Gangster Town Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

When the NES came out, most gamers were familiar with the “Zapper,” the shoddy, grey gun made for certain games, most of which weren’t any good. Duck Hunt was the all-time classic and nearly everyone who lived in the 80s remembers it. It defined the “light gun” genre without a doubt. Obviously, with the Master System competing, Sega had to come out with similar games. Interestingly, their version of the “light gun” is a much better design, and most of the games made for it are better than what you’ll find on the NES. Gangster Town is one of those games.

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Though it’s an early game, the graphics are definitely impressive. Compare
it with its rival, Duck Hunt, and this title is the clear winner. Plenty of
detail on the characters and backgrounds with generally smooth animations.
Some of the character movements seem a bit choppy, but they’re not that bad.
The colors are well used; they’ve definitely captured a “1920s” feel to the
levels. The only real problem I had was that the gangsters are pretty much
the same characters over and over. However, just remember, Duck Hunt is
simply shooting at the same ducks over and over and look how popular it was.
Regardless, I expect a bit more variety from human beings than I do ducks.
A little color swapping would have worked. I know it’s an early one, but
when you’re competing more should be done. I know they could have added
something to this.

Gangster Town has some excellent music and sound effects. The soundtrack was
organized following themes in early jazz and they did a really nice job of
creating atmosphere with it. On the car chase level the music is faster and
more intense, and on the nightclub level it’s softer and more dreary. The
sound effects are fitting. There are quite a number of them too. Very
impressive for the time period and it also raises the question as to why SMS
programmers weren’t better attuned to creating sound back in the day. If
they can do it here, why not elsewhere?

The gameplay makes excellent usage of the Light Phaser and throws in some
variety that you don’t see in earlier “gun” titles. Basically, you’re one
man, or two if a friend joins you, taking on the crime boss of the city.
Really simple, use your gun to take out gangsters, bombs, or fire at objects
for points or to discover secrets. The first level is a car chase where you
fire at gangsters in the car ahead of you. The second level takes place on
the street, the next in a bar, the fourth on the street again, the fifth in
a nightclub and the final stage on the docks where the crime boss is waiting
for you. I wish they would have thrown in some extra variety, perhaps
another level to spice it up and make it different. The first level is a
car chase and then after that it’s just a left-to-right moving screen with
enemies popping up. Maybe they could have done something with you moving
straight down a corridor or something, I don’t know, but the variety you
find in the first level is somewhat absent the rest of the way through.

The difficulty is set perfectly, by the last level you should be good enough
to keep up with the pace, but it’s still not so easy that you’ll make it to
the end the first time. Most likely, you’ll have to play several times to
advance. There are also bonus levels to contend with, which are pretty hard
alone. In addition, depending on how well you do on each level (hit ratio,
number of shots and total score), you’ll get more life and a refill of
energy. If you don’t do well, you continue playing with the same amount of
life you had in the previous level, so there is plenty of initiative to play
well instead of firing all over the place and not really giving a crap about
which gangster walks, which woman falls and which window gets busted.

Gangster Town is a creative game I’d say; it takes the simple “moving
screen” concept familiar to most shooting games and gives it its own unique
feel. The first level really sets it off to start with a forward moving
chase instead of left to right or vice versa, but as I said I wish they
would have done something else with this mid-game, another level with a
different direction. Still, it’s a lot of fun and has many different
features to set it apart from other titles at this time. It’s one of the key
Light Phaser games for the Master System, one of the best, if not the best.

I’ve played this game numerous times since I first purchased it. It was one
of the first I picked up for the SMS and still one of the few I play
frequently. I have yet to beat it and really hope to do so someday. This is
tough game and even veteran gamers who enjoy light gun titles will find it
taxing. Well worth it again and again. I’m not sure what happens when you
beat it, if it repeats and gets more difficult or something. It may just
end, so I can’t say anything about the total game length, though everything
up to the end is set well. I’m going to say it’s probably like this the
entire way through.

Gangster Town is a perfect example of how a light gun title should look,
sound and play. It, in my opinion, has a lot more to offer than Duck Hunt
and deserves to hold the same position its counterpart enjoys. They are both
great games, but this one really accomplishes what it set out to do. It has
some flaws, but nothing that really draws too much away from the entirety.
Overall it’s definitely a great title.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8.2
Written by Stan Review Guide

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