Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
It's time to unholster the Light Phaser again, folks, as you take on the job of a rootin' tootin' rovin' Sheriff, on a mission to clean up the Wild West. After selecting a difficulty level from 1, 2 or 3, your duties begin in the town of Tombstone, where the good townsfolk are depending upon you to take care of their outlaw problem.
(Image caption) Tearing across the desert sands, you've just managed to plug one of the baddies (or his horse, at any rate).
(Image caption) The first challenge stage - a really tricky test of your speed and accuracy.
In a similar vein to Taito's Operation Wolf, the screen scrolls from left to right with characters appearing from behind buildings, at windows, through doors and casually walking down the high street through the hail of bullets!
The bad guys are immediately on the alert and do their level best to fill you full of holes. But being a good, law-abiding sheriff you can only shoot those people who are trying to shoot you: no blasting the poor guy with his hands in the air.
Similarly, you can't just shoot any cowboy who wanders into view, since some of them don't pull a gun. If you plug them before they turn to fire, a 'miss' is awarded and another red segment added to your green life force meter at the top of the screen.
In your quest to restore justice, you are aided by bombs hidden at random behind people and scenery. Cowboys, horses, pictures and lamps can be shot to reveal the explosive device, and another shot detonates it, clearing the screen of all bad guys.
Successfully reaching the end of the street signals the appearance of the baddies' leader who comes out, guns a-blazin'. This geezer has to be liberally filled full of lead before he finally bites the dust.
Having tidied up Tombstone, your efforts are justly rewarded with bags of cash, plus bonus credits depending upon the amount of life force remaining. Your life force is then completely renewed in readiness for the next trial that awaits.
(Image caption) The final showdown. There's a direct hit on some dynamite, but you're making little impression on the Boss' lifeforce.
(Image caption) Mary's, Outlands and coin shoot.
As justice calls you to another appointment with destiny, you mount your trusty steed and gallop across the desert to the next town, pursued by hordes of desperadoes on horseback. Unsurprisingly, these have to be blasted as they ride into view, to stop them from gunning you down.
Survive this running gauntlet of leaden death (gripping stuff, eh?) and a challenge section allows you to get your breath back and earn a bonus score. Armed with 24 bullets, your aim is to hit 20 targets (jars, vases and generally breakable items) before the countdown timer hits zero. A cursor highlights the target for a moment, which must be hit before it moves onto the next.
This three-stage sequence repeats again, starting with Mary's Saloon, where the baddies walk on, appear at windows and pop up from behind bars. After another horseback shoot-out across the Outlands, the second challenge scene appears where gold coins are flipped into the air, and 70 have to be shot to receive the bonus score. You have unlimited bullets for this bit, so you can blast away like crazy!
And so your mission continues on through Ricky's Bar and Nugget Town to the final showdown with the Big Boss himself (and Bruce Springsteen it ain't!). This head baddie scurries in between buildings shooting continually, while covered by his lackeys who hurl sticks of dynamite. To survive this barrage, you have to shoot the dynamite in mid-air to avoid being blown up, while trying to pick off the Boss as he appears. And yes, this is just as tricky as it sounds!
When your current sheriff finally hits the Boot Hill trail, a picture appears showing him wreathed in flowers with the option to continue beneath. Shooting the 'Yes' panel makes him roll his eyes, eerily, and the mission continues from the beginning of the last scene.
Unlike other shooting games, Wanted really drains all your reserves of speed and accuracy. It makes a nice change that you can't just mindlessly blast everything in sight, but need to rely on quick reactions to choose a target and then decide whether or not to blow it away.
There are loads of neat effects and little touches which spice up the action, such as bullet holes appearing in the surrounding woodwork, the ability to break lamps and bottles, plus a spattering of blood when the bad guys buy it.
The one disappointment is that there are only seven stages (plus two challenge sections): if you use the continue option, it takes just a few days to see all the levels. Actually finishing the game may take a while longer because of the hard last stage, but the inclusion of three difficulty levels helps boost interest - and it's always good for some target practice.
This is definitely one of the better shooting games on the Sega. Anyone who wants to exercise their reactions and trigger finger should send out a Wanted posse right away.
▲ Simple but smart backdrops - especially the last scene.
▲ Detailed characters.
▼ Jerky scrolling during the town sequences.
▼ Little variety in the characters.
▲ Pleasant western background tunes - but nothing special.
▲ Great gunshot sound during the intermission screens.
▼ In-game effects are a bit weak
▲ Plenty of variety between stages.
▲ Strategic gunplay spices up the otherwise simple action.
▲ Three difficulty levels help sustain the lasting challenge.
▼ Just nine scenes, and only the last few pose any real problem.
▲ Test of reactions and accuracy really gets the adrenalin pumping.
▲ Continue option keeps you coming back for more.
A smart shoot 'em up which puts the light gun to good use. Plenty of blasting action with an unusual twist - one of the best Phaser games so far.