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Reader Roundtable Vol. 134

Summer is in full swing, and you’ve hopefully had some extra time to play games. As always, we’re here to share what we’ve been playing over the past 30 days, and there’s usually a game or two that might have slipped under your radar or that you’ve been thinking of revisiting. Well, now’s the time! Grab that controller and play some games!

 

Wonder Boy (Master System) By Ken Horowitz

As much as I love the Monster World games, every so often I like to go back to the original Wonder Boy. It’s one of my favorite Master System classics. Working on a book about Sega Arcade history gave me the chance to research its development history (and even chat with Westone creator Ryuichi Nishizawa!), which gave me a much deeper appreciation for the game. When it was first released, many people likely dismissed Wonder Boy as just another character platform game, but the design, I think, stands very well on its own. The gameplay is tight, the visuals are great, and that theme song WON’T GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

The Master System version is an excellent port and even includes new stages. It’s a long, challenging adventure to save Tanya from the Dark King, and most people probably won’t see the end due to the game’s length. I only “finished” it once, many years ago, but I didn’t find all the secret dolls so I was unable to access the final area. With the modern benefit of FAQs and save states, it might be time to try once more. I got a little more than halfway through the times I played it this month, and I know I can reach the end. It’s just a question of finding those darn dolls!

Rastan (Game Gear) By David Dyne

For the second month of barbarians, I played through Rastan on the Game Gear. How does it differ than the Master System version? It’s more colorful, has fewer enemies and the jumping mechanics are slightly less responsive. Despite those minor differences it is still a great conversion and well worth checking out if you can find it, with a large emphasis on “if.” This game rarely appears on eBay due to its exclusive release in Japan and unfortunately commands a steep price when it does.

What’s next at the bastion of barbarians? Why, Rastan 2 for the Genesis, of course!

Technocop By Ray Colton

Technocop is the quietest game I’ve ever played about police brutality. Unfortunately, it’s not that much fun walking around barren drug buildings and gunning down punks in complete silence, save for some poorly recorded grunts. Half the game is the worst ripoff of OutRun I’ve ever seen – driving stages where you’re rushing to get to your target’s location in a bulky car while other bulky cars try to bump you off the road. Once you arrive at the set spot, you jump out of your car and storm in to the building, killing anything that gets in your way as you fight through to beat the boss at the end. Half the screen real estate is taken up by a giant HUD screen of your score, objective, and oddly veiny arm. The premise sounds good, and for a few minutes you might be fooled into enjoying yourself, but after those few minutes, you realize you’ve seen everything there is to see, and the game simply repeats itself until a lackluster ending. Bloody violence is not enough to sustain even a game as short and simple as this one. The controls are wonky and laggy, enemies seem to drain your health upon the slightest touch, and much of the game takes place in ugly houses without so much as palette swaps. And did I mention there is no music? This is the kind of game that looks great on box shots, but ends up being a waste of time. Ah, such potential wasted.

Beyond Oasis By Paige

I had been in the mood to play an RPG-style game lately, and this time I decided to go with Beyond Oasis. As it seems to be the case with a lot of the games I own, I bought this one a while ago, played it for a little bit, and then let it sit on my shelf when some other, more interesting game came along… kind of fickle, I know.

Anyway, I decided to play Beyond Oasis when I started thinking about how I kind of like what I had played and couldn’t remember why I had lost interest in it. The story takes all of two minutes to tell, and it’s extremely straightforward (a plus, in my book). The visuals and the music in this game are really stunning (I was especially blown away by the trumpet sound). The combat is easy to learn, as it functions just like a beat-’em-up (and I like beat-’em-ups, so this is great). And to top it all off, Ali can summon any one of the spirits he’s found so long as the appropriate objects are nearby. For example, Ali can summon the fire spirit Efreet if he has access to a campfire or lit torch, and most of the dungeons’ puzzles need to be solved by using the appropriate spirit (I love puzzles!). As an aside: I found the water spirit Dytto the most handy, especially during boss battles, as she has the ability to heal Ali.

I have two complaints about this game, though. The first, and more minor of the two, is that some of Ali’s moves are hard to pull off, particularly the quick low and high kicks (which can be done by hitting the attack button rapidly). The only time I really needed to be able to pull off low kicks was when Ali was up against snakes or zombies, who come crawling at you after you knock them down. It occurred to me that I might have had better luck using crouching slashes, but to be honest I never thought about crouching at any point other than to go through a small entrance.

The other issue I have is the game’s length; I found it to be much too short! To be fair, Beyond Oasis panned out exactly as the opening sequence stated it would: once Ali finds the fourth spirit, it’s time for the final showdown with the Silver Armlet. I was, however, surprised there weren’t any side-quests in this game. I guess the situation in Oasis was so dire that Ali didn’t need to get distracted with such inconsequential tasks. At one point, I thought I had found an optional cave, but it turns out this was a mandatory location and I had just stumbled upon it before I spoke with the character who told me I needed to go there. There are some spots that required using the spirits to gain additional items, and had I spent more time seeking them out perhaps the game would have seemed longer.

In closing, I definitely enjoyed Beyond Oasis while it lasted!

Out of This World By Frank Villone

I’ve long been a fan of Out of this World on Sega CD. I never checked out the cartridge version, probably just because it’s considered best on CD, so I didn’t think the cart was worth looking at.

Right away, the cartridge rocks a fast drum-beat, so the mood is different. Although it does go into atmospheric music at times, it’s not as much as on CD, which has atmospheric music practically all the time. Here, we’re more likely to have silence as we explore another world, hearing only footsteps and lasers. While the FM-synth is decent enough, it lacks the sense of mystery and atmosphere of the CD soundtrack. And the pervading silence can make it seem bleak and somber, if not boring and frustrating!

The animated cut scenes seem exactly the same as on CD, but they’re more impressive on Genesis, because it’s such a novelty to see something like this on cartridge. The minimalist art style also makes more sense, in the context of running animations from a cartridge, without requiring tons of storage space. There’s also slowdown during gameplay, which does not happen on Sega CD.

Out of this World is still impressive for being so unique and innovative, but this is one title that shows how dramatically the Sega CD could enhance the same game just by adding better music (and maybe for adding some extra processing power, to make things run better). Fans of this title on Genesis (or any console) need to enjoy it on Sega CD, where the music makes it one of the best versions, on any platform.

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