Thursday, January 17, 2013

VGR Taz-Mania (Master System)

I was going to review a classic personal favorite of mine - Taz-Mania on the Sega Megadrive.
But then I thought, I might as well start from the first one, right?

Here's a pretty fun obscure title on the Sega Master System!

VGR: Taz-Mania 
From Sega
Played on Master System
Also available on Game Gear

Type Sidescrolling
Year 1992

During the early 90s, animal characters became quite common in the entrainment industry, mascots were everywhere apparently and the whole fad went big.
While at the same time there was a big boom in the animation, thanks to the likes of Warner Bros' Animation's Silver Age and the renewed success of Disney films.
It was the perfect time for bringing Looney Tunes into video games obviously.
And the graphics were finally catching up enough to retranslate that universe in pixels.

While Sunsoft handled the games on Nintendo systems, Sega developed their own separate titles internally.

Here is the 8-bit version of Taz-Mania.
A game based on the sitcom of the same name revolving around Taz, The Tasmanian Devil.

The story is mostly unchanged from the Master System game to the Mega Drive one.

You play as Taz.
One day, Taz' dad (Hugh Tazmanian Devil!) was talking about a legendary giant bird that was able to lay giant eggs.
If they could land their hands on one of those, surely they could feed big Tazmanian Devils like 'em for over a year, ha!
But it's just a legend....
The story goes that those mystical birds should nest on an island nearby, in the "Lost Valley".

So of course, Taz went ahead, on the hunt for those birds.
Just to make himself one giant omelet and thus begins the quest for the giant eggs!

In his journey Taz will have to face dangerous carnivore plants, The Bushrats, various monsters and other exotic Tasmanian creatures.

In the 8-bit version, the story is only told through some text screens.
Nothing fancy.
But let's be honest here, the story's just here "to be there".
The main meat of something like this is...the game itself.

So what about it?

The game is a fairly traditional sidescroller.
It's a platform game based around one and only simple gimmick. Taz has his ability to spin.
The idea is to go through fairly big levels (anything but linear) to reach the exit.
There's various enemies here and there which you can't defeat by simply jumping Mario-style on their head.
And you can perform a Spin Attack or even a Spinning Jump to help you reach further platforms or get rid of the enemies in your path.

For a modern analogy:
Think Crash Bandicoot in 2D, it's really the best comparison. Even though the spin uses a small "power gauge", it's pretty small and replenish itself quickly. Looking at it is insignificant and the game would have been the same without it on screen.
Basically you can't keep the spin button pushed for long. Use it by rapidly pressing on the button.
Estimate your jumps or whenever you'll reach an enemy to time your attacks.

There's some items around with different effects.
You can heal back your life bar by eating the chickens you'll find around.
You can also find the usual 1-up and invincibility items around.
And some bombs - though you better avoid those ones, Taz will just eat those like any other item...only to explode!!

The game is only 6 little levels long.
Each has two rounds and one boss at the end. Those include the usual Francis X. Bushlad, Bull Gator and Axl from the show (including two bizarre witches I absolutely don't remember on the cartoon...?!).
Those fights go down mostly the same.
Taz go against an enemy (or two at the same time), one on one. The enemy has is little pattern, like Francis will launch arrows, Bull Gator a boomerang,.. and you have to avoid being hit and spin attack the enemy several times.
The boss fights are actually pretty easy but they take a lot of hits to go down.

The game looks great!
The "Looney Tunes" look is certainly narrowed down.
But perhaps it's a bit too simple for a 90s 8-bit game.
The saturated colors definitively match the tone of the cartoon series.

My main complain is perhaps how short the game is.
At least the levels are big enough to find alternate paths and hidden lives.
The only difficulty resides in using the temporary invincibility you get while spinning to land on platforms AND avoid the attacks from your enemies.

Overall, it's a pretty fun and decent little title.
I love the cartoon graphics and the way the gameplay flows~

It doesn't aspire to much, but it's nice to pass some time and the experience is definitively enjoyable.
The game has a pretty fun "feel" to it.
The whole thing is based around timing your attacks/speed all the while avoiding getting hit or falling. 

The Game Gear version is pretty similar in the overall design, gameplay and presentation.
But also a different game.
It wasn't handled by Sega Japan like this one but developed by NuFX.
It is mostly the same intact experience.
BUT the level design is entirely different. It plays the same but the layouts are original to the GG.
The levels do follow the Megadrive version a lot more. While adding all new original segments with different gameplay such as a snowboarding segment, a flying stage,...
Other than that it's quite close in the general tone, idea and music & sound departement. 
I give it:
2 / 3 Bruces!

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