Monday 22 March 2010

Submarine Attack

When UK retailer Gamestation set up a few stores in the area, life for the retro gamer suddenly started to become fairly grand. They were the first store to have a pre-owned section that wasn't just concerned with the latest generation of brown and bloom. The first time Master System games would get a shelf in a nation-wide chain of stores since about 1993.

Of course one of the major downsides of this is many old games just won't sell. Submarine Attack is a classic example. It's just a vague description of an unknown average shoot 'em up, and since it adopts several of the ridiculously poor Master System box-art tactics of the day, it's amazing this thing ever sold. Of course, it stands more of a chance than Italia '90 these days, but you still need a special type of person to take this off your hands.

Or a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Submarine Attack is one of those games that we forget exists. It didn't prove anything, it didn't revolutionise anything, it was just released in 1990 as another entry for the Master System's growing library of video games. The most recognition it would have received in its short run would have been a small section of a few magazines, and even then it was only because Sega made it. There's a completely mad story that accompanies this thing involving aliens and warfare, but as you can see it's just a shoot 'em up that takes place underwater, and that's all that really matters.

As with many shooters of the day there are two firing modes, a torpedo that will shoot forwards, and... another weapon that will fire upwards in a semi-circle arc shape (sort-of), allowing you to take out planes above the water. There are various upgrades which can boost firepower, but the weapon system isn't quite as advanced as say, Gradius. Each level has a boss, and there's a handful of levels. It's fairly basic stuff.

One of the major downsides with Submarine Attack is its speed. Your submarine is slow, and though it can get faster, it's never quite fast enough. As neither your enemies or your weapons are speed demons either, the whole experience is a bit dull... but I suppose that's the major difference between being in the vacuum of space and being underwater on Earth. One rather bizarre thing which may be an emulation error is that the submarine can't seem to move in the top left direction... not sure what's going on there. Things aren't as fluid as they should be, but lets not forget, in 1990 Sega's target was the Mega Drive. Surprising Master System exclusives were still being made at this point.

Really the game should be called "Attack Submarine", since you're the largest target and everything seems to hurt you (including bubbles). The physics don't seem to make much sense either - some things slow down as they hit the water, while some don't, and the collision isn't always spectacular. There's also the issue with music - though it's a reasonably nice Master System game to look at, the soundtrack is repetitive and annoying - a great representation of what's wrong with the console's sound capabilities.

But consider this, Submarine Attack is an average game, and will always be an average game. Even though I can't really recommend it to anyone and I'm doubtful anyone will ever try it out, this blog post is likely to be the most attention this game has ever received. That has to count for something right? Also lest we forget, I got this for free.

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