With overhead run 'n gun titles like Ikari Warriors and Commando snatching up large numbers of tokens in arcades, it comes as no real surprise that Sega would have to create one of their own for their Sega Master System. The game was originally released under the name "Secret Command" in Europe, where the Sega Master System was selling extremely well, and would later be brought to the US as "Rambo: First Blood II" in an effort to cash in on the success of the Rambo motion pictures.
Unfortunately, the Sega Master System was getting absolutely throttled by Nintendo's NES console in the US, so very few US gamers actually know about the game, and even fewer have actually played it. Now, over two decades later, Sega has decided to resurrect their little-known shooter on the Virtual console service. But how does a game that didn't exactly light up the sales charts during the 8-bit era fare all these years later?
The game play system in Secret Command is fairly basic. You run around the various landscapes, ranging from forests to swampland, shooting your way through the constant barrage of enemies who are trying to stop you. Your ultimate goal is to rescue the many POWs that are being held hostage and somehow reach the end of the level where you can finally escape to the next area. You can even grab another player and play the game in two-player co-op mode, which brings a bit more intensity to the overall experience.
You basically have two types of weapons to make use of. Your assault rifle will command the majority of your time since you have an unlimited amount of ammo available for it. If you feel like shaking things up a bit, you can also grab your trusty bow and fire a few explosive-tipped arrows at your enemies to make a real splash. Since you have a limited number of these grenade arrows, you'll have to grab the extra arrows that the liberated POWs will toss your way as you rescue them. You'll definitely want to keep a steady supply of these arrows in your arsenal if you expect to make it through some of the later stages in the game where enemy attacks become more hectic and frequent.
The control is smooth in Secret Command, albeit a bit on the slow-paced side. You have to remember that this is an 8-bit title so it's best to keep your expectations in check. The firepower isn't quite as intense as that found in other arcade run 'n gun titles like Ikari Warriors or Commando, but there's still enough variety in the game play to keep things somewhat interesting. Think of Secret Command as a dumbed-down version of the aforementioned arcade titles and you'll have a good idea what to expect from the game. It's certainly a decent 8-bit shooter title, but nothing to get overly excited about it.
The visuals in Secret Command are actually pretty solid considering it's a Sega Master System release. There's a lot of detail in the various landscapes you'll have to traverse, and there's also quite a bit of variety between the different areas in the game. The character and enemy animations are about what you'd expect from an 8-bit title, but in the end the game still looks better than many NES releases of the same time period, thanks to the more powerful graphical power of Sega's hardware.
The quality of the music is similar to the visuals in the game; it's good considering it's 8-bit, but the fact that the tunes are fairly short in length means they end up repeating quite often which can make them a bit annoying after long periods of play. You'll get a different track as you change areas, which helps, but in the end the music still comes off sounding quite average, even by the Master System's pretty low standards.
Secret Command is typical of the overhead run 'n gun titles of the era, but it still manages to do an adequate job of replicating some of the intensity found in many of the arcade hits that obviously influenced it. If you like a good run 'n gun shooter and don't mind the play control being a bit on the bland side, you'll probably get your money's worth out of Secret Command. It's not too shabby for the mere 500 Nintendo Points it costs and will be a nice piece of nostalgia for those who enjoyed it the first time around.
Huh, I always loved this game. Maybe it's aged more than I remember.
Where is Rambo for the NES? That game was hilarious! As far as gameplay goes it was pretty much Zelda 2 but with Rambo! Sure it was terrible but somehow still awesome! The music was very good as well! Oh, regarding Rambo:Secret Command, I never got a chance to play it but it actually looks pretty decent. The score is a little discouraging though so if it does come out soon I'll have to pass for now. If the Rambo NES version ever comes out I'll definitely download that just for laughs!
What were sega thinking when it came to the box art on all their master system games?
this and MERCS looks good via the screenshots but not too good for reviewers
@timp29: They thought: "Why should we pay for an professional artist when a trainee can do it as well?"
I love the Master Systems boxes!
"Trainee," as in someone just learning to hold a crayon, perhaps... Those boxes did NOTHING to lure in shoppers (in the US at least) for a closer look. They probably even prevented a few.
The awful cover artwork shown here is AFAIK from the european release. The US version looks a litte better, see here:
And the japanese cover artwork is also not so bad:
In case anyone cares, Ashura, which this is in Japan, is a Japanese knockoff of Rambo in the first place.. so, technically, the Euro release is actually the odd man out.
I just hope this comes to the US soon. A quality game with a HUGE nostalgia factor - at least for me & a few of my friends.
@Sohei_Fox: Well, the main character in Secret Command is still named Ashura.
There were three generations of MS box art. This is from the first, earliest generation, when they all looked pretty awful.
I hate how this review keeps dissing the game just for being 8-bit, even associating the era with slow controls (ridiculous!). Have you all started judging these games by today's standards now? And where's my user rating feature? :/
The reviewer has made an error on this game, it was one of the best games on the master system, it was incredibly replayable because it was incredibly hard. In two player mode it required serious co-ordination. God i loved this game. I give it 10/10.
I'm looking for a 2 player co-op action game.
Some questions about Secret Command:
How many lives and continues, are there passwords?
This game is fun with two players. I could never get passed the last wall though.
are you kidding me!?
I hated this game...AND IKARI WARRIORS(the console versions)
the game is slow and probably for more cash sega made this a movie game...wow...just wow.
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