RedressI cheated to complete Gain Ground on the Master System as a kid and found it really dull. So dull that I always slag Gain Ground off when people bring it up. However, is it fair to judge a game when you are just trying to breeze through it? So I’ve decided that I will play an hour of Gain Ground – no cheating – in order to make a fair judgement….

There is an old saying in life – “Cheats never prosper.” My childhood experience of Gain Ground supports this saying. I got the Master System version of Gain Ground as a kid, realized it was far too hard and stopped…until I found a cheat for infinite continues. With a wicked smile on my face, I entered the cheat and began my route to victory.

It took me forever. I stuck with Gain Ground until the end, but by the end I was disillusioned. I was so bored with just spamming my way through the levels that I begun to hate the game. Sure enough,when I finally completed Gain Ground, I binned the game off and never played it again.

Truthfully, I deserved this. Another old saying is ‘Hard work brings it’s own rewards.’ Well, I can vouch for that – I had much more fun playing Master System Alien Storm and attempting to beat it than walking through Gain Ground.

So, I’m proposing to give Gain Ground another chance, a fair chance this time. I’m going to play it for an hour straight and see if it can entertain me. Time to start the clock…

Title Screen

Here is the title screen. It’s not terribly exciting is it? I think the game’s title is dull too. Gain Ground? It’s not too inspiring is it? I want a title that makes me think “Yes! I must play this game!” A game like, say…Streets of Rage for example, suggests whole roads full of violence and scrapping. Gain Ground to me suggests “We’ll make a little bit of progress each time until we eventually get there. Yay!” It makes me think of that Marge Simpson quote…”Slow and steady wins the race!”

Right, time to stop nitpicking and start playing…


So, Gain Ground then. The premise of the game is that you have a team who all have different weapons and abilities and you need to get them across the level, one by one, to the exit panel. Hence you ‘gain ground; by making it to the exit, kinda like an American Football end zone. I’m 1:29 into Gain Ground and I’m surprised at how slow it feels. In fact, there seems to be a lack of urgency – the enemies just watch me if I walk past them and the projectiles are really slow. Gain Ground might look and play a bit like Gauntlet, but it’s a much slower, thoughtful beast than that. It’s coming back to me now…different people have different projectile ranges and are more useful in different situations.


My first go ends at 12:00 and I’ll be honest, I was getting into Gain Ground, to the point where I’ve actually forgotten to take any screenshots (I took the above from the attract sequence). The main tune is good, (though I’m not sure if I can take another fifty minutes of it) and I’m getting into the gameplay. Gain Ground does require a bit of thought, which I think is where I went wrong all those years ago. Now I’m thinking about the game and what I’m doing, I’m enjoying it a lot more. Time for another go…


My next go ends at 29:39, which I’m quite surprised by. I fared better than last time, getting past Stage 1’s boss battle (above) only to die on the first round of Stage 2. I’m getting into Gain Ground a bit, but it’s starting to irritate me as well. See, Gain Ground is great fun, when you have cool team members to play as. When you have the rubbish, slow default characters, Gain Ground can become a chore. This is a comparison I never thought I’d make, but Gain Ground is a bit like Fire Emblem. Hear me out! In Fire Emblem, you collect characters to add to your stable. Gain Ground is the same, you can rescue potential team members to add to your team…just without the character depth, the story, the dialogue etc. Gain Ground was fun when I had a team of 6 cool people (like the general with a gun who has a spinning attack for his special) but when I’m left with the guy with a pistol, it gets pretty dull.


I have a moment to reassess at 45:03, when Gain Ground tries to crash. I manage to restart the game with a quick bit of keyboard mashing (I play these Mega Drive games on Steam) and realise that, I’d actually be disappointed if the game had crashed. That’s quite a big admission for me – I have to admit that I have been enjoying Gain Ground, a lot more than I thought I would. I’m back on the start of Stage 2, having used no continues and I’m getting a bit confident now. I’m even wondering if I could go to the end of the game…so I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. This first level of Stage 2 is awful, just loads of green blocks and blobs shooting me. Gain Ground isn’t a good looking game, I have to say that. The excellent BGM from the first stage is gone too, replaced by a dull tune that my brain instantly hates.


As I venture into Stage 2 further, the game is starting to bug me. I suspect the collision detection isn’t the best. It’s not obvious, but I do feel like the Gain Ground gives itself the benefit of the doubt when there is close contact with an enemy, whether it be a rogue projectile or a gaggle of enemies bumping into you. Stage 2 also has enemies who take two hits to kill, which ruins the fun a bit for me. My characters can only take one hit, plus I’m outnumbered. Also the enemies seem faster and can fire lots of projectiles at once. I’m left with Mike (my name for the generic pistol guy you start with) and Bubba (my name for the stupidly slow fool who has the worst bazooka in history) and it’s not looking good. I’ve only used one continue, but I can see the rest disappearing quickly. Still I’m at 48:31 and I can see myself playing this for another twelve minutes, so I’ll complete the redress at least!


By Stage 2-6 and 53:55, I’m getting sick of Gain Ground. The difficulty spike has put me off the game and the new medieval world is just boring. Niggly levels like the above are just frustrating me as they require slow characters to move quickly, which isn’t going to happen. 54:23 finally sees the end as I run out continues on Stage 2-7. It was a good run, but the second stage was quite a big jump in difficulty and to be honest I think I’ve had my fill of Gain Ground.


With five and a half minutes left, I can’t turn Gain Ground off, so I decide to snoop around the menu. There isn’t much to see really – there are three difficulty levels to choose from (I always pick medium difficulty) and a sound test. I listen to the cracking first stage tune again, then flick through the sound tracks only to see them jump from 6 to 16…where have those ten tracks gone? Surely, if the FX/music has been taken out of the game, Sega could have corrected the numbers? I’d ask more questions, but that’s 60:00 and the end of the redress…

Verdict – Overall,  I’m glad I played Gain Ground again as I really enjoyed the first stage. That second stage…yikes, I’m glad I cheated through it as a kid so I don’t feel like I have to spend any more time playing Gain Ground. It’s a bittersweet victory really…looking back now, I feel like I did the right thing when I was a kid. It kinda goes against the point of this blog though…I’m trying to get better at games and expand my horizons. Not justify my cheating!

Still, Gain Ground survived an hour and I’d argue, of all the one hour challenges I’ve done, only Columns was more fun. I’d rather play Gain Ground over Space Harrier II and Galaxy Force II…mnd you, I’d rather never play games again than return to Galaxy Force II….yuck! I feel like my opinion of Gain Ground has gone up, so it wasn’t a wasted hour. Not sure I’d waste another hour on it though….