Tails' Sky Patrol
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Game Gear
  • Developers:
    • SIMS
    • JSH
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • JP 04/28/1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 03/30/2018.

Tails' Sky Patrol is a video game jointly developed by SIMS and JSH and published by Sega for the Sega Game Gear. It was exclusively released in Japan on April 28, 1995. This is a spinoff from the Sonic the Hedgehog series starring Sonic's sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower. A few months after this game's release, Tails starred in another Game Gear title called Tails Adventure, which did get released outside of Japan. Unlike most games in the franchise at the time, Tails' Sky Patrol isn't a platformer, though it is side-scrolling. It's hard to peg this game as any particular genre, but it most closely resembles a shoot 'em up. From its premise to the way it plays, everything about this game is a little odd. Supposedly, this game was meant for younger audiences. Well, younger than the typical Sonic the Hedgehog fan, anyway. Despite that, it's extremely difficult. Aside from the absurd level of difficulty, Tails' Sky Patrol isn't too shabby.

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Just so you know: Tails earned his nickname from the fact that he's a fox with two tails. With that out of the way, it's now time for me to explain this game's premise. According to the instruction manual, Tails momentarily departs from Sonic's presence to go on his own adventure, and while flying around aimlessly, he stumbled upon a solitary island with a huge steel railroad. Initially, Tails worried that Dr. Eggman, the main antagonist of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, was making yet another base. He decided to check it out, but just as he arrived, he sensed that someone was coming, so he dove into some nearby bushes to hide. It was then that an eccentric lady calling herself the great Witchcart rode past Tails in a cart. She announced to no one in particular that she owns the island and that she'll turn dissenters into crystal with her magic. Disturbed by this, Tails decides to oppose the evil witch. Strangely, neither Sonic nor Eggman make an appearance in this game.

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The main thing about Tails is that he can fly by twirling his tails around like a helicopter blade. That is displayed in full force in this game, as he'll by flying for the most of the adventure. Pressing up or down on the d-pad allows Tails to fly upwards or downwards, and left or right lets him slow down or speed up. Tails will continue to fly until his flight meter runs out, but the meter can be replenished by picking up mint candies. This is important, because Tails dies as soon as he stops flying. Not only that, but Tails instantly dies if he so much as touches any part of the environment, like walls, ceilings, the ground, and most obstacles. However, if Tails is hit by an enemy or projectile, he won't die straight away. Instead, he'll begin to fall towards the ground. During a fall, rapidly pressing either of the buttons may allow Tails to regain flight, giving him a second chance at life. This comes at the cost of a portion of the flight meter, though. It's an odd system, and the main reason this game is so hard.

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While Tails will not be collecting any rings or Chaos Emeralds in this game, he does have a single ring that's on him at all times. If you press either of the two primary buttons, Tails will throw this ring like a boomerang. Holding the button down for a little bit will charge the throw, allowing the ring to travel farther. This serves as Tails' primary means of attack in this game, as the ring is able to defeat enemies and destroy certain blocks. However, the ring has a secondary function in that it can latch onto many objects in the environment. These objects include gymnastics poles, rail carts, weights, levers, and other goofy gadgets. Different things happen depending on what Tails latches onto, like how weights pull him downwards, balloons lift him upwards, and rail carts carry him along tracks. It's kind of fun, but sometimes these gadgets will lead to your demise, like rail carts that carry you into a pit or wall. As a result of that, you have to know when to use them and when to avoid them.

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Acquiring items is as easy as latching onto objects; you simply fly close enough to them so the ring Tails is holding onto can get the goods. Besides the aforementioned mint candies that refill your flight meter, there are a couple of other goodies waiting for Tails in each stage. The majority of items you'll find on your adventure are crystals, which merely give you points. Points may seem pointless, but they grant extra lives if you gather enough of them. Speaking of, 1ups occasionally appear as signs, and there are also signs with stars on them that give you temporary invincibility. Similar to Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, bells function as checkpoints. That's about it for items and power-ups. While this may seem like a short list, it's more than made up for by all the interactive objectives throughout the game.

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Like most side-scrolling shooters, every stage automatically scrolls forward, so there's no turning back. There are only five stages, and the first one labels itself as a training area. Despite that label and the fact that it has no enemies, the first stage is quite tough. After conquering the so-called training area, you'll move onto the first "real" stage of the game, Rail Canyon. As its name implies, there are a lot of rails with carts to ride in this canyon. Ruin Wood is the odd name of the third stage, which starts off in a cave and eventually transitions into wooden ruins. Known as Metal Island, the fourth stage is a fortified airship armed with cannons and other weaponry. The last stage is the Dark Castle, home of Witchcart. The stages are mostly fun to play through due to the cute enemies and interactive gadgetry, but they're riddled with cheap deaths, such as deadly balls that materialize out of thin air. With the exception of the first one, every stage also ends with a boss battle. In addition to being able to use their own ammo against them, you can grab bosses with your ring and toss them around. It's strangely satisfying.

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This game is the very definition of an oddity. Not only is it unlike anything in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, it's also unlike anything else that's out there, period. That alone makes it worth a look, but it also happens to be a decent game. The graphics are charming and every stage is littered with gnarly gadgets that are fun to fiddle around with. The only problems with this game are that it's too short and there are too many cheap deaths. Other than that, it's a pretty okay game. Tails' Sky Patrol is short and simple, but there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

Word Count: 1,177

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