Sonic the Hedgehog 2: completed!

Unlike the first game, I have previously completed the 8-bit Sonic 2, although on the Game Gear which made it rather more tricky.  The first boss, for example, rolls balls down a slope in an effort to hit Sonic, and on the Master System you have plenty of time to react, whereas the Game Gear's limited window means balls appear all too suddenly.


On the Mega Drive, there was a clear progression to the second game.  You lost some of the pureness of the platforming, yes, and the spin dash meant that there were fewer momentum-based puzzles, but the variety in stages, brightened colour palette, and more imaginative boss battles meant that Sonic 2 was definitely the better game.  On the Master System, I'm not sure that's the case.

At the time, it probably was.  Sonic's abilities have increased massively, with vehicles, the ability to skip across water, and hidden routes.  The problem is that when revisiting it many years later, a lot of this just seems a bit gimmicky.


It is almost as if the game's coders were more interested in seeing what they could cram in to create set pieces, and hide stuff away, that they forgot to make the main linear route in the game as good as it could have been.


That's not to say it's a bad game; far from it.  There are some objective improvements, like the way that Sonic can recapture at least one ring after being hit, and the controls are a little tightened up - even if only marginally (I had to go back and play Sonics 1 and 2 in quick succession to tell the difference).  Also, like the Mega Drive games, the added variety and colour in stages is welcome, even without the gimmicky bits.


No, it makes no sense to me how Sonic can float in a bubble.

It's a game that sits well in a list of "best Master System games", and maybe near the bottom of a "best platform games ever" list.  But to pretend it's as good as the Mega Drive games is just wrong.


For a start, the best games ever should never have a section in them which can only be accomplished by trial and error - and yet in the last few stages, Sonic 2 expects you to memorise a sequence of directional presses to move you along the correct pipes, which you can only work out by constantly going wrong, since the direction of the entrance and the overall direction of the pipe are not connected.  This led to many deaths (and many lost rings).


Good game, would mostly recommend.

Sonic the Hedgehog: completed!

Do you know what? I'd never actually completed the first Sonic game on the Master System, before now.  I could have sworn I had, but beyond the first few zones I realised that it was uncharted territory; I'm not sure I've ever even beaten the Jungle Zone boss.

Sonic on the Master System is a great game.  It's not as good as the first Mega Drive game, and Sonic's movement is a little floaty and imprecise, but the levels are designed well around the character and movement.  There are some big changes to gameplay, such as the ability to collect rings after you've been hit, and the collision detection seems a little off as well.

The levels are similar, but not identical to the Mega Drive game.  The fist two levels - Green Hill and Bridge - are a bit too samey, but after that the scenery changes, sometimes aping the Mega Drive's levels (with very close similarity to the Labyrinth Zone and the Scrap Brain Zone), and sometimes with a completely separate feel (the Jungle Zone has never been revisited, as far as I'm aware).




The special stages on the Mega Drive were where the hardware was used to maximum effect, and it's here that the Master System is a bit of a let down.  Built around different coloured springs, but with the game moving a little too fast to be able to judge where you're landing, this felt too much like a random mess - more so than the Spring Yard Zone or Casino Night Zone, and even more so than Sonic Spinball.


Some of the bosses seemed overly simplistic, while some were a little more tricky.   The Jungle Zone boss was one of the more tricky ones, but not because of his movements, more the slightly clunky jump that Sonic had from the angled platforms at each end.


 Some of the later stages worked really well, particularly those that forced Sonic to slow down - maybe belying the fact that the Master System wasn't built for Sonic's usual speed.  With a slower tempo, the level design was massively changed with many more rates ad hidden parts, and the jumps made more difficult.  Lightning flashed around the level making Sonic wait for it to clear.  This was, perhaps, my favourite level - the Sky Base Zone had some similarity at times to the Wing Fortress Zone at times.



And it all ended with a pretty disappointing boss fight.  Standing on the far left of the screen, as below, nothing could hit Sonic, meaning he could just wait for the electric barrier to drop and dash over to hit the glass tube.  A few hits later, and he was down.


No, I didn't collect all the chaos emeralds.  Yes, I probably will one day.  Yes, I'm counting this as completed.

Sonic the Hedgehog: completed!

Do you know what? I'd never actually completed the first Sonic game on the Master System, before now.  I could have sworn I had, but beyond the first few zones I realised that it was uncharted territory; I'm not sure I've ever even beaten the Jungle Zone boss.

Sonic on the Master System is a great game.  It's not as good as the first Mega Drive game, and Sonic's movement is a little floaty and imprecise, but the levels are designed well around the character and movement.  There are some big changes to gameplay, such as the ability to collect rings after you've been hit, and the collision detection seems a little off as well.

The levels are similar, but not identical to the Mega Drive game.  The fist two levels - Green Hill and Bridge - are a bit too samey, but after that the scenery changes, sometimes aping the Mega Drive's levels (with very close similarity to the Labyrinth Zone and the Scrap Brain Zone), and sometimes with a completely separate feel (the Jungle Zone has never been revisited, as far as I'm aware).




The special stages on the Mega Drive were where the hardware was used to maximum effect, and it's here that the Master System is a bit of a let down.  Built around different coloured springs, but with the game moving a little too fast to be able to judge where you're landing, this felt too much like a random mess - more so than the Spring Yard Zone or Casino Night Zone, and even more so than Sonic Spinball.


Some of the bosses seemed overly simplistic, while some were a little more tricky.   The Jungle Zone boss was one of the more tricky ones, but not because of his movements, more the slightly clunky jump that Sonic had from the angled platforms at each end.


 Some of the later stages worked really well, particularly those that forced Sonic to slow down - maybe belying the fact that the Master System wasn't built for Sonic's usual speed.  With a slower tempo, the level design was massively changed with many more rates ad hidden parts, and the jumps made more difficult.  Lightning flashed around the level making Sonic wait for it to clear.  This was, perhaps, my favourite level - the Sky Base Zone had some similarity at times to the Wing Fortress Zone at times.



And it all ended with a pretty disappointing boss fight.  Standing on the far left of the screen, as below, nothing could hit Sonic, meaning he could just wait for the electric barrier to drop and dash over to hit the glass tube.  A few hits later, and he was down.


No, I didn't collect all the chaos emeralds.  Yes, I probably will one day.  Yes, I'm counting this as completed.

3D Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (3DS): COMPLETED!

To the untrained eye, it would appear that I’ve already completed this game already, just a week or so ago. But you would be wrong, as this 3D Fantasy Zone II is actually the Master System version, whereas the other one was the (later) arcade version. They are both on the Sega 3D Classics Collection though.

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I actually tried to completed this before the other one, but I made a terrible mistake buying a load of smart bombs with all my money going into the final boss fight, and when I died lost all my power-ups and didn’t have any money to buy anything else. Not even Big Wings, which made one of the end bosses (there’s a SuckySuck Bit(TM)) impossible. Rather than start all over again at that point, I went on to the other version of the game, returning to this now.

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Although the game is effectively the same, there are some differences. Each level is seemingly larger, with up to 5 areas joined by warps (rather than two versions of each level, swapped between via warps). The bosses are mostly similar with a few variations, and you have an energy bar (which can be refilled and extended with power-ups) rather than a single hit kill.

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It’s obviously on less powerful hardware, but some slowdown and less impressive (but still excellent) graphics aside, it’s at least as much fun. It’s odd, that back in the day the Fantasy Zone series never appealed much, whereas now I love them. I feel I’m going to have to dig out the Mega Drive version soon now…

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3D Fantasy Zone (3DS): COMPLETED!

No, not 3D Fantasy Zone for the 3DS, 3D Fantasy Zone. For the 3DS. This one is one of the ten games on the Sega 3D Classics Compilation, just like the other one is, but this one is a 3D port of the Master System version of Fantasy Zone, whereas the other was the arcade version.

Still with me?

fantasy zone

Thankfully, the Master System version was much, much easier and instead of taking eight hours to complete, it took just one. It’s almost the same as the arcade version, only with a couple of boss changes and seemingly a lot more money to collect – which made stocking up on lives and heavy bombs simple to do.

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All of the bosses seemed easier as well, especially the final one which took me $hlmun tries before, but just two here. It’s much slower, I think, so easier to avoid and attack.

Now to finish the other nine games! Even though I have half of them already.

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Running Battle (MS): COMPLETED!

Oh my is this a crap game. I picked it on a whim, expecting (for no real reason) for it to be like Rolling Thunder or possibly Last Battle. In fact, it’s not as good as either of those.

running battle

Starting out more like Streets of Rage but after one level it turns into the most repetitive single-plane side scrolling punchkickjump game ever. Sometimes you get guns which you can’t use when jumping or crouching. Or on bosses. Aside from the first section, all the other levels are virtually identical with a slight change of layout or palette.

There are several bosses, the first of which is near impossible, the second and third are walkovers (just trap them in the corner and keep crouch-punching them), and Milacle Man (no really, that’s his name) can kill you in a single hit but is easily beaten once you know how. Then the final boss, M, is a rehashed Dr Wily machine from one of the Mega Man games.

Running Battle is utterly dire, has no redeeming features, and I completed it so that you don’t have to.

Click to view slideshow.

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The Lucky Dime Caper (MS): COMPLETED!

Since I’m currently loving Master System platformers, I decided to give The Lucky Dime Caper a go. I don’t think I’ve ever really properly played it before, certainly not past the first couple of levels, anyway.

Lucky Dime Caper

Of course, it’s going to be compared to Castle of Illusion and sadly it isn’t as good as that. Donald’s levels aren’t as well designed, mainly having more straightforward platforming than the odd puzzle bit Castle of Illusion had. Donald’s main attack, usually a mallet, is tricky to time as enemies have to be really close for it to connect, and the frisbee he sometimes picks up is better but I found quite a few baddies – mainly bosses – it didn’t damage.

Speaking of bosses, they’re all very easy with the final boss being the easiest boss in any game ever. You literally jump on one spot for three seconds, before she can even properly start attacking you, and that’s it – you’ve beaten her. Pretty disappointing. The other bosses are more taxing, although not much more, but annoyed me as there’s no way of knowing how much damage you’ve done to them, or in some cases, if you’re even damaging them at all.

Lucky Dime Caper

The levels themselves were standard platform faire – forest, ice, volcano, water, Egypt, castle… in fact, some of the graphics seem to be ripped directly from the Illusion games. Or maybe the other way round, I suppose – I didn’t check the release order!

That said, The Lucky Dime Caper isn’t a bad game, it just isn’t as good as the Mickey Mouse titles or Asterix. It’s better than Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars though!

Click to view slideshow.

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Asterix (MS): COMPLETED!

Asterix
Definitely not a Thwomp

Yes, it’s another 8bit platformer. But you know what? It’s another good one! When I originally played Asterix on an actual Master System (actually, that’s not true – I played it on a Mega Drive with a Power Base Convertor) I remember it being very easy, once you knew the levels, up until the section near the end of the game with the leaf ride in the wind and the spikes. Imagine my surprise when I realised my brain had totally made that level up and it didn’t appear anywhere in my playthrough.

Asterix
Save keys to open doors

How had I remembered something that didn’t exist? It’s my main memory of the game! That part was so hard that it’s stuck in my head for ever more, and yet it isn’t there. Bizarre.

For this play, I went through entirely as Asterix (aside from level 1-1 where you have to play through as both him and Obelix) as I seem to recall it’s easier and more fun. Mind you, I’d already misremembered a whole level so who knows.

Asterix
Dogmatix bonus stages are hard

I’m pleased to say that, a bit of slowdown aside, Asterix is still a pretty good platformer. Some levels – mainly forced scrolling ones – are less fun than others, but there’s a lot of secret areas to find and a few levels have alternate routes. It’s very much like the Mickey Mouse …of Illusion games, which I’d not really noticed before, but that’s no bad thing.

Click to view slideshow.

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Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (MS): COMPLETED!

I’ve completed two Alex Kidd games before – Miracle World on the Master System, and The Enchanted Castle (which is essentially a remake) on the Mega Drive. Neither were anything special, but they were both reasonably good platformers. I’ve briefly played some other Alex Kidd titles, but never finished them. However, I’d never played The Lost Stars before today.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
A couple of pointers

It’s a very simple platformer. Alex Kidd doesn’t have his big punch move, the collision detection is ropey and although the levels are varied none of them are particularly impressive. The graphics are big and chunky and very colourful, so I expect this was a decent show-off title to NES owners back in the day even though it’s nowhere near the same level as things like Super Mario Bros or Duck Tales gameplay-wise. It also suffers from flicker and slowdown a little, although not so much that it bothered me.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Bow Wow Wow Yippie Yo Yippie Yay

Alex runs and jumps through the levels (and swims, in one of them) from left to right mainly avoiding enemies although he can fire a limited number of whirlwinds at them with the right power-up. Other power-ups include a time-limited higher jump and an item that replenishes the health/time bar. Yes, just like Wonder Boy, The Lost Stars has a stupid combined bar which slowly depletes by itself, buy also loses a chunk when you get hit. It was rubbish in Wonder Boy and it’s rubbish here.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Bit garish

Speaking of Wonder Boy, at least one of the levels here appears to be a homage to it. Some of the other levels also seem to borrow from other Sega games – I’m pretty sure there’s a Zillion themed area for one, and there’s an Opa-Opa hiding one of the “miracle balls” you have to collect.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
“Find the miracle ball!” says the speech sample

On the final level, which has very low gravity making all the jumps incredibly easy, there’s no miracle ball, but completing it throws you back at the start of the game again. Only, unlike Teddy Boy, the levels become harder and there’s a second set of miracle balls to collect. Only by running through all the levels again (which I did) do you get the True Ending: a black screen with the words “The End” on it. That’s it. Thanks, Sega!

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Wow.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is a mediocre game with very little in common with the other Alex Kidd games, it would seem. There are plenty of better Master System platformers (Miracle World, Sonic, Asterix, The Lucky Dime Caper, Castle of Illusion… the list goes on) so there’s very little here to recommend it. Still, it wasn’t terrible, so that’s something? Oh, and the FM sound is lovely, so make sure you use an emulator with that turned on if you do play it.

I’m still confused as to why it’s called The Lost Stars when it’s actually Miracle Balls you have to collect, though.

Click to view slideshow.

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Teddy Boy (MS): COMPLETED!

Teddy Boy
Shoot ALL the ninja

Teddy Boy was one of the first Master System games I owned, mainly because it was under ten quid new, but I actually quite liked it. I’d never completed it though, and in fact I didn’t think you could complete it – I just thought it went on forever like arcade games of this sort generally did. However, over on RetroCollect someone posted they’d just completed it and I asked how – and it turns out the levels just loop round after level 50. Technically beating that level would count (to me) as completing the game then.

Teddy Boy
Level 51 with some lives left!

Way back when, I think a level somewhere in the 40s was about as far as I ever reached, so imagine my surprise when I managed to reach – and finish – level 50 on just my second attempt. On the first attempt I only made it to level 12 or so, but I quickly learned to be slow and cautious where possible, keep an eye out for the crocodiles especially, and always collect the little token things that come out of the baddies when shot otherwise they gobble up the time after a while. And the yellow bread things? You can’t take on more than one at a time.

Click to view slideshow.

I found Teddy Boy to still be fun game, much to my surprise. It’s very jolly and cute, even if very simple.

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