Review by MikeHaggar

Reviewed: 08/22/05

A strategy game for masochists

Gain Ground was released for the arcades in 1988 by SEGA. It is best described as a shooting action strategy game. I really enjoyed Gain Ground, even though the challenge is probably out of almost everyone's league.

Gameplay goes like this: You start out with three soldiers in your party, each with two weapons (regular projectile and specialty). Every level has a number of enemy soldiers on a static screen. You can only control one character in your party at once. You switch characters when either you die with one or make it to the exit of the screen. Levels end when you have either killed all enemy soldiers or have maneuvered all members of your party to the exit of the screen. Gain Ground has four epochs of warfare, starting with ancient Greece and ending in the far future. Each epoch consists of about eight levels and ends in a boss battle.

The big feature of Gain Ground is that even though you start with only three members in your party, you can add many more as the game proceeds. In certain levels, you will see someone that can join your party. All you have to do is walk up to them and they will follow you. Make it to the exit with them following you and that player will be yours to control in the next level. Success is dependent on getting these guys to join you and some of those characters have some amazing abilities you won't want to miss.

The graphics are very unique. Unique because the players are very tiny. Less then half an inch. But the detail is amazing and you won't be put off at all. Like I mentioned earlier, all levels consist of a static screen, which makes the size of the players easier to adapt to. The music and sound effects of Gain Ground are effective and I particularly enjoy the main theme.

Even though it has arcade army gameplay at it's core, the strategy factor really gives Gain Ground a challenge that has to be played to be believed. Some examples of that strategy is some of the enemy soldiers are on rooftops or in foxholes and only the characters in your party with a lobbing specialty weapon can kill them. Another is playable characters are either left or right handed and will do better on one side of the screen then the other. The worst part is on the final epoch, there are no continues, so if you want to see the ending, you'd better get good at the arcade shooting and then have a nice strategy on hand for everything else.

The control is very responsive, but the projectile shooting is pretty hard to get down on some of the faster erratic moving enemies. Thankfully bullet/ arrow management has been left out of Gain Ground, so just hammer down on that firing button and you should do fine.

I'm sure everyone who enjoys arcade shooting and wants to use their brains a little will enjoy Gain Ground. I really wish Gain Ground had been the pioneer of a new genre of arcade gameplay (or at least gotten a couple of sequels), but instead it's pretty much an island unto itself. It's a unique little projectile action game that you will probably enjoy. Give it a shot.

(I gave up trying to fit this casually into the review somewhere and just wanted to share this little factoid: Gain Ground can still be found in many Japanese arcades to this very day.)

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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