mars 07, 2013

Section Z for FDS

I have been playing Section Z for the last couple of games. As you may know, I only play games as long as I enjoy them, and I played this one to the end.

Section Z is a side scrolling shooter with strategy elements. It is hated by some people that don't understand it. They write reviews saying this game "sucks ostrich sized eggs" (google it) and that's one of the nicer things. Luckily there is an excellent description at gamefaqs,, on exactly how the game works. After having equiped myself with the knowledge, I ventured out into the Sections. Actually I first tried it without the knowledge and that was hopeless.

Because I enjoyed playing, I just played along and drew my own map instead of following a strategy guide. Also, I think it helps if you try things out for yourself, because you will get a better feeling for the game.

Section-Z Screenshot
Here is an explanation of the unique concept:
* Life Bar: You have the life bar at the top. It says 13/20 in the picture. When you get hit a bullet, lose 1. When you get hit by an enemy, you die and start the section over, and lose 5 points. When you have lost all points, you start over from the last checkpoint.
* Weapons: Where it says "L" in the picture. Pick up power ups to get other weapons. Then select weapon with Left and Right button while you are flying. Press Select to activate the weapon. It will stay activated.
* Exits. At the end of most level, you can travel up or down. Where you will go you won't know. So it is like a labyrinth in a way, and that's why you need to draw a map. But there is no right and wrong way. A longer way is often necessary to get weapon upgrades or fill your life bar. I really appreciate these complex games that aren't linear. And the action is always on, unlike Metroid. It's also goes quite fast to replay most sections.
* Secrets. In some places there are secret doors. If you hit one with your shot, it will display itself as a round opening. If you enter the door, you will either get a room with either extra health or a warp room. Sometimes you need to find this warp room in order to progress. The extra health might also be necessary if you need to "health grind" before a boss or a difficult section.

This concepts are necessary to know if you want to enjoy the game. Nr 1 and 2 I have not seen in any other game, and it would be hard to figure out on your own. Never give up until you have read the manual or FAQ, is my advice.

The save games. The FDS version has a save function, unlike the NES version.
I play on this sexy thing. I would have sold it, but the 1-player controller is messed up on the A button. I now finally replaced the controller, so all games from Section Z on will be played without turbo.

Why I enjoyed the game:
* When you kill a boss or a beam shooting thing, you often unlock a red exit right after a checkpoint. Even if you get a game over, you can just move on.
* The game is always fair. There is often an appropriate weapon for every enemy. No boss is super hard once you figure it out. If you are decent at shooting games, you will spend more time with the labyrinth than beating enemies. If you are very good at shooting games, the game could be too easy. But shmup people might not be good at the strategy aspect so it could even out.
* The labyrinth is also fair. The map I drew covers up to level 39. Levels 40-60 only required a third of that page, so the game isn't Zelda or Metroid long.
* Graphics and Music: Nothing special but alright.
* Even dying can be a relief. If you have come to a section you can't beat with your puny weapon, you can get yourself game over on purpose, so you can restart from the last checkpoint and get a better weapon.
* It isn't linear. Sometimes you may want to jump between two levels over and over to fill up. When you are done, there is often a shortest route you can take to get to the next phase.

I spent around 4 hour the first day to make it to level 40. Then 2 hours the next day to make it to the end boss at level 59. Then another 1-2 hours to understand how to beat the boss, restart, fill up the health to 99, and dying a number of times while doing so.

I think that as far as NES games go (or famicom), this is a game worth trying. It isn't the longest or most advanced game but it is nice, fair, has some original ideas, and no real annoyances once you understand the concept.

I leave the planet. The End.

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