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Action Fighter (Sega Master System) artwork

Action Fighter (Sega Master System) review


"Action Fighter was always going to be a success in the arcades. For its time, it was bright, colourful, had great highscore potential and it had great appeal for the steering wheel that you would use to control your almost suicidal vehicle. But with the steering wheel absent from this console version, it is instantly an uphill battle for Action Fighter to gain favour in the eyes of competent gamers. Action Fighter may have been quite addictive in its previous incarnation, but as with most Arcade..."



Action Fighter was always going to be a success in the arcades. For its time, it was bright, colourful, had great highscore potential and it had great appeal for the steering wheel that you would use to control your almost suicidal vehicle. But with the steering wheel absent from this console version, it is instantly an uphill battle for Action Fighter to gain favour in the eyes of competent gamers. Action Fighter may have been quite addictive in its previous incarnation, but as with most Arcade games, take Action Fighter out of its superbly decorated cabinet and put it in your home console, and you’re left with what is a decidedly pedestrian game.

Taking on the form of a top-down racing shooter, Action Fighter attempts to combine the thrills and speed of games like Hang-On with the classic gameplay of vertical-scrolling shooters. The player, starting off in control of a motorcycle (taken directly from Hang-On, according to SEGA), must complete missions by collecting lettered blocks along your way through each of the game’s four missions. Interestingly, the game’s speed is left to the player’s discretion, which is a clever idea – allowing the player to adjust the game speed simply by use of your vehicle’s accelerator. But you should take into account the timer in the corner of the screen when choosing your vehicle’s speed. It’s hardly ground-breaking but it gives a degree of in-game customisation. It allows for the game to be more accessible to poorer players but gives shooter veterans a suitable advantage should they choose to up the difficulty by going faster.

One of the game’s biggest quirks is that, while you start off in control of a motorcycle, you can then upgrade your vehicle in each of the game’s missions. After collecting all of the letters up to ‘D’, your motorbike transforms into a car which has dual guns and the ability to bump enemy vehicles off the road. It seems that the road isn’t big enough for multiple vehicles and you’ll find giving foes a good shunting into ditches a very satisfying experience. Collect the letters E and F, and your powerful 4-wheeler will sprout wings and take to the skies as a jet fighter. Once air-bound, the game transforms into a more traditional vertical-scrolling shooter in which you have less control over the game’s speed. These closing sections of each mission may please nostalgics, but when compared to the rest of the game, they can feel quite restrictive as the game forces you through at its own pace. It isn’t much of a problem, but it feels strange after you’ve spent a large portion of the game dictating the speed of the gameplay personally.

Action Fighter can be quite addictive, a trait essential in all arcade games. Much of this derives from the satisfaction of shunting vehicles into ditches. However, when an arcade game is stripped of its addictiveness, it is likely to be revealed as a rather tedious game. Action Fighter is an unfortunate example of a game that loses its addictiveness within an hour. Without the pursuit of highscores to spur you on and the novelty of a steering wheel, the console version Action Fighter has little to no appeal. Despite a highscore table, it soon becomes pointless as, without battery back-up, the table is wiped once your Master System is turned off. Without the addictiveness of bettering your high-scores, Action Fighter reveals itself to be a mediocre and uninteresting title. There’s very little variation and identical-looking vehicles are spewed out randomly so there isn’t any real structure either to any of the game’s levels.

Level design in Action Fighter is rather poor with only a few different backgrounds and very little variation. The most Action Fighter manages to throw at the player are a few short road-forks or a narrow bridge every now and again. It’s terribly unimaginative and an almost pathetic attempt at level design. Enemies are thrown about randomly and there are little to no obstructions at all to be found within each level. There’s very little structure to these levels and textures are constantly re-used. It becomes an even more discouraging when you realise that there are only four missions, which means that Sega hardly exhausted all their imagination on this game. When a great game company can’t produce at least one solid level for a four-mission game, you have to wonder how poor the production values were in its creation.

Graphically, Action Fighter isn’t the best either. While Action Fighter looks colourful, it won’t wow you like some Master System games can. Sprites are big, bright and colourful, but they’re a bit oversized and monochrome. The fact that only a few regular enemies are required to fill the majority of the screen make the game feel restrictive as you have very little room already in which to manoeuvre. As much as I like to ram dozens of ambulances and motorbikes into ditches, it can be annoying to be forced to fight identical-looking enemy vehicles all the time. The fact that so many of these are thrown at you doesn’t help quell the irritation either. Another great irritation lies in the game’s truly abysmal looping soundtrack. Even for the era, listening to the awful droning of Action Fighter’s audio will make having a large object inserted into your rectal cavity seem like light relief. Trust me, mute your television before you get the urge to ram things up your arse in protest.

Action Fighter is a game of confused genres. It aspires to fuse the thrill of speed found in racing titles and the classic, purist gameplay of scrolling shooters. However, it excels at neither style of gameplay. It provides little of the adrenaline rush that driving games manage to create and it certainly won’t interest hardened shooter fans. This title has very little substance to please any group of gamers at all. It’s unappealing, it’s uninteresting and it’s ultimately boring. It deserves to be ignored.

Rating: 3.2/10

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Community review by ceredig (November 25, 2004)

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