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Space Gun was made by Taito in 1990 as an arcade machine. It is somewhat similar to the better known Operation Wolf made by the same developer. Guns are mounted stationary to the cabinet similar to a joystick and are used to shoot towards the screen of the game. Space Gun is a rail shooter in which the player is able to walk backwards by pushing a pedal. With the availability of today’s powerful computers and free software such as MAME many Arcade games can be emulated. With usage of gun peripherals mimicking a mouse input device it’s possible to play light gun games in all their glory at home. Even better: Fixed gun games such as Space Gun can be played as they were light gun games. There are many suitable guns out there such as Arcade Guns, Top Gun, Act Lab USB gun and AimTrack. Personally I use Arcade Guns with which I am rather satisfied.
1992 Images software ported the games to the Atari ST and the Amiga. Both versions were made with light gun support. Ocean Software published those computer titles and also ports for the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC, which as far as I understood, lack light gun support. Taito themselves made a port for the Sega Master System supporting the Sega Light Phaser. This version seems to be a PAL region exclusive. Compared to the two first mentioned computer ports the Master Systems port looks rather simple but that has to be expected giving the inferior 8 bit hardware of the console. For example the game lacks most of its gore and limbs cannot be shot off. Within the limitations Taito did a great job and made a game which compares well with other 8 bit games of the era. Some main differences between Arcade and Master System Version are the removed ability to walk backwards and the removal of the time limit.
The remaining text will limit itself mostly to the Master System Version. The Game takes place in the not so far future. Humans go to expeditions in the deep space, which attracts the attention of alien live forms. The aliens attack the humans to use them as food and to steel their resources. The player is part of an elite unit which was sent to rescue surviving humans and to destroy the attacked space facilities in order to prevent the aliens taking them over. The story is told in nice drawn screens which often feature a bit of animation.
The player is equipped with a full automatic gun. The screen shows an energy bar for the gun. If the bar is low, the cadence of the gun is considerable reduced. Furthermore the player may collect ammunition for four special weapons: flame bombs, grenades, ice bombs, and a laser blade. In order to fire the special weapons they are selected with a controller connected to port 2. That means that the player has to hold the gun with one hand, while the other hand holds the game pad. It would have been great if Taito mapped one of the controller buttons to a pause function. Speaking thereof: The pause button on the console is sadly not supported in this game.
Ammunition appears when shooting at glowing containers at the walls. Items are picked up by shooting at them. Other items are medipacks which replenish two bars of shield and an armor vest which grants a time limited invincibility. Getting hit without remaining shield will kill the player. 5 continuous are available at all times, with the exception that when the player triggers the bad ending the game is over. The game features branching paths. The player chooses the way by shooting at arrows. So far this is the earliest occurrence of such a feature in a light gun game I have ever seen. The arcade version allows the player to walk backwards to the way point if an undesired way was chosen by accident using the pedal.
Now and then survivors run towards the player. Shooting them won’t result in punishment, but sparing them will partially replenish the shield bar at the end of the levels. This is different to the arcade version were shooting humans results in shield depletion whereas saving them will just give points instead of shield. In total there are 7 levels: Entering an attacked spaceship, walking around therein, a planet surface, a starbase, the alien infected now organic core of the base, a docking bay and a final boss fight in a small spaceship. Many levels are concluded with a boss fight. The bosses are well made and fun to fight. The final boss who already did a small cameo before the third boss, is somewhat difficult to fight if the player isn’t aware a trick. During the fight a health bar is displayed. It is important to know, that this bar is not the health of the boss. It’s the health of the spaceship. The player must only shoot at the boss when the monster’s color appears as solid green, as the boss is permeable to shots otherwise, which will cause the ship getting damaged. After some time the boss will transform and the player has to shoot an eye which is protected by ribs on the belly of the monster. Destroying the ship instead by empting the life bar will cause the game showing the bad ending, after which it says game over without continue.
The difficulty of the Master System version is low. Possibly Taito lowered the difficulty as their preceding Master System port Operation Wolf was felt to be too hard by many players. The hardest part I encountered were the green flying heads which tend to divide into copies if they are not shot immediately. But as many special enemies they can be avoided by choosing a different path. Interestingly in the arcade version this enemy is a worm composed of the individual heads which get independent when shot free from the rest of the body. Enthusiasts of the genera will find their challenge only in the score system. Nevertheless the game is a fun experience with lots of replay value considering the branching paths and the alternative endings. The Setting and game play reminds me strongly to the 1989 game Space Shadow for the Famicom made by Bandai. This is especially the case for the Master System Version. Personally I dislike the music of this port. I like the melodic parts of it but the game tends to play a lot of slow, horror themed almost ambient seeming tunes. In that regard it is similar to the arcade music but in my opinion it lost its effect as 8 bit version and became underwhelming.
I think the cover art of the Master System port is amazing and might be my favorite Master System box art. The back description is short but brings up efficiently what Space Gun is all about.