"I wanted to play this game for the longest time. Years ago, I bought this game after my SMS was gone, and it was pretty hard to find a new Master System back then. Recently, last year, I finally had the chance to try this game out. From the looks of the screen shots on the back of the box, I assumed it would play similar to Bomber Raid, so I had high hopes for this game. Boy, was I sorely disappointed once I played it. Although, there are many similarities to Bomber Raid<..."
I wanted to play this game for the longest time. Years ago, I bought this game after my SMS was gone, and it was pretty hard to find a new Master System back then. Recently, last year, I finally had the chance to try this game out. From the looks of the screen shots on the back of the box, I assumed it would play similar to Bomber Raid, so I had high hopes for this game. Boy, was I sorely disappointed once I played it. Although, there are many similarities to Bomber Raid, it's just not as fun as that game, hell, it's not even as good as the other shmups on the system. Ironically, a game I had waited years to play, and thought would be a great shoot-em-up, turned out to be the worst shmup on the Master System.
The first problem I had with the game was the storyline. It's the 21st Century, and the world has just gone through a nuclear war. Afterwards, everyone united together for world peace. It wouldn't last this way for long, though, as invaders from space attack!! *gasp* Their numbers are many, and their weapons are very powerful. As they slowly conquer earth, only two pilots from Group One have the guts to drive these invaders from earth. Obviously, these pilots are you, and that's where the game begins. Now, I usually wouldn't care much for the story in a shmup, but the more I played the game, the more it bugged the crap out of me. These are supposedly space invaders. When I think of aliens invading earth, I think of this highly advanced race, with oddly designed, but, cool looking and technically advanced machines/planes/whatever. But, when I'm playing this game, I'm pitted against WWII type machinery! A lot of the enemies you face in the game have pretty average looking vehicles from an era gone by. This is the 21st Century for cryin out loud! I swear, it feels more like I'm playing through an alternative version of World War II at times. Either this wasn't the original story or someone just added it in at the very last second. I don't ever recall being this annoyed with a game's storyline before. Thanks, Scramble Spirits!
The next problem with the game is the overall difficulty. It's not that challenging to begin with, especially since you start out with an overpowered plane. Instead of the usual "one shot bullet", you start out shooting four bullets in a row. Then, seconds into the stage, you'll already get access to two mini fighters, turning you into an absolute powerhouse. And the round barely even started!! This wouldn't be much of a problem if the enemy fighters were actually a challenge, but they aren't. Almost every enemy you come across, fires the exact same slow moving, tiny bullets your way. Rarely will you come across a fighter that shoots something different. The bosses in the game are just as pathetic. They hardly put up a fight, they usually just stick to the top of the screen, shooting bullets that you can easily dodge. The only tough boss was round three's Flying Pancake (that's the actual name). That's because the bullets it shoots are homing shots. But, he becomes pathetically easy if you still have your mini fighters with you, which can shoot forward and explode. This was something I found out after I beat the game once. When I played through it again, knowing I can use my mini fighters as bombs, the entire game became insanely easy.
"Even more problems!!"
Hey look, I got more problems with the game! This time it's about each round's structure. All six rounds in the game aren't very long, they usually only last about two/three minutes each (takes 15/20 minutes to complete the game). When you make it up to the boss fights, you'll get this "THAT'S IT?" feeling, every time. Another thing I hate about some of the round structure is the placement of a bonus stage......RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROUND! One moment, you're in the middle of one of the few intense moments the game throws at you, and then, suddenly, everything just stops, just so you can partake in a bonus stage. It's so annoying when this happens because it just throws you out of the loop with the rest of the round. It's really awkward getting back into the action once you're done. Now.....the final problem I have with Scramble Spirits' gameplay: the flickering. From the very second you start, every moving object in this game flickers. Not only is this an eyesore, but it also affects the gameplay. Remember those tiny bullets I mentioned earlier? With the flickering, you can barely see them, and you're really screwed if you're playing in a round where the bullets blend in with the background. Because of that, the bullets are literally invisible. There were many moments where I didn't see a bullet until it appeared right next to me. Mash all these problems together, and you got one frustrating gaming experience.
"Got any other problems with Scramble Spirits?!"
While not as problematic as the gameplay aspect of SS, the graphics are kinda decent for a game that involves "alien invaders". The enemy's planes/tanks/bosses all have uninspired looking designs for what the game describes as "aliens with powerful weaponry". As I said earlier, everything just looks like WWII-ish type machinery that you'd assume the entire earth could easily fight against. Most of the bosses just look plain silly, they literally look like a bunch of kitchen utensils. Really. Round three's Flying Pancake looks like a cheese grater, round five's Sky Revolver looks like one half of a pancake maker, and the last boss looks like a cork twister. The backgrounds look typical for a shmup: city, desert, ocean, forest etc. Nothing really stands out as impressive, although, some of the mountain designs in round five look nicely detailed. Probably the highlight for me with this game is the music. But, at the same time, it doesn't fit the mood of the game. Like the first round music, it's my favorite tune in the game, but it sounds like something you would hear while the credits roll by. It's just too happy and upbeat. And to give you an idea about how the rest of the tunes don't match the vibe of the game, I'll say this: it all sounds like carnival music. Seriously, I kept thinking of going on a merry go round, or knock down some bottles with a ball for most of the game.
"It's almost over!!"
Even though there aren't that many shmups on the system, almost each and everyone of them is much better then what this game has to offer. Seriously, even the other bad shmups are better then SS, their problems aren't as bad as the ones featured here. If you've played Bomber Raid, liked it, and thought this would be just as good and fun as that game, then please, just avoid Scramble Spirits. Go back to playing Bomber Raid, or check out the other shmups, like Astro Warrior, R-Type, or Sagaia. Just, please, don't go near this game.
Community review by dementedhut (October 11, 2004)
As vaguely implied in the review, SpellCaster would get a Sega Genesis "sequel" called Mystic Defender. Both SpellCaster and Mystic Defender are actually reworked versions of Kujaku Ou and Kujaku Ou 2, based on a manga series that began in 1986.
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