In the mid-1980s Atari brought out their arcade classic Gauntlet, a dungeon crawler that let up to four players play simultaneously. Naturally that game’s success inspired other companies to bring out their own multiplayer cabinets and Sega was no different as they released a sci-fi run-n-gun shooter called Quartet, which was rather unremarkable except for the fact that four players could battle together. Sega then tried to bring out a home port but had to cut the game down quite a bit to fit it on the Master System, starting with only allowing two players instead of four. To reflect this the Japanese release sported the more fitting title Double Target, but Sega kept the name Quartet for the Western versions, even though the name was most likely going to cause gamers to expect four players. But as we’ll see the misnomer is the least of this cart’s problems.
In this game you control a pair of soldiers, Mary and Edgar (the other two heroes from the coin-op, Lee and Joe, are sitting this mission out) who are blasting their way through six stages to rescue a space colony in crisis as well as a space princess who’s trapped in stasis. The object in each stage is to find the key that opens the gateway to the next level but numerous creatures stand in your way. You have three lives as well as a health meter which slowly ticks down, forcing you to try and complete the stage as quick as possible, and getting hit by an enemy will penalize you more health. You can shoot the baddies with your blaster but they just keep respawning so it’s best to just keep moving. Fortunately a few power-ups are available, such as some other weapons and a jet pack to help you hover, and scoring enough points advances your rank and powers you up. Once you find the guardian of each level you must slay it to get the key to the next level then reach the gate before time runs out. However you must also search out a power star hidden in each stage, and you need to collect all five through the first five stages, otherwise you won’t be able to enter the final area.
Even if the cart had a less misleading title, it wouldn’t help the fact that Quartet just seems so blah and unremarkable. The game isn’t really terrible, it’s just on the boring side since all the levels are pretty much the same other than the coats of paint. There’s plenty of frustration as well since you’re constantly peppered by enemies and you take forever to recover from a hit, resulting in many unnecessary pauses in the action. The stiff jumping controls don’t help any either, causing you to fall into pits numerous times, and the programmers even went with the annoying reverse-NES layout. The jet pack is a massive help but getting hit will cause you to lose it, and you can get it back only to lose it again after taking another shot. Not to mention the boss fights are mostly dull, just dodge the bullets and shoot back at it until it’s dead. The graphics have plenty of color but are overall nothing special with tiny sprites and so-so backgrounds while the music is unimpressive. Plus those who remember the voice clips from the coin-op original won’t find any of them in this port.
So even though Quartet isn’t the worst game on the SMS it still ranks as a dud of a release, even if you’ve never seen the coin-op original. Everything is just so average to below average, and there’s very little you haven’t seen before in better arcade-style titles. While the simultaneous two-player option helps slightly, overall this shooter isn’t worth your time.