Insert Disk collects Hellfire for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.
Today’s retro game review is Hellfire for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is a becoming a bit of a hidden gem in the 90’s shooter department. With home releases on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis and PC Engine this is a fantastic game that may be unfamiliar to some. Blast your way through numerous enemy types and take on epic boss battles. Hellfire happens to be one of my favourite shooters on the Sega 16-bit systems all set to a rocking chip tune soundtrack. If you can afford to collect this one than I can highly recommend it.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s back to 1991 today to revisit one of my favourite space shooters for the Sega Mega Drive. Prepare for all out intergalactic war in Hellfire. Hellfire was developed by Toaplan for the arcades in 1989 but saw a release on to the Sega Mega Drive in 1991. Hellfire came from a bumper outing of games from Toaplan. 1989 saw the release of Hellfire, Zero Wing and Fireshark. These releases all came off of the popularity of 1988’s Truxton, also developed by Toaplan. Unlike Fire Shark and Truxton that share a very similar arcade mother board and ultimately game style, Hellfire was released as a horizontal shooter making it the sister game of Zero Wing. Although developed by Toaplan the Sega Mega Drive release was published by Masaya. Ok, so the name may not be instantly familiar to you (particularly if you are in the West) but perhaps if I can jog your mind with the phrase Cho Aniki. That’s right that crazy scantily clad, homo erotic Japanese masterpiece shared the same publisher. If you need any more information on this if previously covered the Sega Saturn release on the channel.
Anyway, back on topic, Hellfire. Its worth saying first of all that I actually prefer Hellfire to Zero Wing. It plays a little faster and the game overall has a little more variation in game play, sound and overall level of polish. To set this one up I’ll read the synopsis from the box. Our galaxy is being devoured by Super Mech, an evil force! And only you can save us! Command the ultimate weapon, Hellfire, through six levels of fast action and loads of deadly enemies. You must survive – we are counting on it! So there you go, big Super Mech bed guy, you as a single fighter, hordes of enemy ships. In short, who cares about the plot, let’s blow stuff up. It’s this blowing up of stuff that I really enjoy about the game. There’s no pretence that this game is about anything else other than the action. Its arcade to home action done the right way.
Hellfire has a really great hook when it comes to its game play. In many shooters you tend to collect a weapon and power it up. In Hellfire you won’t need to collect different weapon types as you already have them all. A forward pink laser, a yellow rear laser, vertical green laser and diagonal blue laser. At any time you can toggle between them to help you best tackle the enemies that will surround you. This isn’t unique in a shooter but this is certainly an excellent execution of the concept. Your fire power will start of quite weak but destroying certain enemies will drop weapon power ups, a drone and even a force field. It’s a very satisfying game mechanic and the control of your ship feels spot on. There’s certainly challenging elements to the levels but overall this feel like a very solid shooter.
Seeing as Hellfire only saw home releases on the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis and PC Engine this is perhaps one of the least talked about great shooters of the 90’s. I’d even go as far as saying on the Sega 16-bit systems it would perhaps make it in to my top 3. Outwardly the game perhaps doesn’t look too special, it’s just a really fun experience though and that’s what I came for. To boot Hellfire has an outstanding soundtrack. Although not as hi def as the arcade edition the Mega Drive sound chip really pumps out a decent base line reminiscent of the classic chip tune days. Now this feel like a tune to take on the enemies with. Tracks also make excellent use of the Mega Drive’s stereo output. I can confirm that the game sounds outstanding when using decent quality speakers and headphones. Always a welcome addition is that the soundtrack is available through via the options menu as well as options to customise the difficulty lives and rapid fire. When you’re not rocking out to the soundtrack the game really throws in some standout moments. As well as sub-bosses each stage features a large boss. These fights are particularly creative with thanks to the weapon variant mechanism.
Often it is easiest to use any bombs that you’ve saved up but usually you will have to pick your shot type carefully to take down the enemy. In this case hitting the ball via different openings in the armour. You’ll have to think about shot type as well as your ships position. It all adds up to a very immersive experience. With such a great game comes a great cost. For a complete Sega Mega Drive edition here in the UK anywhere between £40-£50 is a common selling price on the online auctions. You can however opt for a North American Genesis release for around $25-$30 complete in box or the Japanese Sega Mega Drive edition for around the $20-$25 mark. A word of warning though. Prices for Hellfire and Toaplan shooters in general have been creeping up in price over the years.
So, could I recommend Hellfire? Well if price is not an issue then by all means this is a really decent shooter. Hellfire remains a firm favourite because it has so much going for it. The soundtrack is great, the weapon mechanics engaging, the enemies creative and the difficulty level caters to a wide range of skill levels. The game can get quite technical but it never feels unfair. It’s not totally without its cheap deaths but overall Hellfire offers retro gamers a very solid game to replay time and time again.