Happy Fourth of July! It seems like some folks have been getting a head start on the holiday this year; I noticed quite a few fireworks going off on July 3rd and even a few on the 2nd. I myself have parties to attend on both the 3rd and 4th, so it's one non-stop celebration this weekend. Assuming that you're not too drunk/hungover to operate a computer, head on over to Archive.org and pick up Chronsega Episode 5.
The crazy thing about Chronsega is that it covers 17 games! 17!! That's two more than every single other installment of Chrontendo/Chronsega. And it still clocks in a few minutes less than most episodes of Chrontendo. As mentioned earlier there are lots of sequels/pseudo-sequels this time. Opa Opa makes a total of three appearances. Let's do a quick rundown.
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Yep, this really happens in this game.
Sadly, not a real sequel to Alex Kidd in Miracle World, but a port of the very first Alex Kidd title, an arcade game from '87. It's way simpler than Miracle World - no Shellcore, janken, motorcycles, helicopters, or even any real boss battles. What does the game have, then? Naked men shooting skulls out of their asses.
Opa Opa/Fantasy Zone: The Maze
Probably not the game you were expecting.
The second weirdest Opa Opa game (Galactic Protector taking top honors), ditches the scrolling shoot-em-up action of the first two Fantasy Zone games. Instead, we get a relatively straightforward maze game. You know, the early 80's Pac-Man clone type of game. The second you boot this thing up, the incredibly ugly title screen lets you know that Opa Opa was not a product of Sega's A-Team of developers.
In the future, the Earth will be protected by an orbital Opa Opa the size of China.
Speaking of which - this oddity has Opa Opa defending Earth, Saturn and Jupiter from a unending series of runaway asteroids and small planets. The astrophysics behind this incredibly unlikely situation are never explained, nor do we ever learn how Opa Opa was upgraded with the Death Star like weaponry he displays in this game. The main appeal of Galactic Protector is the series of goofy faces made by the planets under Opa Opa's protection. This was one of the few games to use the Sports Pad -- the Master System's rotary control.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Probably the best sequel we'll see this episode, Monster Land takes the basic gameplay concept of the first game - side-scrolling platforming - and adds some RPG elements. At the same time, it pretty much strips the Wonder Boy character of his identity, and has seemingly no connection, plot-wise, to the first game. This the second time we've covered Wonder Boy in Monster Land; it made an appearance, as Bikkuriman World, in Chronturbo Episode One. Its a pretty decent game, and I enjoyed it until the very end, when a needlessly lengthy and frustrating bit of platform jumping made me pull out my hair. I got so pissed I never finished the game.
Space Harrier 3D
Our last sequel is really just the earlier Master System port of Space Harrier with new enemy and boss sprites. It could be quite interesting, but there is no option to play it in 2D until you've beaten the game in 3D.
Other than the aforementioned sequels, a few other titles stand out this episode.
The first title in Compile's mostly wonderful series of Aleste games. This is actually a trimmed port of an MSX 2 shooter. The intro and first level have been entirely eliminated, and the difficulty has been pumped up a bit. The constant barrage of enemies can be a bit grueling, an the fact that your power ups disappear after their timer runs out make Aleste less fun that later gamers in the series. For those not familiar with the Aleste games, please check out this extremely informative article on HG101. Later titles include the amazing Denin/ Robo Aleste in which the battles of Sengoku era Japan are fought with Mechs - it's essentially a SHMUP version of Nobunaga's Ambition.
It's just like Castlevania, only it's not good.
Not exactly a good game, but still quite fascinating. Sega's answer to Castlevania features a red-haired samurai who moves with the speed and grace of a Belmont. Only instead of a whip, Kenseiden's Hayato is equipped with a short little sword, and can't strike an enemy that isn't already all up in his grill, as the kids say. While certainly inferior to Castlevania in terms of "playability" and art design, at least this game features a protagonist that is proficient in climbing stairs without falling through them.
Hoshi Wo Sagashite...
You made your girlfriend cry and lost the game. Good job, you dick.
A sci-fi themed adventure game in the Portopia style. This is a Japan-only release, but we have thankfully been given an unofficial English translation, courtesy of Filler and Hung Dong. Instead of solving a murder mystery, in Hoshi we must learn to care for a rare baby alien, which resembles a lion cub with wings. This is accomplished by jetting around the galaxy talking to people.
Some NPCs are not particularly helpful.
One of the relatively few Master System games based on a licensed property. In this case, it's Fujio Akatsuka's beloved manga and anime series, which later got a more well known Famicom game from Namco. A pretty basic adventure game, combined with a side-scrolling overworld. While the game doesn't seem too great, it does have great graphics and sprites which look just like their manga counterparts.
And finally, this episode features a lot of standard Sega junk:
A decent escort style light gun game, in which three medics attempt to rescue wounded soldiers by penetrating hostile jungle territory in a god-damned railroad handcar.
Argos no Juujiken
Somehow the Master System Rygar manages to look way worse than the NES version.
The first third party SMS game! Published by the mysterious Salio, this is a substandard port of Tecmo's arcade game Argos no Senshi, known in the US as Rygar. A completely different game than the NES Rygar.
Solomon no Kagi - Oujo Rihita no Namida
The other Salio game, this time a port of the Famicom/NES version of Solomon's Key, another Tecmo game. Salio released just one more game, for the PC Engine, then vanished for good. Were they really just a front for Tecmo? Who knows? But the two titles they released were the only Japanese SMS games published by someone other than Sega. Rather than "Gold Cartridges," the Salio games ranked as mere "Silver Cartridges."
Reggie Jackson Baseball
Reggie sports some pretty massive guns in this game.
A virtually forgotten US sports game from Sega. It was later released as American Baseball in Europe, and never had a Japanese release. Today, it is mostly known as a dry run for Tommy Lasorda Baseball, the first sports game for the Mega Drive/Genesis.
A simple shoot-em-up, IN 3D!
Maze Walker/Maze Hunter 3D
Walk around in a maze and kill monsters with a metal bar, IN 3D!!
Poseidon Wars 3D
Sink battleships and shoot down jet fighters, IN 3D!!!
Family Games/Parlour Games/Party Games
Play pool and bingo, and shoot darts. Sadly, not in 3D. Family Games is, however, developed by Compile, and manages to be reasonably well made.
So there you have it. Another 6 months of games from Sega. Once again, the results are divided between the "pretty good but flawed" titles and the "Ehhh... who cares?" titles. My theory is that during this time period, much of Sega's top talent was being diverted to work on games for the Mega Drive, which would make its debut later in 1988.
The next Chronsega will bear witness to the flow of Japanese Master System games coming to a virtual standstill. There was a brief burst of activity in October 1988, followed by a single release in December, and then the last Japanese MS game in February 1989. At the same time, we will finally see a decent number of non Sega developed games hit the system, with ports of titles from Irem, Technos Japan, Data East and Nihon Falcom. The Master System will hang on in the US for a little while longer, but it's real legs were in Europe and Brazil. But for the most part, the Mega Drive is going to overshadow it's older brother very soon. Chronsega will start folding the Mega Drive into the mix a few episodes from now.
All of this is in the far-flung future however. Next up will be Chrontendo 31. For now, download or stream Chrosega 5 over at Archive.org.