Features Lost in the Arcade

Lost in the Arcade: Konami Games

Well friends, here we are again with another installment of the article series that either makes you angry or sad. So many wonderful games left behind in the arcade that could have had a home on our beloved Sega Genesis. It’s a crying shame, and we’re determined to honor the memory of those awesome coin-ops that should have been ported.

This month’s victims are all from Konami – one of the kings of game development. The sheer quality of the titles that they left in the arcade is staggering, and most of them were abandoned due to licensing issues. C’ mon Konami! A big game playa like you could have spent some dolla-dolla bills for these licenses!



Ah, one of my all-time favorite arcade shmups. Konami was so very, very cruel to leave this one behind, and could have ported it in an instant to the Sega CD or licensed it out to Sega for them to do. I think the Sega CD would have been the apt choice for a port, as the scaling stages would have been too much for a regular Genesis cart to handle at the time, and it would have given the system a nice little showpiece for its hardware features, something Sega wasn’t particularly interested in doing. The top-down stages aren’t anything special, but the game’s quick pace and great control were very fun at the time.

Moreover, by releasing it on CD, Ajax wouldn’t have gotten lost among the glut of shmups released on the Genesis. Seriously, how many domestic Sega CD shmups were there? The number doesn’t even pass ten. Konami didn’t even bother to give this great title a home anywhere else, so why not Sega’s little add-on? What would the have had to lose? This would have been a no lose situation for them had they thought about it. Most of the games in the genre that appeared on the Sega CD were of quality, and Ajax could have quickly become king of the hill had it made an appearance.



Many people I talk to about games they wanted to see on the Genesis mention Aliens as one of the biggest (along with Capcom’s stellar Aliens vs. Predator, but that’s for another article). Sure, a quick glance at the visuals gives the impression that it would have been better suited to the Genesis, but why not the Sega CD or 32X, I say? Konami spent much of the Genesis’ early life locked into a brutal licensing contract with the evil empire of the time- Nintendo and were unable to come right out and release games for the competition. Capcom found a wonderful way around this, why not Konami? Can you honestly tell me that this game wouldn’t have found an audience on a home console? I’m not sure who had the rights to the Alien franchise at this time- Acclaim had releases with the license, as did Activision- so perhaps that is what kept this wonderful run-‘n-gun from coming home. It’s a shame too, as we missed out on the one Alien game that actually did the movies justice.



Though it came out before G.I. Joe and was on less powerful hardware, Devastators bears more than a passing resemblance to that classic action shooter. Perhaps they shared dev. team members? Whether they did or not, this is one powerful title. Forward scrolling blasting is always fun, and no one knows the run-‘n-gun like Konami does. There’s plenty of power ups to be had, and no shortage of things to destroy. It was released more or less during the height of Rambo mania, which explains the main character’s look. The plot? Well…there is none. All you’re told is to go in a wipe out the enemy. That’s enough for me! Honestly, are storylines even important in these types of games?

As with G.I. Joe, Devastators seems to be tailor-made for the Sega CD. It would have fit nicely among the system’s library, which is weak in this area. The scaling and rotation would have been no problem, I believe, had someone actually taken the time to use the darn things! We could have been looking at a solid game that would have really helped Sega’s CD, especially since no other console at the time had a port. The color palette would perhaps have been reduced, but it would have made it intact otherwise, I should think. There wouldn’t have been any licensing issues with Devastators either. Just another example of too much on a publisher’s plate causing certain games to fall through the cracks.



Man do I get peeved when I find a game like Gaiapolis. Along with another arcade slasher favorite of mine – Dungeon Magic, they rank right up there at the top of my list of games that I dearly wanted to play at home. There are three heroes from which to choose – a prince, a fairy, and a dragon warrior – each with their own special style of attack. You’re tasked with finding the legendary sword of the Golden Hawk in order to save your land from the rule of an evil king. Great hack-‘n-slash action, along with some superb character designs, combine for one heck of an adventure. The colorful 2D graphics are simply gorgeous, and the gameplay is very D&D-like. You raise levels and upgrade your armament, and the mixture of characters is reason enough to come back and play again. There are also plenty of spells and summons, which means fans of Golden Axe would have been all over this had it actually come home.

I’m sure this one would have been right at home on the 32X, and it seems there’s no shortage of titles out there that could have gained new life on the short-lived expansion, especially one so deserving as Gaiapolis. There was a rumored unofficial Famicom port in 1994, but the 32X would have truly done it justice. Too bad Sega was forced to pull the plug so soon; there was a lot of potential here for an arcade monster. Homebrews maybe?


G.I. Joe

Oh me, oh my, how much do I love this game? I’m a regular G.I. Joe whore, as it was one of my favorite cartoons growing up (along with Transformers and Thundercats), and the first time I saw this forward-scrolling run-‘n-gun, I was immediately enthralled. You can play as one of four Joes: Snake Eyes, Scarlet, Duke, or Roadblock- guess who I always choose? Snake Eyes all the way baby!- and basically run through each stage blowing the hell out of everything that moves. All the classic Cobra vehicles are here, from the powerful H.I.S.S. tanks to those nasty B.A.T.S troopers! Even cooler are the bosses, which are all classic Cobra villains! Major Blood, Destro, Baroness, Tomax & Zamot; they’re all here. Well, not exactly. Zartan is strangely missing, as are the Dreadnoks, but hey, there’s more than enough Joe goodness to go around. As this was such an incredible game in the arcade, I was sure that it would see a home version of some sort. Again, the scaling was tailor made for the Sega CD, and I can even see the 32X handling this without any trouble. My guess is that licensing had something to do with it, as it does with so many awesome games, and for that I can only weep.


Metamorphic Force

At first glance it may look like a generic beat-’em-up (lord knows there was no shortage of those in the early ’90s), but upon closer inspection, a tight and incredibly fun game becomes visible. Four selectable characters can morph into were-creatures, which gives them new abilities and attacks. They’ve been summoned by the goddess to combat an ancient evil (bet you didn’t see that one coming!). Though the graphics may not be spectacular, the transformation effects are pretty cool, and the premise was certainly underused at the time. It’s very reminiscent of X-Men in style and gameplay, so your mileage will vary as to just how much that means. I found the game to be surprisingly enjoyable, once I got past the “not another beat-’em-up” first impression.

I’d have to say that Metamorphic Force could have best been done justice on the 32X. It would be the only one of the three that could handle the colors and sprites without too much of a compromise. The great soundtrack would have taken a mean hit, but it still would have been nice to see it come home at all.


Mystic Warriors: Wrath of the Ninjas

Oh lord! Konami has copied Shinobi! Yes, it looks that way at first, but look again. There’s quite the fluid combination of action and shooting here, enough to distinguish it from Sega’s classic series. Taking control of one of four ninjas, you must rescue another member of your group that has been taken hostage. Shoot, slash, and blast your way through a slew of cool environments, as you battle evil ninjas and thugs. I’m sure that right away you’ll notice how this game has much more in common with Konami’s won Sunset Riders than Shinobi, which is a very good thing. There’s even an ad for Sunset Riders in the first level!

I can see this one being done on the Genesis, perhaps with a larger cartridge. It would have been a breeze for the Sega CD or 32X. There aren’t any excessive effects or anything, and the color palate might have been the biggest setback to a cartridge version.


The Simpsons Arcade

Here is it folks: the undisputed king of MIA arcade games. So many people wanted a port of this for any system, that it’s a wonder Konami’s HQ wasn’t taken over by an angry mob and its board of directors hung from the rafters. This was the one Simpsons game worth a damn (until Road Rage anyway) and I’d have taken it over all the crappy Bart vs. turds released. Sure, this one gets left in the arcade, but Krusty’s Funhouse goes multi-platform! The gods weep for this one, especially since it was Acclaim that had the home license, thus keeping Konami’s masterpiece from ever seeing a port. I’m hoping, since everyone is on the retro bandwagon lately, that if/when Konami decides to release another arcade collection, this baby’s on it. I don’t care who the hell has the rights (Simpsons Wrestling? Give me a freakin’ break!). This game simply needs to come home, so everyone can finally appreciate how wonderful it really is. Yes, I know, there’s emulation (I have the 4-player version on my Xbox), but how big a percentage is that really? Compared to the console installed base, it’s probably not that much. And who out there still has the IBM PC release?

Don’t believe my rant about this game’s brilliance? Fire up MAME and give it a shot. I’ll just go and accept your apology in advance.


The Thunder Cross Series

More shmups! There were two games released in arcades under the Thunder Cross name. Both are solid and fun as hell. Another brand fit for the 32X, either title could have really filled the gaping holes in the add-on’s library. Ironically, there are quite a few “alternative” shmups on the 32X, like Kolibri and Shadow Squadron, but a good ol’ fashioned side scroller is glaringly absent. Thunder Cross was an excellent example of a shmup done right too, with some great graphics and gameplay, and a decent weapons system. It may not have been the most innovative series around, but it was definitely deserving of a release on either the Genesis or Sega CD. Konami wasn’t a Sega licensee yet, so it wasn’t like they had their hands full with titles in development. I really feel they could have benefited from the same type of agreement Capcom had, where Sega licensed the games and did the reprogramming themselves (often better, I might add).


Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa

I must admit that I only recently discovered this little gem thanks to my new-found quest to stock my Xbox with the arcade games of my youth. I saw a few pics and decided to try it out. I’m very glad I did, as WWCoMM is awesome. Picture Sunset Riders with mutated cows with guns, and you’ll get the idea. It’s based on the short lived cartoon, and although it might just be another side scrolling run-‘n-gun, who cares? This is one fun game, with some excellent visuals, simple and intuitive gameplay, cool bosses, and lots of action-packed stages. Last I checked, that was enough to make a game worth playing. I love the characters, the four-player option, and the humor! The equation’s simple people: armed, mutant cows = brilliance. You can never have too many gun-toting bovines running around in chaps; trust me on this.

I know you’re looking at that shot on the right and thinking that looks like a SNES game. Perhaps, as the color scheme is quite similar to that of Sunset Riders, as is the game’s style. You must remember that Konami’s other Cowboy run-‘n-gun made a Genesis appearance (albeit an incomplete one), so there was no reason for WWCoMM to be left behind.



Here’s one game that missed the boat big time. Had Konami been able to use the license to port this one home, they would have made a killing. Released at a time when comic books were garnering attention from would-be collectors (still far removed from the movie’s release though) and gaming fans alike, via such hits as X-Men on the Genesis, the arcade version was quite popular. I would have figured that Konami could have given this one a home on the 32X without any problems, as they could have licensed the game to Sega (who had the rights to X-Men on the Genesis). It might have come out a bit later after its arcade debut, but a quality port would have erased any bad feelings.

Many people knock on X-Men due to its repetitiveness. They say that it’s the kind of game you only play once. Perhaps. Still, I’d have loved to have played it that one time on my 32X…


Sigh. It seems that Konami alone could have made the 32X a worthy purchase, had they pursued their plans to develop for it. Notice that Castlevania is nowhere to be seen? Just on the strength of their arcade ports alone, the company could have authored some classic games that would have every Genesis owner hooking up that mean little mushroom. It would also have given these wonderful games another chance to shine, as many of those listed here have faded into the annals of time. At least there’s always emulation.

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