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Reader Roundtable Vol. 59

Halloween is this sunday, so check out some of the scariest games on the Genesis and set the mood! Hey, you need something to do until it’s candy time anyway, right?

 

Zombies Ate My Neighbors By Ken Horowitz

Sometimes, I imagine an isometric sequel to Zombies Ate My Neighbors for Xbox Live Arcade or the Playstation Network. It would have online co-op play, tons of cool levels, and awesome boss battles. Then I remember that everyone involved with this game let the franchise rot after Ghoul Patrol almost ran it into the ground. That’s not fair. I want more zombies…

ZAMN (best. acronym. ever.) was such a cool tribute to the horror/sci-fi movies of old in that it seamlessly blended action and humor. Saving all those trippy people was funny, yet it also presented players with a sense of urgency and a desperate need to make sure everyone got out alive. The gameplay was as brilliant as the presentation, and the characters were neat. Zeke for life, yo!

I guess the closest we’ll get is Dead Rising, but that game lacks the charm and humor of ZAMN. Maybe someday, LucasArts will drag this series out of the closet and give us a sequel or update. Given the popularity of zombies right now, this might be the best possible time for it.

Dark Castle By Sebastian Sponsel

Dear EA,

The rain is banging heavily against my window, and in the distance, I can hear thunder rolling. But hardly do I notice these noises, as my eyes and mind are transfixed on the screen in utter disbelief. What I witnessed in the past few minutes defies all reason. My mind numbed, I find myself back, again, in this blasted hallway. The shrieks of the synthesized organ sounds of “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” haunt my ears, again and again. I try to gather the rest of my strengths, force myself into moving, once more. I choose the right hallway. This time, I will make it! “It’s just a game,” I keep mumbling to myself. “just a couple of stairs! I can do this!”

I find myself at the top of a flight of stairs. Carefully, I take my first step. I I just move careful enough, maybe I can do it, maybe this time, maybe once… I take another step… and find myself slipping, tumbling, falling uncontrollably down the stairs, into yet another death.

The controller slips from my clenched grasp.

Suddenly a cry fills the night, echoing through the street, a tormented shriek of terror, frustration, and pain, deep, hurting, terrifying pain! Its noise mixes with the distant thunder into a cacophony of horror and agony. It takes a few minutes before I realize, where this frightful sound originates. I take a deep breath, and let out another one, crying out all the pain I suffered through the last for minutes in front of my console.

What an awful, HORRIBLE game!

Castlevania Bloodlines By Christian Matozzo

I’ll admit, I haven’t really played very many scary games for the Genesis, most of my library consists of happy, cheery Disney games and other assorted platformers. But since I’m a platformer fan, one of the games I have played that’s moderately scary for the Genesis is Castlevania Bloodlines. A fine, fine entry in the series if I do say so myself. The graphics are great, and there are two playable characters compared to one, John Morris and Eric Lecarde. But what, no Belmont? It seems that for some reason, the Belmont clan cannot touch the Vampire Killer until the year 1999 (when Dracula was next scheduled to resurrect), and so the Morris family has been entrusted with fighting Dracula alongside the Lecarde family until then. But what is more interesting about John Morris is that, as some of you may have noticed, the character comes from the original novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, which intertwines both the original Dracula and the Castlevania storylines together, which is neat and unique compared to most other Castlevania storylines.

But that’s not all! The gameplay is also changed up. Our second character, Eric Lecarde, has a spear compared to the whip, and it changes up the gameplay a bit. Personally, I prefer using Lecarde, the Spear just has better range and can go in more directions. The level design is especially good for a Castlevania game as well. Bloodlines doesn’t put you in tight spots on staircases such as three. There are times when the game gets rather tough, the boss fights are especially a pain at times. And of course the fact that Castlevania is hard in general plays a part as well.

The graphics are also excellent for the Genesis. There are lots of different colors, and very chilling levels filled with assorted enemies, blood dripping everywhere, and many different hazards, such as swinging axes, rising water, and skewed platforms. The sound and music are impressive too. Konami really had some good developers on Bloodlines, as this game really shows how well they manipulated the Genesis hardware.

So if you’re looking for a spooky Halloween game to play, this is a great one. Great atmosphere, great gameplay, great story, it’s definitely an apex in the Castlevania series of games, unfortunately it is rather underrated. If you’ve never played it, you’re missing out!

Corpse Killer By Steven Campbell

Growing up there were two things that I fell deeply in love with and have remained close to my heart as a grown man: the Sega Genesis, and zombies. I got to watch a lot of really gory zombie movies as a very young kid (watching some of them now makes me wonder what the hell was wrong with my parents!). Some of our favorite one’s were the Return Of The Living Dead trilogy. We just couldn’t get enough of those three movies growing up (well not so much the third one, but we still liked it), and who could? Who didn’t love the skeleton coming out of its grave accompanied by some heavy metal tunes asking “DO YOU WANT TO PARRRRTAAAAY!!!” or the talking severed zombie head barking out “HEY!! Get this damn screwdriver… out of my head!”? Me and my brothers loved it to death, as well as some of the more serious classics such as the Romero trilogy (Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead), and Zombi 2 (look it up if you’ve never heard of it. It’s really good).

If you don’t know by now I have quite a retro game system collection, just about everything, yet I could really do without everything but my Genesis. It gets more of my time than any other console I have. I don’t really know why I prefer the Genesis over everything else by such a wide margin, even with inferior graphics and sound compared to others I’d just rather be playing a Genesis. So when I read about this Corpse Killer on Sega-16 I just had to have it, especially when I found out that it was Menacer-compatible. Yeah, there are plenty of zombie shooters out there with better light guns, I liked House of the Dead in the arcade and on the Dreamcast, but there is just one problem: Sega never ported either to the Genesis, And I want zombies on my blast processor dammit! Even after all of the bad reviews, and game magazine articles like “Worst Halloween Games Ever” that bashed the game mercilessly, I just still had to have it.

So after all of these years, I got to say that its much better than I thought it would be. I really liked the game… for about fifteen minutes. After all that they invested into the cut scenes, why water it down with so much of the same cheap gameplay? I think Corpse Killer had a lot of potential, I really, really liked the intro and the first cut scene (“oh, I like your piece mon!,” and “I not so dumb brah”), and I feel that with a better plot, and less of that generic gameplay spread out between a more linear series of cut scenes, the charismatic cast and fact that your shooting down zombies with your Menacer on your Sega Genesis could’ve made this a Halloween classic.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge By Iced Snowman

I didn’t want to believe that PalSoft had created a horrifying port of Double Dragon II: The Revenge back in 1991 for the Mega Drive. All the research I did, (i.e. reading many reviews, viewing gameplay videos, etc.), led to the game being a train wreck with no survivors. Against my better judgment, I turned a blind eye to it all and waited for my newly purchased used game to cross the ocean from Jolly Old London.

Once received, I still had a glimmer of hope for this game to be somewhat descent as I skimmed through the Japanese manual and then inserted the cart. It’s hard to describe the rage I felt while attempting to play through mission one for the first time. I couldn’t hit any of the enemies. I punched and kicked and elbowed to no avail. To this day I still can’t throw any of those 8-bit looking sprites. I can only describe the slowdown in the game with one word: unbearable. I did finish the game, once I worked through its flaws, and I was very displeased with the ending. Why did they change it from the arcade? The Mega Drive was fully capable of retaining the original ending as well as all the other aspects from the arcade. The only satisfactory feature of this game was the music. The feeling from playing this game is equivalent to being a cow going through a butchery.

Doom By The Coop

Back in the day, when the 32X was fast being readied to be taken out behind the woodshed and have a bullet put into its head by store chains all over the country, I was walking through a K-Mart that happened to also be loading up its rifle. In the electronics area, on a shelf nearly out of arm’s reach (which seemed odd, considering how badly they wanted the things gone) was a selection of 32Xs. For $29.99, I was given the choice of having a core 32X with no game, or a 32X with a copy of Doom packed in. It didn’t take me long to figure out which one to get… though fate threw a curve ball or two my way right afterward. I got my 32X home and hooked it up my beloved model 1 HDG Genesis, only to find out the cart was a dud and wouldn’t load. That day, I took the system back and got another 32X with Doom… only this time, it was missing the cable to hook the add-on up to an older Genesis unit. And so, for the third time, I went to that damned K-Mart. Only this time, I brought my Genesis with me. Yes, I walked in, got the lady at the counter to allow me to hook up my system to one of the TVs on the floor in the electronics section, and I then proceed to gut the two 32X unit packages I’d tried to use until I Frankensteined a working system out of them.

With that done, I went home with my 32X. Now keep in mind, my first FPS game was Zero Tolerance… a fun little game with God-awful “music” that even the developers must have hated with a passion, since you can turn it off. With that minimal experience under my belt, I fired up my Genesis/32X combo and delved into my first taste of the world of Doom. The zombified soldiers, the pinky demons, the lost souls, mowing down hordes of imps with a chain gun spinning away at the bottom of the screen, having a dozen or more demons after me at once, coming up against a Baron of Hell for the first time… it was thrilling. Sure, the music was less than good as it plunked along, and the BFG 9000 was only usable through a cheat (one that made it so you couldn’t see the end if used), but it was an intense introduction to a game I’d only read about up to that point.

I played the hell out of that game (in a manner of speaking), and got to where I could beat it in one sitting on the hardest setting without dying. As time went by, I picked up the bigger and more atmospheric Saturn version in all its choppy and busted-audio glory, the heavily pixelated SNES version from a different K-Mart that was going out of business (got it with my boxed SNES there), the far smoother and better PS1 version (of which the Saturn’s version was a rough port), and finally the real deal… the PC version of Ultimate Doom (via Doom Collector’s Edition). But despite having the full and uncut version of the classic FPS, there are still occasions when I’ll break out the 32X version. The music is poorly translated, the enemies only face forward, levels are missing, it’s in a window, and everything’s brightly lit with 300 watt bulbs in seemingly every corner, but for all its faults, it still plays like Doom for the most part. We all know it could have been better. A nice 32Mb cart instead of a 24Mb one would have likely allowed it to have the missing levels from regular Doom, better music, and maybe the Cyberdemon would have even made an appearance as well. Who knows. But at the time, it was the only version of the PC classic that I owned. And in the end, it gave me many hours filled with blasting away at the demons from hell that littered the UAC base on Mars.

Skeleton Krew By Greg Jurkiewcz

Skeleton Krew is one of those games that I’ve enjoyed on emulator long before I found a mint copy of it on eBay and promptly purchased it (It’s one of those late releases that comes in a cardboard box, so finding a mint one is a royal pain). It’s a decent game and quite a bit of fun, especially with two players. The gameplay is polished and the graphics are top notch 16-bit bliss, but the best thing about it is the creepy hellish atmosphere. It just screams ’90s sci-fi/horror cheese. You get to play as a crew (krew) of undead mutant army types with massive weapons, going around blasting hordes upon hordes of other undead mutant army types. It never gets old. Killing stuff in this game is just beyond satisfying, and the gameplay is pretty much nonstop action.

It’s too bad that Skeleton Krew is often overlooked on those “top game” lists, because it really is a hidden gem.

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts By Frank Ramirez

To be honest, I’m a bit of a virgin to the Makaimura series. But after hearing numerous rants and raves, I had to check out the lone Genesis installment, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. I mean come on, it’s the early Genesis killer app! So having never played the original arcade version, or any of the other games, I didn’t have anything to really compare it to. Years later, I finally downloaded this title on the Wii’s Virtual Console service. So how did I like it?

Holy hell, is this game hard.

It knocked me down, broke me, spit on me, and kicked me while I was down. I was barely human. Yet I enjoyed every moment of it. I think it’s a safe assumption to make that fans of this series are masochistic. But man, did I ever feel like a million bucks every time I managed to pass through one of the game’s many sadistic levels.

I remember watching a friend play Ghosts N’ Goblins on his NES way back when I was but a wee lad. And to this day, Arthur dying and turning into a pile of bones STILL gives me the heebie jeebies.

Mansion of Hidden Souls By Frank Villone

Your sister has chased a butterfly into the wilderness and vanished! Chasing after her, you find an old mansion that has appeared out of thin air, so you enter and become trapped inside. You’ll soon be listening to disembodied voices explaining how the mansion traps many people and turns them into butterflies, to linger there for all time. You must free your sister and yourself, before fluttering the same fate!

This was my first play-through of Mansion of Hidden Souls, which is also the first game of its type that I’ve played through (as an on-rail adventure game with a first-person perspective). The ghostly mansion features unique, immersive environments in every room that you explore. The main lobby has no music, just the ticking of the grandfather clock (which gets louder as you get closer), while the various rooms have different songs that help give each one a unique presence. Some rooms sound relaxing or enchanting, while others sound foreboding, spooky, or even panicky. The scenes and animations are grainy but still manage to look great. Every inch of the mansion is filled with detail and color, with a realistic look throughout the game. If you’re one to enjoy exploration in a supernatural atmosphere, then please enter the Mansion of Hidden Souls!

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