Release Date: November 1987
I’m going to go out on a limb without doing any grading or comparison that Zillion will be a top game for SMS for 1987. It’s a nifty action, platformer, early Metroidvania title based on the anime of the same name. You are J.J. and you need to destroy the evil Norsa’s base on Planet X. You need to infiltrate the base, collect floppy discs, and enter the self destruct sequence on the main computer deep in the base.
Along the way, you will level up by collecting Opa-Opa icons and increase your shot power with Light Phaser icons. You need to collect these in order to move forward in the base, as the Opa-Opa increases your jumping height, necessary to pass certain rooms. Increased shot power allows you to open up different containers with more of what you need. There are also ID Cards that allow you to use the computers in the rooms.
Most rooms contain at least four containers. As you shoot them, you will reveal symbols (just 0-9 mirrored on themselves). You have to enter these numbers into the computer in the room to open a path to the next room. Sometimes a wall will disappear, sometimes a purple line will appear on the floor indicating an elevator. As you work your way through the base, you’ll find two companions, Apple and Champ, that you can switch to from the status screen. There are more than enough powerups to max both companions out.
I got frustrated with the land mines scattered about the base early on, as jumping them didn’t prove to be very easy and they can’t be shot from the prone position until your Light Phaser is level 3. It takes awhile to get up to level 3, so you take a lot of excess damage. The computers you encounter also allow you to do several different commands. My main commands were all 2s, which stop the yellow laser barrier from hurting you. All 5s, which stop auto-guns for a few moments. And all 6s, which warp you to the initial elevator, which is helpful when you need to return to the ship for a pick me up.
I tried making a map in Excel and got messed up somewhere (there are 16 rows to the map, not 15 as the manual will have you believe), then made a paper map and was able to quickly finish the game as I finished the map. Not only do you need to collect five floppy discs from the base, but also the red floppy disc, which is necessary to log into the main computer. Then you enter all 8s and start the six minute timer to destruction. As you leave the main computer room, you have to fight the game’s only boss and then book it out of there. I finished with more than a minute to spare, thanks to my hand-drawn map.
I think the graphics are pretty sharp. The backgrounds can get a little blah and there’s a lot of flickering, which is a problem.
The music loops, but it’s pleasant. Sound effects aren’t bad.
Controls are easy to pick up. Jump, shoot, duck. Destroy the canisters, collect what you need, enter codes to move to different rooms. Rinse, repeat.
Draw yourself a map as you play and you’ll not have a problem. Once you learn to use the computer codes at the right times, you’ll be cooking with gas.
Fun Factor: 3.5
I enjoyed myself immensely while playing this. I got into it more than I thought I would.
Overall Grade: 2.8
Zillion earns a B. It really is a pretty good game. I suggest giving it a shot, it certainly couldn’t hurt and you could really do worse.