From the Database of Home of the Underdogs
Copyright 1993, Zyrinx
Sub-Terrania is a creative and highly underrated SEGA Genesis game from Zyrinx, maker of Zero Tolerance, another Genesis underdog also reviewed on this site. The banal plot: alien forces have invaded an asteroid mining colony and it is up to you and your experimental fighter to destroy the invaders and rescue the trapped miners.
A nice break from typical platform/shooter games, Sub-Terrania is a freeform shooter that offers much more than first meets the eye. Sure, you need to collect weapons, powerups, and fuel – but you also need to find and use various equipment along the way. As Doug Bauer explains in his thorough review for GameBytes: “Sub-Terrania combines elements of past video games into one, creating a unique experience. It is a mix of Lunar Lander and Choplifter, with a bit of Ecco the Dolphin thrown in for good measure. As in Lunar Lander, gravity is always pulling your ship downwards, and you have the ability to rotate and thrust for maneuvering. You also must land your ship to allow trapped miners to board. The little workers wave and run to your ship when you land nearby — very reminiscent of Choplifter. The underground puzzles (and there is even some water down there) with the scrolling playfield larger than the screen reminds me of Ecco.
There are ten of discrete missions, each starting with a briefing. During the briefing, a full map of the mission is displayed with some key objects highlighted, and your orders are given. You may have to retrieve a piece of equipment, rescue miners, destroy aliens, or any combination thereof. Along the way, you must pick up fuel as necessary as well as weapons and shields. Puzzles are more imaginative than those in Ecco for the most part, and less obvious. For example, in one stage you are told that Intelligence has left a truck to help you destroy an enemy laser base, but you aren’t told how you’re supposed to use it.
The graphics in this game are excellent. Many times I found myself saying “wow.” There are a large variety of enemies, some small and some absolutely huge, all detailed and well-animated (and each with its own personality). The attention to detail is phenomenal: pick up a piece of equipment and your ship is weighted down, acting a bit sluggish and causing gravity to have a more pronounced effect. Things move smoothly and in a very natural fashion, lending to a sense of realism. There are lots of little touches which make the game more interesting. On the second stage for example, there is a rail system to which you can connect your ship (and move along) which makes it easier to fight some of the aliens because you don’t have to keep fighting gravity.
Unlike the majority of console video games, the music in Sub-Terrania is very well done. The best way to describe it is techno-funk. There is percussion as well as plenty of bass. Some effort was obviously taken to make the music sound like music instead of the usual synthesizer-like fare — notes fade and various musical effects are emulated, such as phasing. It all fits in well with the game’s theme too, with a spacey feel. I didn’t find the music to get annoying at all (which says a lot). Sound effects are adequate, but there isn’t much of a variety.
The only really bothersome aspect of this game is its difficult control. Even after many hours getting used to maneuvering the ship, you will still find yourself bumping into walls and cursing at the joypad. Still, this makes the game more challenging and perhaps with enough practice, control would become more natural. That’s because the ship controls aren’t unresponsive — it’s just very difficult to continually adjust for gravitational effects.” Highly recommended, but be wary if you are easily frustrated by difficult games.