Retro Review: Gain Ground (Sega Mega Drive)

Review-Gain-Ground-Mega-DriveWhat do you get when you mix together a top-down shooter with limited characters, plenty of baddies and thirty challenging levels? You get Gain Ground, an action-strategy game released for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis for all you Yanks out there), released in 1988. It's a console port of the arcade version of the same name, where players must manoeuvre through enemy territory and reach the exit on each stage.

The people of Earth were getting hungry for war, so the government created a virtual reality simulation for them to fight in as a means of relieving tension, which soon became an overnight sensation to the people of the planet. However, things go awry when the supercomputer controlling it all decides to kidnap the civilians trying it out, scattering them on the various, enemy-infested battlefields. Doesn't sound like we'll ever see Obama fight Putin in one of these anytime soon, but hey, it's an interesting bit of background information regarding the plot.

Gain Ground's graphics are pretty good, with some nice-looking terrain and a smooth frame-rate to along with it. From explosions to fortresses, you have to admire how detailed it looks. Its soundtrack is rather average in comparison, looping over and over every nine levels or so, yet it is not one of those cases where it becomes infuriatingly irritating. Still, it has a nice jingle to listen in to when the level is completed.

The objective for each stage is to reach the marked exit point, or alternatively eliminate all enemies on the stage. If there are bosses to fight, they must be defeated to advance. A large collection of characters can be found on the battlefield to be recruited. Starting off with only three people, a bit of strategy is involved. There are five rounds set in different time zones, offering ten levels each (more than the arcade original!). Don't expect to complete chapters in one sitting, though.

Primary special attacks vary, since some can fire projectiles at certain distances or at those on higher ground, and so on. These special moves are either limited to attacking whilst directly north, making them ideal when strafing left and right, or all eight directions. The element of variety and choosing between characters makes things tense, since one could end up resulting in a favourite character being sent out to save a P.O.W, only to have them get hit and be in need of help themselves. The previous fighter would disappear at this point, so carelessness is to be avoided at all cost! Don't think a level can be easily Rambo'ed; it's a one-hit kill warzone out there!

A second player can help reduce the enemy population, yet not even a friend or relative helping out can save anyone from the bombardment of arrows and bolts that enemies usually fire. Manoeuvring through all of them is particularly difficult and irritating. As a result, it may get a bit boring after a while, and the lack of any sort of password feature will mean reaching the end requires a lot of patience and a lot of dying. Mercifully, ports of the game may offer a save feature...

On the whole, Gain Ground holds up as a challenging strategy game, and a decent one at that. The sounds and graphics will not impress many, yet each difficult mission will be good fun to navigate through. Playing through it without saving is really not worth it unless you have lots of patience and a fully-functioning brain. Try it out in reasonably-sized bursts with a friend for the best experience.

Gain Ground (Mega Drive) Gameplay Video

Last Updated ( 24 April 2015 )  


(Link to this comment) yaztromo 2015-04-27 11:29
Me and friend played through every level one Sunday afternoon. It's a fantastic game, but let down by the almost impossible last boss. I'm surprised the review never mentioned this.

You basically just have to throw everything you've got at him and hope you don't run out of characters, it's that simple.
(Link to this comment) jamalais 2015-04-27 18:00
Love love Loooooooooooove this game. Agree with Mr yaztromo the last boss is one of those buggers that is a nightmare to defeat but when you do it is one of the greatest feelings.

Also I highly recommend the Master System version its single player only but its one excellent port and brings some unique changes to the gameplay to adjust it to the 8 but hardware. Also they did a REMASTER on the Sega Ages collection for PS2 which I believe is Japan only but dam does it improve the graphics. Me personally I have huge nostalgia for the graphics on the Mega Drive.

I love playing this with my buddy when he comes over just a shame its not been ported to modern consoles to play online, oh well.

Great review
(Link to this comment) yaztromo 2015-04-28 15:07
Master System version? Wow. Thanks for the heads up on that one. Can't wait to try it.

Retro Game Database Search

Retro Gaming Podcast

Join the RetroCollect Squad as they discuss our gaming past in the all new RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast.

Retro Games on eBay now

About RetroCollect

RetroCollect is your one stop for everything retro games and retro gaming. Featuring the latest classic gaming news around, informative reviews and an ever active forum, you'll feel right at home with other retro gamers.

RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast

Join the RetroCollect Squad as they talk their way through the wonderful world of retro gaming.

Listen to RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast

Join RetroCollect on the web