Barely recovering from Beggar Prince, we still game on! There’s always something new to check out, and it seems that the Genesis gamer’s appetite is never satisfied. This month, we have a whole new set of goodies that once again prove why the Genesis is such a great console.
Monster World IV By Ken Horowitz
Man, do I love this game. I’ve always been a fan of the Wonder Boy series (Dragon’s Trap for life!) and was so disappointed when this one was left in Japan. Not being one to conform, I sent off for it and a Mega Key. Sure, I didn’t know what the heck it was about, but who cared? It was a new Wonder Boy game! Well, technically, it was a new Monster World game, but I don’t want to open that can of worms again.
Recently, I began playing it again, only this time via the excellent English-patched ROM. The majesty of MW IV is still as vibrant as ever, with its amazing visuals, catchy tunes, and classic gameplay. This is the type of adventure that makes video games so darn fun, and the industry is in dire need of more titles like this (although the Game Boy Color’s wonderful Shantae comes darn close). I still have my Mega Drive copy in my library, and I love to look over the gorgeous manual now and then, but being able to understand the storyline is priceless. You can find the patched game online (not here!), and it is very much worth playing through. This is gaming greatness folks; don’t miss out.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles By Nick Gibson
Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are a two-pronged killer app, to be sure, but not so much in the way you’re thinking. There’s no doubt that it’s the type of game that moves consoles. However, this gaming double-feature also does an excellent job of killing your enjoyment of other titles in the genre. How can you give up blazing speed for Cool Spot‘s relatively pokey pace? Or a sophisticated shadow/highlight graphics style for Aladdin’s flat, cartoony look? Levels chock full of secrets and alternate paths for Rocket Knight Adventure‘s linearity? It’s hard. In fact, I attribute my dislike of platformers today to the countless hours I spent with these two carts when I first started playing video games. So enter with caution, gamers – once you’ve played these, everything else just seems uninspired. That, more than anything else, is the mark of a masterpiece.
Garfield: Caught in the Act By Vince Thornburg
I remember that when this came out, the Garfield boat had already come and left. His Saturday morning cartoon show had already been canceled, his comic was feeling cheaply made, and he was by know just another marketing character that happened to have a successful comic. Despite all that, I still loved the comic and the character, and was ecstatic when I saw that this game would be released. It wasn’t his first video outing, but it was the first one that seemed to have a real effort put into it. Nice cartoony graphics, memorable music, easy controls, and an overall fun little package perfect for it’s target audience. A game that could’ve probably stood on it’s own even without the Garfield license. Despite what others have said in the past, I liked this game, and the character. Even if by now I’ve grown tired of it, and am disgusted by that thing they called a Garfield movie a couple years back.
Lunar: The Silver Star By Joe Redifer
I’ve been playing Lunar for the past few days. It’s about a bunch of teens. All RPGs are usually about a bunch of teens. But even with that against it, the game manages to be pretty good. Loading times are quick and the pace is brisk. I like that in a game. That’s why I hated Vay. Anyway a lot of the text was translated by a Mr. Victor Ireland. Once again — even with that holding it back — it manages to have a good story. Victor also translated the song, which now sounds weird. It’s not the lyrics that sound bad, but the way they’re sung (Take heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!). Victor also insisted on a nonsensical voice quip after the credits roll. Anyway, the game is fun and the only other real flaw is the amount of characters that join and leave your party at every turn. They are not reliable! Once a character learns a great spell that you rely on, they desert you or get sick, etc. The game’s cut scenes are pretty bland, usually with zero animation whatsoever. But still I had lots of fun racing towards the amazingly mediocre (and short) ending. I rented Lunar 2 once, but I don’t remember being impressed. Maybe I should try it again?
Golden Axe II By Zack Young
I was always a huge fan of the original Golden Axe. It was a hugely fun little romp, hard even on the easiest difficulty and possessed a lot of charm and spunk. So I figured that I’d play the sequel thinking how much better it would be. It’s hard for me to say why I came back to the game after all these years, maybe to see if it was really as bad as I remembered. Anyway, I found Golden Axe II to be a huge disappointment. You have the same characters, and that’s definitely a plus, and even the same moves. But surely, a little something extra could’ve been added to the playing style of those 3? Wait, but they did! The great change was a toned down magic system. The good side of this was that could cast your spells for however many magic books you have collected, but there’s no change in the graphics of the spell and not much change in the effect. I remember how cool it was to see Tyris’ different levels of fire spells in the original, yet now it’s practically all the same? What? Similarly the graphics are worse. While they’re sleeker, the colors are more dull and muted and it all felt toned down. The original had grainier graphics, but that was part of the spunky vibe. These graphics don’t do the game justice. The sound, is one area they did well on though, the sound gets no complaints from me although the music is a bit repetitive. The enemies can give you a good challenge from time to time, but most of the bosses are pathetic. And now you collect your health and magic from wizards instead a fat little elf thieves.
In the end this game wasn’t a bad attempt, it just has decent gameplay, a toned down magic system, toned down graphics, good if slightly annoying sound, and a complete loss of the spunky vibe that I loved in the original.
Gauntlet IV By Damien Jennison
“Warrior shot the food!” “Wizard is about to die!” “Eat your food; don’t shoot it!”
It doesn’t half get you angry, especially when you desperately needed that food. When you’re just trying to get to the key you swore you had two levels ago, you end up hating the ghosts that you ram into, half thinking you’ll fight them in hand to hand even if you know that you can’t. And don’t even start with me about killing Death potion-less after killing the fourth Death on the map.
In case you didn’t know already, I’m talking about the good old classic Gauntlet IV. It’s a love-hate relationship I have with that game. I hate it when the game doesn’t go my way (which is often) but, when you’re on a roll, you’re on cloud nine. That’s classic arcade feelings there on the small, 16-bit wonder of the Mega Drive translated perfectly. The feeling that you get that forces you to put just one more credit into the machine is there and that makes it a classic. Add to that the completely new quest mode and the already infinite level of enjoyment is increased even more so. It makes Gauntlet IV a classic that you’re half tempted to throw at the wall in anger at how clever it is, it’s that good.
Castlevania Bloodlines By Matt Frey
Ahh, Castlevania. How you used to frustrate me in my bright-eyed NES days with your impossible jumps and chunky controls. Every set of stairs was another potential death trap, and jumping was always a leap of faith. And yet, I still loved you. But like the shining brilliance of a shooting star, our romance soon burned out. It was just puppy love, we thought. Time to move on.
Four years later, I heard about the newest Castlevania game, this time on the Sega Genesis. But Castlevania: Bloodlines, I was told, was not worth playing. “It’s not Super Castlevania IV!” exclaimed the masses, “therefore it isn’t fun!” But something inside me just couldn’t let it go, and I was drawn to that new Castlevania game anyway. I learned two things the day it finally found its way to my Genesis: the masses are pretty dumb, and Bloodlines is freakin’ awesome.
The sloppy controls of the past have vanished; in their place is a responsive layout that hardly ever has my hero careening into a bottomless pit unless it’s my own stupid fault. The graphics are awesome too, with rotting flesh, severed heads and bloody skeletons populating some of the most interesting locations Europe has to offer. And let me tell you, that sunset over the lake in the second stage is permanently etched into my mind as one of the greatest video game moments of all time. The music fits the scenery beautifully, combining old favorites with awesome new tunes. Huge, detailed monstrosities await players who dare to infiltrate Dracula’s strongholds, leading to some truly epic – and often unexpected – battles. But perhaps the greatest surprise is that the standard whip-toting character, John Morris, is no where near as fun to use as his spear-wielding comrade, Eric Lecarde. As Eric, you can vault up to higher platforms in a single controller motion! You can spin your lance around and use it as a makeshift shield, shredding the undead (and innocent candles) with ease! You can finally stab demons where it hurts instead of just whacking them with a vaguely taboo piece of leather! So without a doubt, Bloodlines was, and still is, a great game. When I first played it, I couldn’t put the controller down for hours. …And that’s when I knew I had fallen back in love. Hard.
I’ll never leave you again, baby. Never again.
Road Blasters By Uri Cohen
RoadBlasters from Atari Games is just one hell of a ride! I say thanks to Atari Games’ subsidiary Tengen for porting the game onto the Genesis. Controls are sharp, graphics are colorful, and the game has a sense of speed. The Genesis is a console full of arcade ports, so it’s pretty much understandable that they pulled off such a great port of RoadBlasters. I slapped down $20 for a complete Japanese copy of the game and you know what? It was worth it! There’s no difference between the Japanese copy and the American one, so go out and purchase either one of these versions. Trust me, it’s worth it.