Mastering The System #13 Argos no Juujiken

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Salio
Year: 1988
Players: 1-2
Played Before: Yes (Arcade, ZX Spectrum)
Also on: Amstrad, Arcade, C64, Lynx, NES, X68000, ZX Spectrum
Progress: Stage 2-2

It’s all-action arcade port time and Argos no Juujiken, probably better known to most of you as Rygar, is the perfect candidate for a port to the Master System. Four joystick directions, two action buttons, nothing too flash or fancy. Does this port involve plenty of spinny razor death or end up making a complete and utter disk of itself?

Surprisingly released for Master System in Japan only, other ports of this game were available for various systems including a brilliant conversion to the ZX Spectrum and a weird, RPGfied NES version, so I’m unsure why this wasn’t a candidate for release in Europe. The local angry-warrior-of-the-people, Rygar, has decided that he’s had quite enough of the oppressive type up the road and his terrorising hordes, so sets out to do something about it, which is fair enough.

The action takes place in various natural-looking levels – caves, waterfalls, forests, that sort of thing – and you run to the right in areas which scroll very smoothly as copious enemies come at you from both sides as well as tunnelling up from underground and dropping in via the use of a handy dragon. Some of them even have their own wings and are nasty, swoopy bastards which are particular dangerous on the odd occasion that you’re climbing a rope downwards into the depths instead of heading rightwards. Levels are actually quite large and divided up into five or six sub-sections. This is all done against a fairly lenient clock, with five full minutes given per life, but time is not replenished between sub-sections. It’s possible to regain a small amount of time via pick-ups but, should the timer run out, a demon will appear and fly around the screen erratically, killing you on contact. This is different to the other versions I’ve played, which instead send a large skull to chase you through the level. This is much more avoidable than the Master System’s angry demon and as such isn’t as big a deterrent.

Rygar, poor chap, only has two animation frames when running, but more than makes up for it by attacking with what is essentially a circular saw blade on a bungee cord which he can fire to the side or straight upwards, forgoing all negotiation techniques and giving everything a deserved facebound pummelling. Don’t ask me how he catches the disk when it comes back to him, but I’m not about to give it a go and produce a pictorial guide. He can jump almost half the height of the screen and is an agile little chap as jumps are entirely controllable in the air. Strangely for a run-and-gun game, landing on an enemy’s head does not result in death. Instead, Rygar has the ability to briefly stun them this way. This an essential technique for beating the game as there are numerous areas with enemies patrolling small platforms and as such is very useful in making progress where you otherwise would not be able to safely land from a jump.

At the end of each level, you face a boss enemy and it’s again a case of smacking it with your disk until it gets the message and buggers off. You’re then awarded two bonuses, one for time remaining (seconds multiplied by 100) and the other a repulse bonus (enemies killed multiplied by 100). Your repulse count carries over between lives (and credits!) so if you’re looking to maximise your score, it’s probably worth your while hanging around killing enemies as they tend to be worth 300 points or more, are in plentiful supply and should easily make up for the 100 points you drop as each second ticks by.

In the arcade and Spectrum versions, point bonus items appear by way of destructible gravestones. Here, they appear as medals that float exceedingly slowly up the screen and must be attacked to release whatever’s held within, which can be a bit of a pain as you’ll often have to wait for them to reach ground level before smashing them open, all the while being assaulted by the unending enemy onslaught. Up for grabs are points bonuses, time extensions, instant smart bombs, 1ups or one of five semi-permanent power-ups which bless you with various abilities and are logged in the slots at the top of the screen. In order from left to right: Star (increases the range of your saw blade on a string), Crown (allows the disk to pass through enemies instead of stopping at the first one, meaning you can kill multiple enemies at once and is particularly useful when combined with the Star), Tiger (enemies are killed when jumped on instead of stunned), Cross (grants a period of invincibility) and Sun (spins the disk in a circle around Rygar instead of throwing it straight upwards, actually the reverse of the arcade version which starts you off with the spin move). These power-up icons often also appear from dead enemies and, apart from the Cross power, will remain with you until you lose a life, so don’t become complacent if you’ve gathered a few and are swanning about like you own the place as it’s still very easy to die while carrying the other four power-ups.

By its very nature, Argos no Juujiken takes place on a horizontal plane for the majority of the time. Running along the ground, the majority of enemies will be doing likewise. Predictably, this results in the dreaded sprite flicker, even rearing its ugly head when as few as two horizontal enemies appear at once. This is visible on the bottom half of the left-hand enemy and a portion of the right-hand enemy in the screenshot near the top of this review. Sprites will very rarely completely disappear unless there are five or six on-screen together, such as the flying demons in the underground aqueducts stage. Thankfully, this has very little detrimental effect on the action.

Argos no Juujiken is a very good arcade port. It sets out to emulate its arcade parent and absolutely delivers. The difficulty ramps up significantly on stage 2, so challenge is very high if you don’t take advantage of the infinite continues. Best of all, it hasn’t been messed about with too much and turned into an RPG platformer like the NES version and, quite frankly, I prefer my arcade experiences this way.

Exciting SEGA rating:

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