Only After I Embraced My Doom Did Abadox Reveal Its Charms

Only After I Embraced My Doom Did Abadox Reveal Its Charms

Illustration from the article titled It was only after embracing my destiny that Abadox revealed his charms

Image: Natsume / Kotaku

BackBackIt’s time. Let’s check out those games that we always told ourselves we were going to play and try.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Nintendo Entertainment System lately, partly to make sure RetroArch runs smoothly on this new PC, and also just because I’m having some simple, classic fun. Natsume’s 1989 Abadox shooter was one of the first New Oldie games that came to my mind, so I took it for a try.

Abadox (longplay) is an alternating horizontal and vertical (scroll down!) shooter that challenges your lone astronaut to attack the internal organs of Parasitis, a huge cytoplasmic alien beast that has devoured both your planet (“Abadox”) and Princess Maria. What a cad!

The game takes Life forceaesthetics inside a monster and make it more grodel, and its gameplay rich in memorization and patterns reminiscent of Irem’s shmups as Type R or Image fight. Your alien enemies appear in the same places every time, but often change their behavior based on your own movements. At its most intense, the game becomes a frantic dance as you switch between struggling to stick to your pre-set plan and mad improvisation to stay alive. As in R-Type, it is difficult to maintain the latter for very long.


Being pretty crowded here, and this power-up scorpion wants to slam my head.

Abadox is somewhat difficult by modern standards. You usually die in one shot, and that sends you back to one of the widely spaced checkpoints with just your pathetic pea shooter (only two shots onscreen at a time; rapid fire highly recommended) and a speed of default displacement similar to that of molasses. Multiple gun power-ups, homing missiles, and orbiting bits bolster your attack / defense, but you’ll never feel too secure in this ‘deadly inner war’.

Since dying in Abadox is such a huge Gradius-type setback, I decided to use save states to minimize frustration as I walked through the game’s six stages. It took about an hour, or so, and in the end I was not very impressed. Of course, great graphics for 1989, and awesome music speak ex-konami guy Who scored NES Contra and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. But the experience left me indifferent.

Plus, Abadox’s death sentence seemed so harsh – your default space dude so weak, and the scene starts out so hostile – that I wondered if the game was still fair when played straight up. A Youtube video confirmed that yes, you can take down any bosses with the default loadout, and probably hit them too. It was encouraging to see. Maybe there was a fun and fair challenge buried in there. Or fair enough for the NES, at least.

As often happens, my thoughts turned to Doom. Classic Doom has a concept called “gun start. This means starting a map with only Doomguy’s default pistol, fists, and 50 bullets, intentionally dropping weapons and bonuses gained in previous levels. The gun begins to make each new map a new struggle for survival, your arsenal limited to all the tools you find as you thoroughly test your new – and newly dangerous – environment.

Before I met Doom, I had no idea survival could be so exciting and taxing. I came to revel in the adrenaline rush of surviving a situation impossible by the skin of my teeth; Glad to be looking for bullets and med kits just to get through the next fight. Even today, the gun starts are pretty much the only way to play Doom. This is a different game when you still have all the power-ups. I find the route to acquire them much more interesting.


Abadox is not a total cock. Many bosses have safe places that are easily abused. Screenshot: Natsume / Kotaku

The YouTube player proof of concept inspired me to bring the gun philosophy back to Abadox. I loaded a save state from the start of the fourth vertical scrolling stage, around where the game gets edgy, and killed spaceguy in a wall. Sayonara, satellite shields. Goodbye, five-way shooting. Duder reappeared at the start of the scene, naked, lazy, and with the saddest peashooter on this side of a poorly designed Euro-shmup. The catchphrase from the 1980 Space Runaway Ideon anime came to mind: “A long ritual of death begins. ”

If I didn’t want to keep eating shit, I had to internalize certain patterns. The blue drops shot horizontally at the walls, but then veered towards me at a 45 degree angle as I approached. The blue orbs, if fired, released a parasite that prevented me from firing. The big crabs flew up, doubled back, then came out of the top. The tentacles controlled a lot of space, had a small weak point and pulled a revenge bullet. Deworming asteroids (kidney stones?) Exploded in five worms if shot. And the damn blue scorpions, Abadox’s power-carrying bastards, swayed back and forth as they fled upward, trying to deny me their cargo.


See? Sure. It’s like you’ve survived the scene. Screenshot: Natsume / Kotaku

I died over and over again, sometimes to the very first drop. Other times the damn power-up scorpion grabbed me, crushing my character because I mis-synced my peashooter. Or maybe I released the power up – a speed boost if needed! – only to crash into a drop as I impatiently moved to grab it. 20, 30, 40 goes. Progress, then decline. Slowly, I made big gains. I learned to aim the peashooter’s two small bullets more deliberately, and when to stop firing. Reached a gun power-up. I made a mental note of where a particularly annoying enemy appeared and where I should be when they did. Thought of a way to take care of another before it got dangerous.

After many deaths, I organized a pretty good race to reach the miniboss keeping the checkpoint at the halfway point. Child’s play! And there you have it, the pistol departures of stage 4 were absolutely achievable. I committed suicide again to throw the gun from the new checkpoint, and so the process started all over again. This time the success came faster. And so again at the beginning of step 5, then in its middle. My Deadly Inner War was going pretty well.


Start of step 6. Those tiny blue will-o’-the-wisp stuff will kill me nine times out of ten. Screenshot: Natsume / Kotaku

Step 6 is the final level, and it’s unpleasant to start from scratch. After sinking 30 to 45 minutes in its first half, I can sometimes survive the first 30 seconds. Through this forced and constant repetition, I keep uncovering little new weaknesses that help me get a crucial head start, and if I keep going, it’s only a matter of time before I get a successful enough race. successful to reach this mid-boss, kill and start the final death walk towards the end.

As you can see, I am engaging with Abadox in a way that before I was not. Reassured that I could trust the designers to deliver a fair game, I stopped trying to bypass the experience they wanted. When I relied on save states, I acted like a dilettante instead of a student, a tourist instead of a local. I didn’t have enough confidence in the game to stick to the lessons it wanted to teach me, and by ignoring them I missed a lot of what makes this strict, precise, and highly methodical shooter fun to play. playing … which ultimately makes it satisfying.

It only remains to train more on stage 6 and to follow what I learned in a complete race, from start to finish. It won’t be perfect, but this time I think I’ll have fun doing it.


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