Dive Alert — The Attention it is Getting

While SNK has put forth a commendable effort to break up its pattern of continual strong fighting and puzzle carts for its Neo Geo Pocket Color by adding this unusual RPG, the game, unfortunately, is not as interesting or fun as the typical fare. Basically, players control submarines by positioning them on a slow, static radar screen, torpedoing enemies. This is the game’s only action, which is simply not enough when the other 60% of the game involves just pushing the buttons down to scroll through reams of boring RPG-like text. This game might have worked if expanded and put on a console system, but for the handheld format, it just moves too slowly, and it’s too devoid of action to hold anyone’s attention. It may be worthwhile, but only for the most diehard RPG fans or for players who for some reason crave any submarine game (perhaps Navy veterans).

The game comes in two separate versions, one in which you play a boring female sub commander and another where you get to command a boring male sub captain. Both captains (Becky and Matt) have their own ships and items that they can collect and record in their logs, but there is basically the same gameplay and jeuxvideo, which consists of submarine battles, collecting various tools and items and exploring the sea through the RPG screens. In a game that is so text-based, the story is probably the main point of playing; the game is like scrolling through a graphic novel. Unfortunately, the animation consists of simple static animelike pictures during the story sections, and the tale itself is not even that interesting.

Basically, the planet Earth was destroyed in a geographic catastrophe a long time ago and is now entirely immersed beneath vast oceans, except for one city named Terra. Born in a special marine station created by scientists who sought to preserve the human race during the cataclysm, Matt and Becky must now traverse endless ocean until they find the City of Terra. The enemy submarines encountered are presumably other pirates or humans also bred in undersea chambers. The game’s quest, then, is a sort of search for El Dorado, a mythical city that somehow contains the solution or resolution to the Earth’s bleak condition.

Dive Alert is very, very slow. Even the vaunted cable linkup option, which has added flavor to many a Neo Geo Pocket game, can’t save this one. It will only allow you to fire creeping missiles at a friend or to trade ships, reminiscent of trading Pokemon but with less point. Some action might have saved this RPG, but, unfortunately, the submarine segments are about as static and slow as the storyboards. There are no actual water scenes; instead all the submarine battles are represented merely by dueling blips on a circular sonar screen. The game basically involves a soporific back-and-forth between these maddening text stills and commanding the sonar world blips in an archaic videogame of war.

The dialogue and sound are also very average in this game. The soundtrack is boring and seems to connote being stuck in a submarine, while the text is just too longwinded for the pocket’s small-screen window. At the game’s start, the A Button must be tapped at least 30 times just to work through all the short snippets of dialogue before getting to the initial sonar encounter. The first encounter, however, simply involves steering the submarine (a blip) onto an X, then it’s back to the A button to parse through a few dozen more storyboards. While an RPG for the handheld format was a good idea, this particular game just doesn’t deliver. The action is way too slow — almost static — to draw a player in, and the world presented here, a sort of graphic novel, is just too shallow to justify the continued effort required to eventually complete the game.