I’ve dabbled with Elevator Action Returns (aka Elevator Action II) here and there, but never invested the time into playing it all the way through. So the other day, I had a little time on my hands and finally gave it a serious try and now I’m obsessed thanks a lot geez.
A little background: I’m a huge Elevator Action fan.
My favorite arcade back in the day (Pocket Change at the Northland Mall in Appleton, WI) had Elevator Action, and the sound was always turned up pretty loud on it for some reason. So throughout the arcade, I could hear the background music, the distinctive sound effects of the shooting and jumping, and the death jingle. I always had a hard time playing it though, because the Fire and Jump buttons are kinda far apart for an 8-year-old kid (seriously, look at the control panel on that machine — kids’ hands are not gonna achieve high-level play on that thing). But as I got older and the arcades disappeared, EA was made available on other platforms and it always reminded me so strongly of the golden age.
Anyway, syrupy pangs of nostalgia aside, I’ve tried just about every reiteration of Elevator Action there is: the NES version, the Game Boy version, Elevator Action Ex for Game Boy Color, Elevator Action Old and New for GBA, Elevator Action Deluxe for PS3. They all bring varying tweaks to the original game, some of which are very enjoyable, and some of which are less so.
The one that always eluded me, however, was Elevator Action Returns. Originally made for Taito’s F3 arcade system, it was ported to the Sega Saturn in Japan. For some reason, I never picked that one up — it may have been overpriced for my budget, I’m not sure. Eventually, I tried it out on MAME, but it never quite ran right for me — maybe my PC was underpowered, maybe it just wasn’t emulating right — it was always sluggish and I knew I wasn’t getting the real experience.
Then, when Taito released their two Legends collections on PS2, I bought them both, and was especially excited because Elevator Action II (same thing as Returns, different name) was on the second release. However, when that came out, I wasn’t playing a lot of games, and again, didn’t give it a fair shake.
So a couple weeks ago, I found myself with a little spare time (such a precious commodity these days), and decided to fire it up on MAME again (I am now two PCs removed from the last time I attempted it, so I figured it must be running fast enough by now). I loaded up the credits and proceeded to fight my way through the whole game AND I LOVED IT. So much so, that I then fired up the PS2 version, and played through that. Twice. With an arcade stick. As suspected, it runs considerably faster than it does on PC, so I’m not sure what the issue is with emulating this game (it’s slow on my Raspberry Pi/RetroPie setup too).
As for the game, the environments are super cool, with the first level being a pretty straightforward, original EA-type building which introduces you to some of the new play mechanics, like different weapons, running and jumping, barrels, walls, etc. From there, though, things get interesting as you make your way through an airport (and passenger jet), up a construction site, into the sewer, and eventually into a nuclear missile launch facility. The stakes have gotten pretty high since Agent 17 first ziplined into the roof to steal documents.
The graphics are colorful and appealing, but what I really liked was the sound. Yes, once again, Elevator Action stands out to me with its sound effects, only this time there are very satisfying gunshots (and “pings” when they hit the wall), footsteps, explosions, and ambient noises (one of my favorites is the overhead announcements at the airport).
I’ve now become a massive fan of Elevator Action Returns, and it only took 20 years for me to get around to it. In fact, even though I no longer own a JAMMA cabinet, I still have my PCB collection (I would like to get another cabinet someday, or maybe just a SuperGun), and I could definitely see adding Elevator Action Returns and a Taito F3 motherboard to my collection, in order to get the “real” experience. I might even pick up that Saturn version, just cuz. So there. pew pew pew!