Retro Review: Action Fighter
Platform: Sega Master System
Spy Hunter is one of my all time favourite arcade games! You controlled a souped-up sports car armed to the teeth with machine guns, rockets, smoke and oil slicks. Imagine a James Bond car and you’re on the right lines. The way you received your power ups was also fantastic as you drove into the back of a truck (like Knight Rider) and were kitted out with weapons of mass destruction. Along the way you would drive towards a river, enter a barn and smash through the other side emerging in a speed boat. Brilliant!
As an impressionable 7 year old this blew my mind! It combined my favourite things, Bond, Knight Rider and video games. Throw in the theme to Peter Gunn and it was a winning combination that would stay with me for a very long time. I had the ZX Spectrum version and although I loved the game, it clearly wasn’t the same as the arcade. I remember trying to emulate the arcade experience by playing Peter Gunn by The Art of Noise on the record player whilst enjoying the game.
Anyway, why all this talk of Spy Hunter when the game I’m taking a look at is Action Fighter for the Sega Master System, I hear you cry. Well, because Action Fighter is a completely shameless rip off of Spy Hunter! That’s not to say it’s a bad game and probably explains why I liked it so much.
You start off riding a motorbike which is armed with a machine gun. Cars and other motorbikes come down the screen and pretty much one hit from them sends you spinning off the road and crashing into the verge. Also a truck will occasionally come down the screen with the Sega logo on the roof which can be boarded for extra weapons or upgrades.
Although you do have lives, the game has a timer starting at 999 which slowly counts down, essentially giving you unlimited lives until the timer runs out.
As the game plays out you collect letters A to D and when you have collected all of them your motorbike turns into a bright red sports car. Collect the letters E and F and then unbelievably, but completely amazing, two wings get strapped to your car turning the gaming into vertical scrolling shoot-em up like 1942 or Xevious. Your vehicle resembles Thunderhawk which Matt Trakker drove in the cartoon M.A.S.K. This was probably another reason why I loved the game when I was a kid because I adored M.A.S.K.
When you are flying not only do you have machine guns you also have bombs which can be dropped on boats and other gun emplacements. At the end of the level you have a boss battle with enemies such as submarines and tanks.
I have to be completely honest and say that replaying Action Fighter after all these years was a really pleasant surprise. I expected it to be completely rubbish but the vehicles control very nicely and it is simple addictive fun despite being very heavily influenced by Spy Hunter.
Graphics – As you would expect from the Sega Master System there is the usual colour palette of bright reds and blues and the sprites all look lovely. 6
Sound – The music and sound effects are fine but completely unremarkable. 4
Playability – Action Fighter is simple and fun to play. Like a lot of vertical shooters it is also tough but very addictive. 6
Re-Playability – I expected Action Fighter to be borderline unplayable but it still plays really well today. It maybe simple and a little bit repetitive but still a lot of fun. 6
Overall – They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Action Fighter is not ashamed of its influences. Action Fighter took me completely by surprise and is still a really fun game. 6