[UPDATE] Great Football / Sports Pad Football

GreatFootball

                   Splurp, y’all. Splurp.

 

GreatFootballUS

                 Could use more splurp.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 04/29/87 – (JP)

                                             1987 – (US)

                                             1987 – (EU)

 

Football games sucked until Tecmo Bowl. The perfect blend between arcade action and simulation, Tecmo Bowl told all other football games to go home and be family men. Name one even decent football game that emerged before Madden other than Tecmo Bowl. You can’t, because there are none. This statement is coming from someone who dislikes football, granted, but deep down, even long time gamers/football enthusiasts know it to be true.

With that being said, we come to Great Football, Sega’s cautious, confusing entry into the world of virtual pigskin that arrived two years prior to Tecmo Bowl‘s 1989 NES debut. The problem with Great Football is that it’s really only half a game. Only if you’re playing with a friend will you be able to enjoy a full-length, four-quarter football game. If you’re playing by yourself, the game automatically starts you in the fourth quarter of a game with the computer being up by a certain amount of points and your team having zero points. What happened to the first three quarters, you ask? Perhaps Sega felt that a shorter football game was better than a longer one when you’re playing by yourself. As someone who doesn’t care for America’s most treasured sport, I could not agree more with this reasoning. As a gamer, this lack of content is a rip. Two-player mode proves that Sega could provide a full football experience. Why not one-player, as well?

 

Great Football (UE) [!]001

           The game’s over before it begins.

 

The football contained within Great Football is about as thrilling as a deflated pigskin. While you do have two different leagues – the NFC and the AFC – to choose from, all the team names are fictional and none of the teams move slower or faster or are any better or worse than any of the other teams; no football team left behind. Your football players control ok, but they run as if they have sackfuls of change in their pocket, while the opposing team runs like they drank six Red Bulls each before taking the field. In between downs, you’re shown eight plays that cycle through automatically. Plays 1-4 are pass plays, while plays 5-8 are run plays. You pick the one you want to use when it’s highlighted, but there’s no cursor or other indication to show that the game registered your choice. When you get on the field, you basically hope for the best, with the play or without it. That being said, stick to the run plays. Passing is nigh impossible, thanks to the wonky aiming system.

 

Great Football (UE) [!]000

                Look at all those formation pellets!

 

A theory: Sega wasn’t very pleased with the computer AI in the one-player portion, but they knew they needed a one-player mode so they shortened the length of the football game. How else to explain both the lackluster gameplay and the dearth of content? Now, to be fair, I know Sega was more or less developing every Master System game at this point. Developers were probably working triple shifts just to make sure that crap like Great Football was at least playable. If the latter was the case, the game is a success as it is, in fact, playable – for whatever that’s worth. But it doesn’t come close to delivering on its moniker’s promises of greatness, and worse yet, it’s not Tecmo Bowl. There’s no reason at all to tackle Great Football.

 

D

 

SportsPadFootball

Football and trackball meet at last.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (US)

 

Sports Pad Football is Great Football, but played with Sega’s underutilized Sports Pad instead of the regular Master System controller. Were Great Football a better game, this peripheral attachment may have meant something. But since the Sports Pad is a mere trackball with buttons attached and is unable to magically add content to the one-player mode or tone down the god-like AI, I fail to see the purpose of this re-packaging. Except, perhaps, to bilk more money out of consumers who thought Sports Pad Football might be different/better than Great Football. Shame on you, Sega. We were all less informed in 1987, and you knew it.

 

F

SegaDoes Podcast: Episode 23 – Family Games

 

Episode 23 is here and not a moment too soon!

 

This episode goes all the way back to the disappointing port of After Burner for the Master System and ends on a confusing note with Parlour Games. With the exception of Zaxxon 3D, none of the games were worth prattling on about, but there is a special guest cameo at the end that makes up for the somewhat lacking selection.

 

Listen! Download! Enjoy! Leave comments below!

 

And hey, if you love the podcast and/or the blog and wish to show your support, here’s my Patreon. Thanks in advance!

Shooting Gallery

ShootingGallery

Gone quackers.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Light Gun

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (US)

                                     08/87 – (US)

 

Shooting Gallery is exactly what its title says it is: a gallery of knickknacks paraded out for you to shoot with the Light Phaser. I imagine there were few games made for the Light Phaser as great as this one, though I do not believe the game is great. I just admire the purity of its purpose. The word “shooting” is in the title.

 

Shooting Gallery (UE) [!]-01

Keeping the world safe from Bob Ross paintings.

 

Shooting Gallery goes the extra mile to draw the player into its “world,” so to speak. Just look at the title screen: an off-duty cop or security guard stands with his gun drawn in front of a hastily painted mountain background (you’ll learn that the mountain background is for the duck stages). The yellow bricks surrounding the man are disconcerting – why yellow? – but he looks confident in his shooting abilities and that’s what matters. Why am I informing you of this? Because Sega deserves credit for injecting these details into their series of reflex exercises.

 

Shooting Gallery (UE) [!]-03

Duck Hunt II: The Reckoning

 

According to the Shooting Gallery manual, there are four different games with a total of six rounds. The names of the games are as follows: Just For the Birds, Aerial Attack, Twisting Tubes, and TV Terror. In Just For the Birds, you shoot ducks that fly around in unconventional patterns. Aerial Attack provides balloons and honest-to-goodness zeppelins. Twisting Tubes gives you balls weaving through knotted pipes. And TV Terror has you shooting spaceships and televisions that can only be shot when their shields are down. If this place existed in the real world, it would be the greatest shooting gallery known to man, particularly as you’re given unlimited rounds. Unlike many light gun games that purposefully limit your ammo to provide challenge, Shooting Gallery knows you’ll need as much ammo as possible to take out all the targets. Shoot to your heart’s content.

 

Shooting Gallery (UE) [!]-02

Hot air balloons sans people is a depressing sight.

 

Despite the abundance of ammo, Shooting Gallery requires you to be a crack shot. In order to pass each round, you have to hit a certain number of targets, shown only at the end of each round. The deeper into the game’s twenty four rounds you go, the more targets provided, the faster they come, the more you’re required to shoot. There’s a lot of trial-and-error, a lot of sweat on the trigger. If you miss the round’s requirement, you’re back to stage one with the ducks, no second chances. The game’s difficulty is unforgiving, particularly in Twisting Tubes and TV Terror. In Twisting Tubes, the balls move quickly through the mostly enclosed tubes, providing you with the slimmest of opportunities to shoot them. In TV Terror, you’re beholden to the spaceships and televisions dropping their shields – you shoot when the game says, not when you want to. These are exercises meant for children with lightning reflexes, reflexes that haven’t been tarnished by car crashes, alcohol abuse, failed marriages and other life-related happenings. The Light Phaser, surprisingly, could handle the stress, but I, as an increasingly tired individual, could not.*

 

Shooting Gallery (UE) [!]-04

Shooting Gallery shifts from cute and whimsical to abstract and frustrating in five rounds.

 

Ultimately, it’s the details of Shooting Gallery that elevate it above your typical light gun excursion. Each of the four environments have beautiful soft backgrounds unlike any I’ve seen on the Master System; as if a painter finished them moments before they were taken to the gallery. When you shoot at an object and miss, you chip the background, revealing the brick behind it. The chipped background is important. Sega is reminding you that the gallery is pure artifice. You’re not really in the sky shooting zeppelins or in space shooting floating televisions. I find this attitude to be bold. After all, Shooting Gallery is a video game. The setting could be anywhere and the player wouldn’t blink an eye. “Shoot balls as they’re moving through tubes? Sure, why the hell not?” But Shooting Gallery is intentionally fake. It takes place in the real world, or at least in a shooting gallery supposedly set in the real world, but all you see are the set pieces – and the occasional chip. This constant awareness of a false reality lends the game a depth that Sega likely didn’t intend. The falseness isn’t a commentary on anything, I’m sure, but it gave me something to ponder as I shot like mad at ducks and balloons.

 

B-

 

*It should be noted that I do not abuse alcohol nor have I gotten into a string of car accidents. My marriage is fine. The point is, life happens to all of us, and the more life happens, the slower we become. Or something.

Missile Defense 3-D

MissileDefense3D

A Rocket to Nowhere 3-D

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Light Gun

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (US)

                                     10/87 – (EU)

 

When a game requires more than one extra peripheral to work properly, I question whether it should have been made at all. To wit, Missile Defense 3D requires the Light Phaser and 3D Glasses to work properly. Both peripherals today cost about 70-100 dollars – all for a game that can be beaten within ten minutes or so. Of course, if you already have both peripherals or if you were planning on using them for other games, you should give Missile Defense 3D a shot. I’ve been told the game is a technological marvel of the late 80s. If I was transported back to 1987 with this game and all its requirements met, I suspect I would believe it, but I doubt any amount of ooh-ing and aah-ing would convince me that it needed to exist.

 

MissileDefense4

Cats and dogs living in sin! Missiles coming out of subwoofers! World War III!

 

The goal is simple. Missiles launch. They zoom towards you in three electric dimensions. You shoot them with the Light Phaser. That’s it. Once all the missiles have been launched, a screen appears showing you how many missiles you hit and how many you missed. You’re then given two more chances to take them all out. Obviously, the sooner you can destroy them all, the better. If you get to your final chance (you’ll know if the screen displays a city), and the missile explodes, the game is over. If a missile hits you a certain number of times, the game is over.

 

MissileDefense5

Where have all the flowers gone?*

 

There’s a strange, vague story in Missile Defense 3D about protecting cities. Two impossibly large cities are at war with each other, the East and the West. You are the Peacekeeper charged with protecting the cities from themselves. When the West City launches a couple dozen missiles at the East City, you have to destroy them all before they reach the city. But even if you protect the East from the missiles, they of course feel threatened by the West’s offensive and fire back. You then scurry over to the East and try and take down all of the West’s missiles. This story exists to convince you that the game has more depth than it actually does. You have to protect the East and West a total of six times before the game is beaten. Six! Any other Peacekeeper would have given up by then. If the East and the West can’t sort themselves out, let them destroy each other.

 

MissileDefense1

Not the satellite! How will people watch the ‘Homeward Bound’ marathon on HBO Family?*

 

And here’s another thought: how about making North/South levels to cut down on the repetition? Or move over to a different planet and protect them from being destroyed by some alien force? By the third time of shooting down missiles on the same two screens, I didn’t care any more. A little variety in the environments would have gone a long way in making the game more memorable.

 

MissileDefense3

Watch out, Space! It’s a missile!*

 

As with Zaxxon 3D, my 3D glasses stuttered while playing the game. Single missiles often looked like doubles, and it was hard to tell where the missiles were actually placed on the screen. I still don’t know whether it’s the fault of the glasses (they are used) or if my flat-screen CRT TV is too “new” for the 3D glasses to work properly. Thankfully, the Light Phaser did a bang up job taking down the missiles, even though I couldn’t always tell where the missiles were on-screen. Despite my limitations, I got to the fourth round of missile mediations before a lone missile slammed into the West City, ending my reign as Peacekeeper.

 

MissileDefense2

Not even Al Gore’s precious ice caps will be spared the missile’s wrath.

 

It’s not Missile Defense 3D‘s fault that my gaming rig can’t replicate the game to its fullest. Even if it could, though… even if the missiles were able to fly directly at me in stunningly clear three-dimensions, would the game be anything more than a novelty? In 1987, when the idea of full-length games made strictly for consoles was new, two levels repeated ad nauseam was still less a game than a tease. And for all of Sega’s admirable qualities, they have been guilty of skimping on content in order to showcase their admittedly considerable technological prowess. Missile Defense 3D is an amazing intro to a fuller, richer game, but the game in question is nowhere to be found.

 

D+

 

*all images from GameFAQs

Marksman Shooting / Trap Shooting / Safari Hunt

MarksmanShootingEU

A whole lot of blah for half the price.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Light Gun

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (EU)

 

This cartridge should have been titled Light Phaser: The Collected Works, Vol. 1. The name change wouldn’t justify the cart’s dearth of substance, but at least the clumsiness of Marksman Shooting / Trap Shooting / Safari Hunt would be erased. Plus, the new title implies that the games collected therein are important from a historical perspective, never mind their quality. It’s not entirely true, but it makes the games sound more appealing than they actually are.

My original reviews:

 

Marksman Shooting / Trap Shooting

Safari Hunt

 

Three of the Master System’s blandest Light Phaser games for the price of one? I suppose if you’re hard up for some shootin’, but even compared to other combo carts, none of the games on here have/had a substantial amount of content to warrant a purchase. Marksman Shooting / Trap Shooting gives you 99 rounds of clay pigeons and human-shaped paper targets to shoot. 99 rounds sounds like a lot, but each round is the same, only faster. Both games may as well be a test to see if your Light Phaser works, they’re so bereft of purpose. Safari Hunt takes you through the jungle on an animal hunt, and more importantly, feels like an actual game. Still, the shooting is pretty bare-bones, and Sega obviously knew it if they threw it onto a cartridge with two other titles. I got nothing against light gun games, but these were all pretty poor ways for Sega to introduce their Zapper lookalike into the world.

 

MSTSSH_titleEU

Welcome to mid-80s gaming, folks. Thanks to SegaRetro for this screenshot.

 

Oh well. I suppose the Light Phaser was worth it for Gangster Town.

 

D+

Ghostbusters

GhostbustersUS

The Ghostbusters icon atop a white background just looks all wrong.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Activision (port by Compile)

GENRE: I really don’t know how to classify this thing, so I’ll just say ‘Action.’

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (US)

                                    1989 – (EU)

 

Ghostbusters for the Master System is a port of the 1984 Activision title originally released for computers. This fact is almost as bad as a total protonic reversal. As anyone who has played the game on the Atari 800 or the Commodore 64 or the NES can attest, Ghostbusters is, at its best, a mess and, at its worst, a pile of Slimer puke. The game wants to replicate the full ghost-busting experience, but by doing so, it focuses more on the minutiae – buying items, driving between buildings, walking up stairs – and very little on the exciting aspects of the film.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]000

I ain’t ‘fraid of no bananas.

 

You play as the Ghostbusters – or do you? You play as three squatty sprites in light brownish attire (Winston is nowhere to be found), but the men’s names and personalities are mysteriously absent. Before the game even begins, you’re informed via a text cluster that you received ten grand to open a brand new business. Hooray capitalism! A menu appears with a vast array of ghost-busting items to purchase, including four types of cars with varying power and speed and other miscellaneous bric-a-brac with names like Ghost Bait, Ghost Trap, PK Energy Detector, Marshmallow Sensor. Most of these items are essential to the game, but learning what each item does and then choosing what you need on a limited budget is a lot to consider before you even start. If you don’t have the manual, you’ll probably experiment with item-buying a couple times before you get the balance right. But why should the Ghostbusters have to buy their own equipment at all? They should start out with everything they need from the get-go. Questions like this will arise in your brain from time to time, but the answer is always the same: because the game would be a lot shorter without it.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]001

Ray and Peter contemplate their existence.

 

Once you’ve purchased your Ghostmobile and equipment, you’re transported to New York City, kind of. NYC, as represented by the game, consists of a bunch of buildings, yellow banana ghosts that creep in from the corners of the screen, the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper wandering aimlessly around town, and the Ghostbuster icon, which you control. Once the buildings turns red, travel there using the icon, then hit button II next to the building. One might expect you to enter the building immediately, seeing as the icon is right next to it. But no. You’re then forced to play a driving minigame where you have to steer around cars and manholes for a set number of kilometers until you reach the building. You can purchase a ghost vacuum for the top of your car and suck up ghosts for money while you drive, but this is the only reason these sections exist. If driving was optional or occurred less frequently, I might appreciate it more, but this is not the case. Every single time you want to reach a building, you’re forced to drive there. Unless you’re hard up for cash, it’s stupid, boring, and a waste of time.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]006

I didn’t know New York City had such spacious roads.

 

Once you reach your destination, prepare to ghost bust. Each ghost busting excursion is a one-screen image of a handful of ghosts – sometimes those banana guys, sometimes Slimers – floating around outside of a building. Assuming you purchased a trap (you should purchase at least four before you even start), lay down the trap where you want it, then coax the ghosts directly above the trap with your proton packs. This is the most rewarding part of the game, because it’s the only part where you feel like you’ve achieved something. Trapping the ghosts between the beams is not always the easiest of tasks. When the beam comes out and captures five ghosts at once, there’s a small sense of satisfaction. Also, trapping the ghosts gives you the money you need to proceed to the next portion of the game.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]005

Sometimes you’ll arrive to a building and the ghosts will be gone. We call this “a waste of time.”

 

On the main map screen, you’ll notice a PK meter that slowly fills from blue to yellow to red. As the colors change, more and more banana ghosts make their way to the Zuul Tower to prepare for the resurrection of Gozer. When the meter begins to fill up with red, Stay Puft can appear randomly at any time and destroy a building. For some reason, the Ghostbusters will be blamed and you’ll be charged four grand for the building’s destruction. Now, granted, if an evil giant ghost destroyed a building and I was blamed for it, four grand is not a bad price compared to the millions that the building likely cost – but still. When the meter is completely red, you’ll need to have ten grand in your account. If you don’t, the game’s over. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps you need ten grand to proceed because that was the amount you received at the beginning of the game? Still, I think with Stay Puft and Gozer on the loose, the city would want you to get rid of them as quickly as possible, debts be damned.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]004

“Marshmallow Alert Red?! Our precious bank account!”

 

Once the meter fills with red, you’re summoned to Zuul Tower automatically. Stay Puft is bouncing back and forth in front of the tower, gleefully blocking any chance you have in entering it. Or so he thinks. You have a slim opportunity to pass a Ghostbuster one at a time through the building, but it’s tough. One hit and you’re dead. Because there’s three Ghostbusters, you have three opportunities to get them in the building, but you need to get two out of three in there or the game’s over. What a shame to come so far only to be killed by a giant mutant marshmallow man.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]007

The Ghostbusters have rickets for this section.

 

Get into Zuul Tower and prepare for a dastardly climb up nine flights to the top. Ghosts appear along the way, but your proton pack will take them out with one hit. The ones to be wary of are the ones that have no discernible movement pattern and spew what appear to be fish. As with Stay Puft, one hit from either the half-digested fish or the ghost itself will kill you. You have three chances to climb the tower, but you only need to get one Ghostbuster to the top to proceed to the final battle with Gozer.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]008

Slimer just hates it when you climb stairs.

 

Gozer looks intimidating with the dogs and the bolts of lightning, but he goes down really easy. Stand in front of him and blast away without stopping, and he’ll be dead. You’re congratulated (not “conglaturated”) by the game and given an extra five thousand dollars to start another game with, if you so choose. The more money you have, the better equipment you can buy, so admittedly, it would be a slightly different experience the second time around… until you got to Stay Puft, at which point your fancy car and expensive equipment wouldn’t mean Jack.

 

Ghostbusters (UE) [!]009

Wait… Gorza?

 

So let’s recap: the gameplay consists of buying stuff, wandering around the city waiting for buildings to turn red, driving for short distances, actual ghost busting, maneuvering around a bouncing Marshmallow Man, walking up lots of stairs while shooting ghosts, then destroying Gozer before being given the chance to do it all over again. That, friends, accounts for why this review is so long. This is the summary of a needlessly complex and pointless experience that involves little ghost busting whatsoever. And when the name of your video game is Ghostbusters, the latter is a problem. Sorry, Activision. The flowers are no longer standing.

 

D+

SegaDoes Episode 22: Phantasy Star and The End of Gaming as We Know It

 

Holy crap and a peanut, it’s been awhile. Thanks for your patience!

On this episode, the long-awaited discussion about Phantasy Star. And some other games! But mostly Phantasy Star.

Sam and I also get our curmudgeon on to talk about how gaming has changed, and how we really don’t want anything to do with modern gaming anymore. Except for Nintendo. God save Nintendo.

Listen/Download the episode here! Subscribe to us over on iTunes! Leave us a review and we’ll totes read it on the air! Exclamation points all around!

And finally, lavish us with praise or tell us we’re wrong in the comment section below. We’ll read those on the air too.

 

DC

Gangster Town

GangsterTown

Are you sure that’s a gangster and not circa- “Wonder Years” Fred Savage in an oversized trenchcoat?

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Light gun

RELEASE DATE: 1987 – (US, EU)

 

Gangster Town picks up where Sega’s Wild West shooter Bank Panic left off. In the latter, you were a lowly bank sheriff hired to take money from the good citizens, and protect the bank from banditos and kids with stacks of cowboy hats in their hand. It was a job with little reward, but at the very least, the experience kept you on your toes. Gangster Town gives you, the bank sheriff, a promotion, to FBI Federal Agent of the “Taking Down Loads of Swankily-Dressed Mobsters From the 1920s” Unit. What an honor!

Are the gangsters bootlegging? Racketeering? Peanut steering? Doesn’t matter. They’re criminals! Take ’em down. Gangster Town offers gin-u-wine Light Phaser support to ensure that the mobsters’ pin-striped jackets get as bloody as possible. While you technically had a gun in Bank Panic, the latter didn’t support the Light Phaser, and thus, wasn’t as violent as it should have been. Gangster Town rectifies that with a body count as high as the heavens.

 

Gangster Town (UE) [!]-04

Shoot to thrill.

 

The game starts you off in a training simulator to help you learn how to shoot. It parades outlines of human shapes for you to shoot, specifically in the brain or heart as highlighted by a red target in those specific areas. Of course, if you’re using a Light Phaser and not a mouse, stand as close to the screen as possible and fire at will. At the end of each round, the game shows you a record of your shots fired, your hit ratio, and the amount of points collected. If your numbers surpass the minimum of what the game expects from you, your playing ability will go up a level and you’ll gain an extra heart. Fail, and your hearts will stay at the minimum five and your abilities will be average. This judgment of your performance comes at the end of every level, and since each level trots out more and more gangsters, the requirements go up. Shoot to kill, then shoot again – but make sure your shooting is accurate. By the time the level ends, you’ll have more than enough points to earn a heart.

 

Gangster Town (UE) [!]-02

“Hey, I used to shoot cans for a living, get off my back.”

 

Each level is an extravagant set piece, beginning with a car chase and ending with a Harbor shootout. The car chase in particular is extremely well-executed. You’re chasing a clown car filled with an unlimited supply of gangsters who stick their heads and tommy guns out the window to shoot at you. Shoot them first, naturally, then shoot their disguised angels as they try and float up to heaven (“Nuh uh, bub, you’se ain’t gettin’ off dat easy”). Halfway through the chase, the infamous Red Baron plane will swoop down and launch bombs at your car, while gangsters continue to plug away at you. Despite the unreasonable amount of events happening – tommy guns, World War I references, gangster angels – the Master System never misses a beat with silky smooth scrolling throughout the entire level.

 

Gangster Town (UE) [!]-01

Shooting while driving has always been a gentleman’s pursuit.

 

Once the car chase ends, the rest of the environments come fashioned after your stereotypical gangster film locations: the aforementioned Harbor, the Night Club, Downtown (twice! – gangsters love downtown), and in a tip of the hat to Bank Panic‘s Western setting, the Saloon. The levels scroll automatically and enemies appear where they will. With the exception of the white-suited thug that takes several hits to kill and appears at the end of each level, the rest of the gangsters wear black-and-white suits with hats and only take one shot to kill. But with each subsequent level, more and more of them show up at any given time. They might appear from a second story window, the sewer, an attic, behind the bar: wherever good times and aimless murder are had. Shoot them all and get your score up. Better score means more hearts means more courage for the continuous evil that you have to deal with.

 

Gangster Town (UE) [!]-03

When there’s no gangsters to be found, you can relieve stress by shooting these brick walls.

 

Light gun games are by their very nature limited, but Sega seems to recognize what a light gun game should be: a fast-paced romp through some long forgotten genre film. There’s never a dull moment. Gangster Town keeps your eyes looking in all directions for the enemy, your finger on the trigger. And if you’re able to pause for a moment, you’ll also see the exquisite attention to detail in the stages. Mice run along the floor of the saloon, signs advertising sleaze are dropped onto passing gangsters, beautiful blonde-haired women are taken hostage (and subsequently saved, assuming your chivalric code hasn’t expired). For the previously lowly bank sheriff, this is a far cry from your dusty, God-fearing town in the Old West. Gangster Town is Chicago during the Prohibition, where money and violence are gods and nothing is off limits.

 

B+

Astro Warrior / Pit Pot

AstroWarrior-PitPot

One combo cart to rule them all. In Europe, anyway.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Shoot-em-up / Dungeon Crawler

RELEASE DATE: 11/1987 – (EU)

 

Hey, I’ve played and reviewed these two games before!

 

Astro Warrior

Pit Pot

 

This combo cart release was the only release either game ever saw in Europe. Astro Warrior, by itself, only saw release in Japan and America, while Pit Pot was only released in Japan, not America. Why Sega thought Europeans would prefer Pit Pot is a mystery – Americans would have appreciated a goofy arcade dungeon crawler, right? – but I’m glad they saw fit to put it with Astro Warrior. The game is about as unremarkable and short as shoot-em-ups get, and should always be considered the lesser when bundled with another title.

 

Astro Warrior & Pit Pot (E) [!]000

I’m unsure if Astro Warrior is worthy of that lightning bolt…

 

In terms of genre pairings, Astro Warrior / Pit Pot makes a good deal of sense. The two games appeal to different frames of mind. When you just want to shoot random crap for a few minutes, Astro Warrior. When you want to partake in a difficult adventure through a dungeon, Pit Pot. Of course, neither game is the pinnacle of what their genre has to offer, but that’s budget-priced combo carts for you: a drop in quality for slightly more quantity.

C+

Parlour Games

ParlourGamesJP

This is my kinda family.

 

ParlourGamesUS

This is what happens when people under forty try to switch up the rules of Bingo.

 

PLAYERS: 1-4 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Compile (!)

GENRE: “Parlour”

RELEASE DATE: 12/27/87 – (JP)

                                          1988 – (US)

                                          1989 – (EU)

 

The NES had plenty of “lounge lizard” software, like Championship Pool, Championship Bowling, and Magic Darts, but the Master System had, until this point, strayed away from this crushed velvet suit of a genre. No longer! Compared to the aforementioned NES equivalents and other family-oriented titles, Parlour Games delivered quite a bit of content for your 1988 dollar. To get several types of pool and darts and bingo in one cartridge was a bargain back when NES developers had the gall to shove one type of game on a cartridge, slap a forty dollar price tag on it, and call it good.

 

Parlour Games (UE) [!]003

That’s some family fun right there.

 

Whether you’re shooting pool, throwing darts, or stamping a card, you need to know how to play in order to win – in the real world, at least. In virtual representations of these games, however, the mechanics play a large part in each game’s success. Bingo is the simplest game, and therefore the dullest. You place bets on a specific bingo card with a series of numbers, then spin a slot machine and hope the numbers that emerge from said machine are on your card. More so than the other games, bingo really requires you to have other people present to be the slightest bit entertaining. There’s no challenge or skill, only the luck of the slots.

 

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Will this automatically become more interesting as I age?

 

Pool is a bit more rewarding, particularly because it offers several styles and top-notch mechanics. Straight pool (knock the balls into the pockets), Five Ball (two players only – one player knocks balls 1-4, then 5 to win, the other knock balls 6-9, then 5 to win), Nine Ball (hit balls 1-9 in succession in order to win), and Rotation (select a number of points, then hit to that number) are your options here. Once you start a game, you control the cursor to where you want to hit the ball, then kick off the power meter, represented by a cue stick. The further back the cue stick is in the meter, the more powerful the shot. Easy to learn, difficult to master, like pool itself.

 

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The computer could afford to think a little quicker.

 

Darts, on the other hand, is just plain broken. There are several different types here, as well: 301 (get down from 301 to zero points in as few throws as possible), 501 (same as 301, but with more points), Round the Clock (throw your darts in numbered areas 1-10 sequence to win), and Double Down (“hit a series of numbered areas in sequence” – the instruction manual). I played a couple different games of 301 and managed to hit the dart board twice, thanks to the convoluted controls. Like pool, darts has a power meter. You hold down button 2 to build it up, then release the meter at maximum strength. Next, you have to watch a red arrow known as the “release point” move from right to left. When it’s at the appropriate mark, hit button 2 again and you’ll throw the dart. My problem was, when I’d let go of button 2 to release the power meter, my guy would automatically throw the dart without any consideration of the release point. I tried throwing the way the instruction manual gave and found my darts bouncing off the wall repeatedly. Either Sega’s manual writers are wrong or I’m too inept to input buttons in the proper order. I choose to believe the former.

 

Parlour Games (UE) [!]001

“Quit play-ing games with my dart”

 

Of course, your appreciation of Parlour Games will come from your predilection (or lack thereof) for replications of games you can play in real life. I don’t particularly find pool, darts, or bingo that engaging to begin with, let alone while holding a controller, but I don’t believe I’m the target audience here. Who is the target audience, you ask? Octogenarians? Retired bar goers? Given the game’s original name, Sega seemed to think the audience in Japan would be families, but as far as an American target audience, I’m not so sure. Perhaps there was a certain novelty in 1988 of gathering the family around the Master System and letting each member take turns shooting Nine Ball, playing some 501, and letting grandma fumble with the controller to play Bingo. Laughs would have been produced, if nothing else. Whatever the case, such a pastime – enjoying one another’s company as a family, whether with video games or other entertainment – is long dead now. All hail the future, where each family member stares into their own separate world while communicating with one another as little as possible. At least they don’t have to pretend to care while Grandma tries to get five-in-a-row.

 

C-

Fantasy Zone: The Maze

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Pac-Man is pissed. “Only I can have maze games!”

 

FantasyZoneMazeUS

Well… I was really hoping for two Mega’s, but I suppose I can compromise for some bat-zapping action.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Maze/Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 12/20/87 – (JP)

                                           1988 – (US)

                                           1988 – (EU)

 

Turns out, crossbreeding Opa-Opa with Pac-Man results in more than just confusion and shame. Fantasy Zone: The Maze is the ultimate “what the?” in a series built on florid exclamations and shrines erected to hyper pinks and blues. The first two games were compelling unorthodox shoot-em-ups where you traveled either right or left via a wraparound screen, shooting down enemies, collecting coins, and upgrading your speed and weapons. The Maze, however, is, yes, a maze game where you travel in any direction, destroy enemies, collect lots of coins that look suspiciously like pellets, and, er, upgrade your speed and weapons. Fantasy Zone: The Maze isn’t much different from the other two games in terms of what it asks the player to do. But instead of taking a freedom-oriented approach where Opa-Opa is allowed to fly where he pleases, the game limits him to cramped quarters, reducing Fantasy Zone‘s expansive “shoot, collect, upgrade” gameplay to a minimum.

 

Fantasy Zone - The Maze (UE) [!]000

The mazes aren’t complete Pac-Man ripoffs, but you’re not exactly sailing the fuchsia skies either

 

As with the gluttonous Pac-Man, the goal of The Maze is to eat all the coins in the playfield and move on to the next stage. While you’re doing this, previous enemies from the series – let’s call them “Ghost Ships” in keeping with the Pac analogy – will emerge from a hole in the center of the stage. The hole will continuously fill up with red and pop out Ghost Ships each time it’s full. If Opa flies over the hole while it’s filling up, however, an enemy won’t regenerate – but the hole will immediately start filling up with red again. This quick regenerative enemy system felt like a waste of time, a distraction to keep you from your goal of collecting coins. Enemies come quickly whether you fly over the ever filling hole or not. As such, I found it more worthwhile to avoid the enemies, then to try and stop them from appearing every five seconds.

 

Fantasy Zone - The Maze (UE) [!]001

… well, that shut me up temporarily.

 

Scattered around the playfield are weapons and speed upgrades that you fly across to purchase. These are items from previous games, like the Big Wing and the Wide Beam, but there are less of them in The Maze. Limited items makes sense, really. You don’t need big guns like the Twin Bombs or 3-Way Shot unless you’re taking on giant Tiki Heads and other such madness. Strangely, the weapons you are provided with aren’t very strong. It will take several hits from any weapon to destroy most of these jerks. Enemies taking numerous hits before death is nothing new to the series, but in the previous two games, you had more room to avoid them should they not perish right away. Here, if you’re shooting an enemy and expecting it to die while you fly towards it, you’ll likely perish yourself. The best (and most expensive) weapon is Top Power, which transforms Opa into a fireball and allows him to fly through enemies with ease for a limited time. Get it as often as you can.

 

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Opa will never afford grad school with a measly four grand. Get to shootin’, boy!

 

The previous two Fantasy Zone games were acid-trip shoot-em-ups that stood alone in their surreal sensibilities. Even today, the series (sans Maze) really has no equal in the shoot-em-up genre, though plenty have borrowed from its cheerful disposition and upgrade system. The Maze has to deal with that storied legacy, even though the game was clearly intended as nothing more than an offshoot. As a side project, a series of mazes for Opa to fly around in his spare time, Fantasy Zone: The Maze is fun enough. The abundance of content – seven worlds, twenty-eight levels – means there’s plenty of game here for you to explore, particularly if you enjoy the underappreciated maze genre. As a Fantasy Zone game, however, I can’t help but wish The Maze tried a little harder to engage the player.

 

B-