Zero Wing - Sega Genesis Review - All Your Base Are Belong To Us
Zero Wing, a Shoot 'em up from 1989 is a blast from the past and a gem for all the wrong reasons. From extremely poor translations of the opening scene to lackluster backgrounds and enemy designs. This game does not hold up as one of the great shoot 'em ups of the 16-bit era. At least, not for me.
Released in arcades in 1989, Zero Wing saw some success. It was popular enough to get ported to home console. This includes the Sega Genesis or Mega Drive as it is known in Europe and the PC-Engine CD-ROM system. When it released in 1991 it was met with great reviews, with Joystick and Sega Force magazines both rating it 86% and four other magazines rating it above 90%. Sadly, the game is remembered in 2020 because of the internet memes surrounding the poor translation of the European version for the Sega Mega Drive system. With such lines as "What you say!?" and the famous "All your base are belong to us" appearing only in a special opening cutscene in that version of the game. The PC-Engine version features a different intro which includes a different colored windscreen to the ship the player pilots.
You are the lone hero, Trent, and you're hellbent on saving the universe after the Capital Ship you serve on is destroyed by an evil foe known as Cats. The core gameplay is your standard Shoot 'Em Up (or SHMUP for short) formula where you blast away at wave after wave of enemy and collect power-ups to make your weapons stronger. There are three types of weapons to choose from that you can level up to increase their damage and effect. You are able to hold an enemy ship in your tractor beam to act as a shield from projectiles, but if you knock it against a wall it will disappear, so be careful. There are 8 levels with mini-bosses mid-stage as well as big showpiece end-level bosses.
While this isn't my favorite SHMUP from the 16-bit era, I did feel compelled to review it after stumbling across the poorly translated starting and remembering all the memes from the late 2000s. There aren't that many power-ups to keep it interesting over long periods of time, and the difficulty is strangely high for a game with so few projectiles on the screen. Like most shooters of the late '80s and early '90s, repetition is the key to success. This is a fun shmup to show to your friends that isn't going to give them a seizure from all the projectiles moving about the screen. Some will remember the memes surrounding the translations and it's fun to think about those jokes from the past.
I uploaded the opening intro to my YouTube channel so that you can see how bad the translation is for yourself. Not bad music, though.