It's 1990; both England and Italy had gone out to penalties in the World Cup; the Eurythmics had quietly disbanded, Madonna's showing some Blonde Ambition; Dick Tracy and Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles hit the big screen; Thatcher resigns, Mandela is released and the Berlin Wall is torn down, Iraq invades Kuwait and the US enters a recession… Basically speaking, 1990 was a huge year for massive change across the board in the world, with some massive pop culture landmark moments? The times were certainly a-changin'!
Also in 1990, Sega were telling us all to do our TV's a favour and plug them into, well; a Sega! Especially here in the UK, a fair many of us obliged. Happily, may I add! Despite it being the year that the MegaDrive hit our shores with its glorious 16-bit and sexy stereo goodness, the Master System was still kicking proverbial anus and had a lot of life left in it. Hence today’s review, folks!
Submarine Attack was released in the year I've just been chatting on for the ol' SMS, unsurprisingly. Developed and published by Sega as with many of the Master System releases, its a side-scrolling shoot 'em up that was a one and done release, a lot like some of the most nostalgic inducing titles of the time. It was competing for gamers hard earned cashola alongside the likes of Assault City and Operation Wolf, so did it deserve said monies!? Let us find out together.
There are more 'Rounds' than with Transbot, which I'm sure the overlord will find issue with; as there are six in total, with each stage ending in a boss battle. Having more stages aside, when you beat the game it does return you to a game over screen with a simple choice of Continue or End as option. So, as much as times were changing in 1990; other things remain the same. Submarine Attack is an example of pure arcade, without being arcade. As we all know, after all; Sega are the arcade experts.
Graphically speaking, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Submarine Attack fully utilised the gimmick of being an underwater shooter, presenting some lovely use of the Master System's colour palette. There's often changes to the backdrops within a stage, too. From gorgeous coral reefs, to cool active volcanos and more all being featured and looking sweet as heck. Many of the main enemy sprites, while well designed are very cookiecutter with a few more left field enemies getting thrown in the deeper you get. The final boss and the fourth stage boss in particular I think look pretty darn awesome. Others however are left to pretty much an uninspired cannon or two on a complex of sorts. Overall, though? Some darn fine graphics with a fine level of detail across the board.
Now the music is also a high point, alongside the graphics, that helps put over the feel of the game being a deep sea shooter. You get a cool little sonar effect when you approach the stage boss for example. But across the board the game soundtrack is highly recommended and a good one to slap in the face of those who whine that there wasn't any good music (which has always been an absolute moot point, damn NES diehards). From the upbeat ditty of the first stage (and the more thumping mix in the second), right through to the more ominous sounding sections of the latter stages. There's certainly a creation of atmosphere going on here. It's good stuff, I says! However, the general sound effects are pretty stock, but I can't hold that against the game. There's only so much you can get away with when its all about shoot-shoot-explode.
As soon as the game boots up, you know you're in for a good time. The title is flashing at you, with the typical start/continue option with little else. This is gonna be a game that's all about the game, no other nonsense needed. Upon starting, you get a nifty cut scene of your sub leaving the dock which is a nice touch, then it's straight into the waters to blast your way through til the end. Whether it be enemy subs, surface ships, choppers, etc. everything wants you dead (even bubbles!), as you'd imagine from a shooter. There's a lack of power meter, or any real heads up display for that matter. You get told how many lives you've got between rounds, alternatively can hit pause on the console and check your current and hi-score (as well as how many continues you got). Power ups exist in the form of collectables which will increase rate of fire and the like as you'd expect – but it's not til deeper into the game that you'll get more toys to play with, so to speak (such as lasering the heck out of the final boss).
To find out why these folk want to end you and you end them, its the classic case of go check the manual and/or back of the case for plot points. In the game you play the character Admiral Mikan taking control of the titular submarine, the purpose is to liberate the citizens of Balderia from the “meta-creature” before it causes any more destruction, as it did apparently four years prior. Good enough reason to go shoot things, right?
In terms of sheer playability, Submarine Attack has it in absolute spades. In terms of controls, you're encouraged to get power ups as the speed of the sub improves immensely, as previously alluded to. With the injection of speed, the game immediately becomes more responsive. It's a fairly clever mechanic to encourage the player to keep playing. The game isn't autofire off the bat, either. But that, too, can get rectified by way of power ups. That said, the game doesn't have the mad amounts of crazy enemy patterns to remember like the more bullet hell-style games within the genre, which the argument of it being an 'easy' title comes to play. But, the word easy is often given to dog on a game, which I certainly don't want to do. Why? Quite simply, I really like this. Plus, I'm quite partial to an “easy” game now and then. Not every cart you choose to fire up do you necessary want to batter your brains every five seconds. Sometimes you want to sit back and enjoy. That’s the kind of game this is, to me at least. You can play it, have some fun, finish it...Then a few months later do the same randomly. Original point before going off topic though – it plays very well indeed!
I cannot recall my original experience with Submarine Attack, but with all likelihood it was way past the time of its actual release, instead being just “the sub game” that was around my cousins at some point in the early 90's. The cover art certainly sticks in my mind, so even when I was out of the retro picture, it was always one I wanted to own and return to. Power of a cool image on a box has always meant something to me. At the time though, my introduction to shmups mostly circled around the likes of R-Type on the Amiga, so you bet your butt that when I played Submarine Attack it felt like a relative breeze by way of comparison.
Playing Submarine Attack now I find it an impressive piece of work. It looks and sounds gorgeous, plays very well (if leaning on the easier side of things) and is incredibly fun. I would 100% recommend it to those interested in starting out in either the genre or the SMS. So to answer the question of whether it deserved those players' cash? You darn right it did, people!
Verdict:- A classy little shooter for the Sega Master System, Submarine Attack is one that's very close to absolute greatness, but just falls short of that proverbial line.
That said, even if it is a few options (a proper two-player mode and difficulty settings wouldn't have gone a miss, for example) short, what is on show is a fine game in its own right. In my opinion, at least.
As I said in the main article, I wouldn't be frightened to recommend this to anyone. It's a quality game for what it is and a game that rightly deserves a spot in your collection.
Second Opinion:- Transbot once invaded this game. True story! Check out my travels if you don't believe me (which if you don't, you'll get a Type D to the face in due course).
The time Transbot spent with Submarine Attack was a pleasurable experience. More than two levels though, in fact it has triple that. Ridiculous!
It's good though. It passes. Bzt.
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10