Retronauts: A Brief Look at Zillion, Sega's Answer to Metroid

Retronauts: A Brief Look at Zillion, Sega's Answer to Metroid

Your reminder that old-school Sega was so ambitious that what should have been a perfunctory licensed game challenged one of the most groundbreaking adventures of the era.

Hello and welcome back to USgamer for 2015. It's the same site as before, but now we're living in the future.

But only to a point, of course. USgamer and the Retronauts podcast are still best pals, so there's plenty of living in the past as well. This week, Retronauts Micro (the mini-podcast!) looks back to the year 1987 and Sega's mostly forgotten exploratory action platformer Zillion.

Well, I say "forgotten," but can something be truly forgotten if no one knew about it in the first place? Like most Master System games, Zillion flew largely beneath the radar due to the Master System's obscurity in the U.S. and Japan. Maybe it was a colossal hit in Brazil, where they loved the system, I don't know. But here, I was one of the fortunate few who managed to score a live sighting in the wild. In honor of this rare and prestigious event, I've put together a brief Micro episode on the game.

So what was Zillion, you may ask? And don't want to wait the seven minutes of running time it would take to learn this information from the podcast itself?

Well, back in the '80s, a toy light gun called Lazer Tag was all the rage in America. Over in Japan, the Lazer Tag equivalent was called Zillion, and the manufacturer of the toy looked at the success of cross-media promotion of popular '80s toys like Transformers and G.I. Joe and said, "I gotta get me some of that." So they went a step beyond Thundercats and had Tatsunoko Productions create a Zillion anime while Sega produced a Zillion video game based on the anime property. It was a multimedia extravaganza!

Unfortunately the game was on the Master System (aka Mark III), which few people owned, especially in Japan. But despite its obscurity, Zillion was pretty ambitious considering it could have been some slapdash piece of crap to sell toys. And if nothing else, its legacy lives on: The official Sega Master System light gun was designed specifically to resemble Zillion guns.

The more you know!

Download links:

Libsyn (7:20 | 5.3 MB | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS feed

Promo image courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101. Background music in this episode is from Zillion; the vocal track is from the anime.

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