The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

My Hero
(Sega Master System - Sega/Coreland - 1986)

It's a simple, time-worn premise. Your character is enlisted to rescue his companion from the clutches of evil punks. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous types of obstacles. The most prevalent and numerous are the punk characters, themselves armed with jump-kicks, who attack in waves. They jump at you and you have to counter with either your fists or by using jumping kicks of your own. Mastering the jump-kick move is your most important task, since it's the primary weapon you'll be using throughout the game. Getting the hang of the opponents' battle tactics takes some practice. This isn't as easy as it sounds and you'll have to master the timing in order to defeat them. You enable this attack with a simple press of a button, there's nothing elaborate to memorize here. These characters attack in waves and you have to survive them all in order to get to the next area.

Presenting a different type of challenge. The raised structures require you to leap over large gaps, cross fiery interludes with flaming objects heading staright up. These aren't as simple to dodge as it appears, and you need to master their timing or face an instant end. Typically, you need to go over multiple gaps in succession to beat that section. The game flows fairly good throughout and there's little pause in the action during the stages, which allows you to build up a consistent momentum once you get into the game's flow, Before you know it, you'll be cleaning out waves of the punk characters without much effort. Unfortunately, these aren't the only types of opponents you have to face. At many points, punks will appear at windows and throw pots at you. Fortunately, these fall straight down and are easy to deflect.

Players will also face off against an array of other creatures such as frogs and pigs at various intervals during the game. You can kick some of the screen, jump over others and take out others with kicks, depending on the situation you find yourself. At certain points, a tricky ninja character will appear on top of the stages to impede your progress. Once he sees you, he'lll throw a projectile at your character which you can either jump over or crouch downward to dodge. The ninja characters can appear sudden;ly, flying downward without much warning. You can anticipate the direction they'll throw the weapons at you in most instances. It pays to have a little patience and watch them throw one or two before you move right into its path. You might have to traverse these sections a few times and memorize where they appear ahead of time, which can be annoying. Additionally, the characer will have to avoid spiked globes that are thown thier way, which can't be kicked off the screen and kill you on contact.

Once you traversed these sections, you face off against the ulimate battle against the boss character Jake. At first, these one-on-one battles are relatively easy, just dodge his attacks and get a few kicks in and make quick work of him. Later encounters bring more strategies as he learns to dodge and evade attacks, too, He loses his cool and attacks with increased frequency, making him harder to defeat. These require more skill and technique later on and you need to be careful not to let him get in on you, or else you'll find your energy bar depleted before you get a chance to respons and knock him out. This makes the later stages much harder than they could be and this spike in difficulty is probabky unexpected, but not entirely free of counter-moves. Defeating him can be achieved at these harder portioms, it just takes more dedication and effort. It doesn't detract seriously from the game's solid mechanics which maintain a fairly consistent approach throughout, with many interesting variations that keep you engaged throughout.

This increasing level of challenge makes for a surprisingly difficult game that belies its mirthfull exterior, There's a surprising amount of depth in its combat system and the intervals where you have to navigate trickier sections and enemies help to keep things from becoming too monotonous. This gives My Hero a good balance between its pure action sequences and more strategic areas. From a presentation standpoint, My Hero shows off the Sega Master System's capabilities to an impressive degree. Character animation is fluid throughout, with detailed sprite work, clever design and smooth frame rates making for a visually appealing game throughout. Elaborate backgrounss with detailed buildings and structures help to keep the experience fresh, though there is an overabundance of green hues in this version.

Your opponents offer an impressive variey in design and presentation, with the end-game encounter with spike overlooking an elaborate sunset creating an impressive set-piece that makes an excellent climax for each level. Sound effects are well-done too, with the trademark wooshing sound of your jump-kicks marking the main accompaniment. An appropriately light, yet driving soundtrack hits a constant refrain throughout and while it can get slightly irritating after extended sessions, it's well-done and marks one of the early high-water marks for the SMS' audio capabilities. For all these reasons, My Hero remains one of the more memorable and engaging titles in the SMS library. Its a fairly faithful arcade conversion that retains the straightforward gameplay and solid visuals that ate the cornerstones of its enduring appeal. Taking a traditionally structured fighting game in the mold of Double Dragon but simplifying its structure makes My Hero an enjoyable, accessible game that should appeal to players of many ages and abilities.

- Michael Palisano