Aerosmith must have hired a pretty tenacious marketing manager in the mid-90s, because they were damn near everywhere. Every other episode of Saturday Night Live – they there were as the musical guest. They popped up in Wayne’s World 2, where they were treated as some kind of rock gods. And of course, this game – an arcade shooter which Aerosmith headlines for… honestly… no reason whatsoever.
But we let it slide, because Revolution X’s gameplay was mad sweet – in the arcade, mind you. It hit some success and was quickly sent on the home port trail; hitting every system it could, whether the system could really support a detailed, photo-textured fast-paces shooter or not. The SNES could not.
The ingenious, complex, and multifaceted plot of this game goes a little something like this: The fascist New Order Nation, having somehow built a enormous army and gained unopposed support inside the U.S., decides to crack down on world society and institute a dictatorial regime – No Choice, No Voice. Okay, this could be an interesting political statement, perhaps? The dangers of a global regime with the muscle to back it up? But nope, this game is geared toward the MTV generation, so the NON is interested only in outlawing all “fun.” That’s right… the entire goal of the evil army, all of their training, and every last bit of their finances are all intended for squashing the generic concept of fun. C’mon teens, come fight for your right to party!
Anyhoos, the New Order decides to begin their crusade by kidnapping Aerosmith, who apparently aren’t just America’s #1 Awesomest Totally Bitchin’ Super-Cool Rock Band, they’re also the leaders of a guerilla organization fighting against the dictatorship, and top secret agents since they know every move NON is making. How about that, huh? I bet their secret spy radar is hidden in Steven Tyler’s lips.
So now we pick up with the start of the game. You’re heading to one of L.A.’s hottest clubs by helicopter, and are packing a convenient crowd-pleasing machine gun, because why not? While you’re still in the air, the NON suddenly appears in force and moves to take over downtown. You fight through the club and hordes of bumblebee-dressed shock troopers to reach Aerosmith. They have left you a videotape which will tell you where to go next. You’re then sent on five lengthy missions to stop the New Order from producing their evil mind control serum and forcing all the hot babes to work in labor camps. Along the way, you’ll totally fuck up their school bus. No that’s not sarcasm, mind control serum, enslaved babes, and shooting apart the short bus all feature prominently in the game.
So the plot is ridiculous, and like most of their media appearances at the time, serves mostly to glorify Aerosmith. They’re the only real characters in the game, and everybody else is on the screen just long enough to get shot or rescued. Even the big bad – a biker babe named Helga – is only on long enough to turn into a disfigured version of the Michelin Man and start firing cannons from a stage in Wembley Stadium.
But this is an arcade game, so it’s really all about the gameplay, right? Sadly, this is another area that falls far short of anything close to quality. The entire game is spent shooting tiny black and yellow foot soldiers who appear in mass numbers. When you’re not shooting them, you’re shooting vehicles or parts of the environment. You have your machine gun and infinite ammo to do this with, and a CD launcher that shoots exploding Aerosmith CDs. Because CDs inherently carry enough kinetic energy to destroy a wall. Seriously. Wiki that shit. These are limited in amount, but you can pick up more CDs by shooting the ones that appear throughout the level – in the gold and platinum varieties. Yes Aerosmith, we know you sold a lot of records. Now save the masturbation for your own bathroom, okay?
That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting areas. You get to see a jungle level, chase a helicopter, and trash some things, though not as much stuff as you may think. The arcade was far, far better at wanton destruction and the ability to demolish everything in sight. There were simply so many interactive objects and simultaneous action that you could almost forget about the plot and the presence of Aerosmith within it. Unfortunately, the number and quality of things you can affect with your bullets has been severely diminished in order for the game to work on the SNES. Most background objects you could destroy in the arcade, like signs, trees, or windows, simply take the bullets without flinching here. When a brainless shooter doesn’t make shooting things enjoyable and worthwhile, the whole game obviously suffers.
There are also secret areas and side paths to be found by destroying certain objects in the background. These lead to kidnapped Aerosmith members whom you set free. They’re the real guys, posed and digitized for the game, but never in situations that really make you feel like saving them – like taking a wizz, or riding past the moon on a flaming guitar. Each member you save multiplies your end-of-level score, which means nothing, except possible bragging rights, and an invitation to the secret after-party where you spend precious seconds more with the digitized band.
Well a rock-based video game better have damn good sound, right? Otherwise it would turn out… well, like this. Sound is painful. They did spend some time getting Aerosmith’s guitar effects and music clips to work, but the corners cut are obvious. All the included songs are just sections of riffs from the songs themselves, with overbearing compression. Some of them loop well, like the endless riff from “Rag Doll” that plays on the menu screens. Some of them do not, like the endless verse from “Eat The Rich” with the same section of lyrics. Gets a little tiresome, to say the least, even if you like the tunes themselves. And if you don’t ascribe to the whole “Music Is A Weapon” thing, then you haven’t heard the unique, non-Aerosmith background themes created for the game – especially the techno-Asian one for the factory mission. As for all that pesky “other stuff,” the screams of dying men, explosions, and gunshots are taken from the Nintendo sound archive and run through the Crap-o-lator to make room for Aerosmith’s contributions.
Control is equally inept. Using the D-Pad to aim the cursor is a chore, which is why the SNES mouse option was included with the game. But here’s the real genius – button 1 is both fire and start! So every time you shoot the gun, you pause the game at the same time! This is actually coded into the game; there’s no way to change it. I assume this is why mouse support exists, but all mention of it was omitted from the manual. You can sometimes get around it by keeping the trigger held down, and the main gun doesn’t have a “temperature” meter as in similar arcade shooters, but it’s still less than ideal. There’s no obvious support for the Super Scope or any other gun periphrial either, and the mouse’s constant pausing is really quite distracting, so you’re likely stuck with the sluggish controller pad.
Admittedly, the graphics are tolerable, but there’s not a lot of eye candy here. They did some impressive things with digitized video, considering the time and the console we’re talking about. You’ll get jerky video messages from Aerosmith as the game progresses, just as in the arcade, but that’s just icing. The actual game areas are pretty barren, especially when compared to the same zones in the arcade. About half of the decorations and/or detail have been tossed. The bar in the first level is about the most visually rich area you’re going to find, which is funny because it slows the game to a near crawl. Yep, that’s right, certain sections, like the helicopter chase and the charge of the battle-axe women in the Amazon, are just too much for the game to handle. It never gets totally unplayable, but shooting your gun alongside the digitized detail in many areas is just too taxing to calculate, so the game kicks back and takes its sweet time at about five frames per second. It’s probably a sign of how fast they rushed this one out, or how hard Midway was pushing its successful arcade shooter to come to the home no matter what. It does feel rather like an unfinished demo at times.
Characters are digitized rather than hand-drawn, though the detail is at an obviously lower resolution than the arcade source. They at least don’t look out of place with their environment, but you rarely get close enough to them to appreciate any detail. The super close-ups, where enemies pop up in your face in the arcade, didn’t make the cut here. A medium distance is about all you get. And did I mention that all blood, except the severed stumps of the end boss, is removed? As well as the ability to blow enemies up with CDs? That’s pure censorship, but the background interaction getting cut has to be technical. There’s only a minimum amount of objects you can destroy, but explosions and damaged objects don’t look particularly neat anyway. Most things shatter into nondescript glass, or simply disappear when shot.
Revolution X could actually be fun on the arcades when you had impressive graphics, a speedy pace, a total lack of dull moments, and completely destructible environments. Take those all away, throw in some bad control, and you’ve got this – a plot does little more than shove Aerosmith’s dick in your face, with no gameplay left to offer in return.
Pretty horrible arcade port.