Global Defense Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Hmmm. Ummm. This is a strange one. I’m at once struck by the minute amount of ingenuity here but after looking more deeply into it I find it lacking. I must now trudge forward on a quest to explain why this is worth a glance but at the same time why more could have been done with it. Global Defense is one of the more unique titles I’ve played, which is odd because it’s not necessarily the most original of games and can basically be described as mixing any generic space-shooter with Missle Command. However, that’s not entirely fair because, well wait a minute yes it is. In fact, it’s quite clear to me the programmers had Missle Command in mind when they made this. Regardless, it does have its good points. Had they thrown some more effort into it, it could have been spectacular, but Global Defense is sub-par at best. I find this strange since before I even sat down to look at it I always heard SMS collectors speaking good on its behalf.

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Graphically, this title is at times impressive. It’s hard to really do much with a game that occurs primarily in space where you’d only have distant planets, close planets, or stars to contend with; kind of bleak. They’ve avoided this by placing the main action in orbit around the planets and in one stage through an asteroid belt. Thus, you have these nice, slowly moving landscapes of planets with great detail, but a generally limited color scheme. As you sweep across them, you see suggestions of continents that provides a nice backdrop to the action. The asteroid belt adds some variety, but by choosing different planets, one of which is Saturn, the programmers have done a good job of providing variety. The enemies, however, are too basic. You have missles you’re supposed to take down, which is fine, I don’t expect much from a missle, but the alien craft are worthless. You have little insect-like things, some orbs and a few others, but nothing worth noting and they all have this rushed feel to them. It’s not too exciting to fire at a bunch of squiggly orbs moving about. More variety would have been better or some more sinister looking creatures. In addition, they’re pretty much the same spacecraft on every level. The animations, though, are smooth all around and the satellite you control looks great. During the defensive rounds, they change the landscape up each time, but it’s essentially the same concept as the offensive rounds when you pass the planets, only that you’re only taking out missles here so you don’t see any alien craft. Overall, an adequate display; a little work was necesssary though. The opening segment is probably the best part.

The sound is just downright pathetic in Global Defense, mainly because it doesn’t have any variety. The sound effects are fitting but finite and you hear the same tracks as you go through the levels. Different themes for each would have made an all-around better title, but the music here is not necessarily bad, it’s actually quite good, just not for this kind of game. Variety in a game with levels that appear somewhat similar is essential in my opinion and they didn’t do that here. They should have at least made a different song for the defensive rounds, not the same “happy” tune of the offensive rounds. That just doesn’t work. Happy is the best way to describe it, which is hardly the music I’d expect while defending the planet from millions of missles and hostile aliens. It’s well-programmed at least.

Global Defense is a unique shooting title, but pretty much plays as you would expect after what I said way above in the opening. Like most shooters, it moves from left to right and the majority of enemies from right to left (sometimes the missles or enemies come from below or above). In the defensive rounds, the missles come from the sides and up over you as if in an arc towards you. Let me explain those first before I go further. The game has a total of ten stages, two parts for each of the five levels. The first part of every level is called the “offensive half.” So says the manual, which is totally wrong, there are more like twenty levels, but I’ll get to that later. In the offensive half you move your satellite around and fire out missles, enemies and bases. Basic idea of a shooter, other than the controls. The controls are easy to get accustomed to and you even have a special feature in this title if you want to make it feel even more like you’re actually controlling a space craft. The basic controls are much different than one would expect. Essentially, when you hold down Button 1, you use the Directional Pad to move your satellite around. If you’re not holding it down, you only move the aimer. Thus, you have to juggle back and forth with moving your satellite and adjusting your aimer to take out any missles or what have you. Button 2 fires. If you want, you can also use two control pads at the same time, one for moving the satellite and the other for moving the aimer; in this mode you fire automatically. The latter is hard to adjust to but once you do movement and gameplay is smooth and quick. Nice touch.

So when you’re moving through the offensive half, you simply have to take out as many missles as possible or the missle meter at the bottom fills up and you lose since too many have struck the forcefield around the planet you’re orbiting. The problem I had was the power-ups and the shots you fire. First off, there are hardly any power-ups in this game and the ones you can pick up aren’t very impressive. One increases your speed, including your aimer, and the other somewhat increases your firing power, which I honestly didn’t notice a difference with. Then there’s another that lowers the missle meter if you’ve let a few pass by. That’s useful, but it doesn’t appear often enough to warrant a place in this game.

Second, there’s the issue of the firing, and why this game is like Missle Command. When you fire, the bullets don’t destroy your targets directly, only the energy cloud left from each shot destroys an enemy. This can be annoying, because if something is drawing close to you you have to quickly move the aimer, which doesn’t move fast enough to begin with, and then fire in front of you to make sure you take them out. This doesn’t sound like a problem, but trust me it is until you get moderately used to it. When you first play this you’ll die numerous times from enemies that draw too close and the inclination that you just have to shoot at them because it feels like that’s how it should be. Since the bullets release an energy cloud only in relation to the aimer, you have to learn to pay attention to how far it is and how far the enemy is from where you’re firing, because they might just pass by where you shoot without being destroyed. Wouldn’t a laser just kill anything in its path to begin with?

Then you have the “defensive half.” Here, instead of moving left to right, you are pretty much stationary, though you can move around, and are swarmed by missles, which are making a sweep at the planet you’re defending. If you manage to pass the offensive half without letting a single enemy by, you won’t have to play this segment, but trust me it’s incredibly hard to do. Let too many missles by in the defensive segment and the game is over. It’s generally easier than the rest of the game because you can fire like mad, leaving energy clouds everywhere, and usually you take out most of the missles without paying attention to where you’re aiming. At any rate, the only other problem with this game is that it’s too long and the manual is full of filthy lies. First it says only ten levels, when there are clearly more, then it says you only have to take out all the missles to pass by the defensive segment, along with a few other issues that ticked me off. The levels don’t follow what the manual says at all and even repeat later on, which annoys me to no end. Didn’t I just save this planet here? I didn’t know there were two saturns that look exactly the same. The length wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the game didn’t get so god awful difficult by the end. It’s almost like they don’t want you to even win at all and I assume this has no ending because even cheating it was impossible to complete.

Hmmm, I’m not sure what to say about the creativity here. Global Defense is unique in a few ways, but the more you think about it the more unoriginal it really is. It’s clearly based off of Missle Command and doesn’t really offer anything too exciting in terms of gameplay other than the controls and some of the gameplay, so I have to score somewhat low in this category. It’s nice to see programmers trying something new with a genre that was only then beginning to blossom, but at the same time they should have worked harder on it before letting it loose. If I had a choice between this and Gyruss for the NES, which itself was based on other titles, I’d pick the latter.

Global Defense is fun to play now and then, but really there isn’t too much to come back to here. The challenge is gone when the controls are figured out other than the dang length, unless you really care about the perfect score thing. I must say it’s definitely hard to pull off, but I don’t know if anyone would really have the inclination to want to in the first place. Saying “hey, one time I got a perfect score in Global Defense” isn’t exactly something to write on a resume or CV. Even among Master System fans I don’t think anyone would care. In addition, the game length is way too long to match the difficulty. Each level is basically the same length, both sections included, but first lying in the manual and then seemingly repeating stages until I die is a cop-out. I like to refer to this as the “R.C. Pro-Am” Syndrome, a game which was notorious for computer enemies programmed to always win in later levels (this is actually verified and was admitted by the company later on).

In conclusion, I’d have to say that at this point I’m not really entirely sure if this game deserves a look, even for SMS fans. It’s okay I suppose, but with other shooters for the system out there like Sagaia or Power Strike II, I don’t really think you’d play this too often considering all of the aforementioned problems. It’s not the worst, and it is a bit unique, but it would have only made its mark had the programmers spent more time on the actual play behind the controls or basic elements and fixed the manual, the bastards. It’s almost like they did a bit with this title, said “that’s different” and then “screw it, we’re done.”

Graphics: 5.5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 4.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 3.5
Final: 3.5
Written by Stan Review Guide

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