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Reader Roundtable Vol. 126

October is a time for candy, changing weather, and spooky games! This month, we’ve been playing all sorts of stuff, and there are some excellent titles that Genesis owners will want to spend Halloween with! Grab some candy, wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, and grab a controller. There’s some gaming to be done!

 

Zombies Ate My Neighbors By Ken Horowitz

Zombies Ate My Neighbors 6Seemingly straight out of a B-movie, ZAMN is one of the best cooperative titles on the Genesis. It’s weird, it’s big, and it’s just a whole lot of fun, especially with a friend. I love to come back to this one, especially with my kids, as they really like the wacky characters and all the exploring. I’ve often wondered why we never got a proper sequel on the Genesis or Saturn, and it’s a shame, because ZAMN is the kind of game that has aged very well. It’s as fun to play now as it was back in the day, and it still looks great. Maybe someday we’ll see another entry in this franchise, but for now, I’ll keep enjoying one the better action titles on my little Genesis.

Star Cruiser By Zebbe

This month, although still just in beta, I’ve played through the fan translation patched Star Cruiser. The game is a mix of adventure and FPS set in a sci-fi space opera setting, making it rather unique on the console. The plot takes place about 700 years in the future of our own solar system and three nearby systems, where the evil VOID is setting up secret bases everywhere in order to rule the galaxy, or at least the small fraction of it where humans have yet expanded to. Your job is as a military in training stop them with your friend Gibson and robot Freddy. Very early in the game, you acquire a Star Cruiser, a powerful ship, hence the title of the game.

reader-roundtable-vol-126-2Although I was very impressed with the 3D polygon graphics, it took a bit of time until I really loved the game. It’s a bit slow at first I guess, but as you get further the plot gets very exciting. Once you get a hold of all game mechanics, it gets really fun to play as well.

Mostly you go from planet to planet to find VOID bases, get in, find enemies to destroy and keys to open doors, set off a self-destruction mechanism and get out or get nuked. You regularly meet new characters, and there are many turns in the plot. I especially enjoyed the character arc of the player character’s friend, Gibson. You robot pal Freddy is probably the most sympathetic character in the game and makes up greatly for having a silent protagonist.

There are very few things to complain about with the game, especially for being such an early title (originally released in 1990). I would have preferred to be able to load my saved games. Loading would have been nice after picking up homing missiles. You see, you can carry a max of 20, and if you already have 20 and pick up another 10, those extra are lost. But you cannot see which of the three types of missiles you pick-up, forcing you to reset if you want to save those extra missiles. Top tip: ALWAYS have a “safe place” save which you don’t use in dungeons, or you might lock yourself in if you save in a dungeon which you cannot get out of because of too low energy)

Other than that, this is a top notch game. Impressive 3D graphics, well drawn manga character design, quite good music and a very well written plot, again especially for such an early game. The translation by the hackers, Celcion and cccmar, is very good. The last and upcoming patch should have taken care of most spelling issues (I reported a few myself, and they weren’t that many nor very important). Some words had to be shortened in the menu, but that’s perfectly fine. Many thanks to Celcion and cccmar for bringing this nice gift to the fans of the Mega Drive!

I am not a big fan of FPS games, but I still had a lot of fun with this one. I think you will too if you like sci-fi stuff on the Sega Mega Drive.

Chakan the Forever Man By Joseph C.

I recently read the Behind the Design article on Chakan the Forever Man which I found very interesting. Chakan is yet another one of those games that I often saw for sale cheaply but never ended up buying. I can’t remember what exactly put me off apart from my usual preference for the more colourful and whimsical platformers. It certainly wasn’t because of the games legendary difficulty because I had not heard that at the time.

Chakan the Forever Man 3As it is the season for playing games with dark themes, I decided it was time to finally give the game a try. I must confess that I didn’t try it for very long. I was initially impressed by the game’s opening with a good introduction to the backstory and some impressive animation. The game itself though played sluggishly and yes, I found the game difficult.

Rather than dismiss the game as bad and end it here, I found myself wondering how I would have found the game had I decided to buy it back in the early 90’s. I honestly think I would have given it far more time and I dare say, even beaten it on at least one difficulty. After all, I did beat games like B.O.B., and Jewel Master and Chakan reminded me of both of them. I’m never to know for sure though.

Reading the games history does give me an appreciation for it that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The designers seemed to have been passionate about the source material, and it seems like had circumstances been different in a few ways, the game would be much better remembered today.

Splatterhouse 2 By Thief

I started this one earlier this summer for the first time but stopped at the swamp boss. Since it’s Halloween month, I decided it was a good chance to revisit this game.

It turns out that swamp boss wasn’t that hard once I figured out you can bait him to jump toward you. Which if timed right, results in both of you jumping at each other, only you have your foot out. I’m not sure how to handle his second form without taking two hits, so I try to make sure I have enough health for that.

Splatterhouse 2 9Learning the swamp and sewer stages were my favourite and most memorable parts and where most of the fun came from, outside of its cool classic horror theme. Once I really get into a great methodical style checkpoint game, it’s really a great time. It’s only too bad that after the fifth stage this game basically becomes a boss rush. That’s something that never goes too well with me, since I prefer stage game design over bosses, and after stage five, it’s basically: boss – this uninteresting punching blue skulls segment that feels like this hard annoying mini game instead of stage – boss – running away from another boss – decent elevator section mini game – surprisingly interesting and creative boat chase boss – final boss- 2nd form boss – final form boss that you have to take out fast enough or put up with second form again. Have mercy. So yeah, I gave up. My last playthrough was until I reached stage six, then I turned the power off. Pity there’s no more of what I enjoyed after that. Side-scrolling goodness.

So what did I do next? Why I watched my only and favourite let’s player, Gameplay and Talk, play and beat Splatterhouse 2 for me. Interestingly, he hasn’t figured out the easier method for the swamp boss.

Stormlord (Decensored Hack) By James Villone

Before its release, Stormlord enjoyed some controversy in gaming magazines, because it was going to feature naked women!  I remember a spokesman defending its content, saying something like, “There’s nothing here that you wouldn’t see in a TV commercial for Dove soap!”  The writers responded that they didn’t remember seeing any naked fairies in Dove soap commercials!

reader-roundtable-vol-126-1The controversy is especially funny that the game turned out to be so harmless!  The ladies are like statues, part of the landscape.  The single repeating image is beautiful and well-drawn, and although she doesn’t move, her hair blows around in the wind.  Stormlord himself spends his time rescuing tiny microscopic fairies, who are so small that they don’t have any details!

This slow-paced platformer is based on finding the right objects to use, in the right places.  As a kid, I bought this as a cheap used title (probably because I had read about its naked ladies), and I enjoyed it.  Revisiting it now, I’m struck by how limited the gameplay is!  It really only works because it has excellent graphics and music, and because the first few stages are designed to be relatively easy.  It’s also perfect for Halloween, with skulls everywhere, plus skeletons, ghosts ‘n goblins, and more!

It was only in recent years that I read that the Genesis graphics are actually censored, and I just never saw it clearly, in the 90’s with a fuzzy RF connection!  The censorship is that the women are wearing skin-tone scraps of clothing that are almost impossible to see, on the typical home set-up of the time.  

I also just found this hack online (released 2007 by someone called Fargoth), which restores the original nude imagery that’s still present in the ROM.  Click here to read about and download Stormlord (Decensored Hack), on ROMhacking.net!  

Restoring the artwork is awesome, though it can be hard to see the difference, if the official release hasn’t been played recently.  I had to play it right before this hack, to see the improvements!  Since my past experience with Stormlord was always staticky RF on a box TV, so that I never noticed the censorship:  This hack actually restores the nudity that I thought was already there, all those years!  It’s only today’s better screen displays that actually let me see the censorship in the official release.

Either way, Stormlord features great artwork and music, which turn its basic gameplay into an enjoyable experience.  And the best version definitely is Stormlord (Decensored Hack)!  

Dozens of naked ladies are waiting to meet you!

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1 Comment

  1. Sally D says:

    Zombies Ate My Neighbors was so far ahead of its time, I’m blown away that it is not considered one of the greatest games of the 16 bit era. This was 2 player gaming at its finest. You were immersed immediately, and the game had elements of humor and strategy that were far ahead of many of the games in this era. A true classic, and a treasured item in my personal collection.

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