Head 2 Head: Desert Strike Return to the Gulf – SNES vs MegaDrive

The first in my new series of face-offs between classic games on rival consoles. The aim of Head2Head is not to say which console I think is the greatest (all consoles have their own particular strengths and weaknesses), but rather to examine the same game released for rival consoles and to say in the fairest possible way which I think was the best at the time. This time round it is the turn for the smash hit Desert Strike – Return to the Gulf by Electronic Arts, released in 1992 on the Nintendo SNES and Sega MegaDrive.


In Desert Strike – Return to the Gulf it is obvious in most places that exactly the same images are used, but not all…  and it all starts to go the MegaDrive’s way right from the opening sequence. Firstly the Electronic Arts logo is animated, SNES version is not. The dungeon torture scene and also the main menu is animated on MD but not on SNES. In game graphics are very similar too, but again right from the off the MD has the advantage with the ship and surrounding sea being animated but not so on the SNES. Small details but ones that clinch a win for the MegaDrive.


At first I thought this was a no-brainer.  Take a listen to the video and right from the opening music you can tell that a lot more effort was put into the musical scores on the MD. The only part where the SNES  just has the edge is with the in-game action sounds. They are far more realistic sounding and could have been sampled from actual gunfire/explosions etc. whereas the MD’s effects sound like they were all generated. Still, with the intro sequence and end music being so much better it is still a win for the MegaDrive…  just.


This was tough. I couldn’t find any real difference in the way the games played on both systems. Control was smooth with both controllers and the sound cues were clear when you needed to know of impending danger. This has got to be a draw.

Review Video

Author: Ant Harper

Father, Husband, website developer, avid gamer since the mid-70s and collector of just about anything video game related. 8-Bit microcomputer and Sinclair specialist with a huge Sinclair related collection of his own. Blogs about retro gaming here but occasionally elsewhere when people ask. Bored of Mario and never much liked Zelda. Performs quirkafleegs for cold hard cash. Often found destroying ice crowns in the Lands of Midnight. Remembers: Lunar Lander. Plays: Steel Battalion, Gears of War

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  1. Great head-to-head. Interesting that there’s no comments about the controller? I would have thought it would play a key part in assessing the two…

  2. I don’t mention controllers in the review because there is nothing making you use the standard controller. People playing these games today may be doing so under emulation on any number of systems. I think reviews of the standard controllers themselves should be a separate issue altogether and I will be sticking to just reviewing the gameplay, graphics and sound in future reviews just as before. Many thanks for your comment.

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