A lot of video game publishers have been jumping into the "value" market that's emerged as the game market has diversified; the PlayStation has lately seen its share of $9.99 titles, for instance. Capcom is not one to miss out on such a lucrative sales opportunity, and to that end it's bringing us the $29.99 Dreamcast shooter Cannon Spike. The game proves once again that you get what you pay for, which is, for the most part, a positive point.
Cannon Spike is a cavalcade of classic Capcom characters. Included are Mega Man, Charlie and Cammy from Street Fighter, Darkstalkers' B. B. Hood, and even the venerable Arthur of Ghosts 'N Goblins fame. Joining the cast are two original characters named Shiba and Simone. All of the characters' attacks are different, but they follow a standard model. There's one normal, rapid fire shot; one more powerful shot; two up-close melee attacks that do a lot of damage; and one limited use special attack. The attacks are different enough that all the characters are fully worth trying out. For example, Cammy's standard attack is a double shot, Arthur's powerful shot is composed of heat seeking missiles, and Mega Man's strongest melee move utilizes one of his old NES attacks (a tornado). The variety of offense, combined with differences in speed and maneuverability, makes replaying Cannon Spike an appealing prospect.
That's not to say that Cannon Spike is particularly replayable to begin with. On the contrary, the game was ported straight from the arcade, and as such it's very, very short. Its ten tiny levels are presented from an overhead perspective and always stay focused on the same small background. There's no scrolling involved at all; rather, the enemies simply come to you in waves. After dispatching several types of enemies on a particular level, you'll be transported to a new scene to face that level's boss. The boss fights are literally almost half of the game, and fortunately they're also pretty intense. As a bonus, the bosses feature some of the most amusing Japanese-style English names ever. Who could forget Bio Gorilla Bloody or the unstoppable Ken Brown?
Since Cannon Spike operates from a fixed perspective that requires you to maneuver around enemies, some sort of aiming aid would be nice, and fortunately one has been provided. Holding down the R trigger produces a red beam along your character's line of sight, and when it comes into contact with an enemy, it will keep your character locked onto that enemy for a period of several seconds. Since most foes take quite a few shots to kill, the lock-on feature is most appreciated, though your sore right index finger probably won't be.
Cannon Spike is quite a bit of fun to play through two or three times, but it will begin to lose its luster under constant scrutiny. It looks great, with nicely modeled enemies and especially sharp textures, so those wanting for eye candy won't be left empty-handed. The variety of playable characters and the fact that the game presents the first several levels in a random order does give it a certain replay value, but it's better played occasionally than often. It won't keep you entertained forever, but if you can get around its lack of length, Cannon Spike delivers.