Gain Ground - 1988
Mega Drive - 1988 - Run'n'Gun/Shump
1988 due to initial Arcade release. Released in 1991 on the Mega Drive.
Gain Ground's an odd little game that's hard to get into - I remember when I first played it I made the mistake of setting the difficulty to Easy, and I was bored out of my mind - I didn't get the game at all, I certainly wasn't impressed by the game's technical capabilities (it's definitely one of the uglier games on the system) and I just dismissed it off-hand as a rather dull shooter. But when you actually play the game properly and get deep into it...damn, it's addicting. Gain Ground's far from your average run n' gun game - you get a wide range of characters to choose from, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses - it's all about choosing the right mix for each level. There's a lot of risk/reward going on - , as well as a lot of planning, as the game can be very cruel if you screw things up. There's a lot of strategic and puzzle elements, and it gets quite nail-biting in the later stages. It's all about picking the best characters for rushing in and picking up new ones, and balancing that with the best characters for clearing out stages - you don't want to have to take every single character to the exit, otherwise time becomes a factor. I can't really think of any game that's similar to Gain Ground.
If you're looking for a wholly different run n' gun experience, then I highly recommend it - I believe the Mega Drive/Genesis version's pretty cheap to boot. Make sure you play it on Normal right off the bat though...hell, you may want to play it on Hard, although you have to be careful there - you get every character from the off, but if you screw up a stage then you'll have to pick whichever characters you want to save before time runs out...when things start to go wrong, it usually causes a domino effect. Such an intriguing lil' game.