The Sega Master System was no different than most other consoles from the 1980s when it came time to produce and develop games from movie licenses. Sega wanted franchises that could sell games and possibly even systems. One franchise that Sega managed to snag the rights to was “Rambo”, the series of action films starring Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam war vet, John Rambo. While the first film in the franchise, First Blood, was a taught cat and mouse thriller set on U.S. soil, the sequels took place in foreign countries, allowing Rambo to fight other enemies besides overzealous & abusive small town police and the anti-Vietnam sentiment still prevalent in the early 80s.
Sega released two “Rambo” titles for the Master System. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1986) was more of an overhead action shooter in the style of Commando or Ikari Warriors on the NES. Rambo III, on the other hand, took a completely different approach and was developed by Ocean Software and Taito as a light gun shooter.
The plot of Rambo III is loosely based on the film of the same name, also released in 1988. In this film and game, John Rambo takes on the Soviets in Afghanistan, during the Soviet-Afghan war. He is attempting to rescue his Vietnam commanding officer, Colonel Trautman, as well as freeing other P.O.W.’s in a first person perspective light gun shooter style.
During gameplay, the screen moves from left to right, with enemies & enemy helicopters popping up from behind barrels, in windows, over hills, etc. You are given a life bar at the bottom of the screen which will go down as you take hits. Additionally, there will be innocent civilians trying to escape the violence, which you must not shoot or else your life bar is reduced significantly. Your game ends upon the depletion of your life bar but you are then given several continues afterwards in order to keep playing at the level you died in. You are given one life bar refill per level, which you must shoot at the bottom of the screen, in order to activate. There is also a bomb located at the bottom of the screen that you can activate to take out all the enemies on the screen if you get yourself into a pickle. For the most part, your gun is all you will need for each level.
Honestly, the game’s best weapon is your machine gun. Sure, the bomb is nice when you just want to clear a screen, but the light phaser does a wonderful job with its accuracy and the ability to hold down the trigger and shoot rapid fire is very effective.
At the end of stage 4, you reach Col. Trautman’s prison cell and after a brief pause, he comes out and begins waving at you, thanking you for saving him. If you’re too quick on the trigger, you might accidentally shoot your mentor and friend! Tragic!
The game’s final stage, stage 7, provides you with a different perspective than the previous 6. The first 6 stages all went left to right and there were no level bosses to fight. On those stages, they would end when you reached the far right of the screen and defeated all the enemies before depleting your life meter. Stage 7 utilizes a vertically scrolling background, instead giving the player the impression they are moving forward. As you “move forward”, enemy planes and tanks come at you from the foreground. The game’s only boss is an enormous helicopter that requires a quite a number of shots to defeat, but still isn’t all that difficult.
Rambo III includes 7 stages, all of varying locations and backgrounds, including a stage that takes place at night. The enemies come at you in the exact same manner each time, which is expected from games of this era, so replaying the game to master timing of where to shoot the moment that they pop up, is your best bet for success. I really enjoy Rambo III for what it is, a fun and intriguing light gun game that doesn’t do anything exceptional but provides the player everything they need to have 10-15 minutes of fun.