Galaxy Force on the Master System. Just saying it raises the hairs on the back of my neck. GF as I’ll refer to it from this point on was one of the most popular coin-ops I can remember. This 8-bit incarnation is something to behold, albeit briefly.
A one man versus an evil empire tale, GF is a sprite scaling shoot em up (much like Space Harrier) that comprises of four levels (planets with differing climates) that you can complete in any order (they’re numbered which gives you a clue as to difficulty) and after that’s done, take on the “Fourth Empire” face to face. On loading the cart the first thing you notice is how good the music is – some of the coin-ops tunes have been ported over with a few originals. The presentation is simple and there is a distinct lack of options so only one difficulty setting (it’s feeling more and more like the arcade…).
The aim of the levels is to get past the hordes of enemies to the planet’s core. And we’re not kidding here, there is a bucketload of foe to deal with! However, there is no apparent need to destroy all and sundry, you can simply fly away from the obstacles before hurtling into the maze sequences at the end of each level. There is no score meter either, meaning you only know your score after you die. Odd quirks given, but there’s still fun to be had here.
This is as 3-D a game as you will get on the Master System. The sprite scaling works so well, levels sometimes appear 16-bit in quality and there’s hardly any blurring. The sprites are well defined as are the backdrops and hazards – we particularly like the meteor showers and eruptions on the Fire planet. It really feels as though everything is coming at you.
Laying waste to the bad guys is extremely satisfying despite the slightly dodgy sound effects undermining, in particular, the explosions. Rail gun or missile (with auto-lock), both unlimited, both extremely effective. The shield is pretty generous and you want to save it from those maze sections. A continue feature is also a welcome addition.
Those maze sections. They’re brief but my are they tricky. Using flashing squares to give the impression of depth isn’t a new trick but it’s done very well here. You’ll do well to navigate these extremely tight corridors that are full of enemies equipped with heat seekers. They’re a great test for the solo player and a great feat for the 8-bit.
Then all too soon you’ve completed the game, saved the galaxy (sorry, should have said SPOILER ALERT) and are left twiddling your thumbs. The levels are pretty long, given, but there’s four of them. Four. Plus a brief end stage. Despite the technical brilliance of it all, there just isn’t enough game here. This is what After Burner should have been. Give us some more levels and options and we would have been happy until next Christmas.