Update: It has been pointed out that I did make a mistake in the Shinobi segment, namely that I claim there are no bonus rounds in the Shinobi arcade game. In fact, there are (though possibly they only occur after boss battles?). It occurs to me after the fact that I didn't go into any detail about ninja magic in the game. Magic is incredibly useful in the much harder arcade Shinobi. Its importance has been greatly reduced in the SMS game - you start with none, and can only obtain it by beating those ridiculous bonus levels. In the arcade game, you automatically start out with the ability to use magic once per stage - helpful for doing massive damage to bosses. The lifebar in the SMS version makes bosses pretty easy, so the magic is not really necessary. Not that it never comes in useful - the astute viewer will notice I had the "wing" magic during that one impossible jump, and I could have simply flown over it. But I wanted to make a point about the stupid difficulty of that jump.
Yes, all you poor little Sega fans: it's finally here! The sixth episode of Chronsega, covering the Sega Master System releases of June-October 1988! Check it out in XVid and high-tech 60 frames/sec h.264 formats over at Archive.org.
Oh! Before we get any further, I want to talk to you about swords. Specifically the kind of crazy sword that looks like it has little swordlings growing out of it. Maybe you remember this from Fudo Myouoden/Demon Sword on the Famicom? Or maybe the Dark Dragon Blade from the 2004 Ninja Gaiden? It also turns up in Okami, Final Fantasy XI and various Koei Samurai games. The darned thing appears again in SpellCaster, so I figured it was time to dig up the goods on this nutty sword.
It must be a major hassle to sharpen that sword.
Well, guess what? It's a real sword! Known as Nanatsusaya no Tachi or Shichishitō in Japan, it's an old ornamental sword of great historical importance. So important that folks like you or I can't see it; it's kept locked up in a shrine by the monks. Wikipedia has more info.
It doesn't look so impressive now, does it?
As you know, the Master System release schedule was not always filled the brim with great games. Each episode of Chronsega had one or two top-tier titles, such as Fantasy Zone, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Phantasy Star, Zillion, and so on... but all that changes today. Yep, third party games finally come to the Master System in droves, meaning we are going to see stuff from Taito, Compile, Irem, and Data East. Sure, they're all ports of existing games... but, c'mon, this is the Master System we're talking about. Which would you rather play, Bubble Bobble or Maze Walker II?
There's some decent stuff this episode, but I'm going to give this episode's honors to Golvellius: The Valley of Doom.
It's like Legend of Zelda, only more colorful.
We all know Compile right? Zanac and Guardian Legend on the NES. Tons of great shooters on 16-bit systems like the TurboGrafx 16 and Genesis. After the somewhat disappointing Aleste, Compile now brings us a straight-up Zelda clone for the SMS. In Golvellius you play the green-haired hero Kelesis. Your mission is to rescue the princess and save the kingdom from the brutish, porcine, demon-possessed Golvellius. Naturally, Golvellius is holed up in some hidden dungeon somewhere; in order to find him, you'll need to work your way through a series of easier-to-find dungeons, and pick up some better weaponry and armor on the way. While your at it, you unlock new areas, and grab some lifebar extensions and "bibles," which increase he maximum amount of money you can carry. So Compile has stirred a few dashes of Metroid into the Zelda stew.
Golvellius is a darned pretty game, has cool music (which changes whenever you pick up a new sword or armor) and switches up the Zelda formula just enough to not feel like a quickie rip-off. While it has its aggravating moments, it's certainly one of the most satisfying games for the Master System thus far.
But hey! This is not a one-game episode. There are actually other worthwhile releases this time around.
Final Bubble Bobble
Taito? On my Master System? Yes, it's true. Two Taito arcade games find their way to the SMS this episode. Despite the weird name, this is simply a regular port of Bubble Bobble; one that is somewhat more accurate, in terms of color and detail, than the earlier Famicom/NES version.
I agree. That dragon's head does not look very attached to the neck.
Our second Taito game is a more grisly affair. A shameless Conan wannabe, Rastan is a nearly-naked, well-muscled dude who walks around hacking up monsters with his sword. Perhaps the most violent video game we've seen so far, Rastan graphically depicts enemies erupting into geysers of blood when killed. It's a decent amount of fun, though stiff jumping controls result in some frustrating sequences.
Back in the 80's, acid green was considered an appropriate color for ninja outfits.
In the mid-80's Sega arcade division produced more than those super-scaler games, such as Out Run and Afterburner. They also made stuff that could be well-translated into the console format: games like Shinobi. You control Joe Mushashi, the world's least ninja-like ninja. Out to rescue some children and kill some bad ninjas (?), Joe doesn't make the slightest attempt to be subtle or stealthy. Nor does he engage in ninja activities such as wall climbing or crazy jumping. I guess just about anyone can get away with calling themselves a "ninja" nowadays. Still, Shinobi is a fun game.
The arcade and Famicom versions are not exactly well loved, but Master System Captain Silver acquits itself pretty well. Let me clarify: the Japanese/European release is pretty good; the heavily edited US release is almost pointless. In an attempt to fit the game on a 1 Megabit cartridge, Sega cut out two levels, four bosses and numerous enemies, making the US version absurdly short and easy. In this episode, we play the longer version, and encounter the dreaded Banana Knight boss, one of the most frustratingly hard enemies I've encountered recently.
How to tell if a baseball game was Japanese-developed: Exhibit A.
It's hard to get too excited about another 8-bit baseball game, but Nekyuu Koushien is surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it has to do with the dancing cats.
A technically impressive port (programmed by Compile) that is unfortunately completely overshadowed by the excellent PC Engine/TurboGrafx release already covered in Chronturbo 1.
This episode is surprisingly short of bad games. But here they are:
Here you see Rambo fighting some "Soviet" soldiers.
A short, difficult, repetitive Operation Wolf clone that Sega spruced up at the last minute by adding a title screen that says "Rambo III." The game itself doesn't seem to have anything to do with the movie other than the fact that it involves shooting people.
Once again, a Sega Super Scaler arcade game gets a less than thrilling Master System port. The arcade Thunder Blade had very cool 3D effects; the home version was simply a very dull shoot-em-up. It also contained some of the worst sound effects of any Sega game.
Irem's arcade game Vigilante was nothing special; just another pre-Renegade style beat-em-up. However, for the SMS version, Vigilante was transformed from a mindless button masher to an exercise in pure frustration. The most common enemy went from being a standard one-punch-kill minion, to a guy who latches onto you by putting you in chokehold that slowly drains your health. Even worse, he is almost impossible to hit and simply walks through your punches and kicks before grabbing a hold of you. The best way to complete the SMS Vigilante is to simply jump over these guys when ever they appear - and they appear constantly. Probably the only reason to play this game is to get a look at all the weird billboards and signs in the background.
And, here we a few other nice games:
Isn't it weird how villains in video games always know who you are before you know who they are?*
We just saw this in Chrontendo 35! But here, instead of an adventure game/RPG hybrid, it's an adventure game/sidescrolling action game hybrid. Sadly, it suffers from cut and paste level design and illogical adventure game sequences.
Congrats, Shanghai, you are the first game to appear on the Famicom, PC-Engine and Sega Master System!
Little girls and kittens are your highest priority; after that, salarymen.
A cute little Breakout/Kaboom type game that uses the paddle controller. Here, you are rescuing people (and adorable kitty-cats!) from burning buildings.
Lord of Sword
I just had a GREAT idea for a game. A guy walks around and hits stuff with a sword!
Released the same day as Kenseiden, this reminded me a bit too much of Kenseiden to be enjoyable.
A game in which you race cars!
I'd like to think of Summer-Fall '88 being sort of a last blaze of glory for the Master System. By the end of year, the rate of releases in Japan will have slowed to a trickle, with the last ever Japanese Master System game coming out in early 1989. The system will still chug along in the US and Europe, and some interesting SMS exclusive games will turn up in 1989. Eventually, Sega will rise, Phoenix-like, in the early 90's.
But that's a story for another time. Until then, enjoy Chronsega 6.
Addendum: I encoded two versions of the h.264 MP4. The first was a little on the big side: 699 Megs, and the second turned out smaller than I thought it would: 312 Megs. The smaller video looks just about identical to the larger, so I uploaded the smaller one. If you guys fell the larger file is worth uploading, I will. Here's two screenshots.
The larger file is on the top. Click to englarge.
*Think about it. And when you bust into the boss' lair, they are never asleep or in the shower or whatever. They're always standing around just waiting for you. Though they often claim to be a little surprised that you "...made it this far."