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Reader Roundtable Vol. 136

Halloween is here! It’s time for candy, costumes, and scary movies. There’s also a ton of great Sega games to be played, and our staff and readers have included some really good ones in this month’s article. Why not take some time this evening and enjoy these many fine and spooky games!

 

Splatterhouse 2 By Ken Horowitz

I always find myself coming back to this one on Halloween. There’s just something about the atmosphere that really makes it stand out on this particular holiday, and I just love how it plays. Splatterhouse 2 is my favorite game in the series, as I actually prefer the gameplay style of the original over that of the third entry. This sequel has great visuals and design, and it tries to throw (splatter?) every bloody and gory detail it can at you.

You can’t really go wrong with any Splatterhouse game, as they are all excellent. Each has its own flavor of horror to offer, but if you’re a Genesis owner who hasn’t played the second game yet, then you need to check it out. It’s the perfect game for Halloween!

Altered Beast By Thief

Ah, Halloween, the perfect excuse to finally play this controversial Genesis launch title and see what all the hub bub is about. At first thought maybe it’s not so popular because it’s only two lives and no continues, then someone pointed out to me the hidden continues via ‘A + Start at title screen’ trick. So, I used that to help speed up learning last two stages for my eventual goal of a 1cc (beating the game on a single credit), because that’s the best way to come to grips with a game and controversy.

Interestingly, this game loops like all good arcade games do, and with enough changes for loop two. That’s something seemingly only solid games with solid game mechanics do, as make no mistake, this game is solid. Like the Genesis Golden Axe controversy, I believe this game was great for it’s time but hasn’t aged well due to the limited cart space available back then. You see, I didn’t get all the rage for Golden Axe once either until finally playing the arcade version with presentation and atmosphere that better stands the test of time.

All in all, I had a great time and have experienced some great Sega history no one should be without. “POWER UP!”

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein By Colton Ray

I’ve never seen the movie this game was based on, and have never been a huge fan of Frankenstein’s monster, but I figured I would give this a shot in the spirit of the season. Unfortunately, MSF is not competent enough to produce even a shiver of ghoulish glee in my retro heart. Look, I know the monster itself is supposed to be ugly, but did the developers have to extend that ugliness to every other aspect of the game? The sprites and levels are varying shades of grey, brown, and green, and what’s up with the monster’s gait? He limps around like he’s got a bad case of gout. The game is a simple, by-the-numbers licensed action-platformer where the developers seem to have done the bare minimum before rushing the game out the door and forgetting about it. It’s a short game, but one that will test your patience with the weakness of your monster’s attack and the maze-like levels that rely on well-timed jumps. Seeing as the jumping is abysmal, the game takes on an extra layer of challenge. MSF seems to have gone largely ignored even among Genesis fans, and rightly so. There are much better games to fill a Halloween fix.

Decap Attack By Marcus Ramirez

Decap Attack is a title that often doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It may have been adapted for a western audience, but by doing so I think Sega gave us the perfect Halloween title. Everything about this game seems made for the holiday, from the visuals and spooky soundtrack to even the character names. I love breaking this one out each year, as it fits in perfectly, and it’s a game that can be played with the kids. It may be a bit long, but that’s just because there’s so much action and exploration packed within this little cartridge!

If you haven’t played Decap Attack yet or in some time, I highly recommend giving it another chance. You’ll be surprised at how well it holds up, especially on Halloween!

Scooby-Doo Mystery by James Villone

Scooby-Doo is one of the most classic, well-loved cartoons of all time. It’s universally-appealing, because who doesn’t love friendly dogs?! The original show (1969-70) still aired through the ’80s, so it was part of childhood for me, and for everyone I know. In 1995, Genesis and SNES each got a different game from Acclaim, both called Scooby-Doo Mystery, which is a platformer on SNES, but on Genesis, it’s a recreation of the cartoon! This point-and-click adventure offers two different “episodes.”

The artwork is very consistent with the show, starting with that iconic haunted house and bats flying. We have a great version of the classic theme song, and when we choose an episode, we hear the intro song from TV.  

The gameplay consists of just searching for clues, in the handful of screens for each episode. Scooby and Shaggy are well-animated as they walk around, and they scale bigger and smaller, as they move closer or further-away. There are different animations for conversations and different actions, including cut-scenes of driving the Mystery Machine, and the dialogue is genuinely funny, like the show. If we don’t read the text, we can still see their expressions and gestures as they talk, with a few voice-clips. The graphics actually seem more colorful than the TV show, and the artwork is full of curved lines and odd angles, to emphasize that it’s hand-drawn.

The music is also consistent with the show, with each Genesis episode having a fitting theme, like the TV show always did. There’s a crazy carnival song (better than the one in Sonic 3), plus a vaguely Native American theme for the other episode, based on a researcher whose hotel is haunted.  

Two adventures might mean it’s short-and-sweet, but it’s surprising how long it actually takes to figure everything out. Often, we’re finding and collecting items that lack a clear purpose. We also need to think creatively about the environments around us, to find everything that we can do. The cursor will show what parts of the environment we can interact with, but we still have to figure out the right action, or the right item to use. Sometimes it’s logical cause-and-effect, like water from the kitchen can put out the fire in the lobby’s fireplace. Other actions are unexpected, like choosing to use the shovel on the snowman, makes Shaggy smash him on the head, and he destroys the snowman with one blow!

So far, it’s light on the supernatural element, with just one villain per episode. Although they’re sure to be revealed as misguided businessmen, the TV show also always had appearances which were never fully explained. For example, if skeletons might jump out, along the way of solving the mystery, then they might be real supernatural creatures! So I’m hoping there’s a hidden area, like a graveyard, where we can summon some ambiguously-real ghosts. Because spending quality-time with ghosts is what Halloween is all about!

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