Friday, 10 April 2015

Running Battle (Master System)

You probably already know this, but the Master System in the 90s was in an unusual position. It was long dead in Japan, and never really took off at all in North America, but in Europe, South America and Australia, it still had enough of an established userbase that it was still getting games released in those territories. While many of those games were made in those territories, there were still games in the strange position of being made in Japan but never sold there, mainly by one of SEGA's subsidiaries SIMS. Running Battle is one of these, as was Masters of Combat, which I've previously covered.

Anyway, Running Battle is a single-plane beat em up about a guy named Gray  seeking out the killers of his partner (and possibly brother?) Brody. It's pretty standard and generic: walk from left to right, kill lots of the same enemy, then do it again. It sometimes throws in an extra element, like wall-mounted guns (that seem to hold an oddly generous amount of extra lives if you destroy them). There's also some power-ups like guns and super strength and a very rare power up that allows Gray to run forward at high speed, ignoring obstacles and pits and killing enemies on contact for five seconds. The most interesting thing about Running Battle, however, is that it feels like an unfinished mish-mash of assets the devs just had lying around.

The game starts in a typical beat em up ghetto stage, though all the stages after it take place inside sci-fi enemy bases. The first few bosses ignore this sci-fi theme, being a dwarf pirate, a cowboy, and a Samurai, each with their own individually themed room. The last two bosses fit better, though: a psychic super-villain and some kind of giant tank thing that's so big, the health bars have to become numbers at the bottom of the screen to make room for it.

So, that thematic jumble explains the "mish mash", but as for the game feeling unfinished? It's not massively glitchy, but rather there's a few little things that imply that the game wasn't tested or balanced as much as it could have been. For example, throughout most of the game, there are doors at the end of the stages. To go through them, the player stands in front and presses up on the d-pad, like a million other games. At the end of the first stage, there's a door, but to finish the stage, the player just walks past it and off the edge of the screen.

There's also the issue of balance. Like I said earlier, the game is really generous with the extra lives once the wall-mounted guns show up, and this seems to be because the last two bosses take very little damage from the player's attacks, but also deal massive amounts of damage with hard to avoid attacks. So the extra lives seem to be a sort of half-solution to this problem, turning te final boss battles into battles of attrition, in which the player has to hope they've saved up enough lives to survive and gradually wear down the bosses.

In conclusion, I don't recommend Running Battle at all. It's not painful to play, there just isn't really anything interesting about it, and it generally feels like it was quickly knocked out on the cheap.

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