As you can imagine, thousands of video games have been created since they became a thing way back in the 1960s. So, it is perfectly understandable that with great regularity you may come across a game that you have never heard of. However, just because you have never heard of a game doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t worth playing. After all, it may be one of those “hidden gem” games that one finds every now and then. Could Gain Ground be one such game?
Gain Ground is an action-strategy game developed and published by Sega. It was first released for the arcade in 1988 before being ported to the Master System and Mega Drive in 1991. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version found on Sonic’s Ultimate genesis Collection (2009) on the PlayStation 3.
In the year 3000AD, there is no poverty. There is no war or discrimination. Humans finally live in a time of total peace…but…with total peace comes a price. Without the threat of violence, humans have forgotten how to defend themselves, leaving them vulnerable. To retrain humans how to fight, the United Earth Government create a war simulation run by a supercomputer called Gain Ground. During testing, an error occurs, and its creators are taken hostage. A rescue party is also captured. The government have one final chance to rescue the creators and stop the computer.
The game can be played in single and two-player mode. Even though you are competing for the highest score, the two-player mode is co-operative. There are five rounds, with each round having 10 stages. The last stage of each round being a boss level. The rounds are as follows:
Round 1 – Dark Ages
Round 2 – Middle Ages
Round 3 – Pre-Revolutionary China
Round 4 – Present day
Round 5 – Future
The on-screen information allows you to see the time limit for each stage, the number of enemies left to kill, the character you are using, how many of your soldiers you have left to escape, how many have already escaped, and your score.
There are two ways to complete each stage. You can either destroy all enemies on screen or you can guide all your soldiers safely to the exit. At the beginning of each stage, you have the opportunity to choose which soldier you wish to use. If that soldier is killed by an enemy, they will turn grey before becoming an icon on the screen. You then pick another soldier to complete the mission. You can pick up your fallen comrades and finish the level to ensure they are available in the next stage.
Each character has unique weapons, special weapons, abilities, and weaknesses, and so it is important to use each character where they will be most useful. For example, some are powerful but slow. Others are weak but fast…you know…the usual trade off.
How Does The Game Handle?
The game is very easy to learn. You can move and fire in all directions, but when using some of the special weapons, you will automatically orientate yourself to fire up the screen. This can be a great help at times and a hinderance at others. You also have to be accurate with your shots and this will take some getting used to. It can be frustrating when you miss the enemy by a hair’s breadth and they are able to kill you.
The graphics are just what you need for a game like this. They are mediocre but detailed enough so that the game is playable. They won’t win any awards, mind. However, this game isn’t about graphics. It is about the action and there is plenty of that!
I had never heard of this game before reviewing it. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This is just the sort of game that I would have played with friends for hours and hours in my teenage years. It is fun, challenging, and highly addictive like all arcade games should be.
I actually enjoyed the music, especially early on. The music has a typical arcade-style upbeat tempo that gets your blood pumping for the action. Upon completion of each stage, you are rewarded with a nice little victory riff.
There are three difficulty settings to choose from. Easy offers you up to eight continues and the game ends after Round Three Stage 10. Normal offers up to four continues, and hard gives you no continues but you have all 20 of your soldiers available to you from the beginning. These changes with each difficulty level offer a good level of replay value.
Did I Complete The Game?
No, I couldn’t get past Round 3 Stage 4. I will, however, definitely be returning to this game.
What The Critics Said:
Sega Pro: “Great two-player action as you battle through multiple levels of complex action. You control a band of warriors from ancient times right through to the future. Detailed graphics and very addictive gameplay. Overall 89%”.
Raze: “…the graphics are very small, and the sound not too spectacular. But a closer inspection reveals some great animation on the characters and their weapons, and a splattering of colour and variety all through the game. Overall 92%”.
Computer & Video Games: “It’s very simple and very boring. You’d have to be stark raving mad to part with thirty quid for this… Overall 49%“.
Mean Machines: “A very accurate conversion of an obscure and hopelessly crap arcade game which features the average graphics, rubbish sound and boring gameplay of the original machine. Overall 43%”.
Sega Power: “Choose the right soldiers in this intriguing flick-screen combat game. Heavy on strategy, its slower pace might make a change from alien death. Unusual two-player mode. Overall 3/5”.
“Pleasantly surprised by this game. Although the gameplay is simple and the graphics won’t blow you away, I found it enjoyable, challenging and highly addictive.”
What are your memories of Gain Ground? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Gain Ground – Mega Drive’. Sega Pro. (December 1991). Issue 3:18.
 ‘Gain Ground’. Raze. (May 1991). Issue 7:64.
 ‘Byte Size Mega Drive Review – Gain Ground’. Computer & Video Games. (March 1991). Issue 112:72.
 ‘Review: Mega Drive – Gain Ground’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:139.
 ‘The Hard Line – Gain Ground’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53.