Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
For centuries people all over the world have played this ancient game of strategy, so it comes as no surprise to find that console chess games are popping up all over the place. Last month we reviewed Chessmaster on the Gameboy and now we have Sega Chess on (oddly enough) the Master System.
The game plays in either overhead or 3D mode, the former being clearer and the latter being more attractive. Of course, all the rules of chess are applied including En Passant and Castling. Options include one or two players, sampled speech, the number of joypads used and the depth of the computer player’s thinking if playing solo.
If you have trouble thinking up a good move to make, the computer provide a hint and if you really get stuck any number of moves can be taken back. Also it’s possible to force the computer’s move to stop it from having too long to think, and if none of that works, and defeat seems inevitable, you can even resort to swapping sides!
Unlike the speech the various special modes add a great deal to the game. The Problem mode sets up a specific chess problem for the player to solve, while Adaptive mode means that the computer will decide its move in the time the player took for his or hers. However, for a real challenge, choose Infinite mode -then the computer will take as long as it wants to make its mind up!
The speech in the game is simply there to state the obvious. For example, if the player is using playing white and it's his go the machine says, "White move" - very informative! If the computer puts the player in check, the computer conveniently states, "Check". This really helps the kind of gamer who has some kind of vision defect.
3D mode - looks nice, dunnit?
2D mode - not quite so nice.
The options screen is quite extensive.
Stuck? Try the hint icon.
Chess is a great game, and I'm sorry that I don’t get the chance to play as often as I would like. This certainly plays a good game of chess and the computer opponent is pretty tough to beat. However the two-player mode is a bit pointless - if you’ve got a friend to play then why not use a real board? Otherwise this Sega product simply plays the role of a glorified chess computer, with the addition of sampled speech which becomes annoying after a short time. I can’t say there’s anything much wrong with this, but I don’t really see much point to it either.
My interest in chess was recently re-kindled by the release of Chessmaster on the Gameboy. But even though this Sega chess game has some clear, well-defined graphics and interesting sonic touches, I don’t think it has enough to warrant the massive price tag. It’s not that the game is particularly bad, nor is the computer opponent a poor player, it’s just that beating it simply isn’t as much fun as a battle of strategies with a real human being, and using a console to reproduce a game that is far better played with another person and a five quid chess set seems a bit pointless. Solo chess maniacs will no doubt enjoy this game no end, especially with all the special modes, but those who want to really enjoy chess will buy a decent board and save the rest of their dosh for something else.