Hacha Mecha Fighter

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Hacha Mecha Fighter
Hacha Mecha Fighter Title Screen.png

Title screen

Developer: NMK
Planning: Saburou Yotsuya (alias)
(and others?)
Music: H. Mizushima
Kazunori Hideya
Program: Youichi Koyama
Tamio Nakasato
Art: Naoko Nagamine
Akemi Tsunoda
Kenji Yokoyama
Release date: Arcade: 1991
PS4: June 3, 2021
Switch: June 3, 2021
Previous game: Thunder Dragon
Next game: Choujikuu Yousai Macross

Hacha Mecha Fighter (Japanese: Hacha Mecha Faitā はちゃめちゃファイター "Nonsense Fighter") is a shmup developed and published by NMK in 1991. The cute and colorful theme of the game stands in stark contrast to its high difficulty. As the game makes several references to P-47 (developed by NMK in 1988), it can be considered to be somewhat of a parody shmup in NMK's catalogue.

As part of the Arcade Archives series by Hamster Corporation, Hacha Mecha Fighter was ported to PS4 and Switch and thereby received a home console release for the first time ever.


Gameplay Overview

Controls


Hacha Mecha Fighter is a two-button game.

Joystick (Two Buttons).png
  • A: Shot (with internal autofire)
  • B: Bomb

It's worthwhile to have an autofire A button at 30Hz, as it is much faster than the internal autofire.

Characters


Hitbox: the lower part of the sprite is safe

The player can choose between an otter (game start on 1p side) or an aardvark (game start on 2p side). These two characters are sometimes referred to by their Japanese designations Kawauso and Tsuchibuta respectively. There are no gameplay differences between the two so the choice can be made purely on visual preferences. All shot levels of the otter are sea animals while the aardvark has a vegetable/fruit theme.

Weapons


From Gamest issue #68 (February 1992)

The shot power starts at level 1 and can be gradually increased by picking up Power Up items up to level 7 (1p side: sunfish; 2p side: daikon radish).

The game starts with 1 option accompanying the player sprite up to a maximum of 4 options. The options follow the player along and fire the same shot as the main sprite.

Using a bomb temporarily increases the size of the character sprite and hitbox. For the duration of the bomb the player becomes invincible and the shot power jumps to level 7.

Items


Depending on the language version chosen, some items look differently. This is a purely visual effect.

HMF Jp pow.png
HMF En pow.png
Power Up
Increases your shot level by 1 (max power is shot level 7)
HMF Jp big.png
HMF En big.png
Bomb
Increases your bomb stock by 1 (max number of bombs is 8)
HMF Jp option.png
HMF En option.png
Option
Adds an option to your ship (max number of options is 4)
HMF Flower.png
Flower
Score item. The value starts at 1,000 and then gradually increases up to 10,000. The value resets to 1,000 after a death. Picking up five Flower items (regardless of point value) makes a Bomb item appear
image image Max Power Up
Grants max power and max options (only appears after losing the last life)

When the player picks up any excess item, the item is worth 10,000.

After a death, either a Power Up or an Option item will spawn on screen. Since this is decided on alternating frames, it is essentially random which one you get.

Extra Lives


There are no item pick ups to gain extra lives. The player is awarded with an extra live once for reaching 1,000,000 points and a second time for reaching 77,777,777 points (effectively 77,777,780 points).

Rank


Rank in Hacha Mecha Fighter is tied to survival time and increases by +1 every 17 seconds. It mainly affects the number and the speed of enemy bullets. Dying reduces rank by -4. After the 1st loop, rank is fixed at 15 (maximum rank) and cannot be lowered again.

The following table gives an overview of how rank works depending on the difficulty selected in the DIP switch settings.

Game Start Stage Clear Minimum Rank
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 Stage 6 Stage 7 Stage 8
Easy 0 +2 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Normal (Default) 4 +4 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
Hard 6 +5 2 4 8 10 13 14 15 15
Hardest 7 +6 5 9 11 12 15 15 15 15

On low rank, the midboss of stage 1 will only drop 4 flower items. However, when the destruction of the midboss is delayed for long enough, it will drop 8 flower items instead due to the higher rank resulting from the increased survival time.

Loops


Hacha Mecha Fighter loops infinitely. Any loop after the first one is a simple repetition of the second loop. Therefore, the difficulty stays the same.

There are only two changes from the first to the second loop

  1. All enemy HP values are increased by x4.
  2. The rank is fixed at maximum value and cannot be decreased again.

These two changes lead to a drastically different approach to the game. For instance, from 2-4 onwards a more pacifist play, leaving certain enemies behind is the only viable way to survive.

Scoring


Apart from obvious scoring sources such as destroying enemies, the scoring system revolves around two main mechanics: Wall hugging and fruit items.

Pressing into the right edge of the screen makes the player earn 100 points per frame, which is pretty significant, but also hard to leverage. For example, on a lot of (mid)bosses this can be exploited and the player can spend the majority of the fights hugging the edge instead of fighting the bosses. Moreover, on stages with a floor (except stage 8), touching the ground will trigger a walking animation (pushing into it is not required, just touching it is enough) for 10 points per frame. These two things can be combined in the bottom right corner of stages with a floor for a total of 110 points per frame.

Fruit items are worth 1,000 points each on pick up and result in an additional 10,000 bonus for every fruit collected at the end of one stage. The end of stage bonus for number of fruits is capped at 99 fruits. Every additional fruit item beyond that is only worth the 1,000 on pick up. There is also a special bonus of 1,000,000 points when the player manages to not pick up a single fruit during a stage.

As one fruit item is essentially worth 11,000 (1,000 on pick up and 10,000 end of stage bonus), going for fruit collection is preferred for scoring from 91 fruits onwards (total gain 1,001,000). Otherwise, obtaining the special no fruit bonus is better for scoring.

The game can be counterstopped at 99,999,999 points.

End of Loop Bonus

After defeating the last boss at the end of every loop the player is awarded with a bonus that is tied to the present score counter. The bonus consists of 1,000,000 + the last six digits of the score counter. For example, if the final score is 20,000,100 the bonus is 1,000,100, but if the score counter is at 19,999,900 the bonus is 1,999,900 instead. This bonus is distinct from the no fruit bonus, which is also awarded after the last stage and which consistently is 1,000,000 points.

HMF end bonus plan.jpg

Due to this great fluctuation in score, advanced players want to plan ahead to get the maximum number of points from this bonus. As explained below, you gain about 1.4 million points from wall hugging when timing out the last boss. Moreover, you can get an additional 200,000 points from wall hugging before and after the boss, totalling to 1.6 million points to work with when planning ahead for the end bonus.

As the table on the right shows, the ideal score before the wall hugging milk is between x,400,000-x,000,000, which would then essentially result in the same bonus and even out the scores when a partial wall milk as close to the next x,999,990 as possible is performed. If the score before the milk is between x,000,000-x,400,000 instead, a full wall milk is the best option while inevitably also losing a couple of points.

Death Animation Points

When the player loses a life in stages with water (stage 2 and stage 5), 300 points per frame are awarded for every option after they have dropped into the water for a total duration of 66 frames. This means that a death with 4 options yields 79,200 points.

The same 300 points per frame are awarded when an option falls on the ground and runs away to the left side of the screen. This animation takes longer depending on how far to the right the player has died (vertical position does not matter), resulting in a maximum run animation of 87 frames for a straight run to the escape point. As the options sometimes slip in their running animation, the time frame the player is awarded with points extends to 96 or 97 frames, which is particularly prone to happen with 3 or 4 options. This results in a maximum point gain of about 115,000~116,000 points.

If the options neither fall into water nor drop to the ground (e.g. in stage 1 or the beginning of stage 3), no such points are awarded after a death.

All things considered, these points are negligible in the main game but they can become crucial for scoring high in the Caravan mode of the port.

Strategy

Preemptive Bombing

As a general approach to the game, it is highly advisable to make active use of all bombs available. As early as in the last part of stage 3 with the ring-tailed lemurs, the game starts to throw almost impossible bullet patterns at the player. Due to the many Flower items, the player gets several bombs back in every stage. Particularly the midpoint section of stage 5 almost guarantees a large refill of the bombstock. This is essential for the second half of stage 5 and both, stages 6 and 7 as all of them are very resource-heavy. Progressing far in Hacha Mecha Fighter means to have a solid plan when to use your bombs preemptively.

Multi Object Enemies

Bosses and some midsize enemies commonly consist of a vehicle (e.g. submarine, train, tank) and an animal controling it. Both are two separate objects and can sometimes move independently as well. However, they share the same underlying HP value. In the majority of these cases, the animal is considered the main object and the vehicle a child object. While the main object always takes the expected damage depending on the power level your shot has, the child objects only take 1 damage point per shot regardless of your power level. Essentially, this means that shooting the child objects on max power does the same amount of damage as if you would be on the lowest power level. Therefore, it is always crucial to target the animal whenever possible which in some cases requires very specific aim.

HMF boss2.png HMF tank.png

As a case in point, the submarine bosses in stages 2 and 5 can be destroyed much faster when shooting the controlling sea otter that enters and leaves the submarine and always stays in the center of the group shooting a 3-way pattern. The other two sea otters are distinct enemies with their own HP values each and can be destroyed merely for extra points.

Likewise, the midsize tanks in stages 3 and 6 can be taken out much quicker with carefully targeting the driving animal when it peeks out of the vehicle.

There are two important exceptions to the otherwise prevalent rule that the animal is the main object.

  1. Stage 1 & 7 boss
  2. Stage 2 midboss

In both of these cases, the two pigs flying the plane and the sloth rope hanging down from the helicopter midboss are considered child objects taking less damage and the vehicle is the main object instead.

Keeping the Midboss Off Screen (stages 2 & 5)

The helicopter midboss of stage 2 (ditto for its return in stage 5) can be prevented from fully entering the screen. This is done by dealing enough damage the very moment it comes on screen. To do this, place your options in front of you and stay close to the right edge of the screen as shown in the image below.

HMF stage 2 mid.png

This is only really feasible with a high autofire frequency such as 30Hz. If you have the resources to spare, a setup with a bomb is making this even more lenient. Having succeeded, the majority of the bullets fired from the sloth rope will not spawn, making this midboss much easier to deal with. Moreover, this trick can be exploited for scoring as you can wall hug easily for the whole duration of the fight as long as the sloths are off screen for well over 600,000 points.

Stalling the Screen (stage 6)

In stage 6 right before the train is rolling in at the midpoint section, two warthogs will enter the screen. If you manage to push one warthog off screen without actually killing it, the screen will continue scrolling but no new enemies enter the screen for a while. As the section right before these warthogs is very busy, it is best to use a bomb and hit either of the warthogs the exact moment they enter the screen.

HMF stage 6a.png HMF stage 6b.png

If done correctly, the screen keeps scrolling but the train will not enter the screen for little bit over 2 minutes. This can be exploited for scoring by staying in the lower right corner and wall hugging for about 800,000 points. Moreover, it can be used as a break before the hectic latter half of the stage starts and also gives you enough time to find the right option placement setup for the train. By counting the clouds in the background graphics you can anticipate when the enemies enter the screen again.

Going Behind the Big Wheel

The final boss can be very difficult due to the high number of bullets appearing relatively late on screen and the homing orb constantly chasing the player around. Fortunantely, the boss can be completely trivialized by going behind him.

HMF stage 8a.png HMF stage 8b.png

In order to go behind the boss, you simply have to use a bomb and then push yourself into the right edge of the screen. When the bomb effect wears off you will find the player sprite to be half off screen as you can move further to the right during the bomb animation than normally possible. Now you simply have to evade the homing orb by moving up and down but will be safe from everything else as long as your sprite stays half off screen. The boss will eventually time out after some time. This trick is not only useful for survival alone but is also very lucrative for scoring as you can get about 1.4 million points from wall hugging during the whole fight.

Version Differences

There are two different versions of Hacha Mecha Fighter. Those can be distinguished by the size of the NMK logo on the title screen. Besides these two, a bootleg and a prototype have also been documented but they seem to be identical or at least similar to the version with the small logo. Due to the internal changes it can be hypothesized that the version with the small logo was produced first. Therefore the labels Old Version and New Version can be applied accordingly.

Hacha Mecha Fighter Title Screen.png
"New Version"
This is considered to be the standard version of the game. It is the only version found on the console ports and the one used for competitive play.
Hacha Mecha Fighter Other Version Title Screen.png
"Old Version"
Rank increases at a slower rate in this version (every 34 seconds) compared to the standard version (every 17 seconds). This is indicated by the fact that no matter how long the destruction of the midboss in stage 1 is delayed, it always drops 4 Flower Items (= lower rank).

Other changes include a shorter distance of the left side enemy kill point from the left edge of the screen (Old Version: -4px; New Version: -20px). This results in objects despawning on the left side of the screen slightly earlier in Old Version.

Video References

Video index for Hacha Mecha Fighter

References & Contributors

  1. Page created and written by Plasmo.
  2. Information on version differences provided by Trap15 based on messages posted on Discord dated February 7th, 2021.
  3. Indepth information on multi object enemies and rank provided by Trap15 based on messages posted on Discord dated June 17th, 2021.