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Rambo III

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

Rambo III was made by Sega in 1988. In the game the screen scrolls steadily from left to right. Enemy soldiers and vehicles do appear in a fixed pattern. The player controls the game with the Sega light phaser. No additional controller is required. If the trigger is held down, the rifle will fire in full automatic mode until the ammunition counter decreases to zero. After that, the rifle behaves like a semiautomatic one.

There are 7 playable levels, or scenes as they are called in the game: Soviet troop barracks, an Afghan village, a mountain area, a prison camp, a soviet base, caves and a desert. There are three continues. If Rambo is killed the player is put back to the beginning of the level. The last level, the desert is an exception as one is put back to the beginning of the cave level instead when dying. But that isn’t too much of a hassle as the cave level is not terribly difficult.

There are some interactive objects such as doors, pots, bats and crates which can be shot or bombed. The player can use health potions and grenades from the status screen by shooting at them. Grenades are screen clearing weapons. Often it’s essential to time the usage of the grenades to situations which grant the player instantly new supply thereof. For example that’s the case when the player sees a crate in level 4. Using the grenade will pop the crate open thus giving Rambo the grenade which was laying therein. In two levels there are human obstacles that shouldn’t be shot. If the player does, the life bar will decrease. The manual mentions that the life bar increases if the player kills enemies before they open fire, but I am skeptical about that. The game features lovely graphics. The music is, while simple and repetitive, rather enjoyable. However it is not always easy to tell what is going on by the tunes alone as several sounds are similar to each other.

The light gun shooting part is well done and feels very accurate for an 8 bit game without calibration. The accuracy is sufficient to allow the player to use the physical sights of the phaser to aim. In my opinion the difficulty is very balanced and well done. The game is beatable but not too easy. I got quite a fast heartbeat and a satisfying feeling of achievement when I succeeded over the hind for the first time. Even Light Gun veterans will find some replay value in this game because of its challenging score system. The ending screens are pretty made and rewarding. It rounds up this well made light gun game and reminds me why Sega is my second favorite light gun games developer of all times.

On first glance the game took a lot of inspiration from the 1987 Arcade Game “Operation Wolf” made by Taito and presumably it has at least a bit. Most notably the locations where the levels take place and the enemy types are very similar. For example: both games feature a big boss battle with a Hind helicopter at the end of the game. However it has to be noted that most of these similarities also appear in the film the game is made after. For example in the film are stylized fights with a helicopter heavily modified to look like a Hind. One of those fights is the finale of the movie. Furthermore it should be mentioned that Operation Wolf wasn’t a classic light gun game as the guns are mounted stationary to the cabinet similar to a joystick. Rambo III came before the Master System and NES light gun supporting ports of Operation Wolf. It’s possible that Rambo III closed the circle by showing Taito the feasibility of these kinds of games on 8 bit consoles with light guns, which could have inspired Taito to do the before mentioned ports. The cover looks a bit odd it uses a photomontage rather than complete hand drawn art. The back description is intriguing yet a bit clinical.