When you begin the game, you will have the opportunity to visit any one of three planet stages; Earth, Cybertron, and Jail. You may visit anyone you like in any order any number of times. You may not visit the fourth and final stage, known simply as Last, until you rescue all four Autobots. On this screen, you may also choose to Save your game, or Retry from the file select screen. After completing a stage's bonus stage, you will be returned to this screen to pick your next stage.
Each stage begins with a vehicle mode. In vehicle mode, the Autobots must travel from the left side of the stage to the right side. How that occurs depends on the type of vehicle each character is. Ground vehicles may choose what speed they travel at. However, the ground vehicles have a tough time coming to a stop. If it is necessary to stop moving forward, the best strategy is to tap, not hold, left on the control pad. Air vehicles move forward at a constant speed, and cannot stop. They can only change their relative position on the screen. When switching characters, like-type vehicles swap on the spot. Switching opposite type vehicles (i.e. air to ground, or ground to air) changes the scenery, but you will not lose your progress through the stage. Vehicle mode stages are the best time to collect items such as power increases, although it's more difficult to get Highbrow and Brainstorm up to top power, since the enemies they destroy seem less likely to provide items then on the ground.
While many players are inclined to try to plow through Vehicle mode at top speed, it is a little more strategic to move through it somewhat slowly and thoroughly. Vehicle mode is your best opportunity to power up your characters since enemies drop items here much more frequently then in Robot mode. You should only race to the end of the stage when all your characters have reached their maximum strength.
Vehicle mode boss
At the end of each vehicle mode is a boss that must be defeated in order to access the Robot mode portion of the stage. After beating the boss, whichever Autobot fired the final shot will have their entire energy meter refilled. However, if you switch from a ground to air vehicle or vice versa, the scene will change and the battle will start all over again. While this seems like a bad thing, it can actually be used to your benefit. By starting the battle over, you can beat the boss with another Autobot and get the energy reward every time you beat the boss. Therefore, you can swap characters five times and beat the boss five times to restore every characters energy meter if need be.
In robot mode, you must advance through a linear series of rooms, destroying enemies and collecting Decepticon Insignias which serve as keys to the doors in each room. There is no need to map these stages because they are entirely linear; that is, you never have a choice of rooms to advance to. You must complete each and every room until you reach the boss. In the rare event that a room has two openings to the next room, one will be locked and one will be immediately available. However, it is usually mandatory or in your best interests to unlock the locked door instead of proceeding immediately through the open passage. Although gravity is present in robot mode, you have complete freedom to float and maneuver throughout any portion of the room.
You can shoot most of the enemies, but some are invulnerable to your bullets, and must be punched at close range to be destroyed. The best strategy to employ in Robot mode is to locate a single place for you to stand where you can easily attack every enemy that appears in the room, without giving them an opportunity to attack you from behind. Once you find such a location, remain in place until the insignia appears. Some enemies, especially the black orbs, kill themselves when they smash into walls.
Robot mode boss
When you reach the boss of the Robot mode portion of the stage, the bullets fired from your weapon will change. Even if you are at full power, and your chosen character fires a spread of bullets, he will revert to firing one single bullet at a time. In addition to this change, your bullets also gain the ability to ricochet off the walls. In this mode, the direction that you fire in is influenced by the direction that your character is moving. If an Autobot is dropping, the bullets will be angled downward. If the Autobot is rising, the bullets will angle up. The only target in the room is the boss which remains on the right side of the room. You are permitted to move around the left side of the room, but may only advance so far to the right. The boss will fire at you, and his bullets have the same ability to ricochet as yours so you must be careful of shots that fly toward you from behind. The boss's energy meter is shown in the middle of the screen above the room. Unlike in vehicle mode, you do not receive all your energy back for defeating the boss.
If you defeat the boss of Robot mode, you will be sent to a bonus stage where objects will fly through the screen. Everyone that you shoot contains an item that will fall to the screen below. You will always be in control of Chromedome who remains a little higher than the rest of your Autobot squad. Any other Autobots that you've rescued remain behind, and slightly follow Chromedome to the left or right. In this way, you can try to direct other Autobots to collect the items that drop to the bottom of the screen besides Chromedome. Because it is easier to designate Chromedome as the items catcher than the other Autobots, you should try to let Chromedome take the most damage, compared to the other characters, since he can most easily collect the energon capsules that fall.
Earth is the easiest stage in the whole game. For this reason, you might think that Earth should be the first stage that you visit. However, Earth does not contain any captured Autobots. While Earth can be useful to power up Chromedome, just about any stage is just as useful, and you can also increase the size of your team on other stages. Because of Earth's easiness, it should be the last stage you visit before you enter the final battle. As a much easier stage, you will be able to regain energy, and strengthen any Autobots who have not reach maximum strength yet.
Earth's vehicle mode contains only one unique feature: land mines. In the second half of the stage you will see small yellow rectangles embedded in the ground (shown left). When you start getting close to them, they flash shortly before exploding. They are timed to explode so that you will always get struck by them if you are moving at maximum speed without any speed power ups. If you have collected three or four speed power ups, you can safely race over them without getting hurt. However, it is far better to slow down and let them explode before you pass them. If you are moving at top speed and see one, it is better to tap left than to hold it down, as you will come to a stop much faster.
The boss at the end of Earth is a shrunken Dinosaurer, better known in North America as Trypticon, the Decepticon city. He walks back and forth on an elevated platform which ground vehicles clearly can't drive on. He lobs huge bombs in the air which you must either dodge or shoot out of the air. The bombs are lobbed so that they hit you in your current location. Therefore, you are less likely to get hit if you keep moving. Since Dinosaurer moves back and forth, you should time your movement to mirror his. When he backs away, you back away. When he walks forward, drive forward again and shoot him constantly with your ground-to-air gun. Air vehicles should employ a similar strategy, but will have a much easier time against him since they can fire forward at him.
Earth's Robot mode also contains a unique feature compared to the other Robot modes: D spheres. In most rooms, you must destroy enough enemies until a Decepticon Insignia appears for you to collect and open the locked door. However on Earth, certain rooms contain three or four D spheres. Green spheres can be shot, while brown spheres must be punched. In rooms that contain these spheres, the insignia will always appear from the last sphere that you destroy. Rooms which don't contain spheres are not terribly difficult. Collect energon capsules to keep your strength up.
The boss in the final Earth room is the Decepticon six-changer Six Shot. Unfortunately, despite having five other modes, he will remain in robot mode throughout the fight. He is the least aggressive out of all the Decepticon Robot mode bosses. It is possible to fire upon him from one particular location and avoid taking any damage. If you push up into the left edge of the left block (shown right) and fire from this position, you should be able to hit him, while at the same time shoot down any bullets that have the potential to hit you. The two blocks in the room will shield you from any other attack.
As long as you are familiar with the mechanics of the game, Cybertron should be the first planet that you visit, not Earth. On Cybertron, you will have the opportunity to rescue two Autobots; Rodimus Prime in Vehicle mode, and Highbrow in Robot mode. Be sure to keep your eye open in Vehicle mode when the helicopter flies overhead with Rodimus Prime. Make sure that you keep up with it and don't allow it to leave the screen before you shoot it down. Then make sure you continue driving forward in an effort to collect Rodimus. Gathering Highbrow is far easier, since you merely need to float over to him in Robot mode to collect him.
Cybertron's Vehicle mode contains few surprises. The enemies here are a little more aggressive than on Earth, and you may even encounter a few cassette tape enemies which fly along the left side of the screen, and ram into you from behind. You have no defense against this other than to travel at top speed. The boss of Cybertron's Vehicle mode is none other than Galvatron himself. Galvatron floats above the ground, traveling up to the middle of the screen, than down to one corner, back up to the middle and down to the opposite corner. The best strategy is to keep him in your ground-to-air gun's range and move back and forth with him until he is defeated.
Cybertron's Robot mode is a little more conventional than Earth's; there are no D spheres. The only way to earn the Decepticon Insignia in each room is to destroy enough robots until one drops. Be sure to collect Highbrow when you find him along the way. Once you collect him, he will be immediately available for use, although his firepower will be at the weakest level unless you manage to find any power items along the way. The boss of Cybertron's final room is the combined form of the Combaticon team, Bruticus. He flies up and down the left side of the room. The best strategy to employ against him, is to stand on top of the lower of the two platforms, and squat down while you fire at him. You may not be able to shoot all of the bullets that he fires at you, especially if he fires them from below, but you should have enough characters to absorb any bullets that do get through. The rest of your shots, if well times, should hit Bruticus and eventually destroy him.
Jail is the most difficult of the first three stages. If you have collected Highbrow from Cybertron, you may choose to use Jail as an opportunity to power him up, although powering up air vehicles can be quite difficult. Jail's biggest threat is the aggressive nature of the enemies in vehicle mode. Continue to fire as rapidly as possible to as to destroy most enemies before the have a chance to attack you.
Be sure to capture Hardhead early on in vehicle mode. It is important to power him up by collecting P icons whenever you see them, but don't rely on Hardhead's power in vehicle mode as his ground weapon is difficult to use. When you reach the end of Vehicle mode, you face the combine form of the Stunticons, Menasor. He floats back and forth like Galavtron did, only at a much higher altitude. As a result, you are pretty much forced to remain in the lower left corner of the screen if you wish to have any success hitting him. Fire continuously so that you can nullify his bullets and hit him in between.
Very little distinguishes Cybertron's Robot mode from Jail's Robot mode besides the general background appearance and arrangement of the rooms. The strategies that you should employ remain the same. When you reach the very end of Jail's robot mode, you must face Abominus, the combined form of the Terrocons. Abominus is the most difficult Robot mode boss of all. He is extremely fast and fires extremely aggressively. It is much more difficult to avoid getting hit with his bullets, and as a result, you should try as hard as possible to reach him with as much energy allotted to every character as possible. When your current character reaches one remaining hit point, switch to another available Autobot and continue fighting. The best strategy to use against Abominus, is to stand on the lower platform, and fly up a little as Abominus floats to the top of the room. Then drop down with him, stopping on the platform when he continues to sink down. By doing this, you should be able to nullify some, but not all, of the bullets that he fires at you, while getting a few shots in against him.
Once you have collected all four Autobots and assembled the entire team, the final stage will be available for you to select. Known only as "Last" it probably takes place on planet Master where the Headmasters originated from. Before the stage begins, you will see the five Autobots on your team jump into what is supposed to be Fortress Maximus (but the graphics used is actually of Metroplex in battle station mode). After this cinematic sequence is finished, the battle begins.
You will see Fortress Maximus on the left side of the screen, facing off against Scorponok (also known in Japan as Mega Zarak) on the right. The amount of energy, power, and speed Fortress Maximus has at the start of the fight is determined by the average amounts of the five main characters when the stage is selected. Therefore, if your team is fairly beaten up and low on energy, Fortress Maximus will not possess a lot of energy for the fight, and you may be destroyed fairly easily. In that case, it is highly recommended that you visit Earth first to refuel each of the Autobots.
Once the fight gets going, Scorponok will fire straight across the screen at Fortress Maximus, as well as lobbing bullets into the air that fall back down to the ground. The screen continuously scrolls to the right. As a result, Fortress Maximus slowly moves back to the left if he holds still. The best place to stand is somewhere right around the middle of the screen. This allows him to dodge the bullets that fly towards him in the air, and shoot most of the other bullets that Scorponok fires. After Scorponok fires a round of bullets, he transforms into scorpion mode. He will remain in this configuration until Fortress Maximum kneels down. As soon as this happens, he stands back up again in robot mode. Therefore, if you anticipate when he will transform, you can kneel down, and he won't even bother.
Your goal is to fire at Scorponok enough times to destroy him, but your focus should always be on avoiding and dodging his bullets. As long as you continue to fire to the right, and kneel down every now and then, you will be able to kill him. The trick is to survive his bullets long enough to defeat him. Keep Fortress around the middle of the screen, and position him to stand in the gap between the falling bullets.