Every week my girlfriend and I go food shopping at a nearby shopping centre. Within the complex is a Gametraders and each week I look for bargains to review. This week I came across a NES game called Section Z. Even though I didn’t really recognise the game, for some reason something in the back of my mind tweaked over the cover art and title. This feeling of nostalgia for something familiar from my past compelled me to buy the game.
I put it on as soon as I got home. As the title screen and music came up, a million memories hit me in the face like a punch. I had this game! I had totally forgotten about this part of my gaming history, which is weird because I thought I remembered all my old games. I felt at ease, like a massive piece of the puzzle of my life had been found (I’d like to thank the academy…)
The story goes that you are a sole astronaut in a special solar-energized, jet-propelled supersonic spacesuit armed with multi-directional weaponry. The Saturn space station sends a message back to Earth that some bad-ass aliens from Planet Balangool are coming to invade. You and a guy named Captain Commando set out to stop the alien invasion by giving ‘L-Brain’ (Balangool’s Master Control) a massive kick in the nuts.
(The main man himself, L-Brain).
Section Z is an arcade conversion that was originally brought out by Capcom in 1985. The only home conversion of this game was developed for the Family Computer Disk System in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, and was released in 1987. It’s called Section Z because in the original arcade version you have to make your way through 26 alphabetically-labelled levels. But in the NES version they have labelled the levels with a number from 1 to 60, which kind of makes the game’s name stupid. Maybe they should have put ‘60’ instead of ‘Z’ in the title, although ‘Section 60’ doesn’t sound as rad as ‘Section Z’.
Every level will automatically scroll from the left to the right, although different sections scroll at different speeds. You have a sweet jetpack, so you can fly around anywhere you want within the screen. You fire by pushing Button A to fire left and Button B to fire right. You start with a putt-putt blaster but can pick up other weapons along the way. To change weapons, press Right until the cursor lies beneath the desired weapon, and then press Select. You also have a mega bomb that the game calls a shell, and which can be summoned by pressing A and B together. Once summoned, it will flash in the centre of the screen briefly. It must then be touched in order to obtain it.
Within the levels there are secret rooms that contain trinkets and gifts that will assist you in your mission. To get into a secret room you must open up a portal by shooting at a certain place in the level.
At the end of each level you are given the choice of two ways to go. Sometimes you advance up a couple of levels, but it can also take you back a couple of levels or even send you back to level one. Redoing the same levels over again gets a bit frustrating, because at the end of the level when you choose a direction it’s just trial and error. There is no skill involved.
The graphics are nice. It’s easy to see where you can fly and what is a wall. Each level has is own distinct look and colours. The game is divided up into three parts, and each of these has 20 levels, two generator rooms and a boss room. Blowing up generators gives you treats that help you along the way. The bosses look alright but could have been a bit more exciting.
With a whole heap of weapons available, and the ability to upgrade both weapons and your player, it’s a pretty cool game. Section Z is fairly difficult but if you persist at it you will gain the skills you need to complete it.
I give it a 7 out of 10.