1997 – Altron for Sega Saturn – Lightgun

Back in the 1990s, when Sega and Namco had their great arcade rivalry going, there was one Namco title that was never answered by Sega: Point Blank, a comical, lighthearted light gun shoot-em-up throwback to amusement parks and carnival rides. It was a welcome alternative to the gritty, violent worlds of Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, and remains a beloved series to this day. Why Sega never responded in kind has always remained a mystery to me.

Well, wouldn’t ya know it, a third party software house named Altron filled in the void for Sega Saturn with the decidedly fun and trippy Mighty Hits. This arcade-styled shoot-em-up appeared in 1996, and mimics the comical mini-game format of Point Blank. The one major difference is that the game follows a “Wild West” motif, featuring a cast of block-shaped cowboys and outlaws who send you on a series of target-shooting contests.

The Saturn is a great console for gun games, featuring Sega’s outstanding home conversions of Virtua Cop 1 and 2 and The House of the Dead, and two Atari Games arcade hits, Alien 51 and Maximum Force, that I and my coworkers at the Dinkytown Pizza Hut played endlessly every weekend. Mighty Hits is a fine addition to this hallowed fraternity and fans of the genre will have a terrific time.

I haven’t counted all of the mini-games, since I’m still not sure if I’ve seen them all. There are over a dozen that I’ve discovered, all extremely varied and creative. Among your tasks, you must shoot a penguin free from a frozen iceberg; guide a balloon hang glider to safety by shooting the balloons; hit the correct face cards among a falling deck; shooting eggs that quickly reproduce across the screen; hit blocks to complete a picture; hunt down bumblebees that hide behind sunflowers; place a single shot through three moving clocks; various memory tests; and so on.

The art design in Mighty Hits was clearly inspired by one or two drug-fueled benders. First you being with the Wild West gunslingers, and before you know it, the colors become weird, the contests become more bizarre and surreal, and before you know it, the circus clowns are bounding around, juggling balls that resemble jeweled faberge eggs. Graphics are an interesting mix of 3D polygons, 2D bitmaps and pre-rendered CG, painted with vibrant psychedelic colors. It’s a fun little carnival world, a zap-gun Fellini for tots.

One interesting thing to note is that each stage features a hidden bonus points, usually one of the extra targets on-screen. I’m not too sure yet what accumulating these mean, but you may be rewarded by freely choosing your next few stages (instead of shooting the moving targets and guessing). At the end of the game, you are graded on your skills and rewarded with some funny CG animation clips.

Mighty Hits works as a single-player game, but it’s very clearly meant for multiplayer. This is more of a freewheeling party game than Sega’s arcade titles, and it’s both accessible and challenging enough to keep friends coming back for another go. Alcohol is almost certainly a requirement. Have I mentioned that eight players can compete in the tournament mode? If you’re a Sega Saturn fan, congratulations. You’ve found your new go-to drinking game. Stock up on shot glasses and nachos.

P.S. Sega fans in America had a very difficult time in the 32/64-bit era, as Saturn struggled poorly against Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. In the years following the system’s demise, we discovered the staggering number of genre masterpieces, visual showpieces and hidden gems that were left in Japan. I never could understand that. Would a game like Mighty Hits have turned the tide? No, probably not, but it could have become a minor hit and turned a few heads. I’m not kidding when I describe Mighty Hits as a party drinking game. Copies are widely available of eBay for $10-$20. Pick up a copy and see for yourself. Nachos are extra.

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