Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gain Ground SX

NEC Avenue / Sega
Super CD-ROM

Inspired in part by Gauntlet, Gain Ground features small, simplistic-in-design play areas with clearly marked exits to scurry for and plenty of brutes to blast.

Three different characters are available for you to select from at the start. By nabbing and absconding with doll-like icons placed about some of the fields, you can put together an impressive assemblage of twenty. Members of your party who take a hit revert to their immobile miniature forms, but you can attempt to retrieve them with one of their allies.

Clear an area of enemies and you'll be on your way to the next board. You can't simply dash about and engage in mindless mayhem, however; strategy in avatar selection is important. Some characters toss spears, some blast away with rifles, some wield elemental magic. Some are fleet of foot while others are heavy treaders. Even the hand in which a given warrior holds his destructive tool of choice can be a matter of great importance. Limited-range weaponry won't suffice for annihilating foes stationed on platforms, camped behind barriers, or laying low in ditches.

It usually isn't difficult to navigate the occasionally mazelike but typically straightforward play areas, but what they lack in structural disparity, they make up for in aesthetic variety. You'll battle barbarians on open fields, robots in futuristic bases, and Wizzrobe-like magic-users within the walls of dungeons.

Magnificent tunes produced by T's Music make the experience feel more dramatic than its scantly strategic, simple-at-heart premise would seem to warrant. Cinemas are absent, unfortunately, and the in-game visuals are rather ugly, but at least some fairly large sprites are occasionally employed.

The game doesn't go far enough with its level layouts and enemy designs to make every recruitable combatant essential. As some characters are largely redundant and others are simply inadequate, you'll likely end up sticking with a core group of favorites. Still, you can make your life a lot easier by selecting a warrior most appropriate for whatever zone you're invading, and you'll likely need to devise a scheme involving more than one hero to get through the challenging final stage.

Boasting a distinctive premise and onscreen projectile counts that can rise in a hurry, Gain Ground is an interesting, often-exciting title that should prove pleasing provided that the player doesn't set his expectations in regards to its strategic elements exceedingly high.

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