When it comes to shoot-em-ups on the PS Vita, Llamasoft’s TxK is regarded as one of the best. The Tempest-inspired tunnel shooter stunned everyone with its slick gameplay, stunning visuals and foot-tapping soundtrack. So much that it had console owners begging for it to be ported.
That PS4 port was scuppered by the legal team at Atari taking issue with TxK’s obvious inspiration drawn from their arcade classic. The PS4 version was canned and we thought that was the end of it.
A Simple Upgrade?
To be honest, TxK didn’t really need that much doing to it to make it a great modern release. The first obvious change was the name keeping in line with its new official status. So that would also bring alterations to the in-game text adding revised credits. So really just basic tweaks needed there.
The only other thing that TxK needed to become Tempest 4000 was a visual upgrade to redefine the graphics from the Vita’s native 960×544 resolution up to full HD. Music and sound effects were already superb, but the only real change needed there would have been some audio balancing to take advantage of the enhanced output of the consoles being run on.
So what went wrong?
Less Is More
Over the years Llamasoft games have become well known for a number of things. Paying homage to arcade classics, fast action and psychedelic visuals. TxK had all three of these perfectly balanced. But in Tempest 4000 this wasn’t the case. They have been known to take things a little too far on occasion, as seen by their earlier Xbox release Space Giraffe. Tempest 4000, while adding substantially more visual effects, took things too far on several levels.
At times during the main game, the backgrounds became something of a distraction rather than an enhancement to the game. But the real problem arose during the bonus stages. One saw you having to navigate through a series of concentric rings. In TxK this was straightforward enough, but not Tempest 4000. Here, the background was a multilayered pattern that increased intensity and speed as you progressed towards the end of the stage. It made things not only difficult to see what was going on but also very uncomfortable to look at, especially for those – like myself – with epilepsy.
With no option anywhere to tone down the effects, it makes this bonus stage near unplayable for many without being physically uncomfortable.
Too Much Music?
Now this may seem like an odd complaint to have… The soundtrack to TxK was superb, with a great mix of tracks playing throughout the game. All of these pieces have been retained for the follow-up, but with a lot of extra tracks added to the mix.
While this is just a matter of personal taste, truthfully I feel that these new tracks simply aren’t as good as those in TxK. More significantly, the TxK tracks are lost in the crowd and there’s no option to choose between the new or old tracks.
Out Of Control
While TxK was a simple game to control, it took time to truly master it as it would with any classic arcade game. But Tempest 4000 was different. For some reason, the controls didn’t feel as responsive as before. The claw ship felt sluggish at times, not as fast as it was in TxK.
More frustratingly, the bonus stages made forced use of the motion sensors in Tempest 4000 and this took priority over any other control method. It made the bonus stages not quite unplayable, but meant that you couldn’t hold the controller how you wanted to and we’re at the mercy of the game rather than playing it how *you* wanted to.
Was Tempest 4000 A Case Of Overkill?
If I am being completely honest, I believe so. Unlike games like Aqua Kitty Milk Mine Defender which saw numerous genuine improvements with each fresh incarnation, Tempest 4000 felt like a backwards step. If it had been left at a visual refinement and updated copyrights then most would have been happy with that.
Instead, there was nothing added in the way of game modes, options (and something to improve accessability would have been extremely welcome considering the visual changes) and to make matters worse the price was increased significantly. Overall, Tempest 4000 is probably the best example of how not to update a game for next gen systems.