Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mighty Hits

Back when Sega and Namco had their great arcade rivalry going, there was one game Namco made which was never answered by Sega. It was a lightgun game called Point Blank, and it was a comical, lighthearted throwback to amusement parks and carnival rides. It was a nice alternative to the gritter worlds of Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, and for some unknown reason, Sega never responded with a similar game.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, a third party developer named Altron filled in the void for Sega. And wouldn't ya also expect Sega of America to completely ignore it, letting yet another high quality Saturn game fall through their grasp? Are we sure the Sega execs weren't taking bribes from Sony and Nintendo? I'm all out of explanations.

It might also boil your blood to discover that Mighty Hits, Altron's fun-loving gun game, was also released in Europe after Japan. That's right, kids, we were literally the last ones to the party. Nice. At least we now have our Sega Saturn Mantra: Thank Goodness For Downloads.

Mighty Hits appeared in 1996, and mimics the comical mini-game approach of Point Blank. The one major difference is that the game follows a wild west motif, with different block-shaped cowboys and outlaws scattered throughout the game. Note that this game doesn't include the words, "Mad," "Dog," or "McCree," which goes a great length to explain why it's actually a lot of fun.

The Saturn is a great console for gun games, thanks to Sega's outstanding home conversions of the first two Virtua Cops and The House of the Dead, and those two Atari shooters, Alien 51 and Maximum Force, that nobody ever gives enough credit for. Well, except for those of us at the old Dinkytown Pizza Hut. We blew hundreds of quarters on those games. Maybe it was just us.

Anyway, Mighty Hits is an excellent little game, certainly among the better Saturn imports. I haven't counted all of the mini-games yet, since I'm still not sure if I've seen them all. There is over a dozen that I've discovered, and they're extremely varied and creative. Among your tasks, you must shoot a penguin free from a block of ice; guide a balloon hang glider to safety by hitting the balloons; hit the correct face cards among a falling stack; shooting eggs that quickly reproduce across the screen; hit blocks to complete a picture; hunt down bumblebees that hide behind sunflowers; place a single shot through three moving clocks; various memory tests; and so on.

It's interesting that not every mini-game follows the western theme, since the non-country games are the weirder ones. There's at least a couple involving clowns. One interesting thing to note is that each stage features a hidden bonus point, usually one of the extra targets on-screen. I'm not too sure yet what accumulating these mean, but you may be rewarded by freely choosing your next few stages (instead of shooting the moving targets and guessing). At the end of the game, win or lose, you are graded on your skills and rewarded with some funny cgi clips.

I'm really impressed with the graphics in Mighty Hits, which are a mixture of polygons and pre-rendered graphics. There's a lot of mixing around, so things never become stale or predictable. It's not at all the case of polygons in the foreground, and sprite tricks in the backgrounds, like a lot of Saturn games. The colors are also wondrously vibrant and confident. It's a fun little carnival world, a zap-gun Fellini for tots.

Two players can join in, of course, and a lot of mini-games seem to be more fun with two people at once. At least, that's what I'm feeling, even though I only have one gun at the moment. I really should score a second. This is really much more of a party game than the Sega arcade titles, and it's accessible and challenging enough to keep friends coming back for another go. These kind of games work best at parties, anyway, especially when the liquor is flowing freely. Have I mentioned that 8 players can compete in the tournament mode? You're gonna wanna grab some shot glasses and start the drinking games for this one.

Oh, btw, since we're on the subject, never use Tempest 2000 as a drinking game. Just trust me on this.

I can't find any screenshots for this game anywhere, so I just pulled out the camera and started clicking. I really oughta learn how to take screengrabs from the computer.

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