SEGA does what Nintendon’t, unless you’re talking about the light guns. Because that’s a completely different kettle of fish.
Name: Menacer 6-Game Cartridge
Developer: SEGA of America
Released on: Mega Drive/Genesis
Original Release Date: 1992
Was there any generation of the console wars that were as fiercely fought as the 16-bit generation? Nintendo and SEGA were engaged in a battle of marketing terms, trash talk advertisements and general bitterness, and it’s fair to say there was a little tit for tat involved.
Nintendo launched their Super Scope light gun on the SNES in 1992, at a time when light guns were still popular in the arcades, and the arcades themselves were still popular. Not to be outdone, SEGA quickly replied with their own light gun peripheral – The SEGA Menacer, and much like Nintendo’s Super Scope, SEGA’s gun also came with a cartridge of 6 games. And for your enjoyment, I’m going to play every single one.
Pest Control is a weird one to start with. You’re in what appears to be a kitchen, and it’s pitch black, except for where you’re pointing your Menacer – Almost like a torch. You’re looking at a kitchen floor and for some reason, you’ve dropped a pizza on the floor and insects are swarming all over it, trying to nibble pieces of it. Rather than pick the damn pizza up like any normal person would do, you decide that shooting each individual bug is a more worthwhile use of your time. Once you’ve gone Rambo on that bunch of domestic wildlife that was only trying to eat, oh no, you’ve dropped another slice of pizza and have to do the whole thing again. Eventually, the bugs get bigger and the swarm gets larger – But the premise remains the same.
Space Station Defender is more of a traditional single-screen light-gun shooter, as alien pods teleport onto the screen in a particular order, and attacking aliens pop out in that same order, waiting for you to mow them down. Your weapon only has a certain amount of energy before it refuses to work, so you’ll need to reload by shooting the bottom of the screen. This mini-game is just so ridiculously easy and gets repetitive very quickly as well. Another dud.
Whack Ball is akin to Breakout or Arkanoid, where you control a round disc with the Menacer’s’ sight, and have to use it to push a smaller ball into blocks around the perimeter of the screen in order to change them into a different colour. And that is pretty much it – Some blocks give you power-ups that give you extra balls etc., and you’ll also need to avoid flashing blocks and gaps around the screen that cause you to lose a life when breached. This game does highlight just how accurate the Menacer can be, but it’s another game that gets dull rather quickly.
Ready, Aim, Tomatoes! Is the most notable game on this list, because it’s loosely based on the cult classic, ToeJam & Earl, although to be honest, they barely feature in the game at all. You get a scrolling view of a landscape as the occasional enemy appears on screen to fire at you – A familiar sight to anyone that’s ever played a light gun game. However, as you’re throwing tomatoes, you have to account for a delay in them reaching their destination which is where the challenge is. In defeating enemies quickly and accurately you’ll earn points, and you’ll have to reach a certain point threshold before you can move onto the next stage. This is the best game on the cartridge, although if you hadn’t yet guessed, that, unfortunately, isn’t saying much – And it’s not a particularly great use of the characters, either.
Rockman’s Zone takes things down to Earth somewhat, in a scrolling shooting gallery that’s very reminiscent of the likes of Hogan’s Alley for the NES. Why it’s called Rockman’s Zone, I have no idea – This is a very linear, slow crawl through a made up urban area with cardboard cutouts of enemy targets and civilians popping up. Naturally, you shoot the nasty looking villains, but avoid the civilians – Unfortunately, it’s not always clear who’s who. I mean, this chap in the robe definitely looks like a wrong’un. Again, it’s another game with little to no challenge or reason to replay.
Now Front Line looks more like it. We’re in a war zone and there are tanks and other military vehicles rolling past us, waiting to be blown to smithereens. Oh wait, it’s another repetitive game with the same things to shoot over and over again with next to no variety and it’s even less fun because it doesn’t even have anything weird going on. What a way to round off the list, with the dullest game on the cartridge.
So that’s six games of less than middle-of-the-road shooting action. I mean, this is coming from SEGA, who know their arcades and did several light gun shooters in their time. That’s not to say the Menacer itself is crap, because without going too much into it (as I’d like to cover the peripheral itself in a separate video), it’s a really accurate piece of kit that is actually more enjoyable to use than the Super Scope.
The Menacer has various different attachment configurations, from a sighted assault rifle style combination to a more basic handgun, there are various ways to play these games. You can use the Accusight mode to have a cross-hair on screen, or manually aim yourself either with iron sights or the scope attachment that is flexible, allowing you to move them as close to the centre of your sight as possible.
But that honestly counts for nothing if the games aren’t up to scratch, and that certainly is the case here. None of these six games have anything resembling replay value, and it just feels like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, with very little challenge or reason to keep playing. This is the only Menacer game to be developed by SEGA, which gives you a little insight on both how well it did and how little SEGA cared about it.
This cartridge isn’t without good concepts and ideas, but every single minigame is just so uninspiring in terms of gameplay and presentation. The visuals are awful, the sound effects and music are just rubbish. The whole package just feels like a rushed effort, and while it does serve to show how accurate the Menacer is, it’s just not fun and sets a bad first impression for the peripheral in general.
Play it for 10 minutes or so if you must but it’s really not worth your time.
HIGHLIGHTS: Whack Ball shows that there’s more to light guns than shooting things.
LOW POINTS: None of these games will hold your attention for more than just a few minutes.
VERDICT: Somehow, SEGA created a game that highlights how good their light gun peripheral is, while also demonstrating six different ways to make a bad light gun game. It’s playable, but it sure as Hell isn’t enjoyable.