mid-1993, the Mega Drive's massive worldwide popularity
was causing the format to be swamped with poor productions.
In Japan, the machine may have been entering its dying
throes, in the West botch-job hollywood tie-ins and
generic celebrity-endorsed sport simulators were dominating
the billboards and sales charts, effortlessly capturing
the minds and wallets of the popular videogaming world.
Fortunately today most of these are long forgotten -
but they remain an important factor in game history,
for they caused dozens of fantastic titles to slip by
virtually un-noticed. Ex-Ranza was one of those
Released as 'Ranger-X' in the West, what we have here
is an extraordinarily smooth arcade / action game developed
by Gau Entertainment, featuring a gangly solar-powered
robot who must negotiate its way through a selection
of superbly presented arcade-style stages. This robot
can briefly fly by holding the jump button, and use
numerous sub-weapons that can be recharged by finding
These fascinating features even further enhanced by
the presence of an accompanying scooter (or airship)
with which it can dock: this vehicle not only serves
as storage for the various sub-weapons, but also as
an offensive alternative, since it has an energy reserve
of its own.
It's a fascinating game system for sure. The sheer amount
of features, maneuvers and strategies is confusing at
first, yet perfectly balanced: the gameplay rapidly
becomes easily manageable, and perfectly varied. Every
stage caters to the gameplay: certain foes can only
be eliminated with a certain sub-weapon, some stages
have very little sunlight etc.
Ex-Ranza does the 'mech' genre complete justice.
The greatest advantage of placing a robot as a player
interface is that it can present numerous advantages
in terms of gameplay, not to mention the fact that games
are far more mechanic than organic in the first place.
As a result of this controlling of a stiff, robotic
character can feel a lot more 'natural' in this kind
of environment. All it takes is a few minutes to get
your head around the meticulous 6-button controls, then
the game becomes a real joy to play: the controls, environments,
background music, and overall atmosphere marry in perfect
One of the best Mega Drive titles by far, and a true
highlight of the period.