Review: Stargate (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we venture forth into a whole new world in the adventure game Stargate. We find out how this action adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1995.

You play the character Colonel Jack O’Neil. During an expedition, the alien forces of Ra have attacked your team. Disoriented, the team (and the equipment they brought) scatter. Your mission is to gather up as much equipment, re-assemble your team, and help the Abydos fight back in order to get back to Earth again.

You start the game in the middle of a desert. All you have is a machine gun with the weakest ammunition. Also helping you are grenades. How many grenades you start the game (and after you respawn from a death for that matter) depends on the difficulty you set in the options menu before you start the game.

Generally speaking, even with upgrades, the machine gun is very weak. Even the weakest of enemies take numerous hits just to take out. How much damage the machine gun does depends on the difficulty that is set.

The grenades, meanwhile, deals a large amount of damage. Even moderate enemies can be taken out with a single grenade. The problem here is that it’s hard to place grenades in good locations. While they sometimes detonate on contact of an enemy, others may bounce harmlessly off of enemies and explode at just barely a safe distance away. To make matters worse, supplies are extremely limited, so you need to use them wisely. The only plus side is that you can’t damage yourself with them.

You’ll encounter a number of enemies along the way. A number of them are insects and various reptiles. For the most part, enemies do a substantial amount of damage on you. Unless you are able to fire away with your weapon without taking damage (ducking is a good method of defence), using your machine guns on enemies are rarely worth the effort. A single hit (save for easy mode) can take out a huge chunk of your health.

In addition to this, there are more powerful enemies you can encounter. The most common more powerful enemy is the Ra soldier. Not only do they have the ability to randomly teleport out of harms way, but they also have powerful laser weapons that can do substantial damage. The later the levels, the more frequently they teleport. In addition, they have a large amount of health to withstand repeated blows. While grenades are effective, they often require at least two to fully take out of commission.

Boss fights are particularly difficult. The most common boss you encounter is Anubis. If you think the Ra soldiers are annoying, Anubis makes them look like they have pushover difficulty in comparison. Anubis uses his powerful laser weapon which is much more difficult to avoid. He also sends out flying remote bombs at you. While the bombs can be taken out with your machine gun, they are difficult to hit as well. By the time you hit them, sometimes, Anubis has already teleported out and in again with a fresh attack volley in the process. Careful planning is critically important when taking on this boss.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of items that help power you up. The most common item is the grenade. Each grenade gives you two additional grenades in your inventory. Stocking up is important, but know that when you die, you lose all items and power-ups including the grenade stockpile (this excludes, naturally, free lives, which count down by one after each death).

In a later part of the game, you can get alien beetle grenades. While they are fewer and farther between, these yellow grenades are more powerful than normal grenades.

Another item pick up is the free life. This item looks like a pulsating green circle. Collect this and add a life to your inventory.

Two other items you can obtain are the nuclear tile and the red tiles. No idea what they do besides accumulating in your inventory, but they are apparently important.

The remaining weapons improve your nearly useless machine gun. On item, which has vapours flying everywhere, is the -16 degree powerup. You might notice a red line on your machine gun every time you fire. This indicates heat. If you fire your machine gun for long enough, it will overheat and you’ll be forced to wait a moment for it to cool down. If you wait a moment, you’ll be able to fire it again, but ideally, you don’t want this to happen in the middle of a firefight. The -16 degree item turns the bar white and keeps the machine gun cool for extended periods of time. This allows you to fire your weapon for much longer periods of time before it depletes.

Another item is the ammo powerups. By default, you get the smallest bullets (which seemingly has unlimited ammo). The ammo powerups will increase the power of your bullets. The most common is the medium ammo power-up, but there is also a few large ammo power-ups as well. While there is a lot of bullets, there is limited ammunition with the ammo power-ups, so keep missing enemies reduced to a minimum if you can help it.

In addition to this, there is the rapidfire powerup. This looks like a giant trigger icon with a red blinking light. For a limited period of time, you’ll be able to fire at a much faster rate of speed. A bit difficult to picture on a machine gun, but that’s the way the game works. With this ability, it’ll take enemies less time to get taken out. The bonus here is that the game takes the same amount of time to heat up as regular fire, so a hidden bonus here as well.

One final weapon pick-up of note is the wildfire powerup. This item will increase the spread of your weapon, making it easier to hit enemies. The chance includes a different sound as well.

Controls seem quite straight forward on the surface, but there are some advanced moves you need to do. “A” is jump. “B” is fire. “C” allows you to throw a grenade. If you tap down, you’ll be able to duck. While in a ducking position, you can move around or attack. To get back in a standing position, simply jump. Tapping up allows you to enter doorways. If you tap down near a ledge, you’ll climb down. Holding down and jumping while hanging off a ledge will allow you to drop down. You can fire your gun and throw grenades, but otherwise, up will pull your character back up.

If you are walking in one direction or another, press and hold “C” to get your character to run. While running isn’t really necessary for large chunks of the game, it is pretty much required in certain places (i.e. a particularly wide gap you just can’t seem to get over). Another move is throwing a grenade while holding down. This allows you to roll a grenade. It’s shorter distance and can help you hit more enemies. Holding up will allow you to throw grenades higher as well. While not a mandatory move to know, but will make your game easier.

While the levels, for the most part, don’t offer a whole lot that is particularly noteworthy, there are some points worth bringing up. The first feature of note exists in desert levels. Generally speaking, while there is the appearance of a single floor, there are sections that actually contain multiple, yet invisible levels. You can take a sort of high road or low road as you traverse the sands. The high road is easy to get to: just jump up to it whether this is approaching it or while taking the lower road. The lower road, however, requires you to more or less walk so that your feet travel below the higher road ridge. The lower road tends to have more items and even a few objective points as well, so it is worth squeezing yourself into the lower roads.

Another feature that some may note is the optional areas. You can explore various rooms and dungeon areas by going up to a door and pressing up. Some doors are required while others are strictly for obtaining items. A few doors can’t even be entered too. While this is an interesting feature, it isn’t particularly groundbreaking. This is because I’ve seen such features in earlier games. One example is Super Mario Bros. 2 clear back in 1988. Still, not a bad feature to have as it adds a certain dimension to the overall gameplay.

Another feature in this game is the inclusion of objectives. A few objectives involves taking care of a single thing. Most, however, revolve around you activating 4-6 things. Often, you are supposed to touch an object or person. Other times, you have to shoot the targets (killing traitors and consoles to name two examples). If you fail to complete your objective, the game simply won’t allow you to move any further in.

One thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the difficulty. I get that you don’t want a pushover difficulty on medium, but the game was quite tough on the default normal difficulty. I played again on the easy difficulty after I died trying to fight Anubis. With that setting change, I was able to get almost all the way through the game, but it was not exactly the easiest ride I’ve ever had.

Another problem I have with this game is the controls. While there is a bit of a learning curve with some elements, the controls themselves are a bit clunky. Sometimes, I would lose all forward momentum and have to re-press the direction I was going in. Yes, I am aware of breakable walls, but this happens in open areas as well.

Grenade throwing can be quite buggy as well. If you are too close to a wall, you won’t be able to throw a grenade at all. You just see the throwing motion and that’s it. Also, if you take damage while throwing the grenade, the game cancels the throw on you. If you throw a grenade and try to turn around, sometimes, the controls will cause you to throw additional grenades in the same direction anyway. While throwing grenades more slowly does help, there are intense situations that cause this to be a problem.

The objectives are quite repetitive after a while. Almost all of them require you to attack or activate 4, 5, or 6 things. I would have liked to have seen more variety. Heck, even a quest to pick something up and move it to another location would have helped. Some objectives are a bit confusing. For me, the most confusing was the bay door objective. It involves blasting something that simply sits in the background in a random area, but it’s not exactly intuitive.

The writing in this game does leave a bit to be desired. It does have its moments where there is the odd crack of humour here and there, but things do get old and repetitive pretty quickly. Daniel always messes something up and you have to clean up matters for instance. So, that aspect is quite hit and miss.

Generally speaking, this game does offer a fair amount of high action and adventure. It does offer an interesting extension to the then movie franchise. Some of the level features are pretty interesting and the game does offer a fair bit of variety in terms of item pickups. Having said that, this game has its flaws as well. The controls are both clunky and have a bit of a learning curve. I found that the difficulty is a bit on the tough side for my tastes. The objects are a bit repetitive and the writing is pretty hit and miss. It’s an alright game, but nothing to get overly excited over.

The graphics have their strengths here. Probably the biggest standout feature is the smooth animation sequences of the main character. This element is very well done in my view. The details and settings are pretty decent. Also, the enemies are well drawn and realized. While not groundbreaking for the time, it isn’t bad either.

The audio is alright. The music does its job to keep things interesting. The sound effects are fairly average. Not bad, but nothing overwhelmingly notable either.

Overall, this game isn’t one of those games that makes me say that this is an amazing game. Still, I don’t exactly regret playing it either. It has redeeming features and does have something to offer for those who want to try something new. There are some interesting level features that do work in the games favour like level design. The flaws include clunky controls, repetitive objectives, hit and miss writing, and high difficulty. The graphics have their features worth noting, but it isn’t all that groundbreaking. The audio is OK, but nothing amazing. A decent game if you want to try something different, but nothing too amazing.

Furthest point in game:
Medium: Died fighting Anubis in the first fight.
Easy: Died fighting the third encounter of Anubis.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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