The Game Gear Directory: (Sa-Se)

Let's get sensible

Samurai Shodown (1994)

It's far from bad, but this Takara take on SNK's feudal fighter is less impressive than its excellent Fatal Fury Special. It packs in an extra character for a total of nine, but the gameplay is sluggish and the graphics flickery and a little messy. It's impressive how much detail the programmers have managed to cram in, but it doesn't quite suit the Game Gear as well as Fatal Fury, feeling compromised rather than bespoke. Control is fine and the characters seem to have decent movesets - I'm not hugely familiar with Samurai Shodown in its original Neo Geo form, so I can't really comment on its accuracy or fidelity to that version, but I can tell you how it feels and it feels good to me. Another disappointment, though, is the lack of modes; only the standard arcade mode is here, with seemingly no capacity to link up with another Game Gear owner. I'm not sure why you would ever choose to in this day and age, but it'd be nice if the option were there, nonetheless. A shame. I've been mostly negative about this port but I still rate it decent at worst, as clear effort has gone into the proceedings. It's just unfortunate that it isn't quite as good as it could have been. ***

Scratch Golf (1994)

Another piggin' golf-'em-up, this one the most detached of all. Yet that isn't necessarily a bad thing; this game's unusual take on video golf never shows you your actual golfer, keeping things firmly in the realm of the abstract. It's oddly refreshing and makes it feel somewhat like an office toy, rather than a video game. I know, I know, that doesn't make a lot of sense, but the way you're shown the course in cutesy pixel-o-vision before making your way down a little list of things to do; direction, clubs, stance (brilliantly, you manually adjust your feet) etc... it's sort of mechanical, with the only change of view being the switch over to putting mode, which is again totally transparent in what it portrays. I think it's pretty great, though if you don't already like simple golf games it's not going to convert you. The only downside of Scratch Golf is that putting can be quite frustrating - it sounds like sour grapes but sometimes it feels like a perfectly good putt won't go in for no discernable reason, skipping over the cup with neither rhyme nor reason. Still, though, this is in the upper echelons of video golf as far as I'm concerned. When I covered PGA Tour Golf I asked for a game like this, and here it is. Let's go. ****

Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 (1992)

Bah! I thought I'd get a break here, with a nice compilation of previously-reviewed stuff. But no, all four of these games seem to be brand new. Well, okay, that's a bit of a stretch; one of the included titles is another version of Columns, and it plays pretty much the same as Columns Flash in the standalone version from what I could tell, so go and read that review if you want to know what that means (spoiler: two stars). The other games on offer here are Pan-American Road Rally, a fairly enjoyable if laughably simplistic rally game that offers a smooth but challenging drive, Penalty Kick which is laughable luck-based crap in which you pick a direction and elevation to kick the ball and hope the opponent's keeper doesn't save it, and Championship Tennis which is a simple, slow tennis game that's most notable for featuring Sonic the Hedgehog as the umpire. This is no great shakes, really, though Columns and Road Rally are fine. Not fine enough to seek this one out, but you could absolutely do worse. Trivia: this version of Columns and the Championship Tennis game are recycled from the Japan-only 1991 game Kuni-chan no Game Tengoku. **

...Hang on, I've just had a look at that Kuni-chan no Game Tengoku and my head has exploded. This appears to be a board game/mini-game thingummy, but the framing and story are taken from, of all things, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Are you telling me that all this time there's been such a glaring, blatant follow-up to pretty much my favourite game of all time and I'm only just learning it now?! Almost every screen has brand new drawings of characters and creatures from Castle of Illusion! This is actively astonishing. Look at it! Look!! It's Mizrabel! It's the Chocolate boss!! It's the evil tree thing!!!

Ahem. Sorry. And now back to our scheduled Directory entry.

Sensible Soccer (1993)

Wahey! Sensi! Every single Brit over a certain age (1000) knows and loves this game, and if they don't they're probably not worth listening to on almost any subject. Sensible Soccer, you see, is brilliant, taking the game's absolute fundamentals and wrapping them up in a lovely glaze of "it's more fun this way", with tiny little sprites (with customisable kits!) and football's more esoteric rules quite simply done away with. This Game Gear version is absolute quality, with a metric ton of modes including friendlies, cups, leagues, et al, and a clutch of options, too. The only thing bringing this down in any respect is the fact that it's single-player only, which is a bit of a travesty when it comes to Sensible Soccer, but maybe somewhat understandable for Game Gear. Still, I'd happily have sacrificed all the modes just to get some one-on-one going. Single-player only Sensi, indeed. Still, can't fault this port outside of that, but it is a bit of a major blow when multiplayer is pretty much the entire point of the game. It's fun to play the CPU, don't get me wrong. But it's not what it's for. ***

(Next: Sh-Si)