Gain Ground (1991) by Renovation
Game Type: Shooter/Strategy
Players: 1-2

Review by PrimeOp

For reasons that I don't know, Renovations translated Sega's Gain Ground to the Genesis. While I can't vouch for how close it comes to the arcade version (which I didn't know existed until recently), I can definitely tell you that you're in for a good challenge.

In the future, the nations of the world have achieved a state of peaceful co-existance. But to keep the fighting spirit alive in the populace, scientists create a virtual-reality war simulator named Gain Ground, where combat could be waged in every time era. Like any powerful creation of science, it goes horribly awry and captures the soldiers training in it. Three soldiers are sent into the program to rescue the P.O.W.s and subdue the program from within. Gain Ground (the home game, not the berzerk vitual-reality program) is a bird's-eye view (or top-down view) character shooter. Each level is it's own time period which is broken up into 10 sections. Your goal is to either destroy all of the enemies in the level (a non-scrolling screen) or get all of your troopers through the exit. That 10th section has a guardian boss that must be defeated in order to pass (but you also have to kill off all the minor enemies there too). Sounds like your average top-down 'Commando' style game, right? Oh no. Not even close. You can't just choose any character and blaze your way through. This game requires some serious pre-planning.
This guy with the spear can aim high and hit all of the roof-bound enemies. Guys like him will come in handy for situations like this.
Unlike most shooters (or games for that matter), you don't get multiple lives of the same character. Instead, you start with three different characters: a 20th century soldier, a caveman and a futuristic amazon. You gain more troopers by freeing the prisoners and taking them through the exit. Those rescued allies become playable characters for the next scene. Here's the trick: the level ends when you kill all of the enemies whether or not the P.O.W.s have been taken through the exit. You've got to figure out which enemies to kill and which ones to leave alive as you escort the freed prisoners. While that sounds easy, you'll soon find out that certain level designs make it difficult to get that new team member through the exit without clearing the board. They're definitely worth the trouble, though. Each has their own stats like walking speed, main weapon (with it's own range, shooting speed and power) and special weapon. You'll have to figure out which character is best suited to handle the situations in the level. Enemies on higher ground can only be taken out by long-distance weapon characters (archers, spearmen or some rocket launcher carrying soldiers) while troops in trenches can be killed by grenades. Be careful: get a character injured and THAT character will become a P.O.W. that needs to be led through the exit as well. If you don't have the properly-equipped troops to kill all the on-screen enemies, you'll have to lead all of your characters through the exit.
Pop quiz, hot shot: you've got to rescue that hostage without absolutely, positively killing every MF'er in the room. WHAT DO YOU DO? You do THIS.
For a top-down character-based shooter, this game has some really nice graphics. Maybe not as intense as Mercs, but Gain Ground features quite a few cool-looking backgrounds. Each of the 20 unique characters has their own portrait and some of their details can be seen even in the tiny sprites. In fact, I really wish I knew the characters' names so I can stop referring to them as "Bald Caveman Guy", "Bootleg Slow-motion Robocop" and "Top-heavy futuristic Amazon with German stick-grenades". Gonna make it hard to catalogue THOSE sprites. The sound? The music's pretty nice, especially Level 1. The sounds effects are just typical Genesis shooter sounds. Although the gameplay is great and makes it stand apart from every other shooter out there, the game is tough. Ford tough. Helluva tough. Dare I say... TONKA TOUGH? Oh yes. It's tough but fair. Still, this game would've benefitted from a password, because it's a long game. It's a two-player co-op game, which evens up the odds against the enemy. The only problem is that you'll have to split the captives with your partner. If your friend doesn't know how to share (like those jerks who eat all the food in co-op games even though you have less health), you're going to have a crappy time trying to beat this game. Here's tip for real life: don't even hang out with people like that anyway. Get some real friends.
Two players mean double the fun! But don't be a greedy character grabber! Both players will need balanced troop rosters to work effectively. If you know the POW's strong points, try to plot out who gets what character ahead of time.

Easily one of my favorite top-down shooters ever. Fans of games like Commando, Ikari Warriors, and Mercs might get a kick out of this game, since there really aren't many good games of this style for the Genesis. The game is hard, but fair, and there's a level-select cheat that makes up for the lack of a password system. This game doesn't seem to be all that expensive when found used, so pick it up for a few bucks and give it a try. Bootleg Slow-motion Robocop will thank you for it. BTW: Sega recently remade this as part of it's Sega Ages PS2 series. Let's hope it's more like Fantasy Zone and less like Golden Axe... Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 5
Control 7
Overall 7

Gain Ground © Sega

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