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M.U.S.H.A. (Genesis) artwork

M.U.S.H.A. (Genesis) review

"I’d been in a slump as far as shooters went, it seemed. It felt like forever since I’d actually played one that was fun and aesthetically pleasing. Those paying attention to “All Things Overdrive” probably know that among the recent ones I’d partaken of were such gems as Insector X (Genesis), Black Heart (Arcade) and Heavy Unit (PC Engine) — games that made me yearn for the icy cold touch of Dr. Kevorkian to put me out of my misery. "

I’d been in a slump as far as shooters went, it seemed. It felt like forever since I’d actually played one that was fun and aesthetically pleasing. Those paying attention to “All Things Overdrive” probably know that among the recent ones I’d partaken of were such gems as Insector X (Genesis), Black Heart (Arcade) and Heavy Unit (PC Engine) — games that made me yearn for the icy cold touch of Dr. Kevorkian to put me out of my misery.

And then, I started playing M.U.S.H.A. again. Suddenly, the horrid days of playing cheap, crappy games faded from my mind. I had found myself again as I became locked into fierce, manic combat with the seemingly infinite forces of evil.

After watching the rest of my squad get obliterated with ease, I knew the odds were against me. Eager to finish the job, the enemy forces sent one of its most deadly weapons after me — a gigantic tank resembling an ancient pyramid. With a few deft maneuvers, I was able to dodge this massive machine’s first tentative attacks and send enough of my own its way to force it into retreat. Now, I was the hunter...

And just that quickly, I was hooked back into the world of M.U.S.H.A., one of the finest shooters on the Genesis — a system that is loaded with no shortage of great games in this genre. Featured mass amounts of vividly detailed foes combined with enough frenetic blasting action to satisfy the most destructive of gamers, M.U.S.H.A. is one of those games that is able to combine great gameplay with style — a cartridge that looks as good as it plays.

Through the seven vertically-scrolling stages (and brief epilogue) of this game, you’ll encounter a diverse crew of foes. After running down and disposing of the aforementioned pyramid tank, you’ll run into a giant head with the ability to move walls into your mech, a snake-like demonic boss, a gigantic battleship on a sea of red and countless other foes. They’ll come at you rapidly and from all directions and angles. At times, it will be all you can do to avoid the onslaught....and even that might not be enough.

Fortunately, developers Compile made sure to give you a way to survive the mass amount of enemies and projectiles that will be coming your way from the second you start play — power-ups! Before you immediately discredit me as a simpleton stating the obvious, let me explain the M.U.S.H.A. power-up system in a bit more detail.

When you start play, one hit is sufficient to knock you out of the sky, just like most other shooters. Collect a few power-ups and you’ll be a bit more durable, though. After playing for a few minutes, you might have a more powerful default weapon, the ability to fire missiles, a bright blue shield or a green laser gun. Not only are you now able to unleash a more diverse and powerful offensive against the opposition, but you’ll also be far more durable. Instead of killing you, enemy attacks that cut through your defenses will merely take away one of your new attacks. With the frequent power-ups that M.U.S.H.A. bestows upon you, it likely won’t take long for you to reclaim any lost abilities — unless you take it on the proverbial chin repeatedly in a short period of time.

That doesn’t make M.U.S.H.A. an easy game, though, just one that can be conquered. The pace of the action and the quantity of the opposition makes it a given that you’ll take hits. Just take a brief look at the third stage if you don’t believe me. Originally, it looks like the designers have already run out of creative ideas, as this level looks very similar to the previous stage’s enemy base. However, after fighting a mini-boss almost as soon as you begin the stage, things change dramatically. The floor crumbles and falls into a fiery river at the bottom of a deep canyon and the action picks up. You’ll fight hordes of fast-moving and aggressive foes and then be forced to move at high speeds while avoiding potentially lethal rock formations sprouting from the canyon walls. Get through that (relatively) unscathed and you’ll get to endure another section of insanely intense shooting before running into the boss. Don’t expect a breather here, though. Starting out as a devilish head with multiple faces, it will eventually turn into a snake-like demon. While it doesn’t take an obscene amount of time to kill, it will demand every bit of your concentration, as it is aggressive and unrelenting. And just think — you still have four stages to go.

Diverse stages at that. M.U.S.H.A. is not a game that will become stale. From the first stage’s almost-feudal look to that deadly canyon of the third stage and beyond, you will be awed by the sheer beauty of this game. That beauty extends to your foes, as well. Compile put no shortage of detail into these mechs and monsters. Instead of challenging generic spaceships and fighter planes, you’ll be taking on villains that seem to be a meld of man and machine. Gigantic floating ships and moving tanks with human faces will make up the bulk of this game’s boss and mid-boss encounters. Among the run-of-the-mill enemies that serve as cannon fodder between these climactic encounters are an assortment of human-like mechs operating a wide range of weaponry. Even a number of the most insignificant foes, such as the weak flames that provide back-up to the first stage’s tank when you initially encounter it, have some sort of human feature (eyes in the case of that example).

When you take in all the elements of M.U.S.H.A., it’s hard not to be amazed — especially when you consider the game was released in 1990, making it one of the older games in the Genesis library. Beautiful and diverse backgrounds that are loaded with an array of equally diverse foes. Fast-paced action that has enough depth to push it beyond merely being a frenetic, “twitch” shooter. It all adds up to an experience that can wash away the bitter aftertaste of any number of horrid shooters — a game wonderful and exciting enough to make you remember exactly why you love shooters so much.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (July 20, 2004)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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