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Ages of SEGA 13 – Sindbad Mystery (SG-1000)

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 5.43.23 PMIt’s hard to escape the 1980s feeling when playing the SG-1000. Sindbad Mystery is no exception. It’s a Pac-Man clone circa 1983 through and through. The question is: has it aged better than its contemporaries such as Crystal Castles.

Sindbad History

Sindbad Mystery was developed by SEGA in 1983 for the arcades. It is notable for being the last game developed for the less-than-notable G80 arcade architecture. The G80 architecture is often considered the successor of the VIC Dual architecture. Much like the Mega Drive is similar to the System-16 architecture and the Dreamcast is similar to the Naomi architecture, the SG-1000 is similar to the VIC Dual. The original three games; Borderline, Safari Hunting, and N-Sub were almost perfect ports from the VIC Dual. The G80 is much more powerful, which makes the port of Sindbad Mystery very poor in comparison. Sindbad Mystery game was ported one more time to the SEGA Saturn, which was arcade perfect for all intents and purposes.

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1983: Remembering the Outbreak of Pac Man Fever

Sindbad Mystery is effectively a Pac-Man clone. Now, don’t get me wrong. It is much more sophisticated than Pac-Man. Sindbad mystery is a 2.5 dimensional platformer with multiple attacks. In Sindbad Mystery, you get to use boulders to crush your enemies and dig holes to provide barriers. Pac-Man did not have any of that. Moreover, the “pellets” in this game serves as more than just the means to the end of the stage. Each pellet uncovers a piece of a treasure map. This map tells you where the final “pellet”, the treasure, will appear. This adds additional strategy to the game. Once this treasure appears an enemy, in the form of a skull, appears. This skull moves much faster than you. For anyone familiar with the game Berzerk, this skull acts as Evil Otto. You need to be near the treasure when the skull appears or risk getting killed. Since the treasure location is randomized, this game is not a simple pattern based game that certain pacman board revisions were. There are no cherry patterns in this clone.

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I’ll take the classic model without power steering. 

So, how does a console game from 1983 handle? Not vey well. The controls are the worst part of the game. Honestly, it takes what could be a really good gem and turn it into a mediocre game. There are many times where I would like to turn a corner, but the character avatar just won’t do it. You have to be in precisely the right spot. This makes the final run to the treasure very intense. Intensity can be a good thing, but not when it is due to bad controls.

Conclusion

Sindbad Mystery is a fairly average game. If you did not grow up playing games from the early 80s, you can safely skip this game. However, if you know maze games beyond Pac-Man and enjoy SEGA, give this game a go.

Pros:

Overall a fun game

Shining example of early 80s arcade games

Much easier than the arcade

Cons:

Poor Handling

Isometric view does not look good on the SG-1000

3-SN-Average

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