#37: Missile Defense 3D (1987 Sega)


Up next is another Light Phaser game, but one that debuts a rather infamous peripheral as this marks the first entry in Sega’s series of 3D games that utilize some special high-tech glasses which they dubbed the SegaScope. Other games boasted 3D modes before, most notably Rad Racer and 3D WorldRunner on the NES, but the Sega glasses were far more sophisticated than the tradition cardboard red-and-blue-lenses the Nintendo carts used; instead the SegaScope plugged into the card slot via an adapter and used an electronic liquid crystal shutter system to rapidly open and close the lenses in sync with the alternating images on the screen, creating a nice 3D effect. Of course the SegaScope glasses quickly joined the long line of short-lived console accessories, with only eight games of varying quality that used them, but it was still an interesting idea for its time nonetheless.

Forget that robot Nintendo has, this is our wild gimmick.

Forget that robot Nintendo has, this is our wild gimmick.

Anyway to this first game in the 3D series which, as I mentioned, requires both the glasses and the Light Gun. Missile Defense basically follows the concept of the classic Atari arcade game Missle Command and plays into the Cold War fears that were still prevalent during the mid-1980s (though they were beginning to dissolve by this time). Two major world powers, one in the West and one in the East (guess which nations), have apparently grown hostile toward each other and even decided to launch nuclear strikes at each other’s capital cities. You’re cast as some sort of neutral peacekeeping force tasked with preventing World War III by destroying the deadly projectiles with your Light Phaser before they reach their intended targets.

This is what we think of you Easterners.

This is what we think of you Easterners.

The object in each round is to completely eliminate a salvo of missiles and your tasks is spread across three screens, giving you three chances to prevent global Armageddon. After you boot up the cartridge the first scene takes place at the Western missile launching base where cruise missiles destined for East City are launched from their silos and you have to blast as many as you can before they escape the screen. Beware, a few of the missiles are targeted directly at you and you have to shoot these down before they hit the screen as you can only take three hits yourself. Once the scene concludes you get a tally of how many of the missiles you destroyed and how many remain before heading off to the next scene which takes place at the Arctic. The missiles you failed to blast in the previous scene soar through the canyon and you’re hoping to pick them off. If any missiles get through you have one last chance in the third screen where you’re just outside East City itself, nailing the remaining projectiles on their final approach. If you succeed in destroying all the missiles, you get bonus points based on how fast you eliminated the targets as well as an extra life. If just one missile gets through the city is doomed and the game ends.

Santa's secret security force tries to help out.

Santa’s secret security force tries to help out.

But no sooner do you catch your breath than East City decides to retaliate by launching ICBMs toward West City, resulting in another set of three screens to blast projectiles in. You have the launch base scene first before you move into space hoping to plug the missiles as they orbit the Earth toward their target. Then you have the other “last chance to save the city” scene, this time from a top-down view. Succeed and the West tries to answer back with an even bigger salvo and you go back and forth through five total increasingly difficult waves with the missiles coming out faster and more aggressive toward you. Alternatively the game also ends if you survive all six waves, after which both sides have exhausted their missile supplies and are forced to declare peace.

Forget cats and dogs, it's about to rain something worse.

Forget cats and dogs, it’s about to rain something worse.

At its core Missile Defense isn’t much different from other light gun games, just shooting the targets that come on the screen and not much else. The Light Phaser is pretty accurate and missed shots are clearly marked on the screen to help your aim, but going through the same six screens gets repetitive after a short time. But of course it’s the 3D gimmick that helps this cart stand out, and it works pretty well here. Obviously the screenshots can’t really do it justice, but each screen is well illustrated with lots of colors and details and the 3D effects are very convincing, especially the Arctic scene. Plus there’s plenty of smooth animation, from the projectiles zooming through the sky to the explosion screen from the city you failed to save. There’s not much to say about the audio, just some background tunes and sound effects that aren’t special but do their job.

Dang, the one time I get the best parking space...

Dang, the one time I get the best parking space…

So Missile Defense 3D seems like an average light gun cart that mainly gets by with its unusual gimmick, but despite this it’s still an interesting game to check out and a solid start for the 3D series. The visuals are something to behold and while it’s not the greatest shooter, it’ll still entertain you for a time. Just remember there’s no 2D mode available, so unless you want to deal with double images for the whole session make sure you have the glasses.

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