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Section Z


Hoskat

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Section Z

hearts-5.5

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: Capcom

Total time played: 4 Hours

Short review: A competent side scrolling shooter with a maze element that at first seems daunting but ends up being really easy to follow as long as you draw a map.


Interesting links related to Section Z


A Brief Relationship

After the long hard battle with Bases Loaded my playthrough of Section Z felt very brief. I believe my enjoyment of the game was magnified as I actually had to learn how to navigate and practice certain sections over and over to master them. It was just nice to use my brain again.

How to Play

The game is pretty straight forward, it auto scrolls from left to right and you move you character up, down, left and right dodging enemies and bullets while shooting to the right with the A button and to the left with the B button.

The goal of the game is the travel from Section 0 to  Section 59 and kill the final boss. Unfortunately, the game is not linear, each section ends with a choice of 2 paths to take, and there is no way to know where you will end up unless you map it out.

Let’s Map It Out

I tried playing this game without a map and didn’t get very far before realizing that I was going to need a map. I could have easily found a map online, but, what is the fun in that? I wanted to map the game out myself.

I had tried mapping out Metroid when I played it but quickly realized that Metroid was a bit too large of a map for me to handle. Since Section Z had a known number of levels and each level ended with only 2 paths I figured I could handle the smaller map.

IMG_2661

My map of the game

As you can see in the photo I decided on a style for the map that really doesn’t look like a map at all. It is definitely a rough draft as some of the sections were not mapped and some things were crossed out and I drew the first 2 regions too large meaning the final region of the game is the one closest to the top of the page.

As crude as my map was it was more than capable of making the game very playable.

Prepare to Die

While playing through Section Z you are going to die a lot. Thankfully there are unlimited continues and the game is more than fair in how it handles death.

As the game progresses your maximum hit points increases from 20 to 99, but you start each continue with only 20 hit points. You lose one point each time you are hit by an enemy bullet, but, if you touch an enemy directly you die instantly and are taken back to the beginning of the section you are on and your hit points are reduced by 5. If your hit points reach 0 you are taken back to the beginning of the region (Section 0, Section 20, or Section 40).

You start the game with 3 lives before needing to continue. I never really understood why you need lives as losing a single life or losing your last life seems to be no different in where you restart.

3 Regions

At first I was thinking this game would be nearly impossible because I struggled to get through Section 2. I eventually realized that I didn’t need to go through Section 2 at all. There are a few sections throughout the game that seem to be much harder than most, I did my best to avoid those. Eventually I started making progress and filling in my map. The farther I got the more shortcuts I found to skip over many of the sections.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.29.36 AM

So many projectiles to avoid in Section 02

Each region has 2 sections where the branching path at the end is blocked by a red beam which means you need a key to unlock it. The key is found by finding a mini boss and defeating it. It does take some trial and error as I found even when I had the keys the red beam gave me no indication that it was now unlocked. It wouldn’t be a big deal except if you touch the red beam without the key you die instantly.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.29.18 AM

Which path should we take? The top or the bottom green beam?

Thankfully, once you defeat a mini-boss and get the key you never have to beat that boss again, even if you have to continue. Usually the red beam skips over a lot of sections so once you defeat the mini-boss and get a game over you can skip many sections. It really does make you feel like you are making progress with each life.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.31.35 AM

Defeat this thing to get a key to unlock a new path.

At the end of every 20 or so sections there is a boss fight. Once you beat the boss you are shown a cut scene and the next section you go to becomes the new starting point if you get a game over or lose all of your hit points.

No Passwords

Section Z is not a long game, it can be beaten in under an hour once you know what you are doing. But, it does take a bit of time to learn the game and map it out. There are no passwords in this game meaning you have to beat it all in one sitting. In games like this with unlimited continues I utilize my Retron 5 as a way to leave my Nintendo on for days at a time so I didn’t have to continually start from section 0 each time I played the game.

Powerups

There are only a few powerups in the game and they are not easy to come by. Only a few sections in the game have powerups and sometimes you need to go out of your way to visit sections to pick them up.

At the top right of the screen you will see an “L” which is your base gun which is a laser. It shoots across the screen but is fairly weak. You can pick up an “F”, an “M” and a “P”.

The F is a 3 way shot, the M is a wide powerful gun that looks like a greater than sign and the P is a shield. If you get lucky you can combine some of these together to create a 3 way M shot with a shield. Once you get this gun the game becomes much easier. But, be careful, if you die you lose your powered up gun and sometimes it isn’t worth it to track down all the powerups again.

Section 41

Some of the levels have hidden rooms that only appear if you shoot a specific spot. Inside these rooms you usually find 2 beams where you are forced to make a choice. Sometimes these are health refills and sometimes they are warps to other sections.

In Section 41 the hidden room left beam refills 15 hit points. As you start each life with only 20 hit points and can hold a total of 99 hit points I found this section to be the best place to farm for health. I would get the 15 point refill, leave the hidden room and immediately touch an enemy to go back to the beginning of the section. I repeated this a dozen or so times until my health was maxed out at 99.

What makes this the best section for doing this is that at the beginning of the section is the “M” gun powerup. This is by far my favorite powerup in the game as it has the widest path and most powerful shot. Once my health was at 99 I would die one more time and go back to the start of the section and pick up the M gun. You have to be careful, if you pick up the gun before you are ready to move to other sections it does not come back.

Once I had full health and my favorite gun I was ready for the end of the game.

Section 59

The final boss is the only boss in the game where you can actually build up health while you fight it. Even with the ability to grab health pickups while fighting and going into the battle with almost 99 hit points it still took me two tries to beat this thing. There are just so many bullets.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.39.01 AM

The final boss won’t go down easily.

Final Thoughts

For being released in 1987 this is a really fleshed out game. It is challenging but not unfair. It requires skill and patience and it won’t be possible unless you have a photographic memory or make a map. It is a pretty basic game but also a lot of fun.

The one thing I can’t quit thinking about is the name, it is called “Section Z” but the game actually features Section 0 – 59, never once are you in a section with a letter. It is much like R.C. Pro-Am that has a box that says “32 Tracks of Racing Thrills” but only features 24 tracks.

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