The Game Gear Directory: (F-Fa)

This week in the Directory - sweet Fa.

F-15 Strike Eagle (1993)

This is a very simplistic-seeming arcade flight game which initially impresses with colourful splash screens and impressive sampled speech, but it gives way to a rather stultifying game that's quite frankly boring, which as you're no doubt aware, is one of the least forgivable gaming sins. It looks unbelievably garish, with some astonishing choices of colour scheme, but I have to admit that the unbelievably bizarre look of the thing does at least present a scene so odd that it's almost compelling. It can be briefly enjoyable getting another fighter plane in your sights and shooting it down, but there's nothing to get your teeth into here - despite the interface and menus doing their level best to trick you into thinking otherwise. Interesting-ish, but no good at all. **

F1 (1993)

I wasn't expecting this. Truly, I have no interest in Formula 1. No disrespect to its fans, and I acknowledge it as a worthy pursuit, but I am not interested. I enjoy pro wrestling. You do not. Such is life. So I was prepared to cast aside F1, but... whaddaya know, it's absolutely tremendous. They've done some real wizardry here, with a track that undulates smoothly, incorporating tunnels and even hills in a way that feels both effortless and incredible.There are plenty of circuits and a full-featured Grand Prix mode along with a quick Arcade mode - all you need. It's all officilally licensed though that doesn't mean a lot to me. I really can't fault this outside of the initially annoying sound of the engine whine, but I don't think that's enough of a downer to make this anything but a five-star title and a bona fide banger. *****

F1 World Championship Edition (1995)

Hmm. While this is extremely impressive in terms of graphics, the gameplay feels a touch compromised. Visually this might be the best-looking Game Gear title I've seen by this point in the directory, but the smoothness of F1 is lost as a result. It's still playable and enjoyable, with an absolute surplus of options, licensed drivers and a general sense of polish. All sort of interesting things will rush by as you race, and there is certainly a great deal of effort put into the game, but unfortunately the choppiness brings it all down to much less appealing package.  Definitely worth a look but I'd stick with F1 for your motor racing kicks. ***

Factory Panic (1991)

There's an enormous amount of character in top-down action-puzzler Factory Panic, a game originally about building a pipeline from Japan to the Soviet Union in order to foster a better relationship between the two, or something. I'm not joking about that, it's the followup to a Famicom game named Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen, which includes many depictions of Gorbachev. What Factory Panic amounts to, though, is a colourful little puzzle game in which you must use switches to manipulate conveyor belts with an aim to funneling the right objects to the right people, all the while fending off security guards. It's quite difficult and stressful but the aforementioned character goes a long, long way to making Factory Panic far more charming than it really needs to be. ***

Fantastic Dizzy (1993)

Oo-er, now this is a touch odd. On booting this game, I was met with what was manifestly the Sega Master System version; apparently a number of Game Gear games boot into a sort of "Master System" mode, and this is one of them. That's no complaint of course; it's arguable that the Sega 8-bit version of Fantastic Dizzy is the best one, and it's a view I share. They've sort out Dizzy's walking speed and the awful cycling inventory slots have been removed and replaced with the much more sensible classic adventure-style menu. Yes, this means you're seeing what's essenially a pause screen over and over, but it's still better than the alternative, those slots from Treasure Island Dizzy - godawful! Anyway, yes - very backtracking-heavy but a lot of fun to figure out. Bring a pen and paper. ****

Fantasy Zone (1991)

Well, it's Fantasy Zone. Kinda. I mean, it's not a port, it's a new game in the series, but it's a little bit odd. If you're not familiar with the previous titles in the series it's not really gonna register, but the feel of the thing is somewhat off, in my incredibly important and informed opinion. Fly around shooting up enemies and collecting the coins they drop. Spend the coins on better engines for your adorable spaceship (Sega's "Opa-Opa") and superior weapons to boot. Kill a tricky boss in an all-range battle. Do it again. I like Fantasy Zone, a lot, but the small screen plus small bullets doesn't seem like a great match, even though outside of this it's pretty easy for a game in this series. It's worth a look for its gorgeous pastel-style colours and it is fun, but it's a lower-tier Fantasy Zone. ***

Fatal Fury Special (1994)

I was rather impressed by this! As far as handheld fighting games of its era go, this is handily the best one I've tried so far. Eight playable characters feels remarkable for a system as modest as the Game Gear, and they all seem to have - at the very least - remarkably decent approximations of their Neo Geo movesets. It looks great, too, with some stunning backgrounds and more-than-decent character animation. You've got a nice couple of modes as well as the essential linked play, there's a pretty attract mode and extremely decent music, and it's not plagued by the slowdown you might have expected. Overall it's deeply impressive, though of course - and I know this is a slightly dodgy position - it's hard to recommend outright these days when every given handheld can play far more advanced fighters than this. Still, it's one heck of an achievement. They even managed to get Mai Shiranui's jiggle in there! ****

(Next: Fi-Fr)