The Game Gear Directory: (St-Str)

It's a sci-fi special, featuring both Stars "War" and "Trek".

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Advanced Holodeck Tutorial (1994)

Uh huh, this my shit, all the girls stomp your feet like this. Oh, Holodeck. Never mind, then. I tried to get into this game but just wasn't quite able to. It's a very fragmented, menu-heavy simulation sort of experience and the interface really hurts it. The likenesses of all the actors are here, and that's definitely cool, but constantly interrupting the game's flow to check in with the various crew and their respective skills is rather tedious. I'm sure show fans know exactly who to talk to about everything, but I don't. I only saw a bit of season one, you know? Nonetheless, I don't think this is up to much. There's plenty to do, and the authenticity is spot on, but it's just so fiddly to control that I gave up on it pretty quickly. I reckon there's an interesting game buried in there somewhere, so why won't it let me play it?! **

Star Trek Generations: Beyond the Nexus (1994)

Oh, I don't watch Star Trek. Much. But this game was pretty enjoyable on the whole. It's a grab-bag of a multi-genre game that sees you engaging in spaceship dogfights, Mastermind-clone puzzling, flying through projected gates in space and even a bit of blatant Pipe Mania ripping-off. There are actually more gameplay styles, according to the manual, but I didn't reach the later ones due to getting hamstrung by one of the puzzle sequences. This is, of course, a bit all over the place by its very nature, but I enjoyed it! The presentation is superb, and the dogfight/flight levels are nice and smooth. I'm a big fan of Pipe Mania so I was pleased to see it crop up here. It's only the Mastermind-ish bits that bring things down, but they're not bad, just not especially interesting. Yes, I had fun with this and will very likely return to it. A password system also benefits the package. Set phasers to fun. Eh? ****

Star Wars (1993)

I naturally presumed this to be a Master System port, but it's more like a remix of that game; a few new stages and the removal of the overworld make things more linear, but perhaps that's actually a little better. Overall, though, I didn't think much of this. It's perfectly playable, but frequent slowdown and generally uninspired stage design make it feel like a bit of a chore at times. A shame, because they've clearly gone to a lot of effort here; the film's score is bleep-blooped well and the story screens are an enjoyable touch. It just doesn't come together as a satisfying experience due to the repetitive scenery and general bland saminess. I'm maybe underappreciating it a little, because there's definitely love for the source material evident here. But it's just... not fun enough. **

Stargate (1994)

I was completely blindsided by this one. Not because it's any great shakes, no. But it's... resolutely not the genre I was expecting from the license. After all, the Mega Drive tie-in to the movie was a meat-and-potatoes platform shooter, exactly as you'd expect. This, though? It's a tile-based puzzle game that seems like a cross between Block Out and Klax. It all takes place on a single screen, with a circular arena into which patterned tiles drop down. There are heiroglyphs on each side of these tiles and they can be flipped with a tap of button 2. The aim is to stack them in threes, which causes them to disappear. You advance a level when you create a stack of all the symbols shown at the top of the screen, at which point things get faster and, naturally, tougher. Unfortunately it's only fun for a little while and it's ultimately pretty mindless. The visuals and music are great but it just isn't a game with long legs. Still, it's kind of worth a look just to be as shocked as I am at the decision to make a Stargate puzzle game. ***

Streets of Rage (1992)

Everyone's favourite smack-a-thon has been squeeeeeezed down to Game Gear size, and I'm afraid it just doesn't cut the mustard. That's not to take away from what it does well - the music is fantastic and the scaled-down versions of familiar enemy sprites look great. It's just that too much of the game feel has been (somewhat understandably) lost in translation, with combos feeling weak and weedy, and grab attacks becoming cumbersome and finicky. It's also possible to get locked into what is essentially an infinite loop of pain, with enemies simply hovering over you ready to knock you down again when you stand up; this, of course, does not feel good. It's a real shame, given the aforementioned excellent presentation, but the loss of fidelity and and irritating gameplay make this a disappointing mess. **

Streets of Rage 2 (1993)

Now this is more like it. Astonishingly, this port is near enough mechanically complete, cramming each of the three included fighters' movesets down into a two-button layout that's surprisingly intuitive. It's also much smoother to control, with grab attacks now much more viable and quicker to bust out. It can't match the Mega Drive version for impact, but it's much, much closer than you'd expect. Hell, even the throw recovery mechanic is here! And the Game Gear takes on classic tunes like Never Return Alive are rather excellent. The graphics are a little muddier than the original, with the occasional weak sprite, but if that was the sacrifice needed to bring the gameplay up to scratch, I'll happily accept it. This is nothing less than terrific fun - and you can (as with the original) link it up with another Game Gear for two-player action. A stand-out title for the handheld and a must-own cartridge. *****

Strider Returns (1993)

God knows why this was allowed to happen. The Game Gear was, thankfully, spared a port of the very weak Master System take on the original Strider, but this even worse sequel somehow squeaked out the backchops of U.S. Gold's relentless output. The best I can say about it is that an attempt was made. It's clearly an effort to imitate the set-piece based action gaming that Capcom's outstanding arcade (and Mega Drive) game introduced the world to, but done so incompetently, so repetitively and so frustratingly that any benefit of the doubt I could give it sailed away with the first of many totally blind jumps over instant death pits. There are some fleeting decent ideas, such as the zip-lines in the second level that do give an impression of espionage taking place, but these instances of mild inspiration don't make up for the unbelievably weak facsimiles of situations the original game thrust you into, with boss battles being a particularly low and massively unfair point. I can't recommend this on any meaningful level. Don't buy or play it. *

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