My focus with Sega Does might be Sega consoles, but I’d be remiss to ignore the company’s successful arcade division. In the mid-80s and early 90s, as Sega was working hard to make their home consoles successful, the company was in the midst of a creative renaissance in the arcade with games like OutRun, After Burner, Daytona USA, and Virtua Fighter. All of the aforementioned games were huge successes and would eventually see home versions on Sega’s consoles.
This was part of Sega’s plan since the beginning: make successful arcade games, then produce arcade-quality ports to entice people to their consoles. The SG-1000 and Master System struggled with this. For every decent arcade port to the Master System, like OutRun, there were three that should never have been attempted, like Space Harrier, Golden Axe, Strider, among many others. The Genesis was the first of Sega’s consoles to feature games that blurred the line between home and arcade release. Even when those games weren’t the best Sega had to offer (I love you, Altered Beast, even if no one else does), gamers couldn’t deny that the home/arcade differences were growing more and more negligible.
Which brings us to G-LOC: Air Battle, a spiritual sequel to After Burner in style (though obviously not name). Released in 1990 for the arcade, this air combat game has you taking out other jet fighters, tanks, ships, and whatever else gets in your line of sight. Unlike After Burner, you view the action from a first-person cockpit rather than the awkward, third-person behind-the-jet view. The only exception is when an enemy’s on your tail and the camera zooms out to third-person to allow you to dodge any attacks. The game also provides simple objectives – “Shoot 10 Enemies” and the like – that you have to complete before the mission or the time limit is over.
While Sega released their traditional stand-up and sit-down cabinets for G-LOC, the R360 is the one you want to try. As you play, the latter turns in whatever direction you turn your jet, even upside-down. It’s equipped with a safety bar that latches over your head and an emergency stop button that turns the cockpit right side up. Needless to say, the cabinet plays for keeps. I’ve never experienced it, but if you’ve taken a ride in the R360, please leave a comment below.
Naturally, the Genesis couldn’t replicate the amusement ride qualities of the R360 cabinet, but surely Sega could produce a near-perfect arcade port for their powerful 16-bit console, right? They would certainly try, but not until three years later. The first port of G-LOC would actually see release on the Game Gear, Sega’s brand new handheld. If this sounds absurd to you, you’re not alone. That would be like Capcom releasing Street Fighter V for the arcades, then porting it to the 3DS first. With a little elbow grease it could be done, but why would they bother?
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous (Gear-to-Gear cable required)
GENRE: Combat flight-sim
RELEASE DATE: 12/15/90 – (JP), 1991 – (US, EU)
The Game Gear version is about what you’d expect. You have little control over your plane, save for a somersault loop that requires pressing the D-pad twice. The action is choppy, the environments are lifeless, and it’s hard to distinguish what something is until it’s in your face. Because of this, your tiny red cursor locks onto whatever is coming towards you automatically. If the latter wasn’t a feature of the game, it would be unplayable.
The eight missions can be selected in any order (the final ninth mission is unlocked after all eight are complete) and offer similar objectives to the arcade, like “Destroy 15 Tanks!” or “Destroy 25 Warships!” After each level is complete, whatever points you’ve acquired can be spent in an upgrade shop. Here you can buy better weapons or add shields to your plane, buy a longer fuel gauge (fuel = health), etc. The upgrades are the best part of the game and add life to an otherwise bland and worthless port.
I’m sure Sega was just trying to bolster the Game Gear’s lineup with a wider variety of games, but the combat flight-sim genre is difficult to port to consoles, let alone to barely tested handhelds. G-LOC isn’t an unplayable mess, exactly, but its presence on the Game Gear is confusing.
DEVELOPER: Sega (port by Sanritsu?)
GENRE: Combat flight-sim
RELEASE DATE: 12/91 – (EU)
The Master System port of G-LOC stands apart from the others. You’re no longer able to pick missions in any order, the missions you are given are mostly new (although similar “Blow Up X Amount of Tanks!” objectives are still present), and after every few missions, a boss shows up.
Before each mission begins, you’re shown a dossier outlining bullet points like: your rank, your Air Craft name, the number of missiles you have remaining, the number of points you’ve acquired, and other semi-worthwhile information. You can apply any points acquired to increasing your number of missiles, increasing your time limit, or decreasing your plane’s damage. You’re not able to upgrade your plane’s weapons or shields, like in the Game Gear version’s shop, but the points are still a clever way to keep your plane flying.
My solitary beef with the Master System version: bullets are worthless. I’ve spewed dozens of bullets on one plane, and they always fly away like nothing happened. If you’re gonna shoot down anything, it’s gonna be with missiles, so keep a steady supply on hand at all times. Otherwise, G-LOC is probably the best combat flight-sim for the console.
DEVELOPER: Sega (port by Probe)
GENRE: Combat flight-sim
RELEASE DATE: 01/21/93 – (EU), 02/26/93 – (JP), 02/93 – (US)
Three trying years after the arcade, the Genesis version of G-LOC was released to minimal acclaim. This version has a pathetic critical score of 58 on SegaRetro, and I’m not sure why. It’s by far the best of the three ports, and the closest to the arcade that you’re going to get on a home console.
The closest, but not exactly the same. There are four different objectives per mission: first-person dogfighting, third-person dogfighting, flying through corridors, and landing the plane. I’m not sure if Probe thought the Genesis couldn’t handle an entirely first-person flight sim, but three out of the four objectives are completed through behind-the-jet third-person. This makes G-LOC look and feel more like After Burner than ever before, though G-LOC‘s measured, relaxed pace makes the typically frustrating third-person view much more bearable.
Like the arcade, you have unlimited lives, but if your time runs out, it’s game over. Every time you lose a life, a little bit of time is taken from your overall time. Once you complete an objective, you’re given additional time and missiles to take on the next task.
G-LOC is a short piece of flash with very little substance behind its pseudo-serious facade. That said, I still couldn’t stop playing it. Getting from one objective to the next with barely enough time is addicting (even if each objective is basically the same), and the fleshed-out missions are much more fulfilling to complete than the scant Master System and Game Gear versions. Unless you’re a wealthy Youtube star who can afford to purchase and maintain the R360 cabinet, Genesis G-LOC is your best option.
*thanks to Vizzed.com, Spektrum Magazine, and Crunchyroll for these images!