Genre: Multi-Cart Developer: Farsight Tech Publisher: Active Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
I don’t remember when I started getting the collecting bug, but in the summer of 1998, before my junior year in high school, I found a boxed Atari Jaguar in a pawn shop, and after that I started buying everything I found for any system I could. In 2000 I met a super collector who had over ten thousand games and was slowly selling them off. We soon became friends, and I started buying plenty of stuff from him. He showed me almost everything there was, as well as many rare items, and he gave me a general sense of direction with game collecting. I was young in my hobby so I had this “kid in a candy store” feel each time I went there, and I slowly built up a want list of collectibles and games that were famous (or infamous) for whatever reason. I got several consoles that I wanted and also got the NES version of Action 52 as well as Maxi 15 and the Legendary Tengen Tetris. The obscure want list got bigger, and slowly I got most every game on it. Though he had the Genesis version of Action 52, I never got a chance to buy it from him so it’s remained on my legendary want list for about eight years now.
Fast forward to January 2009, and I’m still slowly getting getting my hand on each and everyone of those amazing collectibles I wanted. I finally tracked down a complete copy of Action 52 for the Sega Genesis, and it instantly gave me that great feeling that you get when you find a game you’ve wanted for so long. Though I knew it would be a bad game, I still wanted it and knew it would at least be interesting to play and for sharing my thoughts with you guys in this review. The game started out on the fun side but quickly got old. Nonetheless, I sat through it and started writing this review, and it’s been one of the easier reviews to write since I’m at no loss for words. It’s just that it’s one of the more tedious ones I’ve had the fortune of sitting through.
Well, enough of the historic rambling. Though you might have played the NES version and are ready to write this one off, the first thing you’ll notice when you first play the Genesis version is that it’s a huge improvement over its NES cousin but still has the famous lack of quality Active is known for. At least finding a game to play is as easy as ever. This time around Active sorted each game by color – games highlighted in yellow are for experts, purple are intermediate, green are beginner, blue are two-player games only, and white are special games. Like its NES counterpart, more time was probably spent making the menu nice to look at than making each game fun to play.
The games themselves are a mixed bag in quality with the majority (about 80%) being pretty awful. Though Action 52 probably took time to complete since it has so many small games, it was probably still simple to program since so much of what’s there borrowed material from the other titles. Perhaps only two or three of the games would give you any hint that they are running on a 16-bit platform, and the rest of them would probably run on the Colecovision just fine since most games of that era were more complex then what’s present here.
For instance, Bonkers and Darksyne, though hard, are quite fun, and several games are also entertaining to play. However, as you keep going on through the menu, you’ll realize that Active was hard pressed to come up with new source material, and most of the games are pitiful copies of a previous stuff found on the cart earlier on. There are a few platform games early on (notably Ooze and Haunted Hills) where each stage has a different layout and always present new challenges and kept me playing them for a while. Later games have stages that keep repeating over and over, merely with more enemies on-screen. Fans may also be disappointed this time around when they realize that Cheetahmen, Active’s flagship game, has been reduced to a forgettable platformer without even the intro that the NES version had, but there’s no big loss from that version either.
One of the other things you’ll notice is that Active kept every game set to nine stages before it ended. If it’s a two-player game then there are always nine rounds before the game ends. It then flashes a score before resetting back to the Action 52 title screen. One other nice feature only found in this version is the ability to hit start then C to reset the game to the title screen.
Audibly, the game is not that bad. Each game alternates between two different tracks for each stage, and most games have different music, though some of the later games start recycling songs. Most of them, though tinny and rough, are full of bass and rather catchy for such a generic game, and I found all but a few of them more than tolerable. A few of them, notably the Ooze theme, had me wanting to rip them from the game so I could listen to them on my laptop.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are not good at all. There’s probably only enough original ones for four of five games, and the rest are recycled and overused too much. The explosions are very amusing. There’s also nothing funnier than having your tank blown up in Norman and hearing a screaming sound of a man dying. You have to hear it, but it’s very unfitting. There’s also a few games where you see your player getting fried, and you hear a badly done frying/zapping sound when you die. The other thing worth noting is the voice samples that say “level 1″ or “level complete” during the beginning and end of each round. It’s cool at first when you hear it over and over with each game it gets old and grating.
Either way you look at it, it’s still a great conversation piece and collectable. Active even included a few bonuses this time around. You’ll notice that at the end of the menu after game fifty-two that there’s a music demo that lets you listen to all of the music tracks and sound effects. The next option is a randomizer which if hit will randomly choose a game for you.
I won’t score the game highly at all but it’s not going to get as bad of a score as I bet some of you are hoping for. I’d recommend adding a copy to your collection since it’s just so unique. Don’t expect to get much play time out of it, but it’s one of those games that you can pull out for a friend as they’re almost definitely going to be curious and get some laughs out of it.