1 Difficulty level
6 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Sega
Published by Sega in 1990
What a pitiful game this is. Not in the sense of technical accomplishment, but rather in the challenge offered to the player - it's a major disappointment overall and can certainly be included in the not-so-memorable category of easiest shmups of all time. Just for you guys to have an idea, not even an hour had passed when I looped it with a minimum of concentration while talking to somebody!
As its name implies, Submarine Attack is an underwater themed shooter where you pilot a sub and fight the usual water baddies you'd expect from such a setting. At times it feels a bit like Darius, but the core nature of the gameplay doesn't let this sensation stick for long. For Master System standards the graphics are decent, and the scrolling never gets too affected by some scarce and almost unnoticeable slowdown. There's a refreshing enemy variety throughout all 6 stages, which succeed in presenting different scenarios while trying to avoid the feeling of complete mediocrity that you get after reaching the end of the game and being offered the choice to play or not to play the second loop.
The 2 buttons in the SMS controller fire 2 types of shots. One is a straight oriented type of torpedo, and the other is an upward hyperbole descending torpedo. Both shots can block enemy bullets and must be used at the same time for maximum firepower, which can be upgraded with the "A" power-up that pops up from differently colored ships/subs. It's possible to upgrade twice, in that you starting firing two torpedos instead of just one for each button. The submarine can withstand 3 hits and starts flashing red when you're about to lose a life. The "H" icon restores this health completely, but if you kill a boss while flashing you'll also have it fully restored for the next stage. The last icon is the "S" for speed-up, and that's the best aspect of the gameplay since the speed-up icons appear only twice for each life, meaning it's not possible to get too fast. One of the annoyances you have to get used to right from the start is how these icons are released - whenever a carrier is destroyed, the power-up goes up, falls and disappears really fast. If you're not close to it or you're not fast enough you'll lose the icon, so some careful shooting is necessary in order to get that desired H when you're about to die.
Extra lives can be obtained only by collecting the pink octopuses that appear randomly from destroyed enemies. Again, you have to be very alert for them because they sink and disappear very fast, reminding me of the way dynamic extra lives are released in the Megaman series. This extra stock is useful for the game's last boss, which is the only one that puts up a mildly decent fight and can really knock you down. All other bosses have clear safe spots or can be wiped out with easy twitch dodges. Although the submarine can touch walls and such without being damaged, sometimes it will annoyingly bounce back (spicing up the fight with the last boss, for instance).
The sound in Submarine Attack doesn't stand out in any way. The music is regular 8-bit fare with no memorable tunes. I just wish Sega had used more of that cool sonar sound effect that plays when the game is starting and right before the boss confrontations.
To display the current/high score it's necessary to either pause the game (pause in SMS consoles? noooooo...) or wait until you die your last life. Adding to the easy challenge, the increment in difficulty for the second loop is negligible. Generally I don't like to mention anything about replay value, but due to its lack of challenge and awkward scoring display, Submarine Attack has one that's close to none. In the high score pictured below I reached stage 2-6, dying before reaching the last boss for the second time.