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Updated November 20, 2004

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(6/4/2003) Auraflow releases a public version of their immersive spaceshooter and the graphics are incredible.

Another 5 months, another new FJ beta. Auraflow's energetic arcade shooter in progress has been previewed to the public, along with sketches, new tilesets and 3 demo levels to try out. How has this already highly anticipated shooter progressed since the last release? Well, more than meets the eye.

Frantic Journey looks fantastic even when enemies aren't onscreen.

In it's flashy opening credits, Frantic Journey extends it's arcade experience by simulating the memory check of a jamma board. After the flashy (and non-exitable) company logos displays are over, the user is treated to either test out different tilesets and maps, or try the three playable levels. While the playable levels haven't changed much if at all from their November debut, they are still very impressive, demonstrating huge amounts of on-screen enemies with different scripted movements and huge, flashy weapons.

The core gameplay of these demos is straightforward action: dodge gunfire and obstacles while taking out cannons and enemies. The collectible weapons increase your firepower in different ways, by either increasing your main weapon's firepower, firing projectiles of some sort, or adding helper ships that fire alongside yours. The enemies themselves include tadpole-like aliens that draw towards your ship, meteors that grow upon receiving gunshots, various spaceships that move in wave-like patterns, ground cannons and more. The variety of all of it is impressive, and the authors promise more, which is always a good thing. While the gameplay may be confusing at times, the technical aesthetics are very pleasing to the eye (unless, of course, that eye is epileptic).

New to the gameplay itself is mostly smaller, subtle changes that make the game more customizable. More sounds and music are included, and while they are several megabytes in size, are worth the long download times. The keyboard is now customizable, which allows the user to create custom control schemes. Also customizable are the number of ships the player has and the sounds. These little changes, along with bug fixes, give the game a professional level of completeness, on par with many arcade games from the early nineties.

More of the game is becoming more complete, including the tilesets. While the "circle alien" scheme gets repetitive, new tilesets such as a jungle setting, and an impressive desert setting are available. We hope to see more new and varying tilesets in the future to make the game more interesting.

Those who've played the Gradius will see many similarities, though Frantic Journey takes the Gradius formula and twists it into something quite new.

So how can this demo improve? More gameplay. While the basic premise of "if it moves, BLAST IT! If it doesn't, BLAST it anyway!!!!" makes for a fun gameplay experience, the best arcade shooters have new and inventive ways to blow stuff up. Perhaps bombs, or charges, or lock-on weapons would aid it. Perhaps bosses that must be attacked at critical periods could help. Perhaps collectable items that give new weapons or powerups could help as well. This demo is fun, it need not improve to accomplish that, but more is definately better.

Frantic Journey's recent changes are promising, and the game is coming more and more together. From flashy displays to fast-paced gameplay, this game has the promise to be great, and the tools for a another disappointing product of hype. Only time will tell, and until then, enjoy this preview demo and the action it brings.

As of the time of print, the sound/music version of Frantic Journey is still being updated for improved compatibility. In the meantime, to download the Frantic Journey May 5th "Core" build (which has no audio but works on most computers), click here.

Article Written by Toonski, Graphics Designer

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