Shadow Squadron is a bit of a different game, what with being a 3-D shooter, and having a healthy dose of the absurd thrown in, yet it can require a lot of strategy as well.
Each game begins with your ship's systems warming up, having a mix of the more modern polygon graphics, yet with an archaic Pong sound effect thrown in at one point (which is something you don't hear of very often!). Using the tired old theme of being the lone crusader against an enemy fleet (dunno why the word "squadron" is in the title, as the rest of the boys seem to be on one long, intergalactic coffee break), your ship will then warp from sector to sector, ready to do battle with whatever fleet (usually) of ships is occupying (and intimidating everyone) in the said sector.
Most of the time, you have to take out all of the mother ships in a sector before running out of energy (although you'll get your energy restored at the end of each level), although sometimes you'll also have to locate and destroy all of the smaller spacecraft in that level as well. Holding down the fire button will enable your sights to lock onto a ship, and releasing it will send up to four torpedoes hurtling towards up to four onscreen ships or target sites (for the larger ships); the larger ships have weak spots that must be destroyed before you can weaken and blow up the entire mother ship. (And for the regular firepower that doesn't require the torpedoes [which the torpedoes also sucks down your energy more], just fire away.)
You're also enabled the freedom of flight, not flying on rails. So this is also cool. You can also choose from two different ships (called "Feathers", for some wimpy reason), one of which is quicker to maneuver, whereas the other ship is slower and bulkier, and it's weapon's aiming system is kind of wonky, but your shots can destroy the enemies' oncoming shots, which the Feather 1 can't (making "duck and cover" "mandatory and annoying"). Two players can also play, one being the pilot, the other being the gunner, which is pretty sweet.
Sounds fine so far for the gutsy Spaceman Spiff that you are, but here's where the game gets silly: every single part of a mother ship, no matter how many bits and pieces of it that you'll blow up, will continually fire at you. That's right: I don't know what on earth (or not) these ships are made out of, or what kind of shields they're using, but every single section of the ship is able to return fire, even as you're blowing them up! (So much for the usual Star Trek stuff of "target and disable their weapons' systems".) I guess they ARE afraid of what one lone geek with a Sega control pad can do against several heavily-armed spacecraft after all (not to mention the smaller ones as well).
The game also gets harder as it goes along, since it can be difficult to figure out not only where the weak spots are on a ship, how many "super shots" you should use, or if you should conserve more of your energy and use the weaker shots instead, AND to try not to get pummeled as well (here's a hint, though: it's usually best to ignore the smaller fighters and just go for the mother ships most of the time).
At least you're given a variety with the six missions, though: you get the standard asteroid field shoot-out (gettin' kind of old in sci-fi games, eh?), an entire fleet of ships, a small fleet with a nearly, totally indestructible ship, and two others that are very hard to destroy, and a very annoying second sector with a jumpgate that takes forever to destroy, bit by bit, kind of like how the game Flashback started out being really cool, then immediately upon the second level, you have to waste time running around doing a bunch of small jobs.
And even when you've finished playing a game, you'll still be able to enjoy it in a different way (even without playing!), as a Trace option is unlocked then, which allows you to watch that same game from a third-party viewpoint, which is pretty neat. Unfortunately, with the camera angle changing every few seconds, you'll miss out on a bunch of cool explosions a lot, but oh well, it's still pretty cool (aside from watching a replay of the boring second sector; go get a snack, or pick up some green-skinned space babe!).
Due to Sega probably rushing this game out -- since they reportedly rushed out Doom, which they made it so there was no way to save a game, which was idiotic, and a lot of people (myself included) fried their 32Xs by having long Doom games on pause (also due to poor design of the 32X unit, with only two small cooling vents) -- they also made two severe blunders: one, they neglected to mention in the instructions that you have an afterburner button. This is very crucial in beating the last wave, and therefore, the game, as you need that extra speed as you race around to destroy a bunch of platforms (which are on a timer) in order to access and destroy the main target. What you have to do is press the thrust button twice: the first time, you quickly tap it, and then the second time, hold it down, which will give you a faster thrust speed.
And Sega's second blunder included a non-functioning shield for your first ship: you hold down the shield button, watch your shield indicator -- the red bar on your instrument panel indicates your firepower, the blue bar is for shields -- and watch it go down the longer you use your "shield", and even MORE when you start getting pummeled by ships' firepower. So forget you even have that "option" (or not), it doesn't work in the slightest.
This game barely earns a 7 from myself, since some people might beat it and then never play it again, although I think it's kind of fun to whip it out occasionally over the years, although I would suggest changing it to the easy setting, since nothing's worse than using all of your continuances, but you still end up losing all of your lives on the last level without beating it (grrrr...in space, can no one hear you gnashing your teeth?).
Shadow Squadron is rounded out by having an Object Viewer where you can look at all enemy ships (as well as your friendly launch and refueling ships) from any angle, being able to flip the flight controls, a sound and (cool) music test, and more. So the game has quite a few things to keep you busy as you strive to save the galaxy (as usual).
So may the Force be with you, and enjoy the reruns (which by that I mean of watching your game with the Trace option after you've played it). This one's rated G, due to no adult themes, nudity or harsh language (unless that comes from yourself). 7/10