Title: Arcade Archives IMAGE FIGHT
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/23/2019
The usual Arcade Archives display options apply to this release, with the ability to change the display orientation and size of the screen, along with turning on or off the usual filter options. Being a vertical game, Image Fight also supports a vertical mode to allow for play in handheld mode with the Switch facing sideways, but unfortunately the trend of all non-Nintendo ACA releases lacking this feature in the High Score and Caravan Modes continue, so this is only really useful in the main game mode.
When it comes to the actual game itself, Image Fight looks average for a game made in 1988. The game has a lot more color than most vertical shooters, thanks to having a good chunk of the game take place away from space. The in-game explanation for the scenery change is that the first five stages are a training simulation for the real battle, but honestly I just like how there’s more than starfields in this game.
The music is pretty decent as well, with a few memorable tunes here and there. Surprisingly, some of these songs manage to be far more memorable than their counterparts in the PC Engine sequel, despite that game having superior audio quality. Leave it to Irem’s team to make some memorable battle themes.
Image Fight is a vertical shooter where the main goal of the game is to complete the five training stages in order to qualify for the true battle. In all honestly, the training aspect isn’t too much of a big concern, since it’s really easy to get a high enough percentage to qualify (the game wants you to average 90% of all enemies defeated) and even if you do fail you’ll only get sent to an extra (although really difficult) stage.
That being said, with this being an Irem game the difficulty level in Image Fight is insane. Even with the lowest settings the game will require immense trial and error to get past the first stage, which may not be for everyone. Like in R-Type, things get easier if you manage to survive long enough to get powerups, which range from rotary pods that can be fired at enemies to ship attachments that come in several different colors.
Whether it’s the Green Ring, Red Laser or Yellow Fire attachments, the powerups can really help you shred through enemies and bosses in no time at all! (At least, until a bullet causes them to break off. You also can’t pick up a new one with one already equipped) Even just the pods can be pretty useful, since the orange ones allow you to fire in any of eight directions which is vital to defeating enemies that shoot from the sides.
While the levels can start pretty generous with powerups leading up to a boss fight, unfortunately this game also suffers from a common shooter trope where dying with your weapons will send you back to a mid level checkpoint completely unarmed. From as soon as the second stage, doing a recovery run can feel near impossible thanks to swarms of enemies that will come and shoot from all directions, and lacking the ability to fire to the sides can make some segments require bullet hell levels of dodging. You can adjust your ship speed up to four different levels to have a tiny bit of help, but usually if you reach a mid level checkpoint the stage will be far more difficult than if you were to start at the beginning of it.
When it comes to score chasing, the usual ACA modes are available, though they lack support for this game’s vertical mode as in most other ACA titles. Likewise the single player mode supports online leaderboards and high score saving, but the margin for entering the leaderboards is fairly high, almost requiring that you beat the first stage to do so. While I managed to get decent enough to make it to the end of the second stage without dying, this does leave things a bit more challenging for those hoping for an online score chaser, since just getting there might require a half hour or so of trial and error. The Caravan Mode also allows you to start from the Penalty Stage or use rapid fire, though these extra options might not help you much.
In conclusion, Image Fight is a really enjoyable and well-made vertical shooter from the 80s. As an obscure Irem game that doesn’t get recognized nearly as often as R-TYPE, it’s nice to see a western release of the original Arcade version for the first time ever, although it’s super punishing and not nearly as easy to get into as a vertical game like Twinbee or Strikers 1945, which may turn off those with less patience to learn the trial and error. Still, if you can push past the unforgiving barrier of entry, you’ll find a really enjoyable shooter that stands next to R-Type as one of Irem’s finest, one that’s a lot better than the mediocre PC Engine CD sequel that it spawned.
I give a Arcade Archives IMAGE FIGHT a 6 out of 10.