Sega developed and published Scramble Spirits first for the arcade and then ported it to the Sega Master System in 1989. It’s too bad they decided to port it because Scramble Spirits is a scrambled mess. The vertical shooter suffers from poor graphics, 30-second levels, repetitive enemies, and a wealth of other poor decisions. Thankfully, it was never released in North American but my poor friends in PAL regions, unfortunately, saw this game on their shelves.
Like most shoot ’em ups from the 80s and early 90s, there’s almost no thought put into the story. Just stick aliens in the plot and players will be satisfied or at least that’s what most developers thought. In Scramble Spirits, the world has just survived World War III after man obliterated each other in a massive war. That massive war has led to world peace with all humans working together and living in a utopia until enemies from outer space invade. Believe me, I’m making the story cooler than how it was explained in the game but that’s the gist of it. So it’s up to you to take out the aliens and return the world to peace.
From the manual:
“You are Group One’s top pilot. You wear the Distinguished Air Cross for bravery in aerial combat. Besides guts and determination, you have the most advanced, high-performance air fighter ever created. You will launch from a secret base on a series of missions against the enemy. If you so choose, another fighter of equal strength will be placed at your disposal for the pilot of your choice. You can fly your missions alone or with a friend. (If you want to keep that friendship, you’ll take mercy on your friend and not make them play with you)
Successfully complete your missions and you will drive the alien invaders from Earth’s soil. Fail and they will take over the planet. Good luck on your missions. Earth’s fate depends on your skill!”
Oh brother, give me a break.
Scrambled Spirits lets you know what you are in for right away with the menu screen. The background is a brown gravy color that looks freshly squeezed from the anus of patient of the popular show “My 600-lb life”. If you are brave enough to proceed, you’ll be greeted with hideous still graphics of a “city ablaze” that is barely distinguishable. I had to squint just to see what they were trying to depict and only when I saw the outline of the buildings did I realize what I was looking at.
Before each mission, a black screen will appear with some white text that outlines the very simple and unimaginative goal. You’ll be tasked with things like “Breakthrough the defense force”, “Breach the main base”, “Destroy supply line”, you know very detailed and descriptive missions.
Once your plane is in the air and believe me the old bird looks like she’s seen better days so if this is the best that humans could come up with against the aliens, we’re all dead, but thankfully you can barely make out the action on the screen. The game can’t handle much of the action on the screen so enemies flicker constantly making it both hard to know what you just destroyed and what’s actually on the screen. Some backgrounds make enemy bullets impossible to see like the desert level that had a sandy desert that paired orange bullets from enemies to make a camouflaged attack for the opposition. Only blind luck will get you out of that level but the good thing is that most levels last 30 seconds. That’s right, if you can just survive the horrible horde of enemies you’ll be rewarded with a black screen and a boss fight that you can beat in your sleep.
So what were the bosses? The first boss was a giant plane that once defeated broke away to three medium planes that spun around the screen firing at you. These fights last just as long as the entire level which is about 30 seconds. Sadly, these fights were the best things about the game as they showed some type of creativity. A few other bosses included four tanks connected by chains, a plane that shot green balloons that exploded with screws, three blimps that took up the screen, and the final boss that shot puffs of clouds at you. All of these bosses were simple, ugly, and easy to defeat. A few times I found the “safe spot” on the screen and parked my plane where I could fire at the boss without being hit.
Scrambled Spirits feature a whopping two or three notes of music so I really hope you like those notes are you’re deaf. The game is super easy so the developer probably didn’t feel like giving you power-ups. You’ll always have the same bullets, the same speed, and no power-ups. You will get two mimic planes but they quickly are blown away when you hit something with them. The entire game feels like very little passion, effort, and thought went into Scramble Spirits as it barely passes any checkmarks for “fun”. It’s not glitchy, it’s just not a fun game and one that can be beaten within 15 minutes.
Thank the Lord that I don’t have any memories of this game as a child that would put some type of nostalgic twist on my review. This game is bad and I will remember it that way after my playthrough of it.
Unless you are a Sega Master System collector or out to play every shoot ’em up from the 80s and 90s, there’s no reason to pick up Scramble Spirits as the repetitive enemies, short levels, eye-bleeding graphics, and unimaginative story make for a below-average outing and black eye for Sega.
Scramble Spirits scores a 4.8 out of 10.
Do you remember when Scramble Spirits first came out? Did you beat the game in under 20 minutes? Was there a boss that gave you a challenge? Did you actually like this game, if so why? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Scramble Spirits, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Sega Master System from eBay for $45.