Not even ALF’s clueless smile can save this mistake.





GENRE: Adventure



Every child of the 80s remembers “ALF,” the TV show starring a brown, long-schnozzed Muppet from space. No other primetime show starred a Muppet in 1986, so naturally “ALF” was a hit with families and Muppet lovers everywhere. The show is very much of its time – laugh tracks, cheesy jokes, suburban family with no real problems – but it also maintains a certain innocence missing from the darker, cruder fare of today.


ALF (U) [!]-05

ALF’s swimsuit comes direct from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.


Somewhere in the middle of “ALF”‘s four-season run, Sega of America and developers Nexa pooped out a Master System game based on the show. The end result was a sloppy adventure title, rightfully dubbed one of the worst Master System games ever made. The controls are terrible, there’s little to no sense of direction, almost everything can kill you, ALF’s sprite takes up half the screen and he can only get hit once before he dies. Enemies include zoot suit perverts, bats that don’t stop regenerating, rats that can’t be killed. ALF has a salami stick for a weapon, but otherwise has no ability to defend himself. More than any other Master System game thus far, ALF is a rotten cat sandwich.


ALF (U) [!]-06



The game’s story mirrors the plot of the TV show: ALF crash lands his space ride on top of the Tanner family house and has to find the right parts to fix it. In order to get the parts, ALF leads you through rabbit trails of nonsensical item collection and meaningless exploration. Thank God there aren’t many environments to explore. The Tanner House (ALF’s surrogate human family), a cave underneath the house, a busy street complete with two stores where you’ll need to buy items and that’s it (there’s also an underwater area and space area, but those are more action-oriented). Eventually, you’ll run into the items you need to get by accident; none of the items appear different or stand out from the background. Collect a cat to chase the mouse out of the basement. Get the salami stick from the cave to fend off the bats in the cave. Get the money found in a hut in the cave to buy a swimsuit… and it goes on like this. You interact with your environment by pressing button II, but if you don’t know what you’re supposed to collect, you’ll be mashing buttons everywhere in hopes that ALF finds something useful.


ALF (U) [!]-02

Some perverts are bigger than others.


Even the best of adventure games are prone to make players wander around in search of items that seem ludicrous, but are actually important. But the best of adventure games does not include ALF. Indeed, “wandering around” is ALF‘s main problem. The character controls like a sack of rocks. He doesn’t jump forward with a simple intuitive button press, you have to force him to jump. This gets especially worrisome in the caves. ALF’s sprite is almost too big for the small spaces the developers ask you to push him through; precise jumps are out of the question. And if you get the hang of jumping, there’s still ALF’s weaknesses to contend with. Scratch that: ALF himself is one giant weakness. One hit and he’s dead, and the hit radius that surrounds him is surprisingly large. Enemies don’t have to touch you, they just have to come close enough and ALF will die and float off to heaven. Good riddance.


ALF (U) [!]-04

That’s right, ALF. Fell your enemies with that salami stick.


ALF‘s lead programmer, Kevin Seghetti, openly admitted that the game was awful in the SMSPower forums. While he takes full responsibility for the controls and playability (at one point, saying that he can’t believe how difficult the game is to control), he does admit that he was inexperienced. ALF was also rushed to fulfill deadlines (according to SegaRetro), which explains why it looks, plays, and sounds like it was made in five minutes. Mix lack of time with lack of experience and questionable source material, and you have ALF, a predestined piece of space trash.



Bomber Raid



Quite the ominous bogey on your 6 there, chief.



Black tiles? Downright devilish, Activision.



Word to ya moms, we came to drop bombs.



PUBLISHER: Sega (Japan, Europe), Activision (US)


GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 02/04/89 – (JP)

                                       01/1989 – (US)

                                               1989 – (EU)


Sega’s first console, the SG-1000 received the groundbreaking RPG The Black Onyx as its final game in 1987. And while the port wasn’t very good, the fact that it existed on the system at all was a testament to Sega’s development teams. An honest-to-goodness first-person dungeon crawler with a four-person party should not have been possible on the SG-1000, but by gar, Sega pulled it off.


Bomber Raid (UE) [!]007

“Now now, don’t be shy. Have some cloud, it’s delicious.”


Despite the Mark III being Sega’s main focus in ’87, The Black Onyx‘s release implies that they cared enough about the SG-1000 to bless it with a parting gift. So what to make of Bomber Raid? As The Black Onyx was the SG-1000’s final game, so too was Bomber Raid the Mark III/Master System’s last game released in Japan (America, Europe, and Brazil would see many more years of Master System releases). Compared to The Black Onyx‘s ambitiousness, Bomber Raid – an inauspicious shoot-em-up that shamelessly cribs its style from Capcom’s 19XX series – feels tired, like Sega couldn’t have been bothered to put forth real effort into the Master System’s final game.


Bomber Raid (UE) [!]005

Gray planes on loan from The Capcom Collection


In Bomber Raid, you’re a fighter pilot attacking other planes, tanks, and helicopters in the wild blue skies of wherever-the-hell. When you first start the game, your plane moves slowly, like it just got out of bed. Your pea shooter is pathetic, and your secondary weapon – a bomb blast that destroys anything in front of you – has a limited amount of uses. Shoot the multi-colored UFOs that appear every other second to gain weapon upgrades, additional speed, and the occasional special power-ups. Your speed tops out pretty quickly, but it will take at least three stages (out of a mere five) to fully max out your weapon. The special power-ups – red pellets numbered 1 through 4 – give you an extra smaller plane that attaches to your side, diagonally in front or behind you, or on your bumper, depending on the number you collect. These little planes shoot in different directions than you and function as both extra firepower and a shield, of sorts.


Bomber Raid (UE) [!]003

Somewhere in the jungle, Francis Ford Coppola is screaming.


The bosses are essentially enlarged versions of the enemies you fight in the game. Aircraft carriers, naval ships, extra large bombers, the gang’s all here. You’ve fought these types of bosses before in 1943. They’re uninspired, and if your weapon is strong enough, they will die very quickly.


Bomber Raid (UE) [!]006

Grandpa’s gonna getchee…


At first, Bomber Raid plods along without much activity. Enemies are sparse, only occasionally shooting at you before you kill them or they fly off the screen. The power-up UFOs come so frequently that it’s impossible to not be somewhat powerful. Around level three, however, the game gets ridiculous. Enemies start mingling together, emerging from all corners of the screen with different movement patterns. UFOs emerge at the same rate, but power ups are often lost within the constant enemy swarms. While the extra enemies liven up proceedings, the increased difficulty coupled with Bomber Raid‘s lack of creativity means that only diehard shmuppers will have the strength to finish the final raids.


Bomber Raid (UE) [!]009

The battle is never over.


Bomber Raid is completely playable, but there’s nothing that makes it stand out from similarly playing shoot-em-ups of its day. And compared to other Sega shmups like the cutesy Fantasy Zone or the unrelenting Power Strike, Bomber Raid does nothing for one’s imagination. But the game wouldn’t be such an affront if Sega hadn’t positioned it as a sendoff for the Master System in Japan. The console may have never achieved widespread popularity in its home territory, but it still deserved better than this uncommitted nondescript farewell.



Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?



Big, honkin’ cars are for the 1930s, but ruby necklaces are forever.



PUBLISHER: Parker Brothers

DEVELOPER: Broderbund (port by Parker Brothers)

GENRE: Why, Text-Adventure-Action, of course


                                      1994 (BR)


The Carmen Sandiego franchise was the premiere edutainment video game series of its day. First released in 1985 for various home computers, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? thrust players around the world in search of treasure-snatching thieves. The ultimate goal is to capture the world’s most elusive thief, Carmen Sandiego, though you’ll only get the opportunity after arresting a couple dozen of her gang. By searching different locales – libraries, embassies, sports clubs, etc. – within the cities of the world, one obtains clues to discover both the identity of the thief and the location of where they’re headed next. Many of the clues center around the country itself: the geography, colors of the flag, landmarks, etc. Figure out even one of the clues and you’ll have a good idea of where to go. Eventually, after discovering enough information about the perpetrator, you make a warrant for their arrest and continue to chase them. Find them, and the cops will make an arrest. Hearty jail-time for them and a big fat promotion for you.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (U) [!]000

7am is too early for a history lesson from a flight attendant.


Later Carmen Sandiego games would introduce time-traveling elements (somebody stole Mozart’s piano! To Austria, 1772!) or confine you to the United States or Europe only, but they all follow a similar formula: gather information about the bad guy and his whereabouts, follow them to their next location, secure warrant, arrest. This formula is surprisingly addictive, particularly if you have any interest or knowledge of world history/geography. Not only do you learn about different countries/states/time periods as you play, but each capture gives an enormous sense of satisfaction.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (U) [!]002

The perpetrator could make a break for it, but he doesn’t want the police to look stupid.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? for the Master System makes some stylistic changes, perhaps to make the game more digestible for console gamers. First, you choose your rank: Rookie, Sleuth, Private Eye, Investigator or Ace Detective. Obviously, the higher your rank, the more difficult your cases will be from the start. In the computer version, you always start a new game at Rookie, so as to ease you into the gameplay. You’re then given a case. Fly to the city where the crook was last seen, then search for clues. You’ll know you’re on the right track if a henchman appears and launches a knife or two at you. In the Master System version, you actually control your gumshoe around the city. In the computer version, you don’t control anyone manually. Rather, you make all decisions – to fly, talk, explore the surrounding area – from the first-person interface.



The Commodore 64 version of Carmen Sandiego (cheers to gb64 for the screenshot)


The passage of time is important to both computer and console versions. You’re given about a week to solve each case. When you enter into a building in the city and talk to a person for the first time, you only lose one hour. But you’ll lose two and then three hours when you enter into the second and third building, respectively. Issuing a warrant takes three hours time. Getting hit by a henchman’s flying knife takes off two hours, while a bullet takes four hours of recovery time (this particular loss of time is only in the Master System version). You sleep nine hours a night (that we could all be so blessed). Flying time depends based on how far you travel. Some crooks like to stay within the vicinity of the crime whereas others spread their wings and zigzag across the world. Plan your time accordingly.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (U) [!]003

Listen anonymous narrator, give me Rome’s life story later. I got a case to solve.


There is no real action in the computer version of Where in the World, only crime solving via the first-person interface. In the Master System version, there are limited actions. Your gumshoe is equipped with a jump in order to avoid the henchman/thieves’ flying projectiles. Also, when you find the thief, they are not automatically arrested as they are in the computer version. You have to linger on the screen where they’re located and avoid their bullets until the cops show up and arrest them. Get too close to them, they’ll run away, and you’ll have to wait until they emerge from off-screen again. If you’re low on time and you get hit by a couple bullets, this “showdown” with the thief will be doubly frustrating; particularly since you’re unable to protect yourself. And really, why are the thieves – thieves, not attempted murderers – shooting at you? Sure, maybe other thieves unaffiliated with Carmen Sandiego and her cronies would sling some bullets. But the franchise has always been about making clean, safe arrests, not brain-dead gunplay.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (U) [!]001

That bastard.


The Master System port plays more or less like Carmen Sandiego, but it doesn’t feel like Carmen Sandiego. I grew up playing the Commodore 64 version of Where in the World with my grandfather. The game was brilliant, mysterious. Particularly at the time, I had never played anything like it, nor was there anything close to it on the consoles. I loved the picturesque snapshots of all the different countries of the world. I loved the interface: everything you needed to complete a mission – investigating the city, making a warrant, and flying around the world – were all displayed right in front of you. The C64 version also came with a thick book called “The World Almanac and Book of Facts” that we used liberally to help us figure out the clues provided.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (U) [!]004

No “Book of Facts,” I tell you what.


Perhaps I’m too old and jaded to appreciate changes to a beloved franchise or perhaps I loved learning about Peru, San Marino, and Namibia with my grandpa. Either way, the Master System port feels inferior to the computer version. The switch to the side-scrolling perspective on the Master System has you controlling the gumshoe rather than inhabiting the role of gumshoe. A silly difference for some, but I always loved feeling like I was the one solving the cases. With the Master System version, I’m controlling a trenchcoated pervert who happens to be good at solving crimes. The background graphics for each city are a marked improvement over the washed-out snapshots of the C64 version in particular, but the limitations of the C64 provided a mystique that the Master System version lacks. The half-hearted action feels tacked on, unnecessary. Bad guys shoot at you in every other game, not Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Forever in my heart, if not my Master System.






“Not that one, you fool!”


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous


DEVELOPER: Activision (port by Sega)

GENRE: Table



Shanghai‘s cover – a hesitant hand hovering over countless mahjong tiles – might make the game look abstract or difficult. But if you’ve ever played solitaire on a PC, you’ll know what to do here. 144 tiles are shuffled and arranged into a Dragon Formation. The Formation has a pyramid-like structure: one tile at the top, with additional layers of tiles being placed underneath. The goal is to clear the Dragon by removing all the tiles. Move matching pairs of tiles, one at a time, until all the tiles are cleared. The one caveat is the tiles must be “free”: nothing atop the tile and nothing to either side of the tile. Tiles match if they bear the same symbol. Any two flowers will match, as will the season tiles (Spring, Summer, etc). Once all the tiles have been removed, Shanghai victory is yours.


Shanghai (UE) [!]000

Another lovely opium-filled evening.


Two options, ‘Help’ and ‘Game’ guide you through the world of Shanghai. The Help menu has Identify a Tile, which gives insight into the tile you select; Back Up a Move, good for when you screw up; Show All Moves, self-explanatory and great for cheaters; Peek stops your game completely, then shows you the remaining moves on the board; and finally, Change Music. If you’re expecting some entrancing Tetris-like puzzle jams, think again. Shanghai‘s music isn’t the worst the Master System has to over, but the repetitive tunes aren’t nearly as catchy as the developers apparently thought.


Shanghai (UE) [!]001

Look at that big, honkin’ cursor! We’ve come a long way, baby.


‘Game’ offers different modes, like Solitaire, Tournament, and Challenge. Solitaire is a straightforward game of Shanghai, no more, no less. All Tournament mode does is impose a Time Limit – five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, or No Limit – and disables some of the help options otherwise available in Solitaire mode. Challenge Mode allows you to play against a friend or impose a time limit on every move you make. If you play with a friend, the goal is to match more pairs than them. If you play with a time limit, you choose from 5-60 seconds per move. Be forewarned: the cursor moves slowly, regardless of how much you jam the D-pad in a certain direction. Thus, the likelihood of being able to choose a move in 5-10 seconds is slim to nil.


Shanghai (UE) [!]003

Simultaneously disappointed and elated.


Why is Shanghai one of the best games on the Master System? Because I’m a sucker for solitaire, mahjong tiles are awesome (particularly when you’re not forced to play mahjong with them), and you could literally play the game forever. The Dragon Formation is completely new every time you start a new game, so no two games are alike. And the better you get at clearing the Dragon, the more limits you can impose on yourself. As with solitaire on PC, Shanghai is very much luck based. Even though it feels like there should be a solution to every game, that isn’t necessarily the case. Consistently losing is something one should expect if you’re used to solitaire, though I suppose some folks might call the game unfair or cheap because of this. If you can handle continuous blows to your ego, Shanghai is an exotic, addicting solitaire alternative.




FUN FACT: Understandably, Shanghai games weren’t as popular in America as they were in Japan. While America would get Shanghai II: Dragon’s Eye for the Genesis in 1994, almost all Sega systems in Japan received a Shanghai game, save for Sega CD and 32X. Some of these include Shanghai II for Game Gear, Shanghai: Triple Threat for Saturn (one of three Shanghai games released for the system), and Shanghai Dynasty for the Dreamcast.


Rescue Mission



Please don’t judge this game by… whatever’s happening here.





GENRE: Shooter – Light Phaser



Forget Rambo III‘s full-throttle annihilation of mankind: Rescue Mission is the best war-based Light Phaser game, if only for its purity of purpose. Your goal is to protect a brave medic as he rescues/treats wounded soldiers on the front lines. Enemies appear in attempts to sabotage the medic’s efforts and it’s up to you – the invisible assassin from beyond the television – to keep him and the wounded soldiers safe. Such uncompromising selflessness is rarely seen in any game. True, it’s surrounded by a high body count (of your own making), but at least you’re fighting for a worthy cause.


Rescue Mission (UE) [!]-01

The general demands that his platoon salute high quality Cut-Rite wax paper.


The medic moves across the stage via a handcart on a train track that twists and turns around the entire level. When he reaches a wounded soldier, he’ll stop, treat the soldier, and move on. Thankfully, the game controls the medic for you. All you have to worry about is protecting the medic from enemies. There are three types: the Infantry (white), the Air Troopers (white, with jetpacks!), and Special Forces (red). Despite the different types, they each only take one shot to kill – which is great because there’s so many of them. The Light Phaser is incredibly responsive here. Later levels unleash hordes of red and white soldiers, but it’s never any trouble taking them all out. The enemy projectiles, however, have a mind of their own and can easily wound or kill your medic if you don’t destroy them first. Keeping track of all the action on-screen is surreal and overwhelming, but when you escape from a war-torn village relatively unscathed, the sense of satisfaction is great.


Rescue Mission (UE) [!]-05

Can’t shoot what you can’t see, jerks.


Rescue Mission provides three medics, with each one functioning as a life. Mike is classified as a Beginner, which means he’s slow moving the handcart and takes his time treating the wounded. He’s the first person the game gives you to use, so don’t be surprised if he gets killed quickly. Steve is defined as Lazy, since he’ll stop using the handcart at inconvenient intervals. His medical skills are second to none, though, so you take the good with the bad. Finally, John is Honest. He rocks the handcart with no slowdown and he patches up the flesh wounds somethin’ fierce. As funny as it sounds, giving names and personalities to the medics makes you want to keep them alive. You won’t necessarily weep when they die, but you’ll feel a slight twinge of guilt. The guilt adds to the replay value: “I’ll avenge your death, Mike!” you’ll shout. “Sweet comeuppance will be ours!”


Rescue Mission (UE) [!]-03

Poor Mike. Killed by a stray balloon.


If the medic gets hit directly by something large like a bazooka, a land mine, or a bomb, he’ll die instantly. Otherwise, a stray bullet or a boomerang takes only a hit of damage. Each medic can sustain three hits of damage before giving up the ghost. As you rescue soldiers, they’ll provide items like First Aid Kits or Protectors. The Kits will restore a point to your life if you need it, but if your life is full, they’ll act as a screen-clearing bomb. Protectors shield you from the weapons of the Special Forces troops, but not regular bullets. If you accidentally shoot the wounded, however, forget about getting any aid from them. Folks don’t take too kindly to getting killed by friendly fire.


Rescue Mission (UE) [!]-04

The enemy has jetpacks and John’s stuck with a hand cart?


By the time you reach the murky swamp (the second of five increasingly intense war zones), Rescue Mission already feels like all-out war – against one man! The Air Troopers and Special Forces unleash a torrent of bullets, bombs, and boomerangs on this poor medic who’s just trying to patch up his buddies and get the hell back to base camp without losing a limb himself. The sincere desire to keep your medic alive coupled with the furious amount of Phaser shooting results in one of the greatest 8-bit light gun games ever. Rescue Mission is simple, noble, and true – and a helluva handcart ride.






The characters are off-model, but look! The box is blood-red instead of white!



Europe wasn’t as enthused about the two-mega power.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Activision

DEVELOPER: Bally Midway (port by Sega)

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1988 (US and EU)


Does destroying buildings, eating the military, and being a giant 20-ft tall mutant werewolf really make one a monster? According to Rampage and unflappable human logic, yes. In the game, however, the monsters are not to blame. George, Lizzie, and Ralphie are three ordinary humans turned monsters via scientific experiment. The half-man, half-beasts are then carted around to all the major cities – San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. – and released by mad scientists eager to see the fall of the country. The results are the same everywhere: women screaming, pickup trucks careening, and terrible indigestion due to overconsumption of humans.


Rampage (UE) [!]000

“This looks like a good place for my fist to set up camp.”


But if society is meant to collapse, you might as well make the best of it. Take control of the monkey, the werewolf, or the lizard and get to smashin’. The goal is to destroy every building in the stage and leave with your health and beastly dignity. Each city you visit has five stages. The further into the stages you go, the more buildings to destroy and the more battalions sent out to take you down. In order to level the buildings, climb onto them and punch them to bits. Once you’ve damaged approximately thirty-three percent of the building, it will crumble and collapse; make sure to jump off of it before it does, lest you take damage. Speaking of damage: everything in this game wants to hurt you. Along with tanks, helicopters, and renegade photographers, army men shoot out of the buildings at you. Be sure to eat as many as you can to get their rich, tasty courage. After you take down all five stages of San Francisco, you automatically move to Los Angeles, then Las Vegas, Dallas, etc. until you’ve decimated all fifty levels/every major metropolis in the country.


Rampage (UE) [!]001

George deserves better than walking naked through a war-torn city.


The Master System version of Rampage replicates the cartoony feel of the arcade version, though the sprites aren’t quite as sharp. The same dusky blue background lingers over every stage; apparently George, Lizzie, and Ralph only get their smash on at night? The arcade didn’t have any music, only sound effects. The Master System version has both, and while the music is serviceable, it doesn’t supply any atmosphere. The controls are clumsy. Getting your monster to latch onto the building can be an arduous affair, particularly when bullets and TNT are being thrown at you from every which way.


Rampage (UE) [!]003

George, weary of fighting, considers ending it all.


Even if the controls were perfect and you could scale and smash with the greatest of ease, the fifty monotonous levels will wear you down fast. The gameplay never changes from the first level to the fiftieth. Destroying buildings is your lot in life and Rampage asks you to embrace it with both fists. None of the cities look different from each other either. Imagine tackling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Or chewing on the Hollywood sign in California. Forget that. You’ll be hitting the same brown buildings whether you’re in Dallas, Detroit, or Philadelphia. The tedious gameplay might satisfy ten-year-olds eager to destroy something or nostalgia-heads stuck in 1988. For the rest of us, Rampage is a retro novelty, one that’s only gotten more tedious with time.



Rambo III



Welcome to Die





GENRE: Shooter/Light Phaser

RELEASE DATE: 12/1988 – (US)

                                              1988 – (EU)


Sega finally took initiative and turned the Rambo video game franchise from an Ikari Warriors ripoff into a Light Phaser bloodletting free-for-all. Rambo III is, without a doubt, the most aggressive light gun game you will ever play. There are so many enemies on screen at one time, all firing at you with pitch-perfect accuracy. To shoot them all without taking any damage is impossible. It doesn’t matter how good of a shot you are, how accurate your Light Phaser is. Rambo III is war.


Rambo III (UE) [!]-02

Three knives, Rambo III. There’s a pattern here.


You play as John Rambo, off to find your one and only friend, Colonel Trautman. Trautman’s been kidnapped by Russians, left by America to die in the country’s cold, Communist grip. Naturally, it’s Rambo who must rescue him and destroy all of Russia in the process. But the Motherland isn’t going down without sending out every single one of their million-strong military. Rambo will have to make his way into the troop barracks, the Soviet village (complete with screaming civilians), Russian mountains, the prison camp where Trautman is held, and a cave, all filled to the brim with soldiers thirsting for your first blood.


Rambo III 05

“Don’t worry, Rambro, I got this.”*


Each level of Rambo III is an automatically-scrolling whirlwind of bullet-filled justice. You’re armed with a limited amount of AK-47 bullets, one grenade, and one life-refilling drink, that’s it. The grenade, the drink, and your bullets get replenished upon the completion of each round, but this is of course presuming you make it to the end alive. You have one life and gain three continues after you make it to the second level; die in the first level and you get no continues.


Rambo III (UE) [!]-01

Damn, Sega.


The trick to making it through Rambo III alive is memorizing the location of each enemy. If you know where the enemies are located before they emerge from their hiding place – behind a lookout tower, beyond the horizon, right in front of your face – then you can shoot them before they get too many shots off. The only problem with this tactic is the enemy’s sheer numbers. Later stages throw half a dozen soldiers at you at one time (on top of the occasional tank/helicopter). Sure, you can launch a grenade their way once and maybe twice if you pick up an ammo box, but for the rest of the level, you’ll have to decide which of the six enemies that just appeared in front of you needs to die first. They’re all crack shots too, so chances are, some of your life will be lost in the process.


Rambo III (UE) [!]-03

Right after this screenshot was taken, two additional soldiers popped out from behind the wall next to the trees. There were no survivors.


If Rambo III had dual Light Phaser compatibility – either for single player both-hands-blazing or for two Rambo acolytes to team up – then the game might not feel as overwhelming as it does. You will make progress if you keep continuing, particularly if you memorize the enemy locations, so Rambo III isn’t impossible. But aside from the screen that tallies up your points at the end of each level, there’s never any down time, never any rest from the eternal onslaught. John Rambo might thrive in a bullet-ridden Soviet wasteland, but the rest of us need some “me” time every now and again.



*screenshot generously provided by GameFAQs




There’s an old greedy knickerbocker for you.


PLAYERS: 1-10 alternating



GENRE: Board game

RELEASE DATE: 09/1988 – (US)

                                              1988 – (EU)


America’s favorite board game of wealth, greed, and political imprisonment comes to the Master System. Want to build stacks of houses on Baltic Avenue? Only your limited bank account is stopping you. Aching to pass ‘Go’ and collect two hundred dollars? Only if your ass hasn’t been ordered to jail for tax fraud. Monopoly in its entirety has been represented here. If you don’t own the board game and are fiendin’ to manage the hell out of some properties, the game might be for you. As for the rest of us, well, it’s a way to pass the time.


Monopoly (USA)-04

“What’s that, boy? You want to be controlled by the computer?”


“It goes like this: bankruptcy.” This is an actual quote from the Monopoly manual. What the manual writers were trying to say: buy property, build houses/hotels, charge people a mint if they land on your property, don’t go broke, outlast the rest of your fellow real estate investors. Then hey, you win! If you’ve ever played the board game, you’ve played Monopoly. You pick a weird token to represent you – a floppy detective hat, a child’s toy train, a Scottish Terrier – then roll the dice. Most of the areas on the board are properties you can invest in. Land there and you have the opportunity to buy the property and expand with additional houses and hotels. Or you can do nothing and pass the dice to the next player, you cheapskate. Other spaces on the board include Jail, Luxury Tax, Community Chests, and ‘Go!’ If you don’t know what these spaces mean and you’re actually interested, feel free to peruse “Monopoly”‘s Wikipedia page.


Monopoly (USA)-02

Oh, the places you’ll go.


The more players join in the virtual soirée, the more entertaining Monopoly is. This particular version of Monopoly supports up to ten players, which is stunning because only select versions of the regular board game even support eight players. If you’re going to play Monopoly, find nine additional people. The game might go on forever and you’ll have to pass the two controllers around ad infinitum, but at least you can say you successfully made nine people play Master System Monopoly with you. Be careful, though: if you make one mistake while setting up a large game, you’ll be sent back to the main menu and forced to start the process all over again.


Monopoly (USA)-03

Why pay off your mortgage? You’re a hat!


A couple additional points of interest: if you find the game is taking too long, you can save and come back to it later. Yes, Monopoly has battery backup, which goes to show how deeply committed Nexa was to its creation. After you roll the dice, the game switches to a brief cinematic that shows the game token traveling to its final destination. Watching the tokens flit about the board seems like it would grow wearisome after awhile, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, even after you’ve seen the stupid iron hover around for the fiftieth time. Where will they land? Only the invisible hand of the computer knows!


Monopoly (USA)-01

All aboard Reading Railroad, where shirts are never wrinkled and everyone gets a book.


According to, Monopoly was the first Master System game developed in the US “in an attempt to capture the mood of the American public.” There are no citations for this explanation, but if Sega was thinking Monopoly would turn the hearts of American children away from the NES, they were sorely mistaken. Worse still (and again, according to Segaretro), Monopoly took six months to develop. Nexa, the uncredited developers, were sent in to help “save” the project around the three month mark. All this for a board game video game! The 80s truly were a different era.



Reggie Jackson Baseball



Sick hat, bro.



God bless American.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous



GENRE: Sports



I know nothing about Reggie Jackson except that he’s a retired baseball player and his agent has the good sense to attach Jackson’s name to solid products. Reggie Jackson Baseball (otherwise known as American Baseball in Europe – sorry Reggie) is one of those products, perhaps the finest baseball game Sega developed for the Master System. For those of us who could care less about baseball – myself included, for the most part – what makes the game stand out above the horde of all-too-similar base and ball titles? Slick controls, a variety of options, and goofy touches that really tie the field together.


Reggie Jackson Baseball (U) [!]000

“My bat… the ball… I’m amazing.”


Pitching, batting, and fielding feel close to seamless. Press button 2 and a direction on the D-Pad, and they’ll shift both the direction of your pitch or the potential angle of your hit ball. The in-fielders are a little dull. They’ll often crowd around a ball, making it difficult to tell who should pick it up and throw. The out-fielders moves are spot-on, due to the option for automatic fielding (every baseball game should have this). Except for the occasional touch of slowdown, every move is swiftly executed. Thanks to the fantastic camera that consistently follows the ball, you’re able to keep up with the game’s quick pace.


Reggie Jackson Baseball (U) [!]002

Mind the dancing birds.


Options include Exhibition Game, a one game match for one-to-two players; Tournament Mode, a series of games that concludes with the World Series (sadly, only one-player); Watch Game. where you watch the computer play a game; and a Home Run Contest, in which you try to hit as many home runs as you can. The Exhibition Game is for us folks who like to dip our toes in the sandy, sweaty sea of baseball. The rest are for the die-hards, those who worship at the shrine of peanuts and Cracker Jacks. The legit MLB teams are here too: New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Rockford Peaches, etc. Because of my lack of knowledge about baseball players, I’m not sure if any of the players are from the ’87-’88 season or not. Obviously Mr. Jackson was, but he was presumably paid a lot of money to be there. Who knows about the rest of them.


Reggie Jackson Baseball (U) [!]004

Bunt or bust.


Sega didn’t release Reggie Jackson Baseball in Japan, but that didn’t stop them from placing the occasional bizarre “thing that should not be.” The billboard signs shown between innings display a hint of freakiness, such as an obvious male model drinking a can of soda and winking at you. A nod to ads at the ballpark, sure, but still creepy. Also, if the pitcher hits the batter with a ball, all the players will fight in a massive hullabaloo, while the batter is carried away on a stretcher during the fighting. Then, as if nothing ever happened, the batter is magically at first base and the game continues as normal.


Reggie Jackson Baseball (U) [!]003

Censor this filth.


Despite Sega’s insistence that their previous Master System baseball games were “great,” Reggie Jackson Baseball is the first they’ve developed that comes close to claiming that lofty adjective. The fantastic interface coupled with smooth gameplay makes for one of the best 8-bit base-ballers of all time.



Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou



The end is nigh.





GENRE: Platformer

RELEASE DATE: 12/24/88 – (JP)


Osomatsu-kun: Hachamecha Gekijou is the first Mega Drive game that never found its way over to European or American shores. The game is based on an anime/manga of the same name, which ran throughout the majority of the 1960s before being revitalized in 1988. Hachamecha Gekijou (which translates to “Nonsense Theater”) was released solely to capitalize on “Osomatsu-kun”‘s rebirth and it shows. While the presentation is gorgeous and takes full advantage of the Mega Drive’s power, the game is short, shallow, and feels like it was made by a couple bored Sega programmers over a quiet weekend.


Osomatsu-kun - Hachamecha Gekijou (J) [b1]000

Don’t let those homely green drapes fool you: the hut is actually a teleporter.


“Osomatsu-kun” is a comedy based predominantly around the exploits of the Matsuno sextuplets. Each of the six boys have distinct personality traits, which usually leads them to clash with each other and those around them, including their parents, their rival, Chibita, and even their love interest, Totoko. Outside of brief character summaries on Wikipedia, there’s little information about the series, as it was never translated into English – though there are a couple episodes translated in Hindi on Youtube if you want to give those a go.


Osomatsu-kun - Hachamecha Gekijou (J) [b1]001

Only the bamboo can save you now, Osomatsu-kun!


In Hachamecha Gekijou, you control Osomatsu, the eldest of the sextuplets around a surrealistic world. Armed only with a slingshot and what appears to be a limitless supply of sticky buns, you traverse across the landscape, laying to waste any and all insane cats, arrow-slinging Cupids, ostrich bodies with a man’s head and a woman’s shapely legs, etc. The enemy designs are mostly inspired (though some are uncomfortably racist). Think of a ludicrous design, the crazier the better, and Hachamecha Gekijou has one-upped your attempt at madness. For example, the second main boss is a man in drag, dressed as Snow White. He hops around, lifts up his skirt to reveal pink bloomers, then spews poison apples at you from said bloomers. The crazy is strong with this one.


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Uh… take that, Disney?


If only the rest of Hachamecha Gekijou was as ambitious as the enemy designs. The gameplay is light platforming, with the goal of each stage to find the boss and defeat him. Each stage is short, but there are numerous paths to choose from, with only one path leading to the boss; this non-linearity makes the stages feel longer than they actually are. Paths include: doors that transport you to a different part of the stage, chasms that plummet you underground, and flying turtles that whisk you up to the clouds. The enemies drop ribbons and other health-replenishing items when you kill them. Ribbons are used as currency for the occasional shop. There, you can buy items, like a monk invincibility cloak, fireworks that damage enemies, and fish bones that call cats over to kill enemies, or you can play a slot machine to try and win extra lives or ribbons.


Osomatsu-kun - Hachamecha Gekijou (J) [b1]002

Osomatsu-kun knew it would come to this.


The shop and the slot machine are padding to make Hachamecha Gekijou feel deeper than it really is. As long as you kill enemies and collect the ribbons, you never have to worry about currency. Lives are also plentiful: you start off with five, and unless you run Osomatsu-kun into every projectile, those lives should last through the entire game. The items in the shop would be helpful if Hachamecha Gekijou featured more intense scenarios. Perhaps a colony of bumblebees launching their stingers at Osomatsu-kun would necessitate a blast of fireworks, but more often than not, his standard sticky buns work just fine.


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The side of Bedrock you’ve never seen…


The graphics are sharp and mesmerizing at times. When Hachamecha Gekijou‘s first stage begins, the famous image of the Japanese rising sun is in the background flashing wildly behind the mountains. It’s a distraction, but it’s also a brilliant display of light and color, the best the Mega Drive has presented thus far. When Osomatsu-kun hitches a ride with a winged turtle, he’s taken to the cloud area, a beautiful array of purples, pinks, and blues. The second stage takes place on the outskirts of a forest, filled with lush green trees and grass. Osomatsu-kun’s character sprite is so expressive too. The fuller his life bar, he smiles and walks confidently, but when he jumps or is low on life, he opens his mouth wide in pain/fear.


Osomatsu-kun - Hachamecha Gekijou (J) [b1]003

Good lesson, kids: when a creepy stranger points at you, run like hell.


Beyond the colorful, inviting aesthetics is a game that offers little to the player. The stages are obviously non-linear so you don’t beat them in thirty seconds, and the extra items provided are pointless. The platforming isn’t terrible, just sparse: enemies come and go, there are no secrets, and the experience is over all too fast. After you’ve beaten the third stage – the last stage in the game – in less than an hour, you’ll be wanting more of Hachamecha Gekijou. Not the game itself, but the nonsensical theater that Sega helped bring to life.