Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Lucky Dime Caper

Time for Master System games! The first is the poor man's Quackshot, The Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck. One of many Dinsey-themed games released in the early 1990s to convert Nintendo users to Sega fans, this one only appeared on 8-bit Sega machines, with its partner of crime appearing on the Sega Game Gear. But is it any good?

I don't really know what to think of the Sega Master System. Surprisingly... I don't mind the SG-1000 that much, and the Mega Drive was the king of its generation as far as I'm concerned, but the Master System? Not fantastic. But what were the alternatives? The flickery glitch-ridden NES? The Atari 7800? An expensive computer? It's arguably the best of a bad bunch.

But the Master System's software library is a bit of a mess. It started off life in 1985, being regularly fed watered down arcade ports it couldn't handle. When the Sega Mega Drive showed up in 1988, the Master System started getting watered down Mega Drive ports it couldn't handle. So essentially, the console was always very wet and always struggled to do thing well.

But it did see some nice exclusives, and the Lucky Dime Caper is one of those. Yes, like many SMS games, it appeared on the Game Gear, but at the expense of a smaller resolution and various other changes that make the Game Gear version worse. If you're ever to buy this game, you'll be wanting the Master System copy, assuming you can get by without nicer cutscenes.

In this game, Donald Duck is set with the task of rescuing his nefews along with a few ten cents coins from some evil duck-witch thing called "Magica de Spell". As you might have gathered, Ducktales was a bit before my time... and I was more of a Warner Bros. man myself, so this might be common practise in Duckburg.

What this game actually has to do with "lucky dimes" is a bit unknown to me. Yes one of your missions is to get Uncle Scrooge's lucky dime back, but that's a sub-task, surely. The safety of children is probably more important. Granted, it can't be called the same thing as its Mega Drive counterpart as there's no shooting, but Donald does carry a hammer... so... why not "Quackhammer"? Is the pun too confusing for a western audience?

The Lucky Dime Caper is a basic platformer, you run, jump and hit things... though for some reason you can only hit things a small number of times. That means there's more reliance on jumping on the heads of enemies, which I guess might be one of the reasons "Quackhammer" didn't make the cut. The first three levels can be tackled in any order, so if you have a thing against Hewey but have strange attraction to Louie you can go and find the latter first. For the most part though, it's just a basic platformer, with a few little underwater sections but nothing on the same scale as Super Mario Bros.

Though it's not a bad game, the worlds feel a bit... empty. Perhaps this was because it was built with the Game Gear in mind, but even so, if you're going to bother to build a level you might want to populate it with enemies. I'd hate to think the emptiness has something to do with sprite limits... I mean the NES managed to keep its library full of life... why can't the Master System?

The game does feel a tad unpolished mind you. There's not much in the way of heads up displays... almost as if it weren't finished.

One thing possibly worth mentioning is there was a special release of Lucky Dime Caper that came with a T-Shirt and a music cassette tape. Classy. Wait no... I've always hated cassettes, seeing as after a while they destroy themselves. Bloody things.

Everything else is fairly standard, which is probably why this game doesn't get much internet attention. It's better than a lot of what the Master System has to offer, but it's not groundbreaking by any means. Nevertheless, I thought it wasn't too shabby, and though it doesn't beat any of the Mega Drive games it's a welcome addition to the Master System's library.


  1. Sorry to make this seem off-topic but remember you mentioned about Harry's Legend possibly being a hack of something? Take a look at this...
    3rd and 4th screenshot down on the left, it's a game called "Titenic". It uses Harry's Legend's levels and some news ones and...that chicken in Rose's screenshot is the same as the one in the tiles of Harry's Legend!

  2. Possibily, though that top right screenshot looks like a hack of one of those Earthworm Jim NES pirates, so they could just be into changing sprites for funzies.

    Content is constantly stolen or duplicated by different groups. People develop a game and then they give it to someone else to manufacture, who may or may not plaster their own name on the cartridge and box.

    While doing work for Sega RetroI found a manufacturer of Sega Mega Drive clones that has been in business for seventeen years. The person who released a game a decade ago might not be the same as the guy who releases it today.

    It's a mess... and probably a bit big for one man to document fully. I just talk about pirates as they come. I can make a few links to some cartridges and try and develop a timeline for others, but there's thousands of games that haven't been dumped and I'm really not the sort of guy who wants to spend hours sifting through Asian online markets. That's something a group does with a wiki.

  3. It's that or you have members going to different publishers/forming different groups. I developed a theory that Someri Team was it's own team but when they split up, some went on still carrying their games (Somari, Street Fighter IV, AV Bishoujo Senshi Girl Fighting and Kart Fighter and some others, they all share the same Huang-1 chip. The Somari going around on the internet is a re-release by NT, a pirate publisher), and became Hummer Team. (which explains Aladdin and their fighting games)In 1998, they'd split up again and a few others found Abab Soft. (Responsible for Titenic and Harry's Legend, Harry's Legend actually popped up on a few of their carts).

    Me and a few others from RX Community ended up making a wiki and a separate forum to try and document this stuff.
    Forum (which is actually new):
    This wasn't meant to be an advertisement but you mentioned wiki and it popped to my mind.

    I still go to your blog however because the other games you still post about interest me such as Pengo (remember playing this on MAME before long time ago).