Reviewers always write about this as a ‘cult classic,’ as though it was unpopular due to simply not being as good as e.g. Ninja Gaiden etc. I don’t agree with this, I think it’s really good, and the way it switches between game types is awesome.
If you did a game today that tried to completely switch between ‘genres’ like this does (top-down shooter on the driving levels, first-person shooter, sidescroller) it would seem chintzy and bad because today, each individual genre takes so much time and effort to get right. I theorize that the reason a lot of these old games get away with genre-switching is because each individual genre requires many fewer things to be perfect in order to ‘feel right’
The individual stages in this level are SO MUCH harder than the bosses. Both stages of final boss requires some technique, but the others are kinda pushovers. Despite this, the game ‘feels long’ & rewarding, because you are forced to play through at least the back half of a stage before getting to the boss room every time the boss beats you.