Retro Game Of The Week: Midnight Resistance (Sega Mega Drive)

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive

Midnight Resistance is deeply derivative — and lots of fun… and my copy might be a bit weird to boot.

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

Back in the days of arcade games being a common sight not only in arcades, but also takeaway places, bowling alleys, heck, anywhere they would fit, most cabinets (especially here in Australia) were deeply generic.

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive
Pictured: Generic big PEWPEWPEW weapons

That’s because while they were built as custom cabinets (and some of the artwork was amazing) they were also incredibly heavy, expensive… and arcade operators quickly worked out that if they all used the same basic controls of joysticks and buttons then all they had to do was swap out the underlying arcade boards to get a new, fresh game in play. That’s the whole JAMMA system (amongst others) in a nutshell… but I digress.

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive
Midnight Resistance: Every action figure you ever owned as a kid in their own platform run and gun game. 

Not all games worked with standard controllers, and this week’s choice, Data East’s Midnight Resistance is one of those. Instead of a standard joystick, it used a rotating joystick to position your player’s gun as you ran through a series of run and gun levels that owed more than a little debt to Konami’s Contra. That was very much Data East’s MO back in the day for a lot of titles, often with mediocre results.

Midnight Resistance isn’t one such game, because it’s quite wildly out there in terms of visual design, tied in with some quite smart (if sometimes cheap, in that arcade style) level design.

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive
It appears that the “Midnight Resistance” force of the title… is actually just two people.
And only one of them has a gun.

It was ported to a bunch of 8 and 16 bit computer systems of the day, but only the Sega Mega Drive saw a console release at the time, which raises the question of how you get a spinning joystick onto a system that (at the time) only had a D-Pad and three buttons.

The default control scheme (you get a choice, but the default is easily the best) is quite clever in how it deals with this.

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive
Why do weapons cost keys?
Who is selling them to you, and why?
Probably best not to think about it.

One button toggles auto fire, one jumps and one allows you to keep firing in the same direction if it’s held down. It’s not quite as fun as I remember the arcade game being — the lack of two player action also plays a role there — but it’s a very good take on how to bring that kind of different control into the home.

It’s also just fun. Yes, it’s derivative without a doubt, but it’s derivative by way of also being bombastic in the best 80s-action-film way.

Midnight Resistance Sega Mega Drive
For maximum effect, play Midnight Resistance while listening to this.

There’s a loose remnant of a plot (mad scientists, family kidnapped, hey, guess what, it doesn’t matter all that much) but it’s mostly just simple arcade action — and all the better for it.

How to play Midnight Resistance (Sega Mega Drive) today

Midnight Resistance Mega Drive
My own copy is an ex-rental copy — there was an interesting period in the late 1990s and early 2000s where video stores (remember them?) were clearing out stock of games that were no longer popular, often for incredibly low prices. If memory serves, this was about five bucks, and it’s easily worth that.

Although — and this was something I only realised when researching this week’s piece — it might also be the very first pirate Mega Drive cartridge I ever came across (without realising it!).

Why say that? My copy doesn’t have instructions (not surprising for an ex-rental game) and it bears the Japanese box art… but it appears that the legit Japanese box art has Japanese text at the base, and Japanese text on the back.

My copy has neither of those things, so it’s possible it’s a fake one… though one I’ve owned since about 1997, which would make it a very early example of the form, I feel.

Weird. Might be worth nothing, not that I care much for retro collecting “value” to speak of — and given it’s ex-rental it feels like a genuine curio that I’m happy to keep even if it’s not 100% legit. It’s been sitting there with me thinking it was legit for such a long time, I’m willing to think of it as such, even if it’s technically worthless. Maybe.

But that was some time ago. What’s the going rate for a real copy at the time of writing?

Looking at eBay, copies tend to go for around $50 loose and around $120 in box, though this did remind me of just how absolutely awful the US box art for this game was.

Midnight Resistance Sega Genesis
How DRUNK was the marketing department to sign off on this abomination?

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