Man, the early 90’s were the time to be a gamer if you enjoy overhead shooters, they were all over the place along with the side scrolling brethren. From the Turbo Grafx-16 with Blazing Lazers and Super Star Soldier to the Sega Genesis with Tiger Heli, Raiden Trad and Task Force Harrier EX, shooter fans had it great. The Super Nintendo also represented well in the shooter department with awesome titles such as Space Megaforce. Arcades though were where you went for that hard to scratch itch in overhead shooters though. Sadly, we never got one overhead shooter that, judging by the videos available, would have fit right in with other cabinets that were beckoning for your coins. Hammer Away by Sega was intended to be released in 1991 but it never materialized. Now, thanks to fans, Hammer Away has been found and preserved and can, when released, be enjoyed using the popular emulation program- M.A.M.E. (who knows what that stands for?).
Hammer Away seems to have interaction with the environment similar to how Raiden worked (you can blow open buildings to reveal powerups). Your firepower flows with the direction your ship is facing. As you move left and right on the screen your ship actually turns that way unlike all of the above mentioned games. This unique addition can add a lot of strategy to how you tackle the levels in Hammer Away.
The prototype board for Hammer Away was discovered in Portugal, of all places. Three people that are best described as shmup fans discovered a collection of damaged arcade PCB’s, one of which was the System-18 prototype board for Hammer Away. Some haggling with the warehouse owner ensued, some money probably exchanged hands and some chips were transplanted into another System 18 board that was working. This group promptly dumped the code for Hammer Away into a ROM file and sent it over to the MAME team for inclusion in the popular emulator.
Hammer Away is currently not available for download, give it a few days and the usual sites will surely have it available. Overhead shooting fans will want to grab this one.