I had heard of this game before, and marveled at the simple elegance of the title, but I’d never actually played it until I found it in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection last night. I started it and immediately thought it was kind of stupid. Twelve minutes later, I was frothing at the mouth for a modern update.
The game consists of like a trillion screen-sized levels, which you have to shepherd everyone in your crew through individually or else clear out all of the enemies, making the former a foregone conclusion. There are forty characters or something, each with different abilities. You start with three, and you get more by rescuing them when you see them stashed in a level. When one of your guys gets hit, he becomes another guy that needs to be retrieved. Each of your guys can only take one other guy out of the level with him.
The upshot of this is that the game uses as its core mechanic a very interesting twist on the concept of “lives,” with each “life” being different and with you having more to do the more lives you have. You should just go play the game if you haven’t already, because I’m sure I’m not doing it justice. Anyway, why haven’t I seen this design explored in any other games over the past two decades or so? To my mind you could remake this game with modern graphics and sound and maybe a little more differentiation between the characters, and it would be incredible.
Seriously. I pumped SO many quarters into that game in the arcade.
The early console versions never seemed right to me. They were ok but the arcade version was still my favorite. Brutal difficulty, 3 player co-op, the unique characters that needed to be rescued for extra lives, levels that played out like puzzles, only certain characters could shoot to the higher wall areas…yea good times. Way more complex then your standard Gauntlet hack and smash. I can’t believe Gain Ground is over 20 years old.
I also played a lot of Gain Ground when I was young, on the Master System with a friend. We’d play it through to the final super-futuristic puzzle levels, and lose our last lives there. Over and over again.
I bought it on the Wii Virtual Console recently, and it is super hard. I don’t know how we managed to consistently get to the last levels every time as children.
I picked up the Genesis collection from all the positive buzz it got on here. I also picked up a Mad Catzzzzz 3rd party controller to be able to use anything but the horrendous 360 Dpad. I’m happy to say that the Mad Catzzzz one is much better, and works great with these games.
However, Gain Ground (much like Gauntlet) loses it’s entire appeal when quarters are taken out of the equation. Those games were designed around getting you to put more money in… the better you did, the less money you would have to invest. With unlimited continues, the entire thing just falls apart in my opinion. It was a fantastic arcade game, though.