Back in the 80s, Anime was exploding in popularity in Japan. Anime had great plots, cute girls, and tons of action so the conversion of an anime show to a video game seemed inevitable. One of the earliest conversions was Zillion which aired from April 1987 to December 1987 in Japan. Sega would release Zillion for the Sega Master System on December 31st, 1987 in North America. While the North American audience had no idea what Zillion the show was about, the video game would find critical success and become one of the most unique games on the system. Feel the power of the Zillion in this Zillion review!
I have never watched the anime show of Zillion so I’m not sure if the video game is connected to any of the plots from the show. Update: I watched the entire series of Zillion and I loved it. My god, please give me more of this anime. The game has four characters, with three of them being playable. The main character is JJ. His mission is to infiltrate the Norsa Empire underground laboratory, collect five floppy discs that contain top-secret plans for the Norsa Empire, rescue two other members of the team and destroy the main computer in the base.
JJ is part of the White Knights and has three other members on the mission with him. Amy will stay on the ship and heal you if you approach her. Her role is to keep the ship running and report back to the White Knights. Apple is a FEMALE white knight, and I write that in caps because the manual says she is a HE and it’s clearly a mistake. In the anime, Apple is a female and her figure confirms this in the game as well as her face. I wonder what other small mistakes are scattered throughout other video game manuals. Anyway, Apple has been captured and you need to rescue her. There’s another member of your team imprisoned in the base. His name is Champ, and he is kind of a dick.
The gun you have is called the “Zillion” laser which is supposed to be very powerful. It’s also an icon of the game as it’s the menu and I know it was made into a toy. With the Zillion laser, JJ rescues Apple and Champ and the three of them make their way throughout the base collecting floppy discs. For you youngins out there, floppy discs were square flat devices you stuck in the computer to save or install programs and files. We used them in the 80s and early 90s before the invention of the CD.
Once you’ve collected the floppy discs and started the self-destruct sequence, you’ll have 300 seconds to escape the base. When you exit the computer room you’ll be greeted by a mecha-lizard that shoots blue fire. It scared me honestly during my Zillion review because I was not expecting it at all. It’s the only boss of the game. After your team takes down the mecha-lizard, you make your way back up to the ground and escape on the ship with your team.
You receive a small message about how most of the Norsa soldiers have escaped but you destroyed the base and the mission is complete. The main villain for the Norsa Empire is one of the weirdest enemies. I don’t exactly know where his face is but he looks like a T-shirt with boney arms. You never fight him or see him throughout the entire game except for when you die or beat the game. He just says a few words and that’s it.
You may not know anything about the anime but you don’t need to in order to experience the exceptional gameplay and design of Zillion that I found during my Zillion review. Almost all the game will take place underground in the labyrinth base of the Norsa Empire. There’s only one human enemy but they occupy almost every screen. You’ll fight Norsa soldiers who attack with their laser guns. Most of them shoot chest level but you can duck or jump over those. Advanced soldiers can crouch down and shoot at you when you’re crawling. One blast from your laser gun should do the trick and explode them into a hundred pieces.
The object of Zillion is to make your way through the base. There will be small hallways and elevators but the majority of the base will be single-screen rooms that have numerous obstacles in them. I faced Norsa Soldiers, electric fields, motorized floors, trap lasers that set off alarms and laser turrets that move around the room during my Zillion review. Throughout each room, you’ll need to shoot lockers. These lockers will have power-ups to level up your gun, health, jumping ability, as well as ID cards. Why do you need an ID card? Well, there’s a computer in each room and you’ll need an ID card to input commands. In the lockers will be symbols, you’ll need to memorize the symbols that are in the lockers and input them at the computer to unlock the next door or elevator. You’ll encounter close to 50 different rooms and each one is unique and filled with various dangers that increase the deeper you go into the base.
The rooms ranged from easy to difficult and there were a few times when I struggled to get past one during my Zillion review. You’ll need to sketch a map as you go because you WILL get lost in the maze. It’s also necessary to escape the base when you set the main computer to self-destruct. There are rooms that you may be able to access but won’t be able to pass unless you have properly leveled up your gun or jumping ability. The characters you rescue will also have different properties. JJ is the most balanced overall, Apple can jump high and runs quick, and Champ is slow but has the most health. Writing this Zillion review makes me want to go back and play it all again.
Back to the computer commands, remember this was made in 1987. Sega had an incredible vision and created a video game where you use computers to advance. It’s brilliant but not just because you can type in a few commands to pass on to the next room. You’ll be able to program the computers to stop the turrets, lasers and electric fields. You can even bring up a map, warp back to an elevator and even commit suicide! Death by typing, every journalist’s dream!
Zillion is special to me because the first game console I ever had was the Sega Master System. For some reason, my dad had a copy of Zillion. It was so advanced for a kid to play and it’s difficult now as an adult to beat. I loved the sounds and music that played during the game. I never came close to ever beating the game as a kid, I remember I rescued Apple and thought I was the next savior of video games afterward. Looking back at it now, I’m still impressed I managed to do that when I was six or seven. It’s surreal to beat the game now, and complete my Zillion review almost 25 years later. What a great game.
Zillion Review Score:
Zillion presents a unique video game based off an anime few have ever seen. The Sega Master System has very few mega-hits on it but has numerous under-the-radar games. Zillion would be at the top of that list. It’s futuristic, difficult and requires a combination of skill and memorization. It’s a treat for anyone who enjoys a challenge. I highly recommend it if you have the patience to map the labyrinth. Nice job, Sega.
Zillion scores a 9.3 out of 10.
What would you write in your Zillion review? Have you watched the Zillion anime or played the game? Did you exit the labyrinth alive or were you stuck down there forever like I was for my childhood? Let me know your thoughts and memories, I’d love to read them!
If you want to own Zillion you can purchase a preowned copy of it for the Sega Master System on eBay for at least $20.