There just aren't enough firefighter games. People often talk about how firefighters and rescue personnel are the "real heroes" of our world, but these professions do not get that same level of recognition in gaming. Of the few firefighting games that exist, a good percentage of them have proven quite good, most notably The Ignition Factor (SNES) and Burning Rangers (Saturn). In Japan, however, a few such 8-bit titles eluded our shores, including Megumi Rescue for the Sega Mark III system.
The firefighters in Megumi Rescue take an unorthodox and wacky approach to saving lives. A tandem of rescue workers moves back and forth with a trampoline to propel another rescuer towards the windows of towering infernos. Your human projectile then grabs victims and escorts them to be caught by the land-based team. If you take too much time, however, people will voluntarily jump out of windows, making your job a frenzied juggling act. If the flying firefighter splats on the sidewalk, you lose a life. If a civilian dies, the game keeps going and tally is kept of victim deaths. Strangely enough, you can lose more civilians than you save and still pass the level, so self-preservation easily becomes your highest priority.
The devil-may-care attitude about civilian deaths gives this game a morbid, dark sense-of-humor. When you add the jaunty music and pastel colors to the mix, the whole thing just seems inappropriately sick and twisted. The game sends a strange message about the roles of firefighters which is then exacerbated when you're bouncing hero searches empty windows that sometimes yield rewards like money or jewelry. So, while school children leave their Bunsen burning classroom the hard way, you may be racking points by catching falling safes or necklaces from other windows.
The tabulation of the point system also seems awkwardly comic. In one level, saving a cute little schoolgirl brings you 300 points, while a little kitten gives 500. In another, seemingly misogynistic stage, old grey-haired ladies will give you a mere 100 points while young blond-haired vixens will grant 1000. If you're a twenty-something year old male reading this review, you are worth 300 points according this system (but I esteem you much higher than that for having such good taste in reading material).
Megumi is difficult at points, but unlimited continues make it feasibly beatable. One major difficulty is that the screen often scrolls vertically, leaving you to guess where your trampoline may be waiting below. A positioning map on the side of the screen does help, but looking at may be detrimental during fast-paced moments. (It's a game like this that makes you wish that Sega placed the "pause" button on the controller itself rather than on the console.) When you beat all thirty levels, regardless of how many people you save, the programmers congratulate you by writing "You are perfect rescuer" and (grammar and truth aside) it is truly gratifying to receive this message for your efforts.
Despite its questionable treatment of traumatic death scenes, Megumi Rescue is a fine game. It is easy to learn, fast, and fun. It seems that it even inspired the equally fun Flying Hero for the Famicom in 1989. Like Woody Pop for the same system, Megumi Rescue, successfully converts the old paddle game format into something new and original.