Chariot, the sequel to Midnight Wanderers. Or how Capcom created a surprising transition within Three Wonders in 1991
Three Wonders was a very special video game because it wasn’t just one game… it was three in one. Although the strange thing is that only two of them shared a common connection, the third was the discordant note without being bad at all.
A few years ago we got homesick with a retrospective of Midnight Wanderers: Quest for Chariot, the first game in this atypical Capcom collection. A classic that would ultimately serve as the inspiration for a Run & Gun as mythical in SEGA as Gunstar Heroes. And today, taking advantage of the fact that a few days ago the return of this 1991 arcade game was announced on the occasion of the future Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium, let’s remember the direct sequel to the aforementioned Midnight Wanderers, baptized as Chariot. A sequel that has opted for the shmup genre.
The successful leap from platforms to Mars shooters
For its time, it was quite striking to discover that Midnight Wanders’ ending was directly tied to Chariot, seeing a god fallen from the sky bestow some wings on the action-platformer’s protagonists to further expand the power of light and eradicate the demonic curse for other parts of this country.
We were therefore no longer moving on the ground, but hovered through the air as if it were a killer from Mars. A change of register that is no longer so strange today, but was already very tentatively exploited back then. Without going further, we can mention Super Mario Land from 1989 or Toki from TAD Corporation, also from 89, both with air or water phases as if it were a shoot ’em up, although essentially they are standard platform games .
But Chariot was special because it was a sequel that modified the original approach, although keeping certain elements with respect to its predecessor: protagonists, elements of the scene or objects, some enemies or bosses… It was familiar, but at the same time It was a totally original product, different that complemented each other magnificently.
Back then, Capcom was releasing arcade games left and right, and they all enjoyed great quality, with 1991 being particularly memorable for the launch of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, among other gems of the Osaka-based company like the one that places us now o Captain Commando and The King of Dragons. Yes, he dominated all aspects of the storyline. And the ships of course.
It wasn’t Capcom’s first “Martamarcianos” and it wasn’t the last either, gathering some common elements of the time and without denying some reminiscences of references to the genre like R-Type. Here we didn’t have a “ball” that protected us in front and that we could launch, but we did have a “tail” that got longer and that allowed us to reload special attacks faster, in addition to protecting our rear.
A hit was instant death unless we were given armor. But it wasn’t an extremely complicated shoot ’em up either, more affordable once we became experts in the genre and memorized certain sections of some screens. The latter mainly due to the limited speed of our ship and that some enemy shots were quite fast, allowing them to catch us off guard in a first game.
Chariot, a very special festival of lights and colors
Chariot was definitely more agile in movement than Capcom’s own Mega Twins released a year earlier, although it lacked shot types. There were basically two: one that stretched out to cover a larger area of the screen, and another that was faster and center-focused.
The funny thing is that their specials ignored their own nature: the one that expanded fired some kind of small laser in a straight line, and the other went around to reach more enemies. But the good thing is that there was no limit as long as we waited a few moments to recharge it. And the truth is, it didn’t take much more for him to be proficient, having small bombs that automatically hit the bottom of the screen or using the tail as a defensive element. In perspective, it moved away from the dominant trend in Japan, which relies on “bullet hell”.
From the setting alone, this sequel revolved around the signs of the zodiac, a good part of which you had to face as the final boss. Visually it was very striking, both for the scenarios and for the design of the enemies, with very bright colors and animations that are a little nice at certain times, like that of that unforgettable crescent from the first phase of the game.
He could be accused of a lack of originality in the final section, reverting to a well-worn habit of taking on virtually all bosses (again) at once before taking on the villain on duty, here called Lar.
Chariot might not be the best shooter out there, but it still holds up today and we always feel like a game from time to time, as much as we like Midnight Wanderers more and more. And without a doubt, it’s good news that in a few months we’ll have another way to remember him in current systems, without having to resort to emulation or old systems like the first PlayStation, Saturn, PS2, Xbox or PSP , where he was part of various Capcom compilations. Let’s hope the price goes along…
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