Dino Stalker is the sequel to the convoluted story in Dino Crisis 2 and the 3rd game in Capcom Gun Survivor light gun series. Released in 2002 for the Playstation 2, this game addresses some of the lingering problems of these series while introducing new ones. The standard option of controller of GunCon2 peripheral is available. Is this entry more playable than the previous games?
Dino Stalker's storyline is intended as a follow-up to the events of Dino Crisis 2. In the intro, a WWII fighter pilot is about to be shot down by enemy aircraft when a subspace distortion transports him to another time. Suddenly, Pteradons surround him and he's in even bigger trouble than he was in a few seconds ago. Luckily (and mysteriously) a machine gun appears in his hand and a wrist communicator on his arm. Guess someone likes him. Anyway he fights off the flying pests and lands in what seems to be a prehistoric jungle. Then the game begins.
The graphics in this game are impressive enough, with well-defined character, enemies, and environments. Problems occur when these visuals are given closer scrutiny. A lot of the backgrounds are bland and repeat, enemies animate well but are limited in their movements, and the characters suffer from distortion at times. The bigger boss battles do a bit to alleviate these graphical problems, but can't save the game from looking pretty mediocre.
Music in this game is utterly generic. The player is given hope in the beginning FMV when music from Dino Crisis 2 is featured. It made me think that Stalker will have the same great action pieces and exciting music. This doesn't turn out to be the case. Most of the music is bland, not ambient, but it still lacks presence. Overall it is like the game, just there.
Gameplay is where Dino Stalker really fucks things up. It has been said by many a critic that arcade shooters simply cannot work unless they are on rails. This game is proof of this. The controls expect you to not only aim and shoot, but also strafe with the D-pad and hold down a button to move your character forward at a plodding pace. This isn't even taking the sniping option into account, which requires holding A and B down to enter sniping mode, doing this seems to require more than two hands, making it needlessly complex. It is not even that useful considering its implementation. The controls aren't so much hard as they are frustrating. You just know Capcom could have made them simpler, and perhaps doing as such would have rendered the game playable.
While the game is also Guncon2 compatible, things are actually harder with that peripheral, most due to the absurd location of the D-pad, its placement on the Guncon2 makes the already difficult navigation more difficult. You would think using the Guncon2 would be a great boon to this game, but it is quite the opposite. Avoid it!
Besides the control problems, Dino Stalker controls like any other shooter. Kill Dinos before they kill you. Ammo also just happens to be floating above the ground, so shoot it to collect it. Same with health. The boss battles are pretty much the same, except the shoot and retreat tactic of earlier Survivor games works just as well.
Challenge is this game is dependent on how quickly the player can adjust to the controls. If they are able to become comfortable, the game is a breeze that can be beaten in an hour or two. The same strategies that worked so well in the first Survivor work here. Shoot the bosses, retreat when they get close, rinse and repeat. Cake.
Perhaps the lack of challenge in this game shows that it was originally meant to be an arcade game, in which the goal is to get the player to spend as much money as possible, mostly through overpowered enemies or impossible to dodge attacks that you never see coming. Dino Stalker has neither to speak of.
Replay value is present; it is a necessity to compensate for the game's short length. The best extra is Duo Mode, which also one player to aim the Guncon 2 and the other to use the controller to move the character. This really should have been a default option, as it makes the game more playable. Of course, you'll have to switch it up between players (who just wants to do all the walking anyway?) In summation, Dino Stalker is an interesting attempt to wrap up the niggling questions at the end of Dino Crisis 2, but what little story is present in the game fails to ever do that. I was fine with DC 2's cliffhanger ending, almost like I knew it would never be resolved and resigned myself to that fact.
I won't say that Dino Stalker is not worth the brief time in takes to make it through the game, but you'd have to have a lot of patience to deal with the annoying problems. Enjoy if it you can, but be prepared for disappointment with meh graphics and clunky gameplay. Not even having two players like Gun Survivor: Code Veronica could have saved this game.
- Ugly Bob