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While many people likely think of the more recent Microsoft published series when the name Crackdown is mentioned, there was a game on the Genesis by the same name. It wasn’t much to look at, but packed quite a lot of fun inside. While it has appeared in a number of classic compilations for the system over the years, it’s remained a bit of a hidden gem overshadowed by the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage.

The game was a shooter with an overhead view. Players controlled an agent who had to navigate each level looking for marked positions where they were required to plant explosives. The level couldn’t be completed until all of the bombs were in place. All the while, one had to navigate large, labyrinthine stages, shooting up enemies while avoiding getting shot at the same time. In order to get through particularly dense enemy packs, it was helpful to have a few special attacks that cause a large explosion. These were limited, so needed to be used wisely. Another interesting element that helped players was the ability to get flat against walls in order to avoid enemy fire. So, players had a decent amount of tools to get through each level.

At first, things would start out simple enough. Early stages were relatively straightforward to navigate, but as players got further and further into the game, these stages became quite large. It could be tricky getting to some of the areas where bombs needed to be planted, as they were guarded by a number of enemies. Yes, players could shoot at them, but these guards were really on their toes, so one needed to be quick to take them down. In some cases, it made more sense to sneak up, get close to an enemy, and punch them instead. To an extent, this lead to a need for clever strategies in order to best make one’s way through latter stages. Adding an additional layer to things was that the game supported two-player split screen coop. This changed things up quite a bit as players could split duties while clearing guards and planting their explosives.

As mentioned earlier, the game wasn’t exactly a graphical tour de force. Granted it was still early days for the Mega Drive when the game was ported there. The original arcade version looked very nice by comparison, but it was running on a System 24 board which was quite beefy for the time. It could support everything that Crackdown was trying to display much more easily. What Sega went for in the Mega Drive version was much more of an emphasis on functionality. Slowdown was still an issue on consoles at the time, and the more detail a studio tried to put into their visuals the more likely a game would suffer from this. So, it does make sense to keep things simple here. Having sudden bouts of slowdown here would have a pronounced negative impact on the game.

While the game kept things simple visually, its soundtrack is about what one would expect from a Mega Drive game of the late 1980s. It has a catchy arcade-style soundtrack that accompanies all of the wandering around, planting bombs, and blasting guards. There are a decent number of tracks throughout Crackdown, but they do get reused from time to time so they can feel repetitive after a while.

Crackdown is one of those Sega games that doesn’t get mentioned all that often these days. It was relatively obscure when it came out, and the passage of time has only accentuated that. Shinobi, Sonic, Streets of Rage, and a host of other series have long since overshadowed it. Nevertheless, the game still encapsulates the sort of arcade experience that Sega was known for in the 80s. People with a craving for that sort of thing would do well to try the game out.

- IroIro
May 8, 2019

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Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Mega Drive
Genre: Run and Gun
Released: 1990

Crackdown Mega Drive Image 1
Cover Art

Crackdown Mega Drive Image 2
Wandering a facility

Crackdown Mega Drive Image 3
A two-player mode

Crackdown Mega Drive Image 4
Infiltrating a refinery