It’s time for another visit with the SegaScope 3D series, though by the summer of 1988 it was obvious the whole idea was beginning to lose what little steam it had to begin with. We’ve seen Missle Defense 3D, Zaxxon 3D, Maze Hunter 3D and Space Harrier 3D, and now it’s Blade Eagle 3D, a top-down vertical shooter that tries to somehow make use of the 3D glasses, showing that Sega was reaching for any ideas to keep their 3D series going. Already the Master System was suffering from a lack of quality shmups (Fantasy Zone & FZ II being the only good ones we’ve encountered thus far) and Blade Eagle does little to remedy that, 3D glasses or not.
As you might expect you’re once again called on to save the day when another evil alien force, the Arvians, has decided to make trouble in the galaxy. As an agent of the Border Line Arvian Detection and Enforcement agency (“BLADE” for short) you take the controls of their top starfighter, the Blade Eagle, to repel the attackers across three different planets. Each planet has three segments to it, from the approach from space to the fight on the surface and into the enemy fortress, but for the most part the game is your standard shooter action as you zoom forward blasting the hostile forces that cross your path in their set formations. Interestingly enough (to perhaps justify the 3D gimmick) the action takes place across two playing fields, an upper plane and a lower plane and your ship can switch between altitudes on the fly since enemies and obstacles come at you from below as well as above. Several times in each segment a mini-boss will challenge you and blasting it will net you a power-up to speed up your ship, upgrade your weapon up to four levels and even provide a ‘ghost ship’ to fight by your side. Naturally a boss awaits you at the end of each fortress level and beating it is the only way to proceed to the next planet to repeat the pattern.
At its heart the action follows the standard shooter formula to the letter with very little creativity other than the plane-shifting feature, so take away that addition and Blade Eagle comes off as rather generic and boring. The game is also very difficult and the 3D gimmick, the only notable feature, makes the game unnecessarily frustrating. The enemy projectiles can nail you on either plane yet you have to constantly adjust up and down so you can be properly aligned to blast them back. Also with all the dodging and weaving you’ll be doing to avoid the constant stream of projectiles, especially from enemies that come up from the bottom of the screen, it’s easy to forget which height you’re at, causing you to slam into walls you thought you’d pass over. One hit kills you and your next life starts a bit back in the stage without any power-ups, unless you have the ghost ship which instantly takes over with all your upgrades intact. Not only that there’s no continues or any way to earn extra lives, which even the manual admits. At the same time the bosses are too easy to dispatch; even with the weakest weapon you can waste them within seconds.
The one constant about the SegaScope series is that the games usually sport some impressive 3D effects, even if the gameplay is lacking, but that’s not the case in Blade Eagle. The space scenes are rather uninteresting to look at, and the planet and fortress scenes fare a bit better with structures and ledges that try to convey a sense of depth but still nothing earth-shattering. The sprites are nothing noteworthy and the 3D seems poorly implemented as there are instances of two separate images not coming together like they should, which can get confusing. Plus trying to focus your eyes to get the proper 3D image will give you headaches. The music isn’t the worst, in fact some of it is catchy, but like the visuals it won’t have you tapping your toes.
So Blade Eagle pretty much fails on both fronts. It bombs as a shooter with its dull and infuriating gameplay, and everything you see here can easily be found in superior titles on the Master System such as Power Strike. It doesn’t even make proper use of the 3D glasses, making it the worst of the SegaScope titles as well, so overall Blade Eagle doesn’t fly and can easily be skipped. It was obvious the SegaScope series was doomed as only two more 3D games were released, both of which wouldn’t come out until 1989, before Sega finally threw in the towel on the 3D glasses.