Back in black and on the attack!
Anybody out there who has read some of my previous reviews will know that I am a massive fan of scrolling beat ‘em ups, so discovering one I never played before is always an exciting moment. I never owned a Sega Master System as a kid, although admittedly many of my friends did, so I never really got to learn about this machine for myself until more recent years. Black Belt was one of the very first beat ‘em ups released for the machine and is held in quite high regard among SMS fans. The first interesting fact about this game is that in Japan it was originally a Fist of North Star title, but small changes were made for the western market since the manga series was not so well known in these parts. But the second and even more interesting factoid is that Black Belt was programmed by none other than Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic The Hedgehog, Phantasy Star and Nights among others!
Black Belt itself though, unlike the previously mentioned titles, is an incredibly generic affair much like Irem’s classic Kung Fu Master. Set over six levels, you are on a mission to save your girlfriend (where have I heard that before?) from the clutches of some evil henchman. At the end of each level you face a boss, and each one has a certain weakness you must try to exploit. As you fight your way through the seemingly never ending generic bad guys with your limited range of punches and kicks, you must also watch out for the flying ham to top up your energy (yeah ok, this is pretty original!). You need to jump at just the right time in order to grab the meat and thus top up your energy bar. And that is pretty much it as far as gameplay goes. Black Belt is so by the book there really isn’t anything else that I need to explain!
The graphics in Black Belt are quite nice indeed with really attractive backgrounds, well-animated sprites and even some parallax scrolling. Black Belt’s audio is equally impressive, with a range of great tunes and decent sound effects too. There are certainly no complaints when it comes down to controls either, and everything works just as it should. I should also mention here that Black Belt features that classic Master System artwork. Obviously when I say classic I actually mean terrible. They didn’t even try here. All you have is a foot doing a kick in the bottom left corner and the rest is blank! At the end of the day Black Belt just ends up being an incredibly generic – not to mention boring – beat ‘em up that will only really appeal to the hardcore collectors and fighting fans out there. Everyone else is better off sticking to something more enjoyable such as Streets of Rage or Vigilante. Yuji Naka has certainly come a very long way over the years, that’s for sure!
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Sega Master System (reviewed), PS4, PC; Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Yuji Naka ; Players: 1 ; Released: 1986 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A