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Video Game / Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force

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Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force is a mecha beat 'em up game developed by Fill-in Café (the same folks behind Asuka 120% Burning Fest. series and Panzer Bandit) and published by FamilySoft that never left the shores of Japan. It was released in 1994 for the Sharp X68000.

Set in the not-so-distant-future in the year 2142 A.D., when disasters were a thing of the past for Artemis City. An old warship from an older war was discovered containing hundreds of giant mechas known as Slave Gears, which were put under control with the intent of ruling the government with power. Two of the Slave Gears models, named "Hound Dog" and "Rising Dog", were taken for experimental purposes under the police's management. However, the main computer of the warship "Omega" suddenly began functioning, hacking all military network channels, ceasing all functionality of Artemis City, and terrorizing the city with Rising Dog under its control. With Artemis City in danger, the police began operations by sending in Hound Dog to fight the rampaging Slave Gears and stop Omega.

The game featured a unique approach to beat 'em up genre, as you control Hound Dog through a single 2D plane while fighting other mechas akin to a Fighting Game such as Street Fighter, using two attack buttons of different strengths and speed as well as special attacks and throws. Once you reached the boss at the end of each stage, the game goes from a single plane brawler to a straight-up 1-on-1 fighting game. The game spans six stages of increasing difficulty and also features a VS. Mode where two players can duke it with the Slave Gear of their choice in traditional fighting game fashion against another player or the computer. The music for the game was composed by Keishi Yonao, whose resume includes Asuka 120% Burning Fest., Dies Irae, Strania -The Stella Machina-, among others.

Mad Stalker was later ported to the FM Towns in July of 1994 with updated visuals and an arranged soundtrack. Another port was released for PC Engine CD in September of the same year (published by NEC), with the enhancements of the FM Towns version along with animated cut-scenes that gave the game much more narrative and two more playable characters. A remake was made by the same team for the PlayStation in 1997, later re-released via PlayStation Network in 2011. A Mega Drive version was in development alongside the Sharp X68000 version in 1993 by Kagado Studios, but due to the increase of Mega Drive manufacturing costs, it was unfortunately canceled. In 2020, Opera House, Co. bought out the software rights of Fill-in-Café's back catalog of video games, and with Columbus Circle as the publisher and the supervision of the Mad Stalker's main programmer Masatoshi Imaizumi, the Mega Drive version was finally released on September 17, 2020 as a limited physical release.

Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force features examples of:

  • 2½D: The remake uses a 3D engine but the game itself is in 2D. It also uses 2D sprites and 3D visual effects. This engine was later used in Panzer Bandit.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Omega, the computer in the warship where all the Slave Gears where found, took over the military network and using it to take orders in its own hands.
  • Airborne Mook: Flying Shooters, Slave Gears equipped with flight thrusters and shoot you from above most of the time.
  • Arm Cannon: The first kind for Silpheed, on both arms, doubling as pilebunkers.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the remake, it's entirely possible to spam projectiles at bosses and the A.I. won't try to fight back or think of a way to counter your shots.
    • The A.I. playing Hound Dog during the original version's attract mode generally does some stupid things, such as dashing to the border of the screen to missing all of its attacks.
  • Attack Drone: Death Balls, floating orbs that electrify themselves to keep attackers at bay and shoot lightning in the later stages. The engine of Omega's warship will have drones that shoots lasers to keep you from destroying it.
  • Attract Mode: Wait a few seconds at the title screen and a gameplay demo will play.
  • The Battle Didn't Count: Your first encounters with Rising Dog in Stage 2 and 4. Once you beat it down to 25% of its energy, it vanishes to live a fight another day.
  • Battleship Raid: The police carrier from Stage 4 takes you to Omega's warship in the following level, where fight off enemies and turrets on top of it then infiltrate your way into its engine room. Stage 6 follows with a rematch with past bosses, eventually where you destroy the engine, and finally settle the score with Rising Dog on top of the warship.
  • Bear Hug: Prisoner-β's grab move. It'll suck you in with its vacuum if you're far away then starts crushing you once you're within kissing distance.
  • Boss Rush: The final stage puts you through a boss rush of the previous bosses you defeated in succession.
  • Cain and Abel: Hound Dog is Cain to Rising Dog's Abel.
  • Checkpoint: If you were defeated in the Sharp X68000 version, a Continue option appears in the menu where you can resume from the last area you were in.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: The PC Engine CD version changed how continues worked. Instead of being kicked to the main menu and resuming from the last checkpoint via the Continue option, have you three credits where after defeat allows you to continue on the spot. Once they're all used, you have to start the game all over (or the stage if you used the Stage Select code).
  • Classic Cheat Code: In the Sharp X68000 version, typing "MISEROYO" in the Options menu unlocks extra features, such as the ability to play as the bosses in Story Mode by pressing F5-10 during gameplay, play as the enemies in VS. Mode, changing the game speed, to killing everything on screen or killing yourself to end a session.
    • The PC Engine CD version has one involving the Sound Test and difficulty setting that unlocks a bonus set of options to enable all of VS. Mode mechs for Story Mode and a Stage Select feature. Change the difficulty to Hard, SE to 7, BGM to 13, and press I while highlighting the difficulty setting to access it (the changes remain active if change the difficulty). Holding Select while entering VS. Mode will also unlock all of the enemies as well. Other cheats can be used, such as a level skip code and God Mode, but it requires a multi-tap and extra controller.
    • The PlayStation remake featured codes that can be entered in the title screen to unlock all of the Slave Gears in Story Mode (Up, Down, Left, Right, X, Circle at the Press Start screen) and enemies for VS. Mode (Up, Down, Left, Right, Up, Down, Left, Right, X, Circle as with the other code), respectively. The code that unlocks the other playable Slave Gears in Story Mode doubles as a level skip code where pressing L2 skips segments and stages. Skipping stages however kills your score.
  • Combos: Possible if you can string together some quick attacks and a special.
  • Competitive Multiplayer: The VS. Mode of the game where players can fight each other or the computer as Hound Dog and the bosses. The roster of characters can be expanded with the enemies via cheat codes.
  • Computer Voice: In the original versions of the game when beginning a level, a voice is heard roughly saying: "Hound Dog, are you ready? Good luck." This voice sample plays even while playing as the bosses in the PC Engine CD version.
  • Continuing is Painful: Trying to play the game for a high-score? Got your ass kicked by Rising Dog? If yes, then say to good-bye to your new personal best.
  • Cool Plane: Silpheed has shades of this. It has the design resembling a fighter jet, and moves slowly on ground but jumps around very fast.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In the original game, Rising Dog's uppercut move is performed by →→+Attack; in the remake, its ↓↓+Attack (the former's command was changed with a claw-swiping attack).
  • Dark Reprise: A darker and more sinister version of the boss battle music is played during the boss rush in the PC Engine CD version.
  • Dash Attack: Hound Dog has one in the original game by using its thrusters and slashing enemies. Rising Dog gets one in the remake by swiping its claws.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Once an enemy's Energy Meter reaches zero, they go boom. The same goes for you.
  • Degraded Boss: Stunbeat shows up as a regular enemy in Stage 5 of the remake.
  • Die, Chair, Die!: The cars speeding through the highway segment of Stage 1 of the original game can be destroyed by enemies.
  • Difficulty Levels: The stock Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulties.
  • Double Jump: A possible maneuver for Hound Dog in the original game; Hound Dog loses this ability in the remake in place of the ability to air-dash.
  • Easter Egg: In the PC Engine CD version, holding down the 1+2+Select buttons during Kogado Software logo screen will show a girl on all fours with a cat while wearing a tank-top and short-shorts. Continue holding down those buttons and it go into another screen with a girl holding a HuCard and comically drops it, while a dialogue track plays.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing on Easy axes a level bonus for clearing a stage.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Halfway into Stage 3, you fight off Flying Shooters and Gongs on a freight elevator. In the remake, you also fight Silpheed on the elevator.
  • Excuse Plot: An evil supercomputer took over Artemis City's military forces and terrorized the city. Get inside your giant mecha and go punch other mechas in the face. Much less so in the PC Engine CD version.
  • First Town: Stage 1 starts you off in Artemis City where people are fleeing from Slave Gears attacking the city.
  • Flunky Boss: Rising Dog in Stage 4 will have the elite version of Death Balls fighting along side it.
    • During the boss rush in Stage 6, Silpheed and Prisoner-β also will have Soldiers fighting alongside them; in the remake, every boss will have Soldiers fighting by their side during the boss rush.
  • Gameplay Grading: See Scoring Points below.
  • Genre Shift: The majority of the gameplay of the is basically a brawler like Kung Fu Master or The Ninja Warriors Again, but during boss battles, it becomes Street Fighter II: Xenogears Edition.
  • Gratuitous English: The opening cut-scene in of the game, with poorly-translated English. Some of the names would also be borderline examples. The menus are in better English, however.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Can be done by throwing enemies into each other.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Prisoner-β, the boss of Stage 4. It may look like a big 'ol cute mecha bunny, but it's far from cuddly. It will dropkick you in the face and bear hug you to death with every chance it gets.
    • Eaters, small rabbit-like robots that charge into you or latch themselves onto you and eat away at your Energy.
  • Head Swap: Rising Dog is basically Hound Dog with a different head, set of arms, decals, and has four spiked studs on its knees than Hound Dog's three.
  • Humongous Mecha: Boy howdy! You also fight small mechas that are 1/3 the size of the others.
  • Joke Character: The PC Engine CD version's VS. Mode has Eater, whose only attacks are latching itself to opponents or charge into them, and it cannot block.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Kamui, the boss of Stage 5, certainly thinks so.
  • Kamehame Hadoken: Hound Dog's cannon shoots fireballs with the same command input as the Hadouken.
  • Kick Mecha: Silpheed, most of its basic attacks consist of kicks.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: The remake allows you to hit defeated enemies for a few extra hits before they explode.
  • Life Meter: The Energy Meter, represented as energy cells in the original. The PlayStation remake features a straight-forward gauge display.
  • Leitmotif: In the remake, the main bosses have their own unique boss theme unlike the original where the same boss music was used until the final battle with Rising Dog. Said boss themes came from the music used in the Mad Stalker 2142 soundtrack.
  • Limit Break: Introduced in the remake, and operates similarly to Asuka 120%'s later installments. Your attacks fills an Overdrive Meter that, when full, allows you to perform a Hyper Attack. When the meter is flashing, you can perform Hyper Attacks endless for a brief moment of time.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: After destroying the warship's engine, the entire place begins to self-destruct.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Soldiers (tiny Slave Gears armed with a rifle and grenades), Eaters (small, rabbit-like robots), Guard Robots (small 4-legged robots that can alter their gravity and shoot electricity), and Death Balls (floating electrical drones), Gongs, Flying Shooters, and Proto Dogs.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: Slave Gears for this game.
  • Mirror Match: Possible in Story Mode if you're playing as one of the enemy Slave Gears such as Gong or Kamui.
  • Motion Parallax: The Sharp X68000 version features motion parallax in the graphics of the layered backgrounds.
  • Moveset Clone: Averted. Hound Dog and Rising Dog at first glance may seem like the game's equivalent of Ryu and Ken, although some of their attacks and specials differ from each other. Rising Dog doesn't have Hound Dog's double-jump ability although has a ninja-vanishing technique, has a ground shockwave attack in place of Hound Dog's cannon, an uppercut move with a different command input (save for the remake), and slide attack (plus a claw-swiping attack in the remake) instead of dashing one.
  • Palette Swap: The game has a fairly limited enemy variety, so you can expect different colored versions of some of the enemies often. The playable bosses in Story Mode also get their color palette swapped.
    • In the PC Engine CD version, players can take control of a palette swapped version of Kamui (Stage 5's boss) and Gong (a common enemy) as Richard and Eve, respectively.
  • Promoted to Playable: In the PC Engine CD version, Kamui and Gong were promoted as playable Slave Gears from the get-go. More enemies and Stunbeat become available in PC Engine CD version's VS. Mode via cheat code.
  • Recurring Boss: Rising Dog in Story Mode. You fight it in Stages 2 and 4, but it runs off before you get the chance to finish it off. The real fight happens in the final stage.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Rising Dog's default color scheme mainly consists of mostly black and some red.
  • Rolling Attack: Gongs can perform either straight ahead or up in the air, similar to Blanka.
  • Scenery Gorn: After Stage 3, Omega's warship takes off and begins destroying Artemis City, and it gets worse throughout Stage 4.
  • Scenery Porn: Stage 1, especially in the original Sharp X68000 thanks to the parallax scrolling backgrounds. All of the buildings lit up against the evening sky is quite eye-pleasing.
  • Scratch Damage: While you can block attacks by holding down both attack buttons, a bit of damage still goes through although you can't die from chip damage.
  • Scoring Points: Points are earned for hitting enemies and defeating them. In every version except the PlayStation remake, you get a Clear Bonus (1,000pts × remaining time) and a Level Bonus (varies by difficulty) if you're above Easy at the end of a stage.
    • In the PlayStation remake, you gain bonus points for making combos and 500pts. bonus for a ground or air recovery.
  • Secret Character: The boss characters can be playable in Story Mode through the means of cheat codes, as well as the enemies in VS. Mode.
  • Shock and Awe: There are floating drones that electrify themselves to keep you from attack them; their elite variant create bolts of lightning in the remake. Rising Dog and Kamui also have an electrical Hyper Attack in the remake.
  • Shoryuken: Hound Dog has one with its ↓↓+Attack special. Rising Dog's equivalent is performed by →→+Attack (or ↓↓+Attack in the remake).
  • Shotoclone: Picture Ryu piloting a humongous mecha and you'll get the idea of Hound Dog.
    • In the remake, Rising Dog can shoot fireballs out of its hands much like Akuma.
  • Shout-Out: In the original game, the motorcycles in the first half of Stage 1 bares a resemblance to Kaneda's.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Chico Rodrigues, the pilot of Hound Dog in the PC Engine CD version, is seen smoking a cigarette in the cut-scenes and in his character select portrait.
  • Sound Test: Found in the Options menu of the original game where you can listen to the music and sound effects of the game. The remake lacks this feature.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The subtitle was "Full Metal Forth" in the original Sharp X68000 version (and remained with the Mega Drive version). This was changed to "Full Metal Force" starting with the FM Towns port.
  • Sword and Gun: Hound Dog is armed with a cannon that shoots fireballs and a sword for strong attacks.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Enemies (and the player) explode once defeated. In Stage 1 in the original game, the cars passing the highway section can be hit and explode afterward.
  • Timed Mission: The game has a timer like in other fighting games. It extends when you proceed to the next wave of enemies. If the timer reaches zero, instant Game Over.
  • Turns Red: During the final battle with Rising Dog, after reducing it to 30% Energy, it will activate its Super Mode and it moves a hell of a lot faster.
  • Updated Re-release: The FM Towns version has updated graphics and a remixed soundtrack. The PC Engine CD version later added two more characters, Richard Winston piloting Kamui and Eve Lurdia piloting a Gong, and much bigger narrative thanks to the new animated cut-scenes.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: After the halfway point of Stage 4, you start fighting enemies called Proto Dogs, prototype versions of the "Dog" Slave Gears.
  • Video Game Remake: The PlayStation version, featuring some changes from the original's gameplay. There's now an Overdrive Meter for Hyper Attacks, the Slave Gears have been given a wider repertoire or changed movesets, and a complete scenery change from the original.
  • Video Game Dashing: Hound Dogs dash attack has it using its thrusters for sudden burst of speed while slashing foes with its sword. In the original, the attack can be canceled by performing a guard, making it an effective method of traveling or evading. In the remake, there's an independent dash button that lets you dash through enemies on the ground or air-dash while in mid-air.
  • Warm-Up Boss: Stunbeat, Stage 1's boss, is a frog-like Slave Gear that attacks by jumping on you, shoots energy shots, and rams into its enemies.