Terra Cresta / Imagine 1986
Screenshots: play/stop

Terra Cresta was the sequel to Nichibutsu's 1980 hit Moon Cresta, although you'd be forgiven if you didn't realise it. About the only things that survived are the word Cresta and the fact that your ship can be stacked up to create better firepower.

The game has you flying over enemy territory (in classic vertically scrolling-down style), shooting enemies that fly towards you and ground-based laser turrets. You can shoot the turrets and enemy craft, while avoiding any enemy bullets. Oh, and because the flying craft are on the same altitude as you, you'd better avoid those, too. Being an enemy landscape, there are also robot Tyrannosaurus Rexes that can be shot, while avoiding their fireballs.

After flying over the enemy territory for a while, you are confronted with big motherships that take multiple hits to destroy – while trying to do this, they will hurl other enemy craft at you in an attempt to kill one of your three initial lives. Destroy the mothership for big points.

At the start of a game (or a new life), you start with a basic ship that fires a twin-laser blast. However, there are four other modules that can be attached to your ship. At certain points on the enemy terrain, there are allied landing pads that are protected by armoured shielding. There are one or more little pods around the landing pad that denote which module lies below the shielding (2, 3, 4 or 5). Shoot the little pods to open up the shielding, and the module will become available to you. It's just a matter of touching the new module to hook up with it. Each module will add more firepower – but also make you a bigger target to hit!

When you have one or more modules attached to your ship, you have three power-ups at your disposal. Using a power-up detaches your modules into a preset formation, each of which has their own fire pattern – but always involves in a lot more firepower while it is activated. Also, it has the added bonus in that enemy missiles can only collide with your initial ship, and not any of the modules, so your footprint becomes quite small again. This power-up lasts for only eight seconds, however, so use each one wisely. Picking up another module will reset your power-ups to three.

If you are lucky and pick up all of the other four modules, you have a complete ship. You are awarded by becoming an invincible Phoenix for eight seconds, after which you become a normal ship again, but with a shield at the rear to stop any attacks from behind.

The Commodore 64 conversion by Imagine Software (Dave Collier doing the programming and Stephen Wahid on the graphics) is an almost perfect crossover. All of the features of the arcade game – except for the indestructible cruise missiles – have been faithfully produced on the home computer. Gameplay is fast and furious, with an excellent sprite-multiplexing routine that rarely shows any strains. Sometimes you get glitches in the graphics, but it's forgiveable as it doesn't slow the game down at all. Because of the C64's standard 4:3 TV output, the screen is wide and squat, while the arcade game used rotated monitors for a long, thin game, but this doesn't detract too much. Graphics use a good balance of desert-colored background with metallic spaceships and enemies, and enemy bullets flash to give you a good indication of where they are.

Music and sound is by none other than Martin Galway. All of the in-game tunes have been faithfully reproduced from the original's YM chip, and spot FX help you along. Martin has also composed an original tune that is played on the title screen which suits the game perfectly.

Terra Cresta unfortunately suffers from the "one fire button" syndrome, in that the power-up was a second button on the arcade game. On the C64 you have to press Space, which means you have to hover your joystick over the keyboard in order to smash it when you need the power-up. But after a while you get used to this minor disadvantage.

The Commodore 64 version of Terra Cresta was a classic, and still is. Arcade fans will love the conversion, whereas "n00bs" will love the frantic shoot-em-up action. Perfect!

Reviewed by Boz.

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