Bank Panic

Bank Panic

     There’ll be zero panic on my watch, pardner!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sanritsu (port by Sega)

GENRE: Shooter

RELEASE DATE: 1985 (SG-1000 MyCard); 1987 (Master System, Sega Card)

 

Being a banker during the Old West must have been one of the worst professions imaginable. You knew you were going to get robbed and shot at some point during your career, it was just a matter of when and how often.

Imagine working at an Old West bank like the kind found in Bank Panic, then: twelve doors, all rotating with drunken hustle and bustle. At any moment, a gentle cowboy or cowgirl could come in and deposit their hard-earned money sacks. Or a robber could kick the door in, shoot you, and steal said money sacks out of your dusty, bleeding hands. Or a child with a stack of hats (?) could show up unexpectedly, begging you to shoot the hats out of his hand for money. In the Old West, anything was possible.

 

Bank Panic (Japan)000

The thing on the left is indeed a child, and he is holding a crazy amount of green hats

 

As the badass bank sheriff (read: security guard with a sparkly badge), you are asked to secure money deposits from all twelve doors before moving on to the next level. You have a gun to protect yourself from robbers and to shoot the hats away from the child (shooting all the hats before the door shuts nets you a money deposit). Later levels will also add bombs on the doors that you shoot (!) in order to prevent them from exploding (?!). The upper portion of the screen will show you which of the twelve doors have already received a money deposit (signified by a dollar sign in a box) and whether people are standing and waiting at the door (signified by a red line in front of the door). Thankfully, you can only focus on three of the twelve doors at a time. Pressing ‘Up’ shoots the left-hand door, Button I shoots the middle door, and Button II shoots the right hand door. When a civilian comes with money to deposit, you don’t have to press any buttons, the money will deposit on its own. When a robber comes, shoot him before he shoots you. Sometimes a civilian will appear at the door, look around nervously, then quickly be replaced by a robber. When this happens, wait for the robber to appear before shooting, always. Otherwise, you’ll shoot the civilian and be run out of town on a rail (that’s how it works, right?). After you’ve accumulated money from each door, Bank Panic continues until you’ve shot too many civilians or run out of time or gotten shot enough to warrant old-time disability i.e. an early death. A charmed life, to be sure.

 

Bank Panic (Japan)001

Oh, how the townspeople roared when you captured all twelve money sacks before your time ran dry.

 

Bank Panic is intense and nerve-wracking and the type of shooting game that Hogan’s Alley should have been. It can also be very frustrating, depending on the version you’re playing. In the SG-1000 version, all three bank doors must be closed before you can move the cursor around to the other doors. Because of this “closed door” law, your time can and will run out on later levels when you’re trying to move to doors that have no deposits and robbers/civilians keep coming to the same three doors. When you are finally able to progress, scrolling to the other doors is SG-1000 standard slow and choppy, further eating away at your time. Don’t get me wrong: Bank Panic is still a hoot and/or a holler, but the game’s inability to progress quickly hinders it at times.

 

Bank Panic

May I interest you in Bank Panic for the Master System?

 

Bank Panic (Card)

Perhaps this Sega Card is more to your liking?

 

The Master System version is the best version if you’re looking to ease into Bank Panic. The system’s upgraded hardware makes for silky-smooth scrolling, and the bank doors don’t take nearly as long to open and close. Bank patrons – both good and bad – don’t emerge at the doors as frequently either, which forces you to move around the bank looking for the doors where people are located. Despite being a shooter, the game is unfortunately not Light Phaser compatible. Overall, though, the Master System Bank Panic has a natural flow that enables you to succeed beyond the jankier (but still enjoyable) SG-1000 version.

 

B- (SG-1000)

B+ (Master System)

 

Bank Panic (E) [!]000

This screen means that you allowed panic to overtake you. For shame.

Chack’n Pop

ChackNPop

Don’t go breaking my heart, Chack’n Pop… Oh, who am I kidding. You couldn’t if you tried.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Taito (port by Sega)

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

Chack’n Pop has you playing as a weird yellow creature named Chack’n. Chack’n has stretchy legs and a zeal for his girlfriend, Miss Chack’n. Miss Chack’n wants Chack’n to get his act together and “put a ring on it,” but before he can make her an honorable female creature, he must travel across a variety of stages filled with danger, explosions, and caged hearts.

The basics of the game are presented in a handy tutorial stage. Chack’n is able to walk on the ground and upside down on the ceiling, but not vertically on the wall. Eggs dangle from the ceiling that, once hatched, turn into purple pupilless Monstas (the game’s name for the creature, not mine). Chack’n hucks grenades to take out Monstas, destroy walls, and release hearts from their prisons (a true warrior of love, Chack’n is). Chack’n’s own grenades are also able to kill him, though; if even a single pixel of the grenade smoke touches him, he dies. Once the heart is freed, it soars to the upper-right hand side of the stage and decimates the brick blocking the exit. Get to the exit and Chack’n Pop begins in earnest.

 

Chack'n Pop (Japan)000

Every 80s song is correct: caged hearts must be freed.

 

The best strategy for each level is to run to the hearts as fast as you can and blow up unhatched Monstas along the way. Destroy the cages and follow the hearts to the exit, post haste. Once the Monstas hatch, they are very aggressive and will cut you off at any opportunity. Be mindful of the Mighta knight pushing a boulder towards the exit, as well. If the knight makes it to the exit with his boulder before Chack’n does, you’ll have to restart the stage. Chack’n Pop gives you bonus points and an extra life if you can get through the level without destroying any eggs or monsters, but this becomes impossible beyond the first level.

According to Wikipedia, Chack’n Pop is considered the “ancestor” to Bubble Bobble because of the latter game’s use of Monstas and Mightas, and because of a duplication of a Chack’n Pop level found within Bubble Bobble. “Ancestor” perhaps, but don’t be fooled: the two games are considerably different. Both games are arcade-y, yes, but Chack’n Pop is far slower, and somewhat more methodical in its construction, while Bubble Bobble is a brainless free-for-all that’s really only enjoyable with two players.

 

Chack'n Pop (Japan)001

Chack’n must have drank some bitter beer prior to his death.

 

As far as I know, Chack’n Pop never saw a release outside Japan until the 2007 compilations Taito Legends 2 and Taito Legends Powered-Up emerged for the PS2/Xbox and PSP, respectively. As such, most gamers have never heard of it. If you’re a fan of Taito in the slightest, though, you owe it to yourself to try out Chack’n Pop. The name might sound like a mixture of Rice Krispies and bubble gum, but the game itself is bizarre Japanese majesty.

 

B+

Episode 9 of the Sega Does Podcast

 

Boy howdy, was this a fun episode to record.

We have some surprisingly solid SG-1000 games to thank for that: Star Force, Othello, Space Invaders, Zoom 909, Choplifter and Pitfall II all impressed us more than they should have. The rest – Hyper Sports and Dragon Wang – felt like the typical SG-1000 dreck. Thankfully, saying “Dragon Wang” aloud several times in a row never gets old.

Enjoy Episode 9.

 

Drol

Drol

                    Bob Drol doesn’t need this.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Broderbund (port by Sega)

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

Drol, not droll. I know what the latter means – “curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.” Not sure about the former. You’re a robot and you rescue… sad girls with balloons? And rocket-powered lizards? Sounds like an indie film, sans the whimsy and “do you feel” soundtrack. But Drol is no film. Drol is a game and it does exist. Beyond that fact lies nothing.

 

Drol (Japan)001

                        Everything is as it should be, I guess.

 

But perhaps I’m looking less for Drol‘s meaning, than its purpose, its reason for being. In Drol, you control a generic-looking robot across a four story map layout. Each story is barren, save for the occasional Roman-Greco pillar and random enemies. The enemy design ranges from scorpions and goblins to flying swords and axes hurled from unseen hands. The robot levitates and is able to shoot multi-colored balls out of his chest to combat any threats. After you’ve littered the map with goblin corpses, a crying girl with a balloon will emerge from nowhere. You collect her. The level continues, more death, more mindless wandering, then a rocket-powered lizard appears. Collect it, and a curtain falls across the screen. You’ve just bore witness to an off-Broadway play in some drunken backalley, apparently. Oh, but then the curtain rises, and it’s another level, this time with more threats, similar outcomes. There are only three distinct levels, each with slight variables. All of them require the collecting of a small balloon-holding girl and a rocket-powered iguana to progress to the next stage. After these three levels have been completed, the game repeats and it’s more of the same. Not at all droll, but perhaps very Drol.

 

Drol (Japan)000

           Snakes on loan from Super Mario Bros. 2

 

I fail to see why Drol exists. Is the fun derived from shooting enemies for copious amounts of points? Points are achieved easily enough by standing in the middle of any of the four stories and shooting back and forth. Enemies regenerate forever and there is no time limit. Have at it. Destroy! Consume! Drol! And why are you a robot? Beyond levitation, you don’t do any inherently robot-y “things”; I’m not sure I would equate levitation with robots, anyway. The balloon girl and the lizard are neat designs, but they’re just as random as the goblin gargoyles and scorpions that chase you around. You collect the girl and the lizard because the game tells you to, not for any particular reason. Nothing in Drol makes sense. Nothing made me care about what was happening at any given time, nor did I ever feel a desire to push forward. I could if I wanted to, I suppose: the game only starts to get hard after you’ve gone through the three levels a couple times. But why bother? Why, Drol? Why Drol, indeed.

D

Doki Doki Penguin Land

DokiDokiPenguinLand

                    Take that, you dumb polar bear!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Puzzle

RELEASE DATE: 1985

OTHER GAMES IN SERIES: Penguin Land (Master System, 1987); Ikasuze! Koi no Doki Doki Penguin Land MD (Mega Drive, 1992; Sega CD, 1994)

 

Upon first glance, Doki Doki Penguin Land appears to be a cutesy puzzle game about a father penguin rolling an egg home safe and sound to its mother. The penguins’ home is found many levels below a pre-constructed igloo, levels constructed of brick, boulders and ice. Brick is dug through by the penguin a la Lode Runner, while ice and boulders are solid. Boulders are easily pushed, however, and are good for constructing platforms and crushing those who would oppose the penguin and his egg. The egg can’t be dropped beyond a certain point highlighted by a line that appears underneath it; nor can it interact with the frozen underground denizens like the Polar Bear or the Armadillo. The Armadillo will immediately destroy the egg with its claws, while the Polar Bear will bat it around for awhile before it breaks. The penguin himself can’t be killed, only maimed by the Polar Bear (just like in… real life?), but if the egg breaks, you lose a life and begin the process anew.

 

Dokidoki Penguin Land (Japan)000

The armadillo’s fiddin’ to eat that egg while Papa Penguin gets destroyed by Polar Bears.

 

Doki Doki Penguin Land‘s challenge forces you to always think one step ahead, analyze each level, and choose your path wisely. Sometimes the penguin has to leave the egg to shoo a Polar Bear guarding a lower level, or he must dig through layers of brick in order to make a safe landing for the egg. Armadillos will emerge like wizards from the brick itself if the game feels you’re wasting too much time figuring out the best downward path. While there are usually two ways one could bring the egg down in any given level, some routes – ones with more padding and less enemies – are certainly better than others. Also, there is no option to restart the level like in Adventures of Lolo. If your egg gets stuck in a hole, you have to smash it and start over from the beginning. Accept that every level will require some trial-and-error – again, like Lolo – and you’ll enjoy the adventure.

There are twenty-five levels total, and while you only have three lives, no continues, you are able to choose any level you wish to start at from the main menu screen. While the stage selection might seem overly generous, particularly for 1985, it’s a nice concession from Sega given the game’s difficulty.

 

Dokidoki Penguin Land (Japan)002

                                              Well, shazbutt.

 

All in all, a heartwarming story, yes? Who doesn’t like the idea of a father taking responsibility for his children? It’s like “March of the Penguins 2: Underground Boogaloo” for your SG-1000. Alas, all is not what it seems in Penguin-dom. Once the egg drops into the penguins’ opulent dwelling, the mother penguin smashes it to reveal – gasp! – a king’s ransom of loot! The penguins aren’t part of a tear-jerking Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary at all, and the egg is not their child. The “egg” is in fact a case full of stolen Antarctic goods, like diamonds, pearls, and Pac-Man’s fruit. The larger the item, the more points you get upon completing the level. Sleazily satisfying, perhaps, but at the expense of the game’s initially innocent veneer.

 

Dokidoki Penguin Land (Japan)001

A jewel-encrusted headband? That’s nothing. Wait until you see the blood diamonds.

 

Curious skeeziness aside, Doki Doki Penguin Land is one of the most rewarding games on the SG-1000. The levels are the perfect kind of difficult: just enough that you want to keep trying, not so easy or tough that the game feels pointless. The graphics are adorable, the music is appropriately tense and the controls are tight. I’m not sure what made Sega get off their duffs in 1985 and start developing honest-to-God solid SG-1000 games, but I’m glad they did.

The morally corrupt penguins went on to star in future Penguin Land titles for the Master System, Genesis, Sega CD*, Saturn*, and… Game Boy? Yes, despite Doki Doki Penguin Land being a Sega made license, a Japanese-only Penguin Land for the Game Boy was developed by Atelier Double and published by Pony Canyon. Hardcore Gaming 101 speculates that this version may have come about from a deal that also allowed Pony Canyon to publish an MSX version as well. Either way, the general consensus seems to be: stay away from any Penguin Land not published and developed by Sega themselves.

A-

 

* The Sega CD version is actually the Genesis version re-released on a compilation, while the Saturn version is an exact replica of the SG-1000 game found on Sega Ages Memorial Selection Vol. 2.

Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns

Pitfall II

Hey, it’s the bro from Champion Boxing!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Activision (port by Sega)

GENRE: Platformer

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

As David Byrne once sang, “This is not your beautiful Pitfall II.” Or was it David Crane? Well, who ever sang it, if it was ever sung, the phrase stands. The SG-1000 Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns is not quite the Pitfall II you remember from the 2600. Or the 5200. Or the billions of other systems Pitfall II was ported to. This is Sega’s Pitfall II because… they thought they could do a better job than Activision? Licensing was an easier road to take than outright stealing the Pitfall formula? Simply because they could, and besides, who would stop them? Let’s go with the latter.

In 1985, Sega licensed Pitfall II for arcades and the result was a highly enhanced version of the game with added bonus features. Prettier graphics! Extra lives! The ability to see more of the maze at one time! The ability to travel by balloon! And for the Harry who has everything, falling stalactites!

 

Pitfall II - The Lost Caverns (Japan)000

Harry failed to dress appropriately for his cavern excursion

 

Yes, Pitfall Harry’s life is a whirlwind of activity. But even with all these zany extras, the gameplay is basically the same. Pitfall Harry has to explore caverns of the lost variety via his significant jumping ability. He has no weapons and no items to use, save for various money bags and other assorted pearls that add to his score. The caverns are filled with creepy crawlies with specific movement patterns: bats and hawks swoop up and down, scorpions hot step it across the cold cavern floor, and frogs jump back and forth over ladder holes. Sinkholes appear out of nowhere. Water plots can only be swung over. Pitfall II is pure timing and memorization. The game is simple platforming pre-Super Mario Bros., yet it remains addictive and challenging to this day.

The SG-1000 version doesn’t look as nice as the arcade. Harry in particular looks like a salary man on his way home from work. All in all, though, the game has a brighter and cleaner look than most SG-1000 titles. Harry controls like a boss too. Precise jumps are key in the Pitfall series and the game pulls them off well. The only issue I have with the game is how Harry automatically falls through holes, even if a ladder is placed under the hole. I know this “falling through holes” mechanic is integral to how Harry progresses through the cavern, but compared to Pitfall II‘s overall elegance, it feels downright awkward.

 

Pitfall II - The Lost Caverns (Japan)001

                  The caverns howl at Harry’s ineptitude.

 

Thanks to my aversion to all systems and games pre-NES, I hadn’t played a “traditional” Pitfall game prior to the SG-1000 Pitfall II (Super Pitfall will never count as a traditional Pitfall title). Pitfall‘s style is not the type of platforming game I’m used to, but I was still impressed with the game’s simple, minimalist design. Every room, every enemy, in the lost caverns feels thought out and well-placed. Simple it may be, but few games can claim as much about their own design.

A-

Updates

 

Howdy y’all,

Sorry for the sporadic posts as of late. I vacationed this past week and got nothing accomplished. It was wonderful.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a brand-spanking new review, which will hopefully lead back into my typical daily reviews. Also, expect a long overdue podcast this week. When it rains, it pours.

Thanks for your patience, and get ready for Sega’s take on Pitfall II tomorrow.

- DC

Choplifter

Choplifter

                     Hang On!- er, wait… Choplifter!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Broderbund (ported by Sega to the SG-1000); Sega (Master System)

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1985 (SG-1000); 1986 (Master System)

 

Sega’s steadfast love for Choplifter began in 1985 when they ported the 1982 Apple II game to the SG-1000. In this version, you pilot a helicopter across enemy territory and rescue little stick figure hostages from burning houses. The helicopter only holds sixteen hostages at a time, so once it’s full, fly back into friendly territory and drop off the hostages at the base. Any hostage killed along the way doesn’t count against you, per say, but you won’t acquire points for the hostage.

Each trip you take back into enemy territory will see the enemies increase. When you rescue your first set of hostages, only tanks will attack you. The second time you go back, jet fighters will fly in and shoot hard-to-see, accurate missiles at you. Third time in, it’s air mines that don’t shoot, but do get in your way. The first time you collect hostages, you don’t want to lose any of them. You love them, especially their little hand-waving gestures. But as time goes on and the enemy presence grows more severe, life becomes cheap. Your attitude shifts from “That tank just shot a hostage?! I’ll burn it alive!” to “Get in my helicopter or die already, you maggots!” Harsh, but real, just like war.

 

Choplifter (Japan)000

   Hey, we didn’t start the fire, alright? It was always burning.

 

The SG-1000 version of Choplifter looks fantastic, sounds amazing, and plays astonishingly well. The helicopter controls in particular are some of the tightest I’ve felt on the system. Cor blimey, is this game tough, though. Once the jet fighters get called in, you have to tiptoe your way across the desert (as much as helicopter can tiptoe, anyway) to get back to where your hostages are located. If you fly like a banshee spitting hot fire, you’re guaranteed to get hit by the jet fighters barely visible pixel bullets or by the fighter itself. I made it to the second level once, and the difficulty there was even more frightening. Instead of land hostages, you’re rescuing hostages stranded at sea. Right from the time you enter into enemy territory, you’re bombarded by ships and jet fighters and air mines all at once. Let’s just say a certain junior pilot – we’ll call him D. Cornelius – lost his wings in a hurry.

Sega’s liason with Choplifter didn’t end with the SG-1000. In 1985 – the same year the SG-1000 port emerged – Sega remade Choplifter for the arcades. It’s easy to see why Sega would do this: Choplifter‘s sharp bursts of difficulty coupled with addictive gameplay had an arcade feel, despite first being released for computers. For the arcade, Sega added additional enemies like anti-aircraft guns (tailored more to the level’s landscape than to the amount of trips you make into the level), a point system (which could also be found in the SG-1000 port, but not the original Apple II game), and a fuel meter wich could only be filled by rescuing hostages. In the SG-1000/Apple II, the game would continue even if you had lost most of your hostages, but in the arcade, you had to rescue at least twenty hostages before you could proceed to the next level. If the arcade version sounds infinitely harder than the already difficult original, that’s because it was. Sega saw that there was millions of quarters to be had and they went for it.

 

Choplifter

You must be a certain amount of Mega to chop this lift.

 

The Master System version of Choplifter is a straight arcade port. The landscapes are more colorful and detailed, and the challenge is that much greater. Instead of the enemies being doled out to you in small portions, every type of enemy – tank, anti-aircraft, jet fighter, jeep with gunner – is now coming at you all at once, all the time. Thankfully, the jet fighters aren’t as difficult to avoid here, but the sheer volume of enemies unleashed on you from the first level onward is a sight to behold. Now, there’s only four stages, so the insane difficulty makes sense (gotta get your money’s worth, yeah?). But if you’re not in the mood to be shot at from every direction, the increased enemy presence is overwhelming and, frankly, not very enjoyable.

 

Choplifter (UE) [!]000

                               Run, boys! To freedom!

 

Choplifter doesn’t seem to be remembered much today, despite having a couple sequels portioned to the Game Boy, Game Gear, and SNES in the early 90s. It does hold the distinction of being one of the few, if only, games to begin its life on a computer before being remade for the arcade, then ported back to a home console. What a trippy, overly aggressive journey.

 

B (SG-1000)

B- (Master System)

Zoom 909

Zoom 909

          I’m not entirely sure what’s happening here.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

Zoom 909 isn’t just about blowing up spaceships. It’s about how cool you can look while blowing up spaceships. See, instead of destroying ships from the standard two-dimensional vertical/horizontal perspective, the camera is positioned in a third-person perspective behind your ship. That means enemies will sail towards you and it will appear as if they’re three-dimensional and they’ll leap off the screen and blast your face in! In reality, the enemies are 2D sprites “scaled in real time to give an illusion of depth” (Source). I’m quoting that because I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I know it’s true, and knowing is half the battle.

Each round in Zoom 909 is comprised of four parts: the bordered trench portion, the wide open plain portion, the-portion-that’s-basically-Asteroids-but-a-lot-harder portion, and a final boss. In the bordered trench section, you’re surrounded by green walls and floors that scroll by at seemingly tremendous speeds, while multi-colored enemy spaceships race towards you. Shoot the ships, don’t crash into the walls.

 

Zoom 909 (Japan)000

I sense the zoom, but I’m not too sure about the 909 part.

 

You have a fuel meter that drains consistently, but the game does give you a goodly amount of fuel bubbles (this isn’t Safari Race, thank God). Fuel is your life/lives. There is no traditional two or three-life system. If you crash or get crashed into, a chunk of your fuel will be taken away. Lose all of your fuel and the game is over.

Eventually, after you’ve passed a number of in-your-face green walls in the bordered trench section, you’ll be blasted into the vista. The same shooting shenanigans take place here, just on a wider surface area. Fight the enemy ships or stay out of their way, and after thirty seconds or so, you’ll be taken to the almost-Asteroids section. This area is intense and wrong and too much for me. Your perspective changes from not-quite-3D to absolutely top-down 2-D, and your ship hovers quickly over a large grid without your consent. Asteroids and enemy ships and fuel bubbles and power-ups are littered about on the grid, as well The goal seems to be to collect power-ups which give you invincibility so you can sail around the grid, unabated, until the game decides it’s time to move on to the boss. But I never got that far. Trying to fly in this area is hopeless. Better to float hopelessly on the grid and shoot your best, then flail about and watch your fuel drain. Perhaps I just need to work on my zoom-zoom skills or perhaps the Asteroids portion is just a bit too difficult. Either way, I never saw the boss.

 

Zoom 909 (Japan)001

Zoom 909 is the SG-1000’s answer to Starfox sans talking puppets.

 

Zoom 909 got re-worked into Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom for Western audiences because a sci-fi license sells a game more than a generic title. The SegaRetro clan claims that both Zoom 909 and Buck Rogers are essentially the same, save for some “minor graphical differences.” I couldn’t test that claim, as I couldn’t find a working Zoom 909 “machine.” I did find one of Buck Rogers, though, and compared to the SG-1000 port of Zoom 909, the former is quite different. Instead of a fuel gauge, you have a time gauge. If the time gauge runs out, it speeds you to the next portion of the level instead of killing you. Buck Rogers also wants you to destroy a certain amount of UFOs in each section in order for a bonus, but it’s not essential to completing the game. The different portions of each level flow more easily into each other, and you have a standard amount of three lives. In truth, Buck Rogers plays more like an upgraded Zoom 909 with fancier effects and a stronger sense of direction.

I enjoyed enveloping myself in Zoom 909‘s fancy scrolling effects and pseudo 3-D trickery. Blasting enemy ships out into the psychedelic nethers of space is always a good time, as well. Still, despite the visual magic and bang-bang-boom, I’m not sure what the game wanted to achieve. As soon as I was settling into a particular area, the game would fling me to a new dimension for no discernible reason. This wasn’t bad, per say, just vexing. I never knew if I was destroying the appropriate amount of on-screen crap or if I was collecting the proper amount of points. The only goal seemed to be to collect as much fuel as possible in order to keep your ship gassed up and not crashing onto an alien surface. Admirable, sure, but not exactly a driving force to want to complete the game.

 

Zoom 909 (Japan)002

                                         Hey, look! Asteroids!

 

If that’s my only complaint (well, lack of purpose and that damned Asteroids portion), I guess I should be thankful. Zoom 909 certainly challenged my perception of the SG-1000’s processing power. The graphics were impressive, the music was as good as any NES action title made by Konami or Capcom (no, really). For as long as I played the game – as long as I could stay alive – I enjoyed myself. Still, I doubt even Buck Rogers’ corpse* could drag me back to Zoom 909‘s bleak identity-free world of three-dimensional sorcery.

C+

 

*yes, I am aware that Buck Rogers is a fictional character. Thank you for not leaving me any comments regarding his inability to truly “die.”

Dragon Wang

Dragon Wang

                                  Whole lot of wangin’ goin’ on.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Beat-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

Yes, I know: Dragon Wang. I’m having a laugh right now! It’s ok, you can have a laugh too. We’re all adults here.

Ah, but if only the game was as brilliant and juvenile as its title. You play The Man With No Shirt otherwise known as a Mr. D. Wang (that would make his surname Wang then, I suppose – there’s nothing funny about that), and your mission is to rescue some chick you met while practicing Tai Chi on a mountain. Legions of shirtless bad guys run up to you, longing for your fist or foot to meet their face or ankles. Sometimes the “Sans Shirts” (my name, not the game’s) will get a hit in, especially if they’re chucking knives at you. Rude and dangerous? That’s the name of the Wang. The amount of shirtlessness on screen varies per playthrough, though. Sometimes D. Wang will walk through an entire level and only see a couple dudes. Other times, you’ll be swamped by bulging chests, flabby stomachs (‘cept yours, natch), and pit sweat. Reach the end of the level and you’ll fight a boss who has a weapon, an obvious advantage over your weapon-less state. Keep Wang’s life up and you might beat the boss, but more likely, you’ll be bludgeoned to death by cheapness. And so it goes, for four mindless floors.

 

Dragon Wang (Japan)000

          “C’mon bros, I’m trying to get my swagger on.”

 

Dragon Wang plays very much like a poor man’s Kung Fu. In the latter, you could time your attacks perfectly to dole out damage to the underlings. Sure, the controls were a bit clunky, but success was achievable with time. Dragon Wang‘s crappy scrolling abilities ensure that your hit timing has to be perfect; otherwise, you’ll be absorbing all the pec sweat you can handle, which just happens to be your entire life bar. Also, according to Hardcore Gaming 101’s generous writeup of Dragon Wang, there’s trap doors in higher floors that take you back in your progress. Congratulations, Sega, nothing could make me hate your game more.

Dragon Wang (Japan) (Alt 1)000

                                          Wang off.

Beloved title aside, what a terrible way for Sega to begin their exclusive Sega MyCard line. All other MyCards released prior to this one had been ports of previously released SG-1000 games. Dragon Wang was the first of many originals to come and was, in fact, packaged in with certain waves of the Card Catcher. No, Sega, you should not have had such confidence in Dragon Wang. No game should make me long for the shirt-filled vistas of Kung Fu.

 

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