Quartet

The Sega Master System had some strange games when it was released in 1986 in North America. A few arcade ports made some noise, but one that flew under the radar was Quartet. Developed and produced by Sega, Quartet put the player in control of Mary on her quest to find a dead body. The action-platformer follows a successful formula of defeating bosses, and finding keys to exit the level. Would this game be worth playing?

Story:


“If you hate aliens, you’ll love Quartet! You see, space colony Number Nine is being threatened by an invasion of the most dangerous kind. Alien attack. And the place is crawling with them.
These vicious, vile parasites have even managed to confiscate the casket of the late, great Queen Cynthia.
It’s your job to exterminate these treacherous creatures. To return the casket to it’s (their poor grammar, not mine) hallowed tomb. And save the colony from certain collapse.
You’ll have special equipment to help you along the way. Like a supersonic jet engine, a special bomb, missiles, and a magic key.
But time is running out. So don’t just stand there thinking about it. Get on it.
And get rid of this gruesome group. For good!”

Just to be clear, you are on a mission to recover a dead body of a queen. Why this is so important, I’m not sure? Does this body hold the key to unlocking your civilization? Is there some type of hidden treasure stuffed in the casket or do you just not want aliens defiling the body of your queen? Sounds like a suicide mission, just to rescue someone that is already dead.

Opening up the manual sheds some light on the situation, but not much.

"It's thousands of years into the future. And by now mankind has established space colonies throughout the galaxy.
Most of them are peaceful, productive places to live. Most of the time. But once every few centuries or so, something somewhere goes amiss. 
This time it happened on the beautiful Colony Number Nine, renowned for the contributions of its late, great ruler, Queen Cynthia. 
What's happened? The colony has been invaded by a group of awesome ALIENS of the nastiest kind. Despite state-of-the-technology protection, the ALIENS have entered Queen Cynthia's tomb, confiscated her casket, and are about to destroy the rest of the colony. 
There's very little time left. 
But there's still a lot of hope. Hope placed in the spiritual powers of the famous MARY and her partner, EDGAR.
Together only they can wipe out the ALIENS. And purge the colony of their vicious evil. For good."

Okay, so we still don’t know what makes the casket so important. For our sake, let’s say there are important ancient codes that will launch weapons of mass destruction and wipe out the galaxy if the aliens get ahold of them. There, I made the mission much more important in just a few words.

Gameplay:
Yikes, the cover of Quartet is impossible to look past. Sega Master System Games are infamous for their atrocious covers but Quartet is up there for the worst. Some SMS covers have a charm to them like Pro Wrestling, but Quartet just screams unprofessionalism.

Despite the pointless mission and terrible box art, the gameplay to Quartet is fun! You’ll take control of Mary in this action-platformer as she searches through six facilities to find the Queen’s casket. When you start the game up you are treated with a weird menu as it transitions up and down with the title.

Quartet plays much better than it looks on the outside. Enemies and environments are brightly colored as the aliens spawn throughout the stage. I was pleasantly surprised at how immersive the levels were with details despite how short they were. The game in total can be beaten in less than 15 minutes. Each level requires you to find the end boss, who holds the magical key to unlocking the exit door. Search for the boss, defeat him, collect the key, and exit the level.

There are six stages in Quartet, each with unique enemies and bosses. Mary can take multiple hits. She can probably take five hits before turning into dust which makes this game forgiving. To find the boss, it’s crucial to first find your jet pack. The jet pack makes transversing the level ten times easier as you hoover around instead of jumping from platform to platform.

Bosses are challenging enough. Some have patterns some don’t. Fire eagles, jumping lizards, and a dragon that acts like a wacky inflatable arm man that spits fire make up a few of the bosses that you’ll be challenged by. Once defeated, the bosses will drop keys that you’ll take to the exit. It’s simple, but fun.

After beating the last stage, you are treated to a cut scene of finding the Queen’s casket which looks like it’s a giant slime box. Spoiler, the Queen is naked and she looked STACKED if you get my drift. Nice, I suppose I’d rescue her too now. It’s such a goofy ending but I’m glad they included the cut scene to reward the player for their successful mission.

Memories:
I discovered this game by watching one of Mike Matei’s streams of the Sega Master System. I had never heard of it before and I feel like I have a good grasp of the Master System library so I was intrigued. It looked like a type of game I’d enjoy.

It was a short experience, but one that I’m happy to have played. As a kid, I would have liked this game. It’s not overly difficult but there were a few times when facing the bosses that I repeatedly died until I got lucky or found the pattern.

Overall:
This short game is a fun experience. There aren’t too many issues with the gameplay as it’s fair and at times challenging, but it’s brief. The plot is goofy, and there’s a weird cut scene at the end but Quartet is a solid experience for Sega Master System owners.

Quartet scores a 7.4 out of 10.

Do you remember when Quartet first came out? Was this a hidden gem on the Sega Master System? Which boss was the most challenging? Did you ever see the Queen’s body at the end? What other games are similar to this? Let me know your memories and thoughts I’d love to read the comments.

If you’d like to own a copy of Quartet, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Sega Master System for $25 on eBay.

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