Welcome To Cosmic Smash
(This is a review I wrote in 2002, it's been unedited or updated.).
Welcome to Cosmic Smash. Do you ever sit there and wonder what designers are thinking when they make a game? Do they know they're making a bad game? Does the game just become bad at the last minute and then they can see what bunk they made? Or do you think they just never know until people point out how bad it sucks. I know I have, but until I played Cosmic Smash...I never thought the reverse. Did Sega Rosso know they were making an awesome game or did it even surprise them? Enough questions.
Originally a Naomi arcade release, Cosmic Smash is pure, unadulterated game play. It's a throw back to when you played until you die, and whoever dies with the most points wins. There's very little strategy per-say, but it is not without depth.
You play a semitransparent humanoid creature with a racket. Your job is to smash all of the blocks in a rectangular room before the time runs out. You run back and forth hitting the ball towards the blocks, breaking them. You have full control of your horizontal and vertical movements but you stay at the far edge of the room.
You have three buttons to control with; Smash, Jump and Special. Smash is the obvious, press it as the ball nears you and you'll knock it back towards the blocks. Jump will launch your character in the air and will also perform a flip or kick off a wall if pressed in mid air. The Special button makes your character perform a trick shot. The Special Smash does several things. First and foremost, by pressing and holding Special you'll see the ball gravitate towards your character as he winds up for his trick shot. Most cases the ball will make it to you successful and your character will hit it. Sometimes the ball is too far away or behind your character for the move to work and you'll lose the ball, be wary, it doesn't happen often but it does happen. Secondly, performing a Special Smash speeds up your clock, perform too many and you'll eat up all of your time. Thirdly, the Special Smash will penetrate all destructible blocks. With this you can take out a whole row of blocks, or in some cases a whole level of blocks, with a single hit. Finally performing a Special Smash trickshot as the last hit of that level, meaning you clear the last block with a special shot, will earn you a Trick Shot bonus. The bonus varies from shot to shot. You can perform different shots depending on your characters position in relation to the level as well as the ball. Press towards the wall and hit the Special button to launch your character off the wall in the other direction for a diving shot. Beyond all this you can control your shot with the Analog joystick to a degree, meaning you can place your shots if you get good.
That's pretty much the entire game, clear the board as fast as you can, picking up special rewards for finishing with a trick shot or without losing a ball. Normally you can lose as many balls as you want, however the bonus you get is vital, particularly if you make it through the entire game with one ball, massive bonus for that. Without the No Lost Ball and Special Finish bonuses, you'll be lucky to crack the top 200 on the Internet Ranking (more on that in a bit). Get them all and you're guaranteed a spot in the top 40.
Finishing the game is actually quite easy and as soon as you master a few of the early, required levels, you'll be able to finish the game at will with little trouble. What gives you trouble is maintaining those bonuses I mentioned. After the first few stages, you can actually choose your path through the Cosmic Smash world (technically it's a space ship). There are so many possible routes to choose, some harder than others, but for the most part all of them fun.
Visually, my initial impression of Cosmic Smash was how beautiful the game was. The graphics are basic but extraordinarily executed. The graphic style reminds me very heavily of the vector based design movement that was popularized by The Internet as well as Macromedia's Flash (something artists notice, think about it, check out the current crop of commercials and advertisements. A lot of them look like Flash movies, don't they? Who do you think is imitating who?), so immediately I was pleased. Tragically hip, that is. The sound is fantastic, simple but elegant, never annoying. You'll find yourself imitating the announcer all the time, for instance, when I was typing the first line to this review...I said it out loud in the announcers voice.
The aforementioned Internet Ranking is a stroke of genius. Acquire a sufficiently high score and you'll receive a passcode. Go to the Cosmic Smash website, enter it in and see where you rank. It tracks your name, email, high score and the path you too . It's so cool to see how good you are compared to the rest of the world, and there's a definite sense of pride seeing your name above other people, particularly ones who had an arcade and home release of the game (okay...enough hints, Japan. I love ya guys, but it pleases me to no end to be ranked above some of your players). It's perhaps the ultimate in confirmed bragging rights. Anyone can say 'Yeah, I scored 20 million', but in Cosmic Smash you can say 'oh yeah, prove it, what's your rank?'.
There's so much more, such as the cool replays you get after you finish the game to the funky credits.
As I've said many times the game as a whole is simple, but so is beer, steak, potato chips, fishing, chocolate covered pretzels, vanilla ice cream and sex...well, maybe not sex, how about porn instead? All are simple things but are massively enjoyable!
This game is so good that after playing this I look forward to the next Sega Rosso release the same way I look forward to a Treasure, Sonic Team, Razing, NDL or Rare release. The company has proven to me it produces games worthy of my time and money, no questions asked. Make it and I'll buy it. I believe in Sega Rosso, I believe in Cosmic Smash. Have a blast