This is a Neo Geo CD only game, although originally it was intended to be an MVS release. It apparently does exist in prototype form, but this has never been proven conclusively. See the Neo Geo Prototypes page for more info!
I had seen screenshots of Iron Clad for quite a while but I didn't have the facility to play them up until recently. I was disappointed that I couldn't play it, because I love shoot 'em ups and thought that this looked pretty damn smart. Well, finally I got my hands on this CD and I am glad to say that it definitely ranks up there with the best Neo Geo shooters around.
Iron Clad reminds me of the game play in Blazing Star more than Pulstar as it is fairly fast paced and less difficult than that game… it's more of a button masher in the same vein as Blazing Star. However, you do get a small pod that can attach to the front of your ship like in Pulstar (which is ripped out of the game R-Type really :). This proves to be extremely useful. When attached to your ship, it can give you limited protection from small bullets and stuff. If you press the B button, which detaches the pod from the ship and fires it forwards, the pod will fire its own weapons as well. This can be helpful, but it does leave you a little more vulnerable to enemy attack. When the pod is attached to your ship, holding down the fire button for a few seconds will charge it up and by letting go, the pod will shoot forwards with a powerful attack. To re-attach the pod to your ship, just hold down the B button until it comes back to you. There are different power-ups that give you extra weapons, which vary depending on whether the pod is attached/unattached. You have to decide what is best for each situation.
You get to choose from three different ships at the start of your game. Fairly predictably, one moves fast but has weak weapons, the second moves slow but has powerful weapons and the last one is average at both. You can also choose your own route through the game (see screenshot above), which I found pretty cool. There are 16 stages in all, so you will have to play through it a few times to see everything. This certainly improves the replay value a bit!
One problem I did find was that the graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. There is quite a lot of variety in the stages; one has you flying over a burning city, another over a forest and another across the desert etc. No two levels look the same. However, they do suffer from looking a little drab and uninspiring, and not very much colour has been used. The enemies also suffer from the same problem and apart from the bosses and sub-bosses, there are not all that many different enemies to destroy so it can feel repetitive. As with many other Neo Geo shoot 'em ups, there is some slowdown in places too, but it is not so terrible that you can't cope with it.
Sound & Music:
As this is a Neo Geo CD game, it includes CD quality music and it is pretty good. I still prefer the music in Blazing Star, but some levels in this game sound absolutely great, such as the first stage. The music on that stage reminds me of an anime movie that I have seen; I can't remember which, but it really does sound familiar... in fact I'm listening to it while writing this, trying to figure it out :-) The other sound effects are OK, but just your average shoot ‘em up explosions and the like.
Iron Clad is a good fun game to play if you are a fan of shoot 'em ups. It is overshadowed slightly by the games I mentioned before, but is still a good game in its own way. I just wish they had spent a little bit more time adding some extra polish to the graphics. It would have also been nice if they had used more imagination when creating the enemies. I did find that once I had completed it and seen all the levels I grew a little tired of it as well, more so than I did with Pulstar and Blazing Star. Still recommended though and shoot ‘em up fans should waste no time getting hold of it!
Game play: 8/10
Replay Value: 7.5/10
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