Giant bugs from the arcade’s past – Dangerous Seed

Dangerous Seed’s flyer has a great illustration on the front (the reverse page had the usual description of the game along with the mechanics) showing the first creepy boss.

Arcade titan Namco is no stranger to shmups having titles such as Xevious, Galaga, Bosconian, and many more on their incredibly long resume. Their games were arcade staples feeding itchy trigger fingers and greasing players’ nerves with adrenaline. In 1989, they introduced this Japan-only, vertically scrolling shooter to the arcade and although it looks like a typical shmup on the surface, it did have a few innovative ideas packed into this cabinet.

Sources such as Wikipedia to this review by Shawn for Digital Monkey Box point to the game actually having a story of sorts, probably drawn from another source such as the documentation for the Japan-only console version of the game which came out in 1990 for the Sega Mega Drive (the Genesis in the West). Apparently, players must stop an alien invasion of the Solar System from the “Danger Seed”. Digital Monkey Box’s review goes further and says that the invasion is the result of seeds secretly shot onto the different plants of the Solar System by Galaga aliens after their defeat, seeds that would create an infestation to wipe out Earth once and for all.

To defeat the invasion, three pilots piloting separate ships must fly into different “tubes” and clear out the invaders, one by one, until they can ultimately destroy the final seed and save the Earth.

Right from the start, the game shows a ship splitting into three parts before starting the action and each part is a ship that the player can use in an interesting mechanic. Each ship has shields and take so many hits. The ship you start with can take three hits and shoots straight ahead. Power-ups include a limited-use weapon that homes in on enemies (though you can blow up “turtle” like nodes to add in another use for the weapon), power capsules to restore lost shields, power-ups for your main guns, and even a spinning option shield for added protection.

Three ships, each one more powerful than the last, created a clever twist to the usual "extra lives" idea.

Three ships, each one more powerful than the last, created a clever twist to the usual “extra lives” idea.

When a ship is destroyed, the player gets the next ship which is actually a bit more powerful. The second ship can take up to four hits and has guns that also shoot at angles giving it a cone of fire which is really useful. Its special weapon are “melt missiles” which home in on enemies, too. And the third ship can take up to five hits, has a wider spread of fire, and a bomb special attack that can wipe out everything on screen. And if the player makes it past the fourth stage, all three ships combine into a super ship for the rest of the game.

Another neat twist was in how it handles continues. Once you’ve exhausted all three ships, you can opt to continue but instead of picking up right where you died, you chose which stage to start from. Games such as Technosoft’s Thunder Force III (1990) employed something like this as well, but in that case, allowed players to pick which initial planets (stages) they wanted to play through.

This is the screen the game gave you when you continued...

This is the screen the game gave you when you continued…

...and this is the menu screen allowing you to pick where to begin from.

…and this is the menu screen allowing you to pick where to begin from.

The game’s stage structure was also pretty atypical. There were eight stages, but in reality, there were a lot more depending on how well you did against the bosses. There were no “warning screens” before meeting these giant monsters, you’d just run into them. But if you took too long to defeat certain ones, the message “MISSED THE TARGET ENEMY!!” will appear and you’ll need to play through an “extra” side stage to pick up the fight again, and so forth, until you beat it or exhaust your opportunities to do so. Despite how well you do, if you survive long enough, you’ll make it to the eighth (and final) stage to fight all of the bosses all over again before facing Danger-Seed itself. The game even has an ending showing the enemy base exploding.

Visually, the game wasn’t bad for the time with parallax effects for the backdrop and damage effects on the same and especially on the bosses as you tore them apart with your shots. Music-wise, it did the job though it’s not quite as pulse pounding as a few other, more action heavy, peers such as Konami’s Contra in ’87.

The ending credits

The ending credits even had small, pixel portraits of the actual people that worked on the game.

Dangerous Seed also came over to the Sega Mega Drive in 1990, again Japan-only, with significant changes to the graphics and gameplay (you can change the form of your ship while playing and there are different weapon power-ups as well as a difficulty select) with a few additional stages. But Dangerous Seed hasn’t quite made it on the ‘recommended’ list for a Namco compilation making it even more of an obscure shooter. Until it does, at least there are playthroughs like the one (and a huge and extensive walkthrough on StrategyWiki with even more details) below to help remind everyone that it actually exists.

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