Archive for the ‘Master System’ Category
Platform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010
These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right. Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen. The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth. Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?). It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth. I loved it then and I love it now.
Anyone who has played modern twin stick shooters like Geometry Wars will immediately notice that most of your tactics will hold up in Smash TV and you will get quite far on each life. Don’t get cocky enough to think that this means the game is beatable; it was, after all, a quarter drinking arcade game from the people that brought you NBA Jam a few years later. Your odds are so stacked and boss battles like the always shown (and here is no exception) bald tank boss will have you cranking out credits in order to finally reach the final bonus level, The Pleasure Dome. In fact, the game was so crazy hard, long, and expensive that although there is mention in the game text, the original 1.0 version of the arcade shipped without a pleasure dome implemented because the developers didn’t think anyone would beat the game. They were wrong, dead wrong. Fans across the country were spending God knows how much money to reach the Pleasure Dome only to be greeted with an unfinished ending. The development team wasn’t all bad, though, aside from quickly implementing the Pleasure Dome and getting updated boards out as soon as possible, there’s a bonus room south of Arena 3 that will flood the room with keys and potentially get you to the end of the game without costing you too much money. There’s also a fantastic announcer over your gameplay voiced by Paul Heitsch (known for other Midway greats like Mortal Kombat) and even the line “I’d buy that for a dollar!” from the movie Robocop, so what’s not to love.
It was understandably ported to just about every home console, microcomputer, and even the Game Gear portable by publisher Acclaim (aside from the arcade ports in the Midway Treasures Collection). While the overall port didn’t lose much in the conversion process, even on the NES and ZX Spectrum, the control scheme took the biggest hit and to this day I feel the SNES is the only appropriate place to play the home version thanks to the four face buttons easily emulating the second joystick. Once Smash TV came home, much like other home ports such as Revolution X, the challenge was mostly in trying to complete the game with the limited number of credits the game allowed. Sure, a quick cheat code or Game Genie could overcome your health or credits issue, but I still can’t believe there was a time where a home port of an arcade game designed to screw you out of credits didn’t automatically give you unlimited credits. After all, you would assume that’s the draw to getting the home port. Either way, Smash TV has much better ways to play without resorting to the 8-bit and 16-bit era, but back in the early 90s it was the only option and a fun weekend rental. If you were lucky enough to pick up the online arcade port on XBLA before it was delisted in early 2010, you can even play the game with online co-op as it should be played these days but it appears Midway licensing has eliminated this title’s definitive version. If you want to get together with a buddy on the couch and have some fun shooting guys for an hour or two, the spectacle that is Smash TV can be a ton of fun.
Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)
I really wanted to write a article on this port but rather than doing an actual review I thought it may be more interesting just to discuss what this game does differently from the arcade version it is based on.
Several ports of Ghouls’N Ghosts came out from the microcomputers like the ZX Spectrum all the way to the consoles like the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). For the time it was practically released on everything except Nintendo consoles – yep, look it up, this particular game has never graced a Nintendo console. One port that certainly deserved recognition is the attempt made on the Sega Master System.
When you boot up the Master System version of Ghouls’N Ghosts you are greeted to the familiar soundtrack from the original version in cute Master System form. Pretty much any soundtrack that is successfully converted on the Master System brings a smile to my face. This port really is one you have to try not judge by its cover. The box art for Master System version looks like some young persons fan art doodled on the typical Master System grid paper background, saying it it is still better than any box art I could come up with. Put this next to the far superior Mega Drive box art and you would be forgiven for choosing the later to take home. Saying that I do have a lot of nostalgia for the awful Master System box art, its so bad its brilliant.
Just like most ports of the game this does include all 5 levels from the arcade version. All the boss fights are also included. The graphics take a massive 8 – bit hit to them and character animations are not as smooth. Unlike the Arcade each level is split into two sections and the boss fights are also fought in a separate room as well to accommodate for the Master Systems limited processing power. There are less enemies on screen which you would think would make the game easier but you’ll find your constantly dealing with enemy threats as you venture through each level. Sure it looks pretty poor (like the box art) compared to other versions but its very impressive that the developers managed to cram the entire game into this little cartridge.
This particular port truly feels unique and different from any other version of the game. The main draw here is you can permanently upgrade Arthur’s abilities. When you open a chest during gameplay you will often get the evil magician guy who turns you into a duck or a old man. However, once in a blue moon you will get a door instead, entering the room will present you with three upgrade options (though there are actually four abilities to upgrade). You only get one choice each time the door appears but the effects are permanent even if you have to continue to game after loosing all your lives. Upgrading your Helmet will give you a new magic spell which can then be selected in the pause menu. Of Course this being the Master System your expected to get off your backside and walk over to the console to press the pause button. You start with lightening and fire spells but soon unlock shield which is probably the most helpful spell in the game as it makes Arthur temporarily invincible (this feels similar to the game Psychic World also on Master System).
Upgrading your shoes makes Arthur walk quicker and jump further which seems essential in the second level of this game when you need to jump across very distance platforms. When I started playing the game Arthur’s movement and jump are so slow I thought there was something wrong with the port. Once you start upgrading the guy zips around a lot more smoothly, probably on par with the arcade port. Upgrading the Armour upgrades your hit points and changes the colour of Arthurs armour it goes Silver, Red, Green then of course Gold. Upgrading to Gold will give you 4 additional health points making the game significantly easier,. You don’t get stripped down to your undies after one hit like other ports of the game. You can upgrade your weapon which essentially cycles through the weapons available in the arcade version like the dagger and the axe. This upgrade can actually be a bad thing as weapons like the axe throw in a arc making some enemies harder to hit when compared to the far more useful javelin. Once you upgrade your weapon you can not go backwards. Fortunately the final weapon upgrade which is the spell required to defeat the final boss is very useful and works just like the javelin.
Just like the arcade you still have to finish the game twice through to get to the final boss. Unlike the other games this is where the Master System has a glaring problem. You are expected to fully upgrade all your armour and weapons and then get the final weapon. Upgrading is very rare in the game and it is not uncommon to finish a entire level without upgrading anything, when you have to upgrade each ability three times each this can be quite a chore. If you reach the final level on your second playthrough and still haven’t upgraded everything you will literally repeat the final level over and over again until you do. I literally played the last level about six times before I finally got every upgrade making for a ridiculously tedious experience. I probably would have found it more enjoyable just to play through the entire game again a third time with the new upgrades. What I found hilarious is once you finally make it to the final boss encounter, Arthur is so overly powerful the boss is a complete white wash. He is literally easier than the boss in the first level and stands no chance. The Master System port is by no means perfect but it is a ton of fun to play especially if your a fan of the system. The ports legacy did inspire some design choices in the SNES game Super Ghouls’N Ghosts where a shield can give you more than one hit point.
At the end of the day the question remains: is the Master System port worth playing?
Answer: Absolutely, yes the game has graphical flaws and works with hardware limitations. But this is a great example of developers using such hardware restrictions and building on the game creating a unique experience that stands proudly on its own.
Did you know we did an entire episode dedicated to the Ghouls’N Ghost franchise? You can find it here.
This week Fred and Jam are throwing around fighters of the 90s (that aren’t Street Fighter II or Tekken, we did a show for those already). In the 1990s, the fighter genre was the most popular type of game available (like First Person Shooters today), and among those that have withstood the test of time there were plenty of others that played the field. From Mortal Kombat to Soulcalibur you had plenty of arcades (and home ports) to drink your quarters in arcades.
Traditionally horror and comedy are entwined, faithfully representing a laughable moment of relief to accompany the graphic depictions of death that follow. Although more rare, there is also room for comedy with horror elements and this week Fred and Jam are celebrating the games that get it right. From some of LucasArts classic hybrids to bikini clad samurai warriors, there’s no lack of hilarity in gaming for those not looking for a scare.
This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer). Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend. Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.
And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:
This week Fred and Jam are celebrating Sega’s first console attempt, the Master System. While a technical powerhouse against the NES, business practices in the US and insconsistencies in Japan made it a commercial failure. It did thrive in Europe and Brazil, not to mention it’s quite an enticing package in hindsight.