Games often had different licenses between territories, based on whatever the publisher could get ahold of. This particular game is known as Rambo: First Blood Part II in North America, while it loses the license in other territories, including its native Japan.
This SMS Rambo is more or less a clone of Commando and/or Ikari Warriors – move through the jungles, shoot bad guys, and rescue hostages by blowing up their prison tents. Player One plays as Rambo, but Player Two takes on the role of “Zane”, a character made up specifically for this game, who looks exactly like Rambo but wears a yellow headband. Your primary weapon is a tiny little pea shooter with barely any strength or distance, but rescued POWs will award you with items that will let your bullets tear through multiple bad guys or extend its range. Your secondary weapons are explosive arrows, which are actually quite hard to use – it only damages bad guys when it explodes, after traveling a short distance. You can also find power-ups that make its explosion much bigger, but it’s pretty rare. Compared to other overhead shooters, your characters move really slowly. Furthermore, you can’t turn around to attack something – instead, you’ll still face and shoot forwards while walking backwards. Due to the shortcomings of your weapons, it winds up becoming a very methodical shooter – which makes for a challenging game, although not a particularly great one. Still, the visuals are decent for an early Master System game, and the music by Katsuhiro “Funky K.H” Hayashi is sparse but catchy.
The game is six stages long – the first four stages take place in the jungle, but hilariously enough, the fifth stage takes place in a city. Perhaps this was unintentional, but it makes it seem like this level is based on the original First Blood movie, as you tear through the city streets, killing cops and destroying their cars.
In Japan, this game is called Ashura (meaning “The God of War”.) The player characters look slightly different – the first player has a pony tail, and the second characters is bald. The title screen is obviously different, and instead of showing pictures of Rambo in the score screen between levels, it shows pictures of various Asian locations. The game was originally planned as a Rambo game, but it seems they were unable to obtain the license outside of North America, so for the Japanese version, they just changed some graphics. However, the similarities are pretty obvious. The American version does have a pretty cool rendition of the Rambo music on the title screen, as well as a decent rendering of Sylvester Stallone.
Sega didn’t have the license for Europe either, so the game went through another revision and was released under the name Secret Command. What’s amusing is that the actual title screen calls the game Secret Commando – maybe they thought it was too much like the Capcom title and changed the title at the last minute, but only for the game cover. It uses an alternate version of the title screen from Ashura, and all of the cinema photos are also from Ashura, but the in-game graphics are identical to Rambo.