We all remember Duck Hunt. The dog, the tree, the Zapper. It had everything. Well, almost. For all it’s charm, it lacked diversity. If you wanted a change of scenery, you had two options. You could try your hand at Clay Shooting, or you could go somewhere else entirely. Why settle for mere ducks, when you could go on a safari?
Safari Hunt was Sega’s answer to Duck Hunt. Instead of shooting ducks in a field, the player found themselves on a safari, hunting all sorts of wild animals. There was a jungle level, a forest level, even a scenic lake level complete with its very own tree! Sure, you could shoot ducks, but there was so much more! Rabbits, armadillos, bears, spiders, and fish are just the beginning of the diverse lineup of targets available for your shooting pleasure. Not only that, but everything was amazingly colorful. Bright blues and green greens gave the iconic Duck Hunt field a run for its money, and even the music (a category where the NES usually beats any Master System outing) was catchy and added to Safari Hunt’s considerable charm.
Duck Hunt wasn’t without its humor, but Safari Hunt took things to the next level. Whenever you shoot the animals, they do something silly. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see a duck flying through the sky. On the left side of the screen, you can see a cooked duck with a bandage on it flying away. That’s what happens to a duck when you hit it, and even though the animation is very simple, it’s funny as heck. Every animal has its own hit animation, and they’re all goofy. On top of that, there are these silly, borderline offensive native people running around on all the menus. Sure, they might be a little racist, but they really add to the safari aspect of the whole thing!
Then there was the gun peripheral itself. The Zapper is a legend, and even though Sega’s Light Phaser was a pretty great piece of hardware in its own right, it just didn’t live up to the competition. The trigger had a softer click, and it didn’t have the same heft as the Zapper. Taken on its own though, it was more than ample to get the job done. It looked pretty cool too. It’s solid black design matched the Master System console perfectly, and its slightly elongated back gave it an almost sic-fi/futuristic feel. Even the name “Light Phaser” invoked references to Star Trek’s signature weaponry.
It’s also worth pointing out that this game never saw its own release. It was always bundled with another title (most notably Hang-On), or built right into the console itself. Unlike the NES, certain models of the Master System actually had a few built in games that could be accessed by powering on the console without inserting a cartridge. For this reason, Safari Hunt was one of those games that became ubiquitous with the Master System. Everyone who had one played it at least once, and everyone who played it know it was better than Duck Hunt. And considering how awesome Duck Hunt was, that’s nothing to quack at.
Even though Duck Hunt has seen a resurgence lately, thanks to the Wii U Virtual Console and the new Smash Bros. title, the likelihood of seeing Safari Hunt ported to anything in the near future is slim to none. In addition to light gun games being notoriously unplayable on modern televisions, Sega doesn’t seem all that interested in focusing much attention on their Master System lineup these days. There were several great releases available for download on the Wii Shop Channel a few years back, but Safari Hunt was never among them. Still, if you have yourself a good old fashioned CRT and access to Sega’s little console that couldn’t (at least in the US), Safari Hunt is a great way to kill some time, as well as some cartoon animals.