So… firefighters wear space suits in Japan?
DEVELOPER: Aicom (port by Sega? Unsure)
RELEASE DATE: 07/30/88 – (JP)
Megumi Rescue takes the grim, depressing work of firefighting and turns it into a happy, colorful romp, filled with cat rescues, helicopter rides, and chipper music.
Each level consists of an elaborate building, on fire, and filled with people. The people are spread out across the building, hanging out windows and yelling for help, while the fires generally start from the bottom and work their way to the top. If the fire reaches the people, it doesn’t kill them, but it does shove them out of the window, forcing you to catch them before they hit the ground. You control three firefighters, two of which are holding a rescue mat, while the third bounces on said mat to take care of the building. The brave bouncing firefighter has options: put out the fire first and save the building and the people, or just collect the people and let the building burn (there’s no penalty for the latter, by the way, it all just depends on how you want to play). The menu on the right hand side shows how many people need to be rescued (sometimes there are two or more people per window), how many you’ve already rescued, and your life bar. Your life bar goes down the longer you take to save people/put out the fires. Within the last couple bars, your man will catch fire, a tragic occurrence made humorous by his charred corpse’s bulging eyes.
The neko-chan is your top priority.
Certain special items, like the key and the helicopter, will help end the level quicker. The key drenches the building in water, putting out the fire immediately, while the helicopter rescues the remaining folks in the building (and provides a sweet minigame once the level is complete). Other items, like safes, coins, and necklaces (presumably people’s property?) will give you extra points, but the key and the helicopter are the ones to search for.
Megumi Rescue uses Sega’s curious Paddle Control, previously discussed in reviews for Galactic Protector, BMX Trial: Alex Kidd, and Woody Pop. Were you to play this on the original Mark III hardware with the Control, you would use the dial to move the two ground workers with the mat, then, while the third firefighter is soaring majestically in front of the building, press Button I to latch on to one of the windows and rescue a person/put out the fire/grab hidden items. I did not play this on the original hardware, so I can’t testify to how the sensitivity of the Paddle Control. Usually emulated Paddle Control games are a gamble as to how well the controls will work, but Megumi Rescue worked better than any of the aforementioned titles. Moving the ground workers with an analog stick was smooth and easy, while clasping on to windows with Button I only gave me the occasional “I’m in front of the window, why aren’t you grabbing it” hiccup.
The colors are gorgeous! Well done, Master System.
While the controls are mostly ace, Megumi Rescue‘s main struggle stems with the rescue mat. Naturally, when your firefighter bounces in the middle of the mat, he shoots straight up. But because the mat is so narrow, he rarely ends up in the middle when he lands. If he lands on the left side of the mat, he’ll bounce to the right side of the building and vice-versa. Well, for reasons I could never figure out, your fighter typically lands on the right side of the mat, bouncing to the left side of the screen. He does this all the time. This is great for when you want to clear the left side of the building, and annoying when you want to clear the right or the middle portions. Getting him to bounce in all directions is a struggle that involves numerous splats and/or third-degree burns.
All in a day’s work.
Despite my bouncing woes, Megumi Rescue is by far the most clever, entertaining, and addicting of Sega’s Paddle Control games. I often give Sega’s extra peripherals crap for being cheap add-ons that don’t actually add anything to the game, but Megumi Rescue makes the Paddle Control worth owning. The entire production brims with personality, from the character types you have to rescue (18 different types in all), to the wild building designs, to the idea itself; Megumi Rescue might be the first firefighter-themed game ever made, another notch in Sega’s huge book of gaming firsts. The bouncing issue is frustrating and makes the game far harder than it needs to be, but it doesn’t detract from the game’s replayability. Each game over (you only have three lives and extra 1-Ups are only found in random windows) always brought a sense that I could do better next time. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to call the folks at Aicom heroes for developing this game. If you appreciate creative arcade-style titles, find a way to play Megumi Rescue.