. Each Seed changes the Bioship’s genetic structure, enabling the ship to generate a different type of weapon.

Your Bioship ingests Seeds by passing over them and the energy is transferred to your ship’s Power Star. The Power Star, both a shield and weapon, floats near the Bioship. As a shield, it stops most creatures from hitting your Bioship. More importantly, it uses power from the Energy Seeds to generate weapons.

Yellow Seed:

  • Spin Laser: A spinning twin laser beam. [Fires horizontally only. Soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Fire Petal: A stream of white-hot fireballs. [A pretty standard weapon, much like Implosion Pods.]

Orange Seed:

  • Plasma Ring: A spinning ring of energy which bounces off inert matter and detonates upon contact with living matter. [A decent weapon, but increases the amount of chaos on screen.]
  • Seeker Laser: Homes in on potential hazards and destroys them. [Probably one of the strongest weapons, but sometimes can prioritize strange targets.]

Blue Seed:

  • Bond: Blue globes of plasma which attach to the creature and explode. [Niche weapon, slow rate of fire, but soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Nova: A multi-directional burst of energy. [Difficult to aim.]

Green Seed:

  • Implosion Pods: Create a vacuum upon contact, causing damage. [The default weapon.]

 

The Bioships

orestes
Orestes
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A quick but overall mediocre ship. In most cases you shouldn’t pick Orestes.

 

electra
Electra
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A slow ship, but has access to the Seeker Laser, arguably the best weapon in the game. Also has access to Bond, which can soak/destroy bullets, but is a little difficult to use. In my opinion Polyxena is a better ship.

 

hecuba
Hecuba
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Arguably due to the two bullet soaking/destroying weapons that Hecuba has access to, it is the best ship for those wanting to play a support role.

 

polyxena
Polyxena
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Due to having access to Seeker Laser, this is one of the best ships. Because Spin Laser is a slightly more reliable (easy to use) weapon for soaking up or destroying bullets when compared to Bond, Polyxena is in my opinion the best ship.

 

As a side note:
All four names are taken from Greek mythology. Orestes and Electra were children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Hecuba was the wife of King Priam of Troy and Polyxena was their youngest daughter.

 

Gameplay

According to the manual, you can choose whether you want to have 3, 4 or 5 lives and have a total of 9 continues. The game ramps up steadily in difficulty with levels getting progressively more challenging the deeper you get into them. There are often multiple enemies on screen, some of which shoot out small round red bullets that can be difficult to notice in the chaos. This is why it helps to have at least one ship with access to bullet soaking/destroying weapons (such as Hecuba). The game is made much easier when played in two player mode, with no enemies being added to compensate for the addition of another Bioship. Essentially you play the single player mode with help from a friend in two player mode. Don’t play it on Easy though because you don’t get access to the later levels if you do.

 

Music

The sound in the game was directed by K.N.U. The moniker is attributed to different individuals depending on the source. Bio-Hazard Battle ultimately has an awesome and memorable soundtrack.


In the first track the use of delay, reverb and sustain in the music creates a vast soundscape with rhythms and effects that remind me of the Predator (from the 1987 film of the same name) as well as thoughts of distant worlds teeming with extraterrestrial life.


In the second track we are treated to a more uplifting melody and short instrumental flourishes reference the theremin, which was used in many classic Sci-Fi soundtracks including The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). It compliments the faster pace of the second level.


In the third track, reminiscent of music by NIN and the like, we return to dark and brooding melodic elements that make you feel emotionally encumbered, and again the use of instruments and effects reference echo-location, heart beats, and other organic processes.


In the fourth track we hear themes carried over from previous tracks in a sort of slow, spaced out remix.


In the fifth track we hear a bass building suspense to small climaxes. At one point a sinusoidal modulated waveform along side other foreign electronic sounds, all of which meld into a strange track that conjures images of a sleuth on the trail of a killer, or spy subterfuge.


In the seventh and final track the composer(s) tried to add their own layer of melody on top an instrumentation that conjures the end credits of Akira (1988) and of course Philip Glass’s Glassworks (1982).

 

Graphics

The sprites in Bio-Hazard Battle are insanely creative, with everything from flying squids to myelinated sheathed worms and floating sperm with faces. All sprites are set on great industrial, natural and xenobiological environments, on this habitable world of Avaron, which create levels that are varied throughout, containing unique sections only appearing for a few seconds on screen never to be seen again. The Bioships themselves each have a unique look which have both aquatic and insectoid influences. The designs are organic and invoke a sci-fi nostalgia (kaiju, aliens, etc).
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bio-hazard-battle-01

 

Final Thoughts

Bio-Hazard Battle brings together two of my favourite things, Biology and Technology, in a polished Sci-Fi aesthetic that stands the test of time. This 16-bit classic is a must play for fans of the aforementioned domains.

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