I know there are quality action platformers for the Sega Master System available but I honestly have had very little success in actually procuring them for my collection. Besides Shinobi, my Master System action platformer collection is middling. I own the worst of the 4 North American Alex Kidd games, Alex Kidd: High Tech World, which is more of a puzzle game than an action platformer. I own the infuriatingly difficult sequel to one of the better games for the system, in Zillion II. I own a game that was meant to be played as a 4-player co-op but is now a 1 or 2 player hair puller of a platformer in Quartet. The list goes on and only one of the games on this list hold any kind of interest for me, and that’s the bizarre looking Captain Silver.
Captain Silver, based on an arcade port I never played, is one of those games that as soon as you start playing you think to yourself, “oh my god, this games looks ridiculous”. Your character, Jim Aykroyd (no relation to Dan), is a sailor on an adventure to find the lost treasure of Captain Silver. You’re immediately met by enemies that look like teddy bears and Cheshire cats so the absurdity begins right away. You walk to the right, defeat enemies with your sword, collect letters to spell your name, collect power ups that enhance your weapon, and all of this is basically well and good and makes for a solid game. The platforming elements are tough to master but thankfully minimal until stage 4 and that’s where you’ll be pulling your hair out as you repeatedly miss time jumps or Jim decides at that moment to take the white men can’t jump approach and fall woefully short of the goal. To make matters worse, in the U.S. we get the shitty 1 MB version which is shorter in length, has fewer enemies and level bosses and a crummier ending than the Japanese and European versions. Luckily, the PAL version is region free so pick that copy up if you want the complete Captain Silver experience. I have the U.S. version so for me, this game is decent and the best on this post, but still nothing spectacular.
Another huge gripe I have with a couple of these games in particular, Quartet and Zillion II, is their button placement. In these two games, jump and shoot buttons are backwards on the controller from their more common placement in other Master System and NES games of the era. This makes already very difficult games that much more challenging, a built in handicap so to speak. In Quartet you play as either Mary or Egder (sp?) depending on 1 or 2 player action and you must jump, shoot and obtain keys hidden in enemies to advance to the next levels. Enemy respawning is my second biggest gripe in this game so expect to get hit a ton when you leap right into a spot where an enemy you just killed has respawned. As for Zillion 2, I can only speak to what I’ve actually experienced and played as I haven’t been able to get past the opening level. In the first level, you’re on a motorbike of sorts in what looks like a space ship, moving down an incredibly long hallway blasting enemies on the ground and in the air while in constant motion and attempting to jump over pits and hazards. I find this level extremely frustrating and repetitive and want so desperately to get past it so I can experience the more traditional platforming of the second level but it hasn’t happened for me yet. This is a rage quit type of game for me.
As for the rest of the games in this post, I’ve played them all and all have their moments of fun but generally are painfully mediocre to plain bad. Sorry Master System, I love you, but these offerings don’t show your best.
Currently in my collection:
Alex Kidd: High Tech World – game only
Alex wants to go the new arcade but doesn’t know where it is because his map has been torn to pieces. He must solve puzzles, runs errands and answer questions to get the pieces of map he needs. This game is a literal chore. Bonus points for trying something different. D
Captain Silver – game, manual, case B-
Ghost House – game, manual, case
Another frustratingly difficult action game, this time on a card so you know it’s going to be pretty basic. Punch or jump on enemies, fight the various Draculas (more than 1 Dracula?), fall down invisible pits, get knocked back repeatedly by the never ending barrage of enemies, rage quit. D-
Penguin Land – game only
Puzzler that requires a penguin to move its precious fucking egg down a mountain onto a space ship. A trial and error puzzle game that requires you to repeat the same level over and over and over until you quit making mistakes and finally perform the task error free. For me, Penguin Land is another chore of a game which kind of defeats the purpose. After about 10 attempts to get that damn egg on the spaceship on the first level alone, I quit (notice a trend with these games?). C-
Quartet – game only C
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego – game only
Who in the world that is of a certain age hasn’t played this game in some form or fashion? By the time I owned this Master System cartridge, I had already played it extensively on computer as a kid so I had little interest in it beyond just a collector’s piece. This version isn’t bad though and it gives players a wide variety of skill options to choose from. This will be the version I introduce my children to. C+
Zillion II: The Tri Formation – game, manual, case C