Sunday, 13 August 2017

Action Fighter - Sega Master System review

That car doesn't really look very suited to fighting action
Game: Action Fighter
Format: Sega Master System
Developer: Sega 
Publisher: Sega
Year Released: 1986
Also Released on: Arcade, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga
Now Available on: Nothing

Is it a bike? Is it a car? Is it a plane? No, it's Supermer, Action Fighter. That's Action Fighter, not Superm Action Fighter. Action Fighter is one of the Sega Master System's earliest games, a conversion of an arcade game with the same name. It also appeared on a few home computers too, something I didn't know until I took a look at the Internet a few seconds ago. Then again, I didn't even know it was originally an arcade game until Wikipedia informed me. Now I'm curious to see what it looked like on other systems. Might find out after I've written this. I really don't know what's going on with the formatting on this page. Blogger seems to have a mind of its own today.  

What happens if I push 3? The game explodes?? I'll try that then
Action Fighter is an overhead vertically scrolling drive 'em, fly 'em, shoot 'em up. A Drflshmup to give it its made-up modern name. The idea of the game is to drive, fly and shoot things. I'm sure there is a purpose for all of this reckless behaviour, and I'm sure that purpose is explained in the instruction manual or on the back of the box. So, seeing as my fancy has been well and truly tickled, I shall find out. Exactly why must I drive, fly and shoot things?

Hang On! Is that the bike from, er, what was it?
Hmmm, so according to the text on the European box, you "Take the motorcycle from "Hang On," equip it with hi-tech weaponry and give it the ability to transform itself into an aircraft or car - and you've got ACTION FIGHTER!" Well I never, it's the Hang On bike! I still don't know why it needs equipping with hi-tech weaponry and or why it has the ability to transform itself into other vehicles.  Maybe the American box has more info. Here is its text in full, and I'll put it in italics to make it stand out:

Get ready to play a starring role in the incredible world of international espionage. You receive five different assignments. All action-packed. And all extremely dangerous. Your secret weapon? A vehicle that transforms into a dozen different deadly devices.  Your high-speed motoscycle can turn into a customised car and then into a sound-barrier breaking 
jet plane. All in a matter of seconds. The real test? To know when to use which weapon. Because the wrong machine, at the wrong time, can prove fatal.  


That reminds me, I need to watch the People vs, OJ Simpson.
Everyone tells me how good it is
Oooh, so it's espionage then? Spy games and the like. A bit like being a spy hunter of sorts? Original. No mention of the bike from Hang On though. Maybe being a vehicle used for spying, it doesn't want its true identity revealing. Instead, it's just described as a motorcycle that can transform into a dozen different deadly devices (nice use of alliteration there, Sega!). Unfortunately, the box only mentions two of the transformations, the car and plane, and they are the only two in the game too. I feel short-changed now. What are the other ten, and why aren't they in the game? Why mention a dozen if you're not going to let us see them? And what's all this bullcrap about knowing when to use which weapon? Yes, you can switch from bike to car and back to the bike if you want, but why would you? Once you've gained the ability to change to the car, you'll never ever go back to using the bike as it's horrible to control. And you change automatically from car to plane and back again depending on where about you are in the level. Yes, I think that whoever wrote the box text hasn't actually played the game.  


Red Two. Get back in formation. That is an order. Red Two!! Just you wait until we get back to base.


Your president certainly gets straight to the point. Either
that or he can't put together full sentences yet.
But I have. In Action Fighter, after picking your name, a message from the President of wherever you are tells you to unleash fire and fury on whichever place has pissed him off. You then set off on your little bike, whizzing along a road at stupidly fast speeds, avoiding other road users - or just shooting them - and collecting letters. For some reason, many of the vehicles you can destroy are ambulances. I did initially think that doing so would result in some sort of penalty, but apparently not. The sick and injured are clearly not worthy of your consideration, so need dealing with accordingly. There are quite a few parallels between this game and the modern-day policies of a certain orange President. You speed up by pushing up on the d-pad, slow down by pushing down, and fire with button 2. Every now and again, you'll spot a Sega van. Driving into the back of it causes your vehicle to become enhanced with faster and more powerful weaponry. After you've collected the letters A, B, C, and D, which apparently correspond to the four corner sections of your vehicle, your bike transforms into a car. The car is easier to control than the bike, but operates in pretty much the same way. You can switch from bike to car and car to bike by pressing button1 and 2 at the same time. Go on to collect the letters E and F and your car will eventually stop at a checkpoint, gain wings and take off. 

We'll fight them on the beaches, we'll fight them on their
freshly mown lawns.
When in flight mode, the game becomes a standard vertical shooter. Just shoot everything or dodge them. Button 2 remains your fire button,  but button 1 becomes your bomb-dropping button. Use it to drop bombs on objects situated on the ground or in the sea. This includes some of the end of level bosses, which are the ones that your President requested you to destroy. 

The game continues in the same way throughout the remaining levels, only sometimes you begin the level as the plane which will thelater become the car with the boss battles taking place on ground rather than in the air. Eventually, once you've switched your vehicles around enough times, and used them to take out whichever nasties are stupid enough to get in your way, you'll complete the game. 


The magical transforming Hang On bike doesn't really look the most aerodynamic vehicle, even when it has wings

Old Hang On finds the 14th hole, but has put the ball in the
water hazard. 
Action Fighter is very samey. Although changing from one vehicle to another should offer some variety in gameplay, both gaming styles are fairly similar to each other, and just repeat one after the other. As well as being repetitive, Action Fighter is also extremely tough. On the ground at top speed, it's impossible to react to the presence of other road users and to make turns when you need to. And constantly having to press fire tires out your fingers very quickly. Your vehicle does have auto-fire which works by holding down the fire button, but it fires so slowly that it's pointless. Of course, you can slow down, but you'll either slow down too much and need to speed up again, and then back down again, or you'll just decide to drive like a snail, which only results in you getting rear-ended. Finding that happy medium (Russell Grant?) isn't very achievable. The constant shooting, dodging, slowing down and speeding up, combined with regular deaths, just makes the game a pain in the ass to play. And when in the air, although you no longer have to deal with controlling your speed, you get bombarded with enemy aircraft and their bullets, some of which are hidden from view in the clouds. And those that aren't are hidden from view because of the Master System's flicker. You really have to shoot and hope. Kind of like having unprotected sex. Or perhaps not. Perhaps to rebalance the odds in the player's favour a little, a bit of variety to your firepower would have been nice. I don't mind hard games, but I don't like games that are only hard because they are unfair. The only saving grace in this game is that you have unlimited lives as you play against a timer. It starts at 999 and counts down. If it reaches zero before the end of the level, it's game over. The game really is a typical example of what early Master System releases were like, being just the same game on a loop. I can't even imagine it being much fun even if you do persevere with it and get good at it. Unless you have a weird ambition to become an Action Fighter master, it's probably not going to keep you entertained for very long.

Their are some enemies in those there clouds. Somewhere.


Have you seen my chopper? Hehe
As far as graphics go, everything is nice and colourful and ok to look at, although the aforementioned clouds and flicker only add to the overall frustrations that the game seems only to happy to serve up. To offend your ears, two or three nasty-sounding tinkly "tunes" play in the background, They're not even good for Master System standards, and don't even sound in tune. And the sound effects are just awful. Like everything else in this game, the graphics style and music don't change as you play through it. There really is nothing that signifies to you that you are progressing through it. Even some colour changes would have helped a bit. And any change to the music would have been good. Maybe different notes. Or no notes. Yes, no notes at all would be best. 

You can bog off if you think I'm carrying on
with this shite Mr President
So, um, yes, I can't think of anything else to add. That's Action Fighter. Pure garbage.

RATINGS
Presentation – 70%
A car whizzes into the foreground, flashes its lights and the title is displayed. A few intermissions give you your objectives for each level, but there's very little else.
Graphics – 65%
Graphics are ok. The roads are grey, fields are green, water is blue and the clouds are white. And they fudging hide enemy aircraft in them. I hate those clouds. 
Sound – 45%
Turn it off. Turn it off now. Horrible.
Playability – 38%
At first, the game feels like it might be fun. But it quickly turns out that it isn't. It's not fun at all. It's hard, repetitive, frustrating and is about as enjoyable as visiting the dentist. Actually, my dentist is quite tasty so I don't mind doing that. 
Overall – 40%
Not the Master System's finest hour, or even 15 minutes. Quite horrendous. It might improve with practice, but there really are more worthwhile things to practice getting better at. 


Possibly the best part of the game, entering your name

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tennis Games on the ZX Spectrum - Wimbledon Special: Part Three

As I type this, the mens' final of Wimbledon 2017 is underway. Also underway is our continuation (from last year!) of our trawl through the archives to locate and play tennis games. Previously we have taken a look at tennis games for the Super Nintendo and the Atari VCS/2600, 5600 and Lynx. Waiting at the tee today is the ZX Spectrum. And in an attempt to have some order to things, we're going to go in alphabetical order today. Just five games are listed here. There are more for the Speccy, but these will do for now. The rest can wait until next year.....

Adidas Championship Tie Break - Ocean (1990)
An overhead scrolling tennis game? A novel way to present the sport, but it doesn't really work here. The game gives you plenty of options for which kind of game to play, and a range of colourful courts to play on. You can even choose the weight of your racket, although I couldn't be bothered to play long enough to find out what effect this would have. The problem with this game is that you only get to see a small area of the court while playing. The screen follows the ball as it moves from one end of the court to the other. Fortunately your player always manages to find himself in the right position for you to return the shot, so it's just a case of correctly timing your racket swing. It's probably possible to do all manner of shots, but it never really feels like you're in complete control of what's happening. The sound is crap too. 



Konami's Tennis - Imagine (1986)
This is quite a fun little game of tennis. There's no real faffing with options, with just a few menus to get through and then you're off. Your player is able to move freely around the court and there is a feeling of control when you have your shots, although it sometimes seems that pushing upwards when hitting the ball gives it a bit too much power and it ends up flying past your opponent and ending up out. The players don't change positions so you're always positioned at the bottom of the screen. Sound isn't amazing, just a weird boingy noise when the ball is hit or bounces. Graphics are good, although it might have been better if the players were drawn in black and not white. But, all in all, not a bad game.



Match Point - Sinclair Research (1984)
An oldie but a goodie. Match Point is simple, basic fun. You can configure your game all from one simple screen, even give yourself and your opponent a name. Players are little stick figures, which move smoothly and fluidly around the court. Ball physics seem realistic and everything mostly works well in this game. Extremely polished and technically impressive, even compared with later games. If you want to play tennis on the Speccy, this is the game to go for!





International 3D Tennis - Palace (1990)
Oh, darn it! I've got my alphabet wrong! I comes before M. Oh well. So, International 3D Tennis is our next tennis game. Calling the game 3D is pushing it a bit. You can view the game from a variety of viewpoints which all kind of give a sort of three dimensional appearance, and your players are a bunch of triangles assembled to look like a human being. Their animation is fluid and again gives an impression of entering the third dimension. Gameplay is a bit slow-paced, although this is another one of those games where you are assisted by the computer, although not to a great extent, and higher difficulty settings reduce the extent of assistance. The viewpoints are interesting but more than likely you'll choose the standard one. There's quite a bit of depth on offer as you can play tournaments around the world, but the game feels like it's a bit of a novelty.



International Tennis - Zeppelin (1992)
One of the Spectrum's later tennis sims which shows in the overall presentation and quality. Fun and fast-paced and a good alternative to Match Point. Plenty of options give you a lot of ways to play the game. Sound is minimal but does the job. Graphics are also quite detailed, even if the background image makes it look like you're playing in a cave.