Last week we listed 10 of our favorite games on the Master System. Unfortunately, that period of happiness and good games had to come to an end eventually as not every game on the 8-bit console was a shining star. In fact, there’s quite a few games on the Master System that shouldn’t be put in anyone’s system. From rushed licensed games to 8-bit downgraded ports of 16-bit games there’s a few clunkers that managed to make it to store shelves back in the day.
Hit the jump to read our list of 10 games to avoid on the Master System.
Alex Kidd and the Lost Stars
Mike Kyzivat: I never played the original Alex Kidd in Miracle World but I bet if I had I would hate this game even more. Alex Kidd and the Lost Stars is a simple game about Alex Kidd running around some inexplicably strange levels trying to find the “lost stars.” The biggest problem with this game is that there isn’t much to it, you run, you jump, you shoot clouds to hit enemies, huh? Oh, and don’t get me started on the enemies… they are more inexplicable then the levels. One stage has you fighting bare ass naked babies with sunglasses on that shoot rolling skulls out of their butts. You heard me right folks. The sound design is pretty bad too. The music is very generic and the sounds in Alex Kidd range from forgettable to nails on a chalk board. One such example is when Alex Kidd takes damage by landing on or touching an enemy you hear this loud distorted AHHHHHH! and then Alex turns yellow and disintegrates for no reason. It might be worth a watch on youtube just to see all the weird stuff it has, but as a game it is horribly lacking.
Alex Riggen: It’s pretty disappointing that the greatest sitcom to ever grace American television would get such a poor release on the Sega Master System, but that’s the cold hard reality. Alf is a strange beast as it’s easiest to explain as an adventure/platformer/Metroidvania hybrid that is terrible in all three categories. As you wander each environment a strange man with a hat and gloves will awkwardly “walk” across the screen at which point you’ll have to use the horrible controls and hit detection to avoid his sprite colliding with yours. There are moments when you have to cross the street with cars driving past and in this psuedo-3D moment the programmers failed to realize that just because a sprite touches another sprite does not mean that your character was in the same actual “plane” as the car. Then there’s the time early on when you venture into the basement with a large salami and hit bats out of the air, which, admittedly is quite funny but painful to play due to the before mentioned poor control and hit detection. So, to summarize: Alf is the greatest Master System based on a license from a sitcom starring a furry extraterrestrial who lives with an American family.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
Flake: In March 1993, Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon, was famously killed on the set of The Crow thanks to a negligent prop manager. By this point, the name of the Lee family was connected with tragedy in the minds of the fans. You’d think that the developers of “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” would have treated the game with a little more care given the circumstances at the time but no: The mess of a fighting game was released the next year on the Genesis , Jaguar, and Super Nintendo. The game was terrible, lazy, and derivative.
…and a year later, Virgin Interactive doubled down on trashing the memory of Bruce Lee and put out a Master System version of the game that was even more of a mess. You control Bruce Lee as he shuffles (literally) through a cargo ship (huh?) beating up generic bad guys. The game tries to be a platformer but it’s like the guy who designed the stages had a grudge against the guy who designed the actions of the character; every ledge is just to high to jump to naturally and there is a bad guy positioned perfectly to knock you down. And while the gameplay designer and the level designer were busy hating each other, they were not paying attention to the guy doing the art. I think it was his first day on the job.
Mike Kyzivat: How do you make a shooter utterly boring? Why you make Global Defense of course. It is a mish-mash of a traditional side scrolling shooter and the old Atari game Missile Command, but with weird controls. You play as a satellite sent into space to stop various missiles and crab looking aliens from getting past you and detonating on the Earth below. The bullets you fire work just like Missile Command where they have a blast radius and as long as the enemy is in the blast the will be killed. Now, here is where it gets kind of weird. You control both the cross hair for aiming and the satellite itself. I believe you hold a button down to move the satellite because otherwise you move the cross-hair and fire bullets with the other button. So, the game becomes this odd balance of trying to shoot down these generic missiles and aliens before they pass you by and keep your satellite out of harm’s way. Is it a novel mechanic? Yes. Is it a fun mechanic? No. Plus all the levels are slightly different views of Earth and all the enemy designs are bland and uninspired. The only thing memorable about the game is the jingle it plays before the start of each level. blop, blop, bweee-eeee!!!
Tom Kyzivat: With the first Zillion being so good, the second is bound to be a great game, right? Well, maybe… I actually couldn’t tell you, because the game is so freakin’ hard that I’ve never gotten past the first level. Sure, it’s entirely possible that they game is a masterpiece of 8-bit gaming, a wonder to behold for both young and old, but I’ll never know, but that first level is most probably impossible. All I know about the game is that you’re riding on a motorcycle through some abstract, spacey hallway, shooting at stuff, and every so often you get to transform your cycle into sweet robot armor that turns you into a flying killing machine. Cool, right? Right. I bet there are other cool things in the game, but I’ll never know. Now, it’s also possible that the game is fine and that I just suck at it, but, like most nerds, I chose to believe that the flaw is in the game.
20 em 1
Alex Riggen: Released exclusively in Brazil, 20 em 1 is quite possible the worst game I’ve ever played. It’s gimmick: 20 games on 1 cartridge! Unfortunately, that means nothing when every game on this cartridge is either unplayable or some of the most creatively dead material you’ve ever played. Let’s describe a few games: Catch falling tools in a bucket until time runs out! Gather coins underwater while avoiding the shark! Get the cheese falling from the sky until time runs out! And this idea literally continues for the next 17 games with the occasional game that breaks the “gathering things” mold but still remains quite dull. It doesn’t help that none of the games really have any progression in them. It’s pretty much collect stuff until you die or run out of time and then restart. The game is worth a look for the curious but don’t expect any enjoyment beyond the fact that it’s incomprehensible how this game was published in the first place.
Flake: Don’t get me wrong. I love the Lemmings. I know for a fact that we have readers here who are scratching their heads right now. “What is a the Lemmings?” If you weren’t there for that awesome time in gaming we called “the 90’s”, Lemmings was the original cute animal suicide simulator. It was a PC game where you created obstacles and tools to help guide a group of green haired, manic Lemmings get from one part of the screen safely to the exit. The concept has been done to death by this point but back in the day C:lemmings.exe was how we rolled.
The Master System version of this game is an example of what happens when you try to force a good game onto a platform it is just not suited for. First of all, a Master System d-pad is just not a replacement for a mouse. Having to slowly guide your cursor around the screen is a drag. Lemmings is not the most fast paced game out there but timing is still essential. If you weren’t wasting enough time awkwardly targeting the Lemming you needed to turn into road guard or make explode, you also have to bring the cursor down to the menu at the bottom of the screen to select new powers. No key board short cuts here.
And…that’s it. The music is okay. The graphics are pretty much what they were on any other platform. But the compromises made to get the game onto Sega’s 8-bit wonder defeated entirely the spirit of the game and with it created an incredibly disappointing product.
Tom Kyzivat: There are a lot of things about Mortal Kombat that I like, but there are also a lot of things I don’t. Chief of which is the cheesy, digitized graphics. So, there’s probably no way to make the game cornier and less appealing, right? Well, we could try busting it down to 8-bit graphics and slashing the roster to six characters. We could also make the gameplay choppy and cut mad frames out of the character animation. Now let’s see what we get: ah, perfect!
Flake: Okay, so everyone has already seen the “Angry Nintendo Nerd” episode about Rocky for the Master System. I’m going to present pretty much the exact same complaints, minus the excessive cursing: All the development for Rocky for the Master System went into making a game that looked GREAT but received zero play testing. It is awkward to control and in last stage (there are only three) you can only use words like ‘arbitrary’ and ‘God forsaken’ to describe the how the difficulty ramps up.
It is obvious that Rocky was created in that magical time period before games were made by people who actually PLAYED games. What makes it even worse is that Rocky for the Master System should have been a real treat for the early Sega loyalists – A top tier license that Nintendo hadn’t managed to get exclusive rights for was a rare thing in the late 80’s. The game was a disaster, though.
I wonder what the bigger disappointment was for Rocky loving Sega fans? Rocky for the Master System in 1987 or Rocky V in theaters in 1990?
Mike Kyzivat: Ok, you know how R-Type is the pinnacle of shooters on the SEGA Master System? Well TransBot is the exact opposite of that. Unless of course you love suck. If you do then TransBot is right up your alley. Swarms and swarms of the same globe shaped enemy coming at you in groups of five concave flight patterns. More generic planet backgrounds then you can shake an inanimate carbon rod at. Power ups that really only change the look of your bullets rather then the power. Well, that isn’t the case if you are lucky enough to get the C power up that changes you into a robot: the entire gimmick of the game. This transformation happens in an instant. There’s no animation. One second you are a space ship and the next you are a flying robot. Their whole gimmick for the game isn’t even good. Please, for your own safety and the safety of others around you don’t play TransBot, ever.