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To the Earth Review Rewind


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On 05/06/2021 at 10:00 AM by Jamie Alston

An exercise in futility.
RECOMMENDATION:

Only gluttons for punishment need apply.

After playing Duck Hunt as a child in 1987, I became an instant fan of Nintendo's Zapper peripheral. There was something magical about pointing the orange & grey gun at the screen and seeing the game respond to my attempts at shooting the waterfowl flying about. As the years passed, I played other enjoyable Zapper games like Hogan's Alley, Wild Gunman, and Barker Bill's Trick Shooting. After such great experiences, I was convinced that all Nintendo-developed light gun games were as good as the previous ones I played. "They can do no wrong!" I said—famous last words of a naive fool.

To the Earth is an unfortunate victim of being a good idea on paper but poorly executed in the end. At face value, the thought behind the gameplay was somewhat admirable. You play from an in-cockpit viewpoint, and you have to blast the invading alien forces and their missiles using your Zapper light gun. Your ship's energy is monitored by the meter at the bottom middle portion of the screen, which goes up to 100 hit points.

Naturally, taking damage decreases your energy. But that energy also doubles as your ammo too. So if you fire at an enemy and miss, that also takes away energy. Conversely, successfully blasting the enemy gains your ship a small amount of life back. And this is where things get dicey for the player. Though it should be relatively easy to hit a flying target in a light gun game, it simply isn't in this particular one. Far more often than not, it seems as if you're firing into the emptiness of space despite your greatest of marksman skills.

 

The alien ships are tiny, making them frustratingly difficult to hit. Also, they enter and exit the starfield faster than your eyes can track accurately. You hardly have much of a chance to line up your shot and take aim. These two factors lead to many missed shots, which in turn leads to wasted hit points from your energy meter.

And then there's the little matter of defending yourself from the enemy's attacks. During each section, you will constantly have to shoot down missiles that are being fired at you. Destroying them is equally as tricky as blasting enemy ships. Good luck with that. Much like the task of firing at the alien ships, shooting down a missile is quite difficult because you have waves of enemies constantly firing at you with little reaction time afforded.

The same goes for the asteroids and missiles that you'll need to deal with too. And when it finally dawns on you that your situation becomes increasingly hopeless as each second passes, you'll likely just get more frustrated at start frantically shooting in hopes of getting a lucky shot. That's not good for a game requiring pinpoint accuracy.

 

You aren't entirely without support, though. If you blast enough enemies consecutively, you'll be rewarded with a smart bomb that appears on the lower right side of the screen. Shooting it clears the area of any approaching alien forces or their missiles. That's great, except for the fact that obtaining it is still reliant on you being able to hit the broadside of a barn, which is nearly impossible in this game.

Periodically, a friendly ship will pass by that offers an energy pellet on the lower-left portion of the screen to replenish your ship's power. Just take care not to shoot it because doing so will make that energy pellet null and void. Ironically, the friendly ship is the slowest moving object in the game.

There is also a blue comet that appears from time to time that gives you a barrier shield if you zap it. While the availability of helper items is fine and good, you have to survive long enough to have a chance at making use of them. And even after all that, you can't rely on their effectiveness alone because you will quickly find yourself scrambling to stay alive a few seconds after the beneficial effect.

The visual presentation is somewhat underwhelming. You don't get a good view of the alien ships because they're gone almost as quickly as they appear on-screen. The dashboard of your fighter ship is pretty standard fare and easy to tell what's going on. The end-level bosses (assuming you get that far) have an uncanny resemblance to certain enemy characters from Space Harrier. So if you're a fan of Sega's 3D shooting series, you'll love the bosses' designs here. There isn't much to write home about here, which isn't helped by the near-impossible difficulty.

The audio presentation is this game's only redeeming quality. While going crazy trying to shoot things, you're accompanied by a surprisingly mellow tune that somehow manages to contrast with the desperate plight of your situation. Quite frankly, the music is pretty nice to hear. You wouldn't even think that there's an alien invasion going on-- just friendly green men sharing their technology with us humans. The sound effects aren't terrible either, but Nothing truly noteworthy stands out.

The main problem with this game is that it's just too difficult for its own good. Right from the start, you get bombarded with hard-to-hit targets that practically move at the speed of light along with their weapons. Intertwining your health and ammo usage was also a lousy move because it almost ensures that you won't make it past the first stage with any ease. Typically, most games similar to this at least take it easy on you during the inaugural stage, but not so with this one.

To say that this game isn't for the hot-tempered player is an understatement. Even the most patient of players out there should approach To the Earth with extreme caution. I don't recommend it as a first-time light-gun experience. There are better choices out there that provide greater satisfaction.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

05/06/2021 at 08:45 PM

I don't think I've played this one.  I didn't have a Zapper for my NES, but most of my friends did.  So I played a lot of Duck Hunt and rented some other gun games at their houses.  I didn't really get into light gun games heavily until Namco released the Point Blank games on the PSOne.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/11/2021 at 11:13 AM

Point Blank is definitely way more fun than this game. I have all 3 Point Black games on the PlayStation. Some of my favorite mini-games are in PB 3 where you have to shoot the train before it hits the screen or the one where you shoot down all the Galaxian bugs.

Cary Woodham

05/12/2021 at 04:09 PM

I have all three Point Blank games on PSOne.  I also have Point Blank DS and have played the mobile game Point Blank Adventure.  I've also been lucky enough to play the Japan only Point Blank X, which came out in Japan a couple of years ago.  I have a lot of good memories playing these games with my brother Jeff.

I like the mini-games in Point Blank that make reference to other Namco games, but also the ones that reference their mechanical games like Cosmo Gang and Cracky Crab.  Also, one of the PSOne Time Crisis games has mini-games based on the very old Namco game Shoot Away and the newer Quick and Crash.

The Last Ninja

05/08/2021 at 04:27 PM

I see what you mean. Even the guy in the video missed most the time. The ships move way too fast. When it comes to Zapper games, my favorite was Hogan's Alley. It was simple, fun, and offered just enough variety. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/11/2021 at 11:15 AM

Agreed. Hogan's Alley is a much more manageable Zapper game than To the Earth.

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