PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
GENRE: Light gun
RELEASE DATE: 08/1987 – (US), 1987- (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 replies on “Gangster Town (Master System, 1987)”
World War One aeroplanes belonging to gangsters? I bet Geraldo Rivera wishes there was one of those in Al Capone’s safe when he opened it up (look it up on Wikipedia or YouTube – it’s hilarious).
On another note just looked at the archive list. Can’t believe it’s been a year already.
I remember that video! What an anticlimactic moment that was.
Yeah, it’s been close to a year. I’m sure I’ll make an announcement on the site once it hits the date. Thanks for being with us since the beginning, Tony!
I’ve really enjoyed the ride
Hands down my favorite SMS light gun game. I think the dates for these games are a little off though. I’d like to say I had shooting gallery (one of my first SMS games at that) for a year prior to this coming out. I’d dont think shooting gallery came out so late as you haven’t covered it yet, even on Japan. But I always thought the set pieces in this game were really good. And of course shooting the ghosts of the gangsters you killed. It just seems so mean to deny them paradise as they are floating up to heaven and your like Nope!
I’m just going by SegaRetro as far as the dates are concerned. They’ve never steered me wrong before, but if you know of more accurate dating, please let me know and I will update accordingly.
And yeah, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a light gun game.
I spent like an hour scouring the net and of course could find nothing conclusive. The best I had were some shooting gallery appearances in early Sega commercials. But that is not conclusive. Never came out in Japan. The earliest game catalogs I’ve found show both games on the list. I found one as that shows a bunch of hand drawn sega game boxes and shooting gallery is among them. But it’s not proof. Why do Americans document things so poorly? Finding solid release info for anything back then is a crapshoot. I think Frank Cifaldi wrote an article once how nobody actually knows the U.S. release date of Super Mario Bros. It was just outside of the soft launch but nobody can say for sure its exact date. Outside of it want a launch game but was soon after (Months) on the NES. Why can’t we have meticulous tracking of this stuff like Japanese. Here is the Google translate page of Sega Mark 3 releases with every game release to the day in Japan.
I guess I’ll end my rant now. But yes , these US and EU only games have like zero online documentation.
Yeah, once again, Americans dropping the ball. That being said, who would have known that the video game industry would have gotten as huge as it did in America. The disconnect between countries and the sudden explosion in popularity in games in America in the late 80s may have accounted for the lack of concrete dates, particularly when most of these games were shipping from Japan, had to be translated, etc. Those were the early heady days and were likely full of confusion.
I guess it’s just an obsession of mine. I think there are very few people like me. Speaking of Wikipedia Japan. I was reading the Sega Master System article and someone used the segadoes site as a reference footnote In the article for worldwide sales of the SMS. I thought that was kind of wierd, and cool. Reading the article, it seems like, and correct me if I’m wrong, that Sega never released the lightgun peripheral in Japan. That would explain why these lightgun games are US only. But they all still appear to be programmed by Sega. So seems like Sega was programming games direct for the American market. (Which of course they continued to do after the SMS died in Japan.)
Woah, sugoi! That is both weird and cool. Thanks for pointing that out! Considering you were just reading Wikipedia Japan, may I presume that you can read Japanese fluently?
“So seems like Sega was programming games direct for the American market.” This is a good observation. I will mention it and credit you in the next Light Phaser game review.
Wow, I wish I could read fluent Japanese. No I use Google translate. It has gotten far better over the years than it used to be. Wikipedia Japan, and sometimes China can be a good reference for things that are more obscurely referenced in the West. Like Saturn games for instance, or Kung Fu movies and anime. Also if you read articles on game systems on Japan wikipedia, they really obsess of technical details and hardware configurations. Reading the translations is a little wonky, and I’m sure some finer points are lost, but it’s servicable. At least compared to years ago when Google translate from Japanese was practically unusable. Their engine is much improved.
I would consider this one of the best light gun games on the system. I remember thinking how cool it was to have multiple level and different game play options. Very cool game!