You take games too seriously.

What I Learned from SEGA – SCUD: Disposable Assassin


The life of a former SEGA fanboy is hard. My childhood memories are sown with the brand’s hills and valleys: a very merry Genesis Christmas, a birthday slump with 32X. Often, I will irrationally return to the old systems with fond thoughts, like remembering a childhood crush, but when I boot Sewer Shark I forget the good times and only remember the heartbreaks. The nightmares.

I refuse to remember my childhood as a time of delusion, so to save myself, I have chosen to make gold from lead. Welcome to another experiment blog series: What I’ve learned from SEGA.

I present the Sega Saturn’s SCUD: The Disposable Assassin.

SCUD is based on a 1990’s comic book of the same name. We play as Scud, a disposable assassin (natch) sold in vending machines, and forced into a rather precarious life. Once purchased, SCUD must accomplish a given assignment—in this case, assassinate a monster named Jeff. But upon completion SCUD will receive no reward, rather, our robot hero’s programmed to self-destruct. So SCUD, strangely smart and self-interested for a robot, finds Jeff, beats him around, and ships him to the nearest hospital. All’s well, until Jeff’s medical bill arrives. It’s then our story truly begins, when our penny-less bot must become a freelance assassin to pay medical bills that keep Jeff, and concurrently, himself, alive.

Like all comics, there’s plenty of lesser characters: a sidekick named Drywall, who’s zipper laced body offers infinite storage; a rival and (possible love-interest?) Sussuido, who craves blood shed; and many other bizarre, early 90’s characters. Think Tank Girl meets Short Circuit.

You still need more SCUD? Catch yourself up with this steaming marketing mess.

What I’ve Learned from SCUD

Gimmicks Sell: It’s a simple side-scroller with a twist—the ability to play with a light-gun, both alone and co-op. As a kid, this play mechanic absolutely convinced me to save a couple months’ allowance, add some summer chores, and make a purchase. Was it worth it? No.

Good Ideas Rise to the Top: In co-op, the light-gun froze enemies to help SCUD. This mechanic received enormous praise, not for SCUD, but ten years later in Super Mario Galaxy.

More SCUD-ness and lessons learned after the jump…

Cut Scenes are Dead… Mostly:
SCUD contained 30 minutes of cut-scenes, and though I tend to spend cut-scenes jamming the start button like a brain-dead gorilla, SCUD’s scenes offered hilarious antics and actually made the story gel.

Good, Cheap Licenses: In all mediums, it can be difficult for a producer to ensure a new IP will sell. With independent comics like SCUD, a producer can spot a successful property that hasn’t already been jammed down the consumer’s throat (see: X-men).

Cult Following: Aiming for the cult audience is a gamble. Often, it’s not a big enough market share, and you wind up praying the game achieves popularity while it’s still on shelves, not ten years later as a ROM. That said, SCUD had and has a nice fan base. A few days ago, a new SCUD figure was announced for a June release.

No Such Thing as Two for One:
Two for One is a great marketing term. It is not a game mechanic. Today, games like GTA IV have many different genre elements, but smaller games must not confuse this genre mixing-pot with multiple well-made games in one cohesive package. The former’s inspired, the later, next to impossible. SCUD never seems sure if it’s a side-scroller with light-gun qualities, or both a side-scroller and a light-gun game, equally playable in either schematic. I think it’s the former; it thinks it’s the later

What have you learned from SEGA? Did I butcher SCUD’s mythology? Fill us in below.


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