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Why hasn't anyone told me Gain Ground is amazing?


This game has been on numerous Sega collections. I've always written it off as an overly difficult Combat like shooter. Turns out it's a fairly deep action strategy game with puzzle elements. It's most rewarding aspect however is how you add units to your arsenal. They are scattered among the different stages. The seamingly simple task of walking to the exit without getting hit is usually complicated by enemy placement and character speed. Which brings up another aspect to the games depth. Learning to survive a character's weakness is almost as important as using its strengths. At the start of each round you pick a unit and they can clear all the enemies, get to the exit, die, or let time expire. This last one is especially brutal because if you don't clear all the enemies, you have to walk every unit to the exit. No small task when you've collected 10 or more.

The game has 5 stages with 10 rounds each. I put in a few hours yesterday and crawled my way to the middle of the 2nd one. Because that action element is a bitch. Going under arched projectiles and avoiding straight ones while trying to get angle with your own shot is challenging and rewarding. But losing a unit you know is key in the next stage is equally devastating. Getting new units and keeping them is one if the most addicting aspects of the game. Being forced to learn how to use them properly is the delicious meat of it.

If I had to say what makes this game so good in the context gaming at the moment in one sentence. It would be, the game is all about design over grind.


Gain Ground is amazing - perhaps the best 80s era game no one has heard of. In my book The Video Games Guide typically only 3 or 4 titles in any given year receive the highest five star rating. Gain Ground is one of those mighty few. If you're interested here's the review...

Few have heard of this game and, perhaps, still fewer would give it a five-star rating. However to me Gain Ground will always be a classic title, and one that provided me and my friends with hours of fun on its Megadrive conversion.

Although admittedly average as a single-player experience, Gain Ground more than comes into its own in twin-player mode. Looking at the action from a top-down view (much like Gauntlet’s) the two players are required to fight their way through five successively harder historical epochs, each consisting of ten levels. The epochs covered range from the medieval (plodding spearmen) to the futuristic (lightning-fast robots), while the levels are trickily designed to make co-operative play not just useful, but downright essential.

Each player begins the game (in hard mode – be sure to check the setting) with a full complement of twenty characters, all armed uniquely and each with different strengths and weaknesses. Tonga, for example, is incredibly speedy but is armed only with a short-range spear; King Kane, on the other hand, moves at a snail’s pace but carries a devastating rocket launcher. Unlike Gauntlet, in which you keep the same character throughout, Gain Ground opens up a whole host of strategies as you and your playing buddy try to pick the two best-equipped characters to deal with each particular level. This selectiveness inevitably leads to favourite characters emerging from among the twenty, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth when one of said favourites is lost in battle. In this style Gain Ground always builds up to a thrilling climax, as the forces against you get progressively deadlier while your own team’s numbers steadily dwindle. The evocative soundtrack is also worthy of note and perfectly sets the mood for each successive epoch. Gain Ground isn’t going to win any awards for graphics, but for gameplay it really is hard to beat.
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