Way back in the mists of time, before every games console had context-less numbers and letters after their names, I owned a Sega Megadrive (or Genesis in the
). As a family we were quite late into consoles, I suppose. I mean, we had an old Sinclair Spectrum that we could boot up on the black and white TV. Tape-fed, man. There’s no sound quite like the skkkkkrrrreeeeeeecccchh of a data tape firing up whilst nonsense fluctuating lines pulsate on the screen. Seriously; that’s what scrapcode sounds like. Horrible, but a price we all paid to play Dizzy or Horace Goes Skiing or US . Anyway, eventually (upon entering secondary school, I think) I got a Megadrive for my birthday and that was one of the most awesome presents ever. Sonic 2 was the game that came in with the console and it still holds a very special place in my heart. We even got a colour television for the Megadrive that Christmas and it was one of the most fantastic Christmas mornings I have ever had. Rainbow Island
Anyway, all this is preamble to say that I have a large amount of fond memories wrapped up in that device, but above them there were a few games that I really connected with and have stayed with me. So let’s get started with Probotector. Yes, yes. It is a very silly name. But the game is awesome!
See: things explode!
Probotector was really just a reskinning and renaming of one of the games in the Contra franchise for the European market. I think it was Contra 3: Hard Corps. Basically, the Contra stuff had more of a human angle and human sprites participating in this mass carnage and slaughter and some of the countries in
Europe had tighter censorship laws for that kind of thing. So the entire game was reskinned to have robots in a couple of the key roles rather than humans. Apparently that helped.
The game itself was a side scrolling shooter and was very pretty for the time, boasted an absolutely awesome soundtrack for 16 bit and was brutally difficult. One hit would kill you, lives weren’t all that easy to come by and you see that explosion on the screenshot above? Nearly all the enemies exploded like that, often obscuring other enemies in the blast and occasionally getting the odd cheap shot in because of it. And with so few lives and no capacity for taking punches, this could get infuriating at times. Nevertheless, there was something about the game that kept me and brother just coming back for more punishment.
Maybe it was the challenge, maybe just something about the sheer ridiculousness of it of all, but I think it was the variety. There were different routes through each of the game’s missions and that really helped the longevity of the game as you could always try out that ‘other’ option and encounter an entirely different level and bosses. The sheer inventiveness of some to the levels was a joy to behold. Want to fight a cyclopean skyscraper-tall robot who throws cars at you? Done. Want to fight a jetpacking robot assassin whilst hanging to the underside of a Police Jet? No problem. Want to fight a Cthuloid horror on the top of planet-busting warhead rocketing into the stratosphere? Go ahead. Personally, I prefer dealing death to a bobble-headed robot Elvis who tries to kill me with projectile kippers. Oh, they have that too?
There were not only different paths through the levels, there were different game endings too. I never completed the game to one of the full ‘proper’ endings until I went ROM and had access to savestates, but when I was a kid I didn’t manage to uncover one of the hidden endings instead. In one of the levels, one of the climbable wall lead off screen and up to an arena, wherein you fought a gauntlet of very weird and difficult bosses, until the last one you beat opens up a rift in space and time and you get sucked into it. You are taken back to the dawn of humanity and become the Robot Kings of the Cavemen! Yeah, this game was strange.
Help me, gun!
There were also four characters to choose from, each with their own armoury of special weapons, which certainly helped the longevity. You had a Blue Guy (who was on the punchier side of average), a Red Guy (who worked more on homing weapons), a Little Guy (who had a jetpack for short-term hovering and a smaller hitbox) and the fourth guy, Lord Doomblast von Wolfington. At least, that’s what I cal him. He was definitely the trickiest character to use, as he stood taller than the Red & Blue and about double the height of the Little Guy (CX-04 was his name, I think) and dealt pure damage. Definitely the hardest hitter of the four, but with a complete lack of homing weapons and two gun which could even reach the other side of the screen. I can’t remember which my brother favoured, but I’m certain it wasn’t as good as mine.
Anyway, that’s my brief run through of one of my favourite Megadrive games, and one I will be returning to every now and again, purely for shits and giggles. Relentless silly, still really pretty to look at and the soundtrack was one of the best noises ever to come out of the system!