PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
RELEASE DATE: 1986 (JP)
Super Tank made me ask the question, “Why am I playing this?” more times than I’d like to admit. I mean, I knew why I was playing the game. I agreed to review every game on every Sega console, and by gar, I’m stickin’ to it. Rather my question digs at Super Tank‘s reason for being: why was this game ever released? The sludgy controls, faded denim graphics, and half-working mechanics hearken back to the SG-1000’s beginnings, not its surprisingly solid latter years.
In Super Tank, you control a tank whose “super” status is faulty at best. Its “powers” range from shooting directly in front of him (button 2), to shooting in any direction (button 1), to launching missiles that may or may not fly and land in the direction you point them (both buttons). These attacks get the job done, for the most part, but you can never fire fast enough to satisfy the oncoming enemy military. Tanks, helicopters, mechs and other assorted vehicles will never stop coming. If you make a point to destroy every enemy you see on the screen at any given time, ten more will emerge to take their place. I suppose that’s war, but the problem with this onslaught is that there’s no reason for it. If you wanted to, you could move your tank past the enemy forces and progress to the boss with little trouble. There’s no objectives and no time limit. So unless you want to keep firing at the same repeating tanks, at some point, you’re probably going to get fed up and move on.
Along with vehicles, there are also ground fortresses that fire at you. All of these fortresses can be destroyed, though some of them, once destroyed, will reveal a secret pathway to an underground base. In the base, there are tight corridors with stationary weapons and mechs to take out. Once you reach the end of the base, you’ll receive power-ups that increase the width and fire of your traditional attack. The power-up will stay with you until you die, even into the next stage, so it’s totally worth it to seek out these bases; particularly if you’re going to try to play the game through, as Sega intended.
I made it to stage five before my tank lost whatever super abilities it may have had (i.e. I lost all my lives and there were no continues). The amount of enemies and projectiles on-screen was just unbelievable. And the fact that Sega expects you to destroy all that junk when the controls don’t allow for easy maneuverability is strange. You’re not a sleek starship cruising through the ethereal galaxies. You’re a tank rumbling through thick sand, deep rivers, and impenetrable forests. And when you’ve got all of Iraq or Libya or whoever it is we’re fighting against here coming against you, the lone representative of freedom (presumably), it’s just not going to end well.
Super Tank is one of those rare games that goes beyond mediocrity and into meaninglessness. No game should allow you to bypass entire stages just so you can reach the boss, fight it, then move on to the next stage. Why not construct a game entirely of boss fights if you’re going to allow the player to do this? And why should a player want to bypass a game’s levels? As far as Super Tank is concerned, I didn’t want to have to fight fifty billion (approximate number) waves of tanks, helicopters, mechs. I saw an out. I took it. I continued into the game, not because I enjoyed it or even wanted to play it, but because I wanted to probe what little depth the game had. To see if, like Optimus Prime and the gang, there was more to Super Tank than meets the eye. But no, every level is the same waves of nonsense, repeated until you lose all your lives, get to the boss, or turn the game off. Goodnight, Super Tank. There will be no encore.
POINT OF INTEREST: Super Tank began its life as the Japan-only arcade game, Heavy Metal. While I’d like to testify to Heavy Metal‘s qualities, good or bad, I was unable to find a playable version. Judging by Hardcore Gaming 101’s writeup of Heavy Metal, however, both games are incredibly similar mechanically, though Heavy Metal‘s levels are more varied in their design.