When Taito released the original Elevator Action to arcades back in 1983, gamers were treated to a simple, yet highly addictive, spy action thriller. Since its release, it has become one of the most sought-after classic arcade games in history (and a pretty cool NES title, albeit an extremely difficult one to find). Featuring a stout little James Bond wanna-be with a 90210 'do as the main character, the original game focused on searching through buildings floor by floor (using an elevator - get it?) to obtain and process top secret documents vital to your mission. Then in 1995, almost a decade and a half later, Taito released Elevator Action Returns into the arcades. And now this game is on the Saturn. The verdict? While this game delivers a decent amount of old-school style 2-D action, the novelty wears off rather quickly. And when it does, gamers may be left wondering why it took Taito so long to produce a title that could have easily been translated to the Super NES years ago.
Elevator Action Returns takes place sometime in the 21st century, where an elite terrorist group is trying to take over the world. After choosing one of three available characters (of varying skill and ability), the player travels through six stages of side- and vertical-scrolling platform action, gathers data, and ultimately reaches a getaway vehicle to move on to the next area. If it sounds pretty basic, that's because it is. While the action is highlighted by plenty of mindless carnage and lots of firepower (two players can go at it simultaneously, with each character having an infinite supply of ammo and limited explosives), the gameplay comes across as uninspired and extremely repetitive. After just an hour or two of play, the player can complete the game with little to no effort (the hardest difficulty level is only a slightly tough, and it's quickly and easily mastered). Moreover, once finished, there's really no reason to go back and play it again. In fact, the only major benefit to owning this game, as opposed to renting it (which isn't permitted in Japan), is that once the player beats it, a new option called "Old" appears, allowing him to experience a 100 percent faithful port of the original arcade Elevator Action.
The game's look is composed of an entirely 2-D environment with tiny characters and extremely limited scaling and special effects. On the plus side, these characters animate nicely, and have lots of interesting subtleties that make the action seem a bit more realistic. But for the most part, the graphics as a whole seem very dated for a game that hit the arcades less than two years ago. Admittedly, it's possible the designers were trying not to stray too far from the feel of the original Elevator Action, but quite frankly, there needs to be more. The music is very basic too, and it's certainly one of Zuntata's less inspiring soundtracks. (Zuntata does the music for most Taito arcade games, including the popular Darius series.)
All in all, Elevator Action Returns is not a bad game, per se. But compared to what's out there, it's simply not worth the price of admission (around $60, on average, for an import). If it ever hits the States, it will be the perfect rental. But unless your local game shop rents imports, or you've just got to have the original Elevator Action in all its arcade glory, you'll probably want to look elsewhere to get your 2-D fix.