Time Crisis has always been one of my favorite arcade franchises. For those that are not familiar with the series, Time Crisis is a first-person light-gun on-rails shooter (that’s a mouthful) series developed by Namco. The plot of each game usually boils down to the VSSE (Vital Situation, Swift Elimination) sending their agents to nullify a serious threat against either a single nation or the whole world. Time Crisis was innovative for its time in that the arcade machines introduced a pedal which the player can use to hide from enemy fire, giving a more action-packed feel to the game for the player.
There are currently five games in the main series with each game adding something new to freshen up the series. The first game Time Crisis, released in 1996, set the groundwork for which the series is based on. The second game Time Crisis II, released in 1998, introduced two-player cooperative play where two players can work together on separate screens to complete the mission. A “deadly eye” feature was also introduced in this game where a player can see an enemy firing a life-depleting shot by a red flashing circle. Time Crisis 3, released in 2003, added a machine gun, shotgun, and grenade launcher weapons in addition to the standard handgun, where the player can cycle through them by pulling the trigger while hiding. Time Crisis 4, released in 2006, added sections where the player has to fight on multiple screens and moves to each screen by moving the light gun in the appropriate direction. It also added levels exclusively played with a mounted weapon on a helicopter and insect enemies, known as Terror Bites, which are weak to one weapon.
With arcades dying in the new millennium, a new entry in the Time Crisis was highly unlikely…until now. A fifth installment, aptly titled Time Crisis 5, in the main series was announced in October 2014 with arcade releases in Spring 2015 in North America. I had a chance to play it firsthand and see what it’s all about.
The new game mechanic that Time Crisis 5 introduces is the dual pedal system, which changes the gameplay in new ways. Unlike the multiscreen system found in 4, the dual pedal system allows the player to switch perspectives on a single area by changing hiding places. This feature adds in a new layer of strategy into the franchise as certain enemies can only be hit in certain hiding places. For example, there are enemies that hold bulletproof shields and attack while completely hiding behind these shields. By pressing the opposite pedal, the player can swing around to a different hiding place and attack the enemy on the side where they are vulnerable. This aspect forces the player to think quickly and react accordingly. There are also some areas where the view is completely blocked, such as smoke bombs or water spouts, which forces the player to change views and attack accordingly.
In addition to the dual pedal system, quick time events were also added. At certain instances in the game, the player has to press the right pedal to avoid a large obstacle. Succeeding in these QTEs allows the player to engage in a slow-motion scene where the player has free reign to shoot enemies at his or her leisure, and failing in these QTEs results in a half of a life lost. There are also instances where the player has to hit certain targets prompted by the game in a scene, but those only serve as a way to add a little more artificial variety in the game.
Despite the new features in the game, there are some negatives. For one thing, a single playthrough of 5 is very short compared to prior games in the series. I can beat Time Crisis II in about 15-20 minutes and Time Crisis 4 in about 30 minutes, so the length of these games escalate with each subsequent sequel. Time Crisis 5 can beaten in about 8 minutes (which was my time in my first playthrough). The number of levels stay relatively the same, but each level is way too short to get any satisfaction. The whole experience felt very incomplete.
I also didn’t like some of the character designs. The Time Crisis protagonists are supposed to be generic agents out to save the world and thus, their designs are simple. Then, we have the player 1 protagonist, Luke O’Neil.
A red sleeveless shirt. A backwards cap. Tattoos all over his arms. Basically, he is the opposite of his prior counterparts and looks like a total bro. His player 2 counterpart, Marc Godart, has a typical Time Crisis protagonist, so why make Luke different? An argument for this new character design is to give him some personality, but most of the time will be spent playing the actual game and not through cut scenes, so we won’t get to see this personality as much. Wild Dog’s design also undergone some questionable changes. In the earlier games, he always wears a trench coat and sunglasses with his hair slicked back, giving off a cold and menacing vibe. His new look in 5, however is a little bit cartoonish with his spiky white hair and a little bit of ham to back it up.
Overall, the game is all right, but its short length really holds it back from being a good Time Crisis game like 2. I did enjoy playing it, though, and the new features really add a fresh wrinkle in the series. Namco did announce that a True Mastermind edition will double the number of stages from 3 to 6, so that should help make 5 a more complete experience. Still, if you want to play this game in the arcade, go ahead. It’s still a fun game, despite its short length.