Merry Christmas to all you Sega lovemuffins out there! I hope you all get some much needed relax time this holiday season. Play some games, hang out with family, eat and drink just the right amount, etc. I’ll be taking the next few days off, but will be back before 2016 with a new non 3-D Master System review. In the meantime, here’s my Christmas present to you all: Poseidon Wars 3-D. Have a great holiday!
RELEASE DATE: 04/1989 – (US), 1989 – (EU)
Praises be! Poseidon Wars 3-D is the final obligatory Master System 3-D game I’ll ever be forced to play (Line of Fire, a Europe/Brazil only shoot-em-up, has a 3-D mode – but it’s optional!). And while it’s not the worst way for the 3-D glasses to leave this mortal coil, Poseidon Wars’ repetitive gameplay further cement the glasses’ inability to enhance any genre other than shallow shooters.
Poseidon Wars is indeed a shallow first-person shooter, where you control an attack cruiser and shoot down planes, carriers, tankers, and boss ships with your bullets and missiles. Your sub has radar and sonar to track enemies, and two separate bars for fuel and damage. The more damage you take, the less reliable your radar and sonar, and the more fuel you’ll end up losing. The white dots that appear on radar/sonar signifies enemy presence. It’s a nice thought, but unnecessary as the enemies all appear, like clockwork, in the same basic areas every couple seconds; planes fly in from the middle and sides, two at a time, while carriers and ships sail in from the side, etc. Heck, even enemy missiles curve in the same direction every time they’re fired. The Poseidon forces are nothing if not predictable.
After some time with your first mission, you’ll notice the squirrelly shooting physics. In order to destroy anything, you need to position your cursor just a fraction above the enemies and their missiles. Failure to do this will result in lots of damage taken on your end, despite you shooting directly at your attackers. Once you learn this maneuver, however, Poseidon Wars difficulty drops, and your only concern will be killing enemies before they launch their missiles. If an enemy drops a missile, shoot it quick; otherwise, it’ll hit you. The enemies are always a crack shot, while you will hit and miss in equal measure. Thankfully, after each mission, your damage is healed by at least 1/4, and in some levels, completely filled. Without this generous health dump, the Poseidon Wars would be lost.
There are five training missions and eight battle missions, but both types are exactly the same. In order to beat the missions, you have to destroy a certain number of enemies before the big boss attack ship appears. The bosses stay towards the back of the screen and take more hits to destroy, but they’re surprisingly easy to kill; fire at will, avoid their fire – hey, just like the other enemies! In order to move on to the battle missions after the training, your rank has to be at least Ensign (one above the starting position of Cadet); otherwise you’ll restart the training missions over. If you get over 100,000 points, you’ll rise to the pretentious rank of Fleet Admiral. This rank gets you no bonus points or special items, but at least you can pretend to boss a crew around.
Poseidon Wars is actually based on SubRoc 3-D, an innovative arcade game released by Sega in 1982. SubRoc was the first game to ever produce a 3-D image for the player “via a special eyepiece mounted on the arcade cabinet” (SegaRetro). Such groundbreaking technology meant that the game couldn’t be ported properly back in 1982; only the ColecoVision received a neutered 3-D less port. While it’s great that Sega was able to revisit SubRoc with their 3-D glasses seven years after the game’s initial arcade release, in the end, Poseidon Wars release is slightly bittersweet. The game plays like 1982, despite looking like the late ’80s.
Though I haven’t played SubRoc 3-D, for my money, Poseidon Wars plays like a snazzier first-person version of N-Sub, an SG-1000 game from Sega’s distant past. In the latter, you control a sub underwater and fire upon other subs, helicopters, ships, planes, while avoiding their missiles (which look like confetti – God bless 1983). While N-Sub is considerably slower and much easier, Poseidon Wars updates very little in the six years between games. Sure, you control an attack carrier instead of a sub, the first-person view is more immersive, and if your 3-D glasses happen to work the way they should, enemy missiles might look like they’ll explode in your eyes. But both games are essentially tedious shooting galleries on/below the high seas. Been there, y’arr that.