|"Feed me, Seymour!"|
(image from KLOV)
◦ The sleek Solvalou in Namco's game has been replaced with an amphibious tank. It skims over terrain and across vast bodies of water at the same speed, which is always just slightly slower than you'd like it to move. This makes it extremely important to react to enemies as they appear, rather than trying to dodge them at the last second. Trust me, you'll lose more tanks that way.
◦ Tiny brown diamonds litter the playfield. They're not worth much on their own, but collect thirteen and you'll find a capsule marked with the word "MEG." Grabbing this merges your tank with one of your remaining lives, creating the mighty MegaTank. The MegaTank has triple the firepower of the standard model, making it critical for surviving the later areas, but it's just as slow and a bit chunkier. Worst of all, getting clipped by an enemy or one of its shots returns the tank to its original form while robbing you of the life you used to upgrade it. You're telling me I had to grab a small fortune in gems AND sacrifice a tank just to power up, AND it's nowhere near as cool as the quintet of ships in Terra Cresta? Dirty pool, Konami.
◦ Mega Zone's got some of the most unbelievably aggravating enemies you've seen in a top-down shooter from the early 1980s. Sure, it seems easy enough at first, but the stationary cannons and easily dispatched ships are joined by madly spiraling clusters of orbs, zigzagging fighters that love to unload missiles in your face, and flowers that reach the bottom of the screen, only to make a hasty U-turn and lodge themselves in your colon. Brick walls spring up out of nowhere to block your shots, and rolling meteors hone in on you with lethal accuracy... and that's just the first half of the game!
The game isn't as polished as Xevious, and it makes its contempt for the player obvious almost from the start. Maybe that's what makes it so addictive, though. Like the rigged carnival game or the dunk tank clown who points out you've had one corn dog too many, Mega Zone lights a vengeful fire within you that makes you desperate to conquer it, no matter how unlikely that may be. Best of all, it's been playable in MAME for at least a decade now, so it won't cost you anything... except maybe your pride.