Trizeal is the latest vertical shooter conversion from Naomi arcade board to the Dreamcast, and it has a pedigree to live up to, following the likes of the great Psyvariar 2. It's developed and produced by Triangle Service, who are a small Japanese independent games house apparently surviving on a shoestring budget. Their only previous game was XII Stag which also appeared on PS2 to a lukewarm reception. Whilst similar to the Naomi original, the Dreamcast version of Trizeal has extra content, including a Score Attack mode and two unlockable minigames. All menus, submenus and end-of-stage score summaries are in English, so there are no gameplay language barriers.
There are six stages to Trizeal and each can be completed in around four minutes. As usual for this genre, it entices high-score enthusiasts to keep coming back for that infamous “one more go”. High scores are achieved by collecting bonus items dropped by destroyed enemies. These can be chained to give big bonuses (1000 points a item), but missing any bonus items drops the combo score back down to its starting level of 10 points. Collecting dropped items whilst avoiding enemy fire on a screen also filled with your own bullets really tests your eyesight and co-ordination and to its credit, the Dreamcast D-pad is up to the job. Gameplay is tight - not forgiving, but fair. The default normal difficulty level is spot on and one-credit action permits progress enough to whet appetites but requires much practice if seeing the latter levels without continuing is desired. If you want to bring a friend to help, there is a two-player option.
From the start, the player's ship is armed with three different weapons: a spread-shot machine gun, homing missile and dual-laser shot. Weapon power can each be upgraded individually by collecting power-ups to a maximum of five levels. The power-ups apply to the weapon currently activated, so to balance the power of each weapon switch weapon types accordingly. Once each weapon is at Level Three or above the player will benefit from all weapon types being used at once. When killed, the power-ups already collected float around the screen allowing you to upgrade again almost immediately. Each of the three lives begins with two smart bombs for clearing the screen satisfyingly if suddenly in a fix or saving for bonus points at the end of the stage.
The enemies progress nicely from First Stage single-shot victims to really challenging enemies from Stage Three onwards. Most end-of-stage bosses have three forms, all with varying methods of attack and an accompanying energy level bar. Your craft's “hit box” is the size of the cockpit, which is quite large compared to some shoot-'em-ups. A nice touch is that once hit, it takes a couple of seconds for your craft to explode fully, so it's plain to see exactly see what hit you and where. If all enemies in certain areas are cleared, bonus enemies are awarded. One of the later ones is a tribute to the original Space Invaders - a screen full of aliens and protection blocks to destroy each giving more points and more opportunity to chain bonuses, before continuing the journey.
Graphically the game is not groundbreaking, the 2D sprites being well detailed and the backdrops ranging from flying over roads in space to grass and trees. There is slowdown when large amounts of enemies/bullets are onscreen but the slowdown really adds to the authentic arcade gameplay and can often help save your life. In-game music is very good and easily listenable on its own merit, courtesy of the original release's limited edition bonus music CD.
It's a slim prospect that there will be conversions to PS2 and the like, so the Dreamcast may be the only place to play this great game. The only thing missing from the DC version is a replay mode, but we have Arcade Mode, Single Stage score attack mode (stages are unlocked once you’ve completed them in Arcade Mode), bonus minigames "Omake" (a revamped stage two) and "Lifting" (where you have to keep a rock bouncing off your ship whilst not allowing it to drop or go offscreen whilst still fighting the enemies). Trizeal has a built-in “play time” clock - for every hour's play you earn an extra credit, up to a maximum of nine credits.
Trizeal doesn't rely on any particular gaming mechanic to differentiate it from any other straightforward shooters, but in a way, this is a refreshing change from the last couple of years of shooters with a "hook". This leaves play unencumbered, a pure "get on and shoot stuff and dodge bullets" feeling. Overall it is a well-produced package, a raw shoot-'em-up, no flash menus or intros but very enjoyable to play. Whether looking for a quick ten-minute blast or three-hour session, Trizeal will leave most smiling and satisfied.
A review by David Holliss