Sunday 15 August 2010


You like the SG-1000 right? Come on, everyone likes the SG-1000. The SG-1000 is clearly the king of 1000-related SGs. Not convinced? Well observe this seemingly random SG-1000 game I've picked for you today.

Orguss. Based on an anime I have never watched (nor do I ever intend to watch for that matter). Except you wouldn't really know that unless you did your research, and for the benefit of this review and my anti-anime views, we'll assume that it's a standard space shooter with no ties to anything, like its spiritual sequel, TransBot.

I can't say much about SG-1000 games. Not because I haven't taught myself much about them, but because they're always very small and simple in nature. For example, Orguss was distributed on a 32kB ROM cartridge... and that's a big-ish one. You don't get much depth when playing an SG-1000 game mostly on the basis that in 1983, high-capacity ROM cartridges were expensive to manufacture.

I have mentioned the SG-1000 in the past when talking about potentially the best SG-1000 game out there, Pacar though I skipped a lot of detail. See, the SG-1000 was Sega's first entry to the video game market, which at the time was a bit oversaturated and even at a point of collapse in North America as a result. So Sega didn't market their console in the US... though I guess to be fair, they didn't really market it at all, and it failed everywhere.

There are a number of reasons why it failed to grasp a good percentage of the audience. One, Nintendo were better at marketing their more powerful Famicom to the Japanese. Two, the world was filled with cheap incompatible computers and Sega's attempt did not stand out above the crowd. Three, the MSX appeared in Japan to kill off all computers that would not conform with Microsoft of Japan's standard (though the irony here is the SG-1000 (or SC-3000, the computer version) shares similar hardware to the MSX). Four, the SG-1000 shipped with rubbish joysticks. Five, there was practically no third party support.

and so on, and so on. But they did learn from their mistakes with the Sega Master System, targeting more countries Nintendo wouldn't touch.

Orguss showed up in 1984. It's a shoot 'em up in which you pilot one of those widely available giant robots that can morph into starships. Your task is to destroy everything to assert your dominance over modern society. Shoot all those that move, stamp on those that don't. It's a fairly standard affair... the only problem is that this time, the instructions are written entirely in Japanese, so a story must be made up. I think you're supposed to stop wars or something... though perhaps it's not the time to mention that the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century were made in times of war. Might be one man's lust for strawberry ice-cream that went out of hand for all I care.

Orguss saw a sequel in the form of TransBot on the Master System, a game so common you might see copies filling up council estates. In TransBot there are half a dozen firing modes brought on by powerups. In Orguss, you only have two, and you can always swap between them. In starship mode you can only travel in the top three-quarters of the screen, but you have less surface area for enemies to hit. In robot mode, all the screen is accessible (bar the ground and the HUD), and you can kick over structures as you fly by, gaining more points.

The game also has a time limit, so you need to speed up occasionally by moving your robot closer to the right hand side of the screen (which of course is more dangerous). After a while you're presented with a big building of sorts that needs to be flattened, and after that... NEXT ROUND... which is identical to the last but with more enemy fire.

And that's pretty much the entirety of Orguss right there. The backgrounds change but not much else does. The same two or three enemies constantly reoccur and although things do get more tricky, they don't get much more interesting. Yet you can't really blame it. 32KB is not a lot to work with (even the original Super Mario Bros. was 40KB) and the SG-1000 is a very weak piece of tech, even for 1983. It's just a sad fact of life, though maybe you can now understand why Master System games are so keen to put the number of "rounds" on the back of the box, having seen variation as a selling point rather than a given video gaming standard.

The best way to look at this is take the view that it's an arcade port. Arcade games don't really need to be varied and long because most people will die before they reach the end. That's half the point - to inspire people to spend more money. But the thing with Orguss is that it's not an arcade game, it's a console game, and although the world hadn't quite grasped the concept of "fair computer games + fun > hard computer games + recycled content", Sega might have gotten somewhere with this if they'd thought outside of the box and decided to go with something not so bog-standard. This game wouldn't have sold SG-1000s.

But it's not terrible. Far from being the greatest shoot 'em up on the planet but in 1984 what exactly was the competition? It was before the days of Gradius or R-Type or any of the stuff Compile came up with in the 80s. I guess they just weren't to know that people preferred substance. But hey, you can do worse.

1 comment:

  1. The game does seem a bit like a clunker if it is like Transbot.

    Anyway on Pocket Monster II, I have found more stolen art. The blue monkey and the "sidecrawler" crab enemies are either from the arcade Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair (the monkey is in Stage 2) or touched up sprites from the first stage of Wonder Boy in Monster World. Maybe the sweets/candy might be from there too.

    Oh and I read somewhere (either Sega 16 or something, it came from Mr. Beggar Prince, Death Adder) that the Command and Conquer Mega Drive port was done by someone in China:

    This was the name of developer of said port: and this is the tools that he used to program it:

    I doubt that this would ever happen but I like to see an article done of Shui Hu Feng Yun Zhuan considered by a few to the best unlicensed/pirate game around.