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Time Soldiers – Sega Master System

Time Soldiers – Sega Master System

Time Soldiers - Sega Master SystemPlatform:  Sega Master System

Release Date (NA):  1987

Developer:  Alpha Denshi

Publisher:  SNK

Genre:  3PS / Overhead Shooter

Nerd Rating:  7.5 out of 10

Time Soldiers is a moderately advanced game for its time, and while not as advanced as giants like Metroid or the first Zelda for the NES, it stands as a laudable step from the classic arcade era to the more in-depth games cropping up in the 3rd generation.  Born in an era where genre conventions were less rigid, Time Soldiers can be a bit difficult to classify; one site even has it listed as a “run and gun,” and although I can see the connection, it bears little stylistic resemblance to our current concept of a run and gun.  With its top-down view and reliance on projectile attacks, I’m calling it a third person or overhead shooter.

There’s a little bit of a story here that amounts to certain warriors being flung through time via some sort of contraption and it’s up to the player to rescue them!  Naturally all the individuals encountered during these travels are angry and malicious and will try to destroy you, forming the basis for much of the gameplay.

Time Soldiers - Sega Master SystemAt first Time Warriors may seem a little confusing – I know I was all sorts of mixed up until I actually picked up the manual, but when I read the objective suddenly the game took on a brand new depth.  This world is made up of 5 points in history: the Roman era (which honestly looks much more like Medieval times than that of the Romans), the Stone Age, the World Wars, “the Future,” and one more that I keep forgetting.  Each area is laid out in 3 moderately sized segments.  The player progresses through one segment at a time warding off natives of the era: brown guys with guns and turrets in the World Wars, axe-throwing cavemen and fireball-shooting triceratopses (?) in the Stone Age, and so on.  At the end of each segment is a boss.  These guys can be pretty tough due to their relentless barrage of projectiles, but luckily in the skirmishes leading up to the boss the player is able to upgrade his or her weapon.  The upgrades make short work of the bosses; the problem is that upgrades are lost when you die, and it’s pretty easy to die.

Time Soldiers - Sega Master SystemWhen you defeat one of these bosses, you have a couple of options.  You can either continue to another segment of the world you’re in (once you’ve gone through all 3 it will loop back around to the first) or you can jump in the machine that appears to be transported to different era.  At first I would kill a boss, jump in a machine, kill a boss, jump in a machine, end up in the same area, wonder “wtf!”, kill a boss…and on I went until I died.  There didn’t seem to be much of a point, but I figured I was missing something.  (Old games really can be tricky like that.)

Well, I should’ve been paying attention to that little blurb of text that popped up on the screen before each game.  It tells you the name of one of the soldiers (5 or 6 in all; 5 would make the most sense) and it tells you where/when the soldier is.  To start with, you’re thrown in a random era.  The point of the game is to a) get to the same era as the captured soldier (by beating at least once boss and using the machine to hopefully be transported to the correct time) and then b) defeat the bosses in that era until finding your comrade.  Repeat 4 more times.  Certainly this gave the game much more purpose and I found this new objective simple but effective.

Time Soldiers - Sega Master SystemGraphics are serviceable but unimpressive.  The color palate consists of a range of greens and browns, so while it has a slightly less cartoon-y look to it than some games, it’s a bit visually uninteresting.  There’s bushes, grass, dirt, a little bit of water, a few structures, some vehicles, and other objects, but pretty much all of them (except for water) are greens and browns.  The large boss sprites are decent enough, and the “big” bosses, those guarding the other soldiers that you’re trying to rescue, are massive and done quite well.

Time Soldiers - Sega Master System

One of the “big” bosses.

The controls are fine tuned beyond what I’d expect from the typical 8-bit shooter.  Our hero can move in all 8 directions and will shoot in whatever direction he’s moving (or last moved).  Unfortunately this setup can be cumbersome since it means you basically must move to change the direction you’re shooting.  I guess there’s really not a better way to handle it with a D-pad and 2 buttons…or maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Resogun.  The good news is that the controls are fluid and responsive, so if you can manage the whole shooting/walking thing, you won’t be hindered by sticky or delayed responses.

Time Soldiers - Sega Master System

More browns and greens!

It seems that other ports of Time Soldiers offer up unlimited continues which would be a real blessing in this relatively difficult game.  The Master System version stands alone as granting only 3 continues, and “continue” in Time Soldiers language essentially amounts to “life.”  You get 3 hits per lives and 3 lives, and it’s back to square one.  Fighting through the stages isn’t so bad if you’re careful, but it’s difficult not to take some knocks during boss fights.  With a little bit of practice and a quick trigger finger, you can begin to make some real progress.

Although it frustrated the hell out of me, I was pretty impressed by the scope and depth of Time Soldiers.  Having to find the “right” path through the random sequence of worlds is a cool idea, making great use of the limited technology to provide a novel experience.  Even rescuing a single warrior can feel like a worthy accomplishment.  Time Soldiers might not be the most appealing thing to look at, but if you’re looking for some decent gameplay on the SMS, you could do a lot worse!

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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One Comment

  1. Bro these graphics are pretty damn good! I have one game for the Master System and I wasn’t very impressed. But that was over 10 years ago, so I should give this system more attention, don’t ya think??


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