Even though I passed a never-ending supply of racers playing Hang-On, my true race was against the clock. I had little room for error, maybe one or two mistakes if I hoped to complete each stage before time ran out. Skillfully managing the throttle and brake, especially when cornering, was the key. Before long I was weaving in between racers and passing them in corners, making good time. Stages lasted about a minute and segued immediately into the next until the five-stage course was complete. In one sitting, it’s about a forty-minute game and not too challenging on the default difficulty. I made plenty of mistakes, often cornering too quickly or misjudging a racer’s proximity, but usually finished with ample time on the clock. When I was in a groove and listening to the hum of the motorcycle, the sounds of passing racers and squealing tires, it became a Zenlike, albeit monotonous, experience. Although my playthrough lacked much excitement, I’m glad to have finally spent material time with Hang-On. It’s an enjoyable racing game that tests one moderation, and patience.
Astro Warrior is, ostensibly, a ten minute game. After devoting multiple hours to it these last couple of days, I finally completed it last night. Understandably, I was over the moon. Developed and published by Sega in 1986, it’s a shoot ‘em up where success was predicated on quick reflexes and memorization. With each session I hoped to reach deeper into space, witness another wave of enemies and figure out how to overcome them, eventually doing well enough to complete the game. While the game was only three stages long the impressive enemy variety kept me on my toes. Inevitably, as failures mounted, I grew frustrated. Power-ups were generated by shooting tiles and I had my preferred arrangement. So, when I prematurely lost a life and reverted back to basics, I angrily hit the reset button. My experiences ultimately resulted in a magical final playthrough and an adrenaline rush that postponed my bedtime considerably. So much for a ten minute game.
My expectations for Parlour Games were low but I’ve come away pleasantly surprised. Developed by Compile and published by Sega in 1988, it’s a collection of various forms of billiards, darts, and bingo. While each game supports four players (impressive!), I played each versus the computer. In both billiards and darts I found the level of challenge fair; I won some, the computer won some. Although I lacked a manual (and didn’t bother reading it online) billiards was easy to understand. On the other hand, in darts I remained perplexed on how to accurately throw the dart. Nonetheless, I enjoyed both and appreciated the multiple game types. Bingo was… bingo. Inherently designed around luck, bingo was a total bore without human opponents. Granted I won, but I don’t even know how considering I never completed a full line! This is a robust compilation of party games with billiards and darts both offering respectable variety and enjoyment. I can’t say it’d be at the top of my party game list, but if we’re playing retro games, it’d be in consideration.
Like Shanghai, there’s not much to discuss when it comes to Rocky. Based off the popular film franchise, this 1987 Master System game was developed and published by Sega. Assuming the eponymous star, I needed to outclass three rival boxers to succeed. Rocky moved automatically, although I had a modicum of influence. The same is true for the type of punches I threw. Although I didn’t play much I found it quite confusing. A different training minigame took place before each bout and granted a helpful buff if I overqualified. Simple at first blush, I was able to button-mash my way through the first fight and two minigames. This tactic failed me in the second match and that’s ultimately where I tapped out. For such a simple game, the manual implied a convoluted level of control, something I didn’t grasp and didn’t care to. If I did, I would only have to outwit one more boxer to reach the end. It’s a tough, short, and good looking game that I didn’t find enjoyable enough to keep on fighting.
There’s not much to say about Shanghai. It is solitaire mahjong and I’ve found it relaxing and enjoyable. Developed by Brodie Lockard, it was originally published by Activision on nearly every home computer in the mid/late 1980s. This version was ported by Sega and released in 1988. My sole objective was clearing all mahjong tiles from a randomly assembled pyramid by matching up “free” pairs. A tile was “free” if it had no tile on top and a free space to its left or right. For the most part, it was a game of hide and seek embellished by the quantity of tile designs and somewhat indistinguishable assemblage. Thanks to a helpful pair-finding option, I never grew frustrated when my search for a match persisted. Even after continuous losses, I was eager to dive back in and start fresh. It was oddly satisfying to locate pairs and watch the pyramid disappear. Plus, the soundtrack was quite invigorating! Easy to learn and endlessly replayable, Shanghai is worth checking out.
Looking forward to playing a traditional shoot ‘em up, my hopes were dashed soon after starting Global Defense. It falls squarely within the genre but is anything but traditional. Originally released as SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative in arcades in 1987, the Master System port followed a year later with a less obtuse moniker. Gameplay remained unchanged but proved complex for the simple control options of the platform. Playing solo was a cumbersome affair that yielded little enjoyment. With a partner, it was much more fun but still lackluster.
It’s been nearly a year (!) since I last played the Sega Master System or recorded gameplay, but I’m getting back in the groove. First order of business: highlighting Enduro Racer! Originally released as an arcade game around this time of the year in 1986, it was another popular hit designed by Yu Suzuki. The Master System port released a year later and perspective-wise, was quite different. Whereas the arcade version featured a behind-the-back perspective akin to Hang-On, this version featured an isometric viewpoint more like Zaxxon. That difference aside, gameplay still revolved around racing dirt bikes and catching big air. Once I understood the mechanics, I was off to the races and had a great time. Continue reading Enduro Racer [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
The Double Dragon series is one that I have no particular fondness for. The maiden entry was originally released as an arcade game in 1987 and ushered in what most consider the Golden Age of the beat ‘em up genre. It was an extremely successful game, spawning a live-action film, cartoon series, and unsurprisingly, many sequels and home conversions. Playing through the Sega Master System version with a friend this past week served as my first hands-on experience with the series and it was a little underwhelming. The depth of combat and stage variety was a drastic improvement over the primitive Black Belt but my natural tendencies resulted in an initial playthrough that was less entertaining than later entries in the genre, such as Streets of Rage. Persistent sprite flicker and vague hit detection didn’t help matters. Continue reading Double Dragon [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
Although I’ve long been aware of Space Harrier, playing through the Master System version provided my first hands-on impressions of it, for better or worse. Originally released by Sega as an arcade game in late 1985, it was one of the first games designed by the now legendary Yu Suzuki. The following years saw a multitude of ports to popular home computers but it wasn’t until the 1987 Master System port that one of them had the distinction of being handled internally at Sega, helmed in part by the similarly iconic Yuji Naka. The resulting version faithfully adapted the fast-paced shoot ‘em up gameplay, vibrant stages, and varied enemies of the original release, despite the technically inferior Master System hardware that could’ve been a devastating drag on quality. Continue reading Space Harrier [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→
Of all the games I’ll play on the Sega Master System, Choplifter will likely be the only one that originated on the Apple II. Designed by Dan Gorlin and originally released in 1982, it’s a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that emphasizes hostage rescue and accordingly, draws comparison to Defender. In truth, the version I played has more in common with the games I’ve previously written about since it’s actually based on Sega’s 1985 arcade release of Choplifter. Like most of what I’ve played thus far, I found it both enjoyable and challenging. Continue reading Choplifter [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play→