Monday, September 20, 2021

Matter of Import 65: Sky Army [Shoei 1982]


Sky Army is a horizontally scrolling shooter from Shoei that places the player in a helicopter during a war between cities. Action occurs in three distinct stages.

In the first, you battle opponent helicopters and jets on a fixed screen, firing at them with rockets and dropping bombs directly below you. Occasionally a helicopter will fly by with a section of bridge that - if placed to span the gap between the land at the right and left edges of the screen - allows the enemy force to invade, killing you just as dead as if you’d been shot or collided with an enemy helicopter. 

For their part, the enemy choppers hover in midair before making passes at you, and a fast moving jet will occasionally swoop past. This stage ends when you’ve defeated a set number of opponents.
At this point the game becomes a more traditional scrolling shooter, as you traverse the distance to your base, facing more helicopters, jets, stormclouds and occasional missile platforms. The goal here is simply to cover the required distance to get you to the third stage.

Stage three is opposite of the first; while still a fixed screen scenario, here you’re the one building the bridge while fending off the opposition. A craft will appear with a section of the bridge at the top of the screen, which you can take by hovering next to them for a moment. Piece passed, you can place it by hovering above the place it needs to go and slowly descending - at this point a worker will appear to fix it in place. 

Of course, enemy helicopters and jets will harry you the whole time, this time the jets dropping bombs that will have to be destroyed towards your bridge. Build it the whole way, and you’ll get a victory animation celebrating your feat before the game cycle starts anew from the first stage.

Sky Army works as a concept, works as a game. The action is fierce but manageable, the stage variety is still cohesive enough to work as a whole, and the art and music are decent for the era. It’s a solid game that would fit in well in any Golden Age arcade.

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