Psycho Fox was released in 1989 for the Sega Master System. It was developed by Vic Tokai and Published by Sega.
My first memory of Psycho Fox was playing it over at a friend’s house. Like many of us back in the day I didn’t own a lot of games and had to wait for special occasions such as a birthday or Christmas to get a new one. So most new gaming experiences were made at friends’ houses, waiting for a go as they smugly hogged the controller. With Psycho Fox, I remember being really wowed by the fact you could change characters, each with different abilities.
Story-wise, an evil fox called Madfox Daimyojin has populated the land wth strange creatures and it’s up to you playing as Psycho Fox to sort it out. You’ll play through various stages, defeating creatures and bosses as you go to eventually reach and defeat Madfox Daimyojin.
With various pickups along the way you’ll gain the ability to switch between different animal characters whose abilities can help your progress. For example the Monkey can jump higher and the Hippo can break some blocks. I always tend to stick to the Tiger as he’s a bit of an all rounder. You can also pick up a companion character called Bird Fly which can be used as a projectile weapon against enemies as well as a one hit shield (like a Mario mushroom) while perched.
The game consists of seven main stages divided into three rounds. A boss fight occurs at the end of a stage. The stages are quite long and I’ve always found it quite unforgiving that after losing a life you have to start from the beginning of the round. It’s especially frustrating when you die after reaching an end of stage boss. Bosses aren’t too difficult however, only ever requiring you to jump on things a few times. There are also bonus maze games in-between stages where you can bet in-game money for free lives or extra items.
The music for Psycho Fox is really charming and sticks with you. It’s quite a skill to have something so repetitive not get tiring. The composer, Hiroto Kanno went on to create the music for the MegaDrive game Decap Attack (called Magical Hat Flying Turbo Adventure in Japan), a game regarded as a spiritual successor to Psycho Fox as it shares similar themes and mechanics.
Other notable games released in June of 1989 were Bullfrog’s Populous and Lucasfilm Game’s Pipe Dream. It’s interesting to note the types of games they were compared to Psycho Fox. I wasn’t the kind of kid who was compelled by puzzle or strategy games at the time, not counting Tetris a little later of course!
Reviews at time of release were favourable. Mean Machines gave the game a 90% applauding its graphics and challenging gameplay. Quite recently Retro Gamer ranked it fourth in its top 25 Master System games of all time. It’s fair to say the game has held up over the years, especially compared to others in the same genre. Whilst controls are a bit stiff in regards to jumping and can be tricky for new players, I still adore the game and recommend picking it up if you get the chance. Apparently it’s available to purchase on the Wii Virtual Console but nothing beats getting your own copy. It currently goes for around £10 on eBay and it’s well worth it. It’s always a ‘go to’ whenever I feel like revisiting the Master System.