September means a return to classes for many gamers, but that doesn’t mean that the fun stops! This month, Sega-16 readers are still heavily engaged in a plethora of Genesis gems, games that require your full attention no matter what time of year it is!
Might & Magic: Gates to Another World By Ken Horowitz
The first thing most gamers know about Might & Magic: Gates to Another World before they even open the box is that it weighs a ton. The reason (and no, it’s not the big-ass EA cartridge): the gargantuan, 169-page manual is enough to intimidate even the most stalwart RPG gamer and rightly so. Gates is an adventure that PC owners know well, as they were partaking this particular brand of life-consuming RPG regularly back in the day. For Genesis gamers, this was a radical departure from the standard JRPG that we were used to digesting. Combat was different (though not for the better, in my opinion), the quest was several times longer, and the threat of immediate and cruel death hung over you like a dark shadow. No one I’ve ever met has ever finished the Genesis version (I myself made it as far as the four planes. So close…!), and no one seems to have the will to try again. I’ve made myself a promise, however, that the final completion of Gates to Another World will not tardy beyond the dawning of the new year, or I’ll eat my cart…and those of you with Genesis EA carts know that that’s no mean feat.
Contra: Hard Corps By Nick Gibson
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – that Gunstar Heroes is the best-looking Genesis game out there. Another rampant claim is that that it’s the best run-‘n-gun for the system. As for the first declaration, my guess is that those people haven’t played Contra Hard Corps, or at least haven’t gotten far enough in the game to see the absolutely incredible visual effects that Konami pulls off. The second statement is, of course, entirely a matter of opinion. You can’t use the laws of logic to refute an opinion, so I’ll merely suggest vehemently that anyone who wants to give Gunstar Heroes the crown of “best” should take a look at Contra. A close look. Is it hard? Bet your trigger button it is. But it’s not cheaply unfair – it’s simply a tough game for people who are masters of the run-‘n-gun genre. Contra Hard Corps, for hardcore gamers only. (Get the pun now?) And Konami was proud of it, too! Just watch the commercial for the game and you’ll see that they advertised it as brutally difficult from the get-go. Another criticism is that Hard Corps has too many bosses. I find this ironic, considering the waves of ecstasy that the boss-oriented Alien Soldier sets off in the same crowds. It breaks the Contra mold, certainly, but that’s one thing the Genesis was good at, wasn’t it?
World Series Baseball By Vince Thornburg
After picking up a copy of MVP baseball for cheap, it’s become almost the only thing I’ve played. But I still go back to my Genesis, and now I’ve been playing the original World Series Baseball. Currently I’m in game six of the World Series with the Indians fighting against the Dodgers. It’s been a great year for my team as Eddie Murray and Carlos Baerga both hit eighty-three homers, and Charles Nagy has thirty-three wins. Yeah, the game is still laughably easy, except when you become over-confident and the Red Sox kill you 34-0. I still love this game, despite it being twelve years-old. I’m about to beat the Dodgers though, as I expect another perfect game from Jose Mesa. He’s had four this year, including one against the Yankees in the ALCS.
Columns By Benjamin Galway
Columns hasn’t been kind to me. I love the game, and I used to be able to play for hours before having to walk away leaving millions of points behind with no way to continue where I left off. I never found Columns to be a challenging game, and while I still don’t, I’m finding my reaction time to swap out the jewels on higher levels isn’t what it used to be. Even then, accidental chains still help save the day, and its Tic-Tac-Toe design can allow a careless player to exceed in spite of a lack of skill.
I believe Columns was the first puzzle game to implement a combo system to award chains, and the unique nature of the game (rotating three colored jewels in a vertical container) is still a joy to play despite the plethora of other Tetris clones out there. As Puyo Puyo‘s versus influence has infiltrated more and more well-based puzzle games, Column‘s endless single player challenge is a nice change of pace. The Genesis Columns is still the one to own, too, thanks to the additional songs (though “Clotho” is the only one you’ll ever use just the same). Even if the game is doomed to be widely considered an also ran and Tetris clone itself, that doesn’t stop Columns from being an enjoyable game in its own right. The relaxing theme and soundtrack belie the frantic pace, invoking a similar experience that made Tempest 2000 and Rez such enjoyable video game trips… the kind of game where your mind zones out on everything but the screen, positioning gems subconsciously through the TV, completely oblivious to everything else around you.
Ristar By Joe Redifer
I recently acquired Ristar. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played it, but most of it seems familiar. It’s definitely a good game to have in your collection. Shiny, bouncy fun. However it doesn’t seem to be as colorful as I remember it… and I’m using a far better video connection than the last time I played it as well. What’s up with that? Maybe I need to get my eyes checked. The music is a tad better than I recall, so that’s good news. And the gameplay is also a bit more fun than I remember. I kept playing for awhile and didn’t get too bored. I really hate Ristar’s voice, though. It should not be in the game in any form. When you press START to begin the game, he says something like “Play with me?” while simultaneously gargling many rocks. If you can’t do voice samples right, it’s best not to do them at all. We all know the Genesis can do voice samples that are pretty much perfect. Don’t make me compile a list of games that do! But anyway, Ristar is mostly good and you should own it… unless you’d rather not.
MERCS By Nick Mckay
MERCS was a great action game at the arcades. The genesis version holds up considerably well graphically and is almost an arcade perfect port. Almost. My biggest gripe is that the original game was three players. Now, I can understand that that would be a bit much for the genesis, so naturally you’d expect the game to be two players, right? RIGHT? Wrong, the game is one player only! Nevertheless, the game is still a lot of fun. It also includes a completely original game in addition to the arcade version. So essentially you’re getting two, albeit short, games in one. The adjustable difficulty levels are a nice touch as well. For those who haven’t played the game, it’s basically an isometric 3/4 view style of Contra. It has destructible parts of the environment, vehicles, and lots and lots of weapons. You can also purchase new weapons and items by collecting medals. A great game, but Soldiers of Fortune (aka Chaos Engine) is the better choice in terms of playability. But, if you’ve played that game to death and want more, play MERCS.
Contra: Hard Corps By Saad Azim
Little can be said about Contra Hard Corps, that hasn’t been said before. Konami brought the run-‘n-gun goodness of their classic franchise to SEGA’s little black box in 16 megabits of glory. Granted, purists can, and do, argue about whether or not Hard Corps is a “True” Contra game given it’s deviation from the then tried & true formula. However, a good game is a good game. Granted, over the years the playing through all five of Contra Hard Corps‘s possible routes have been burned into my brain to the point where navigating a level has become more of a reflex, rather than an act guided by conscious thought. Perhaps due to that, or perhaps despite that, Contra Hard Corps is one of the reasons my Genesis sits aside my PlayStation.
Phantasy Star IV By Carl-Johan Brax
My first true RPG was a borrowed Phantasy Star, a game I couldn’t beat at that age (twelve). So I borrowed the third sequel to that game from the same guy, a 40+ employee at my middle school. He thought it was the worst game in the whole series because it was so short and easy. For me, it was a perfect start to the RPG genre, and it remains to this day my all time favourite game.
Phantasy Star IV perfectly sums up the whole series in a grandiose finale, with so many elements from the prequels players who played this last in the series must have felt a nostalgic kick every quarter or so. The space travel of Phantasy Star, the third person battle system of Phantasy Star II (without the blue grid) and the composer of Phantasy Star III are all in the last installment – better than ever. When you play this game, you get the feeling that the team behind it all were struggling towards the same goal – a sci-fi RPG that uses the best of the Mega Drive hardware. I really can’t complain about the graphics, with the varied cast of characters, futuristic esthetic and several hundred manga-styled pictures telling the story. The music fits perfectly with its bass booming techno metal-beats and chiming bells. All with a epic story, that may have loaned too much from previous installments, but that doesn’t really bother me. Too bad it feels a little bit too easy and short, but I guess that’s how it goes if you’ve beaten the game so many times you’ve lost the count. Is there something I hate about Phantasy Star IV? Yeah, the shop music and Boris Vallejo’s box art.
Streets of Rage 2 By Matt Frey
There’s something about Streets of Rage 2 that, even after fourteen years, still gets my pulse pounding and my sweat glands pumping. Perhaps it’s the immortal technopop soundtrack that helped introduce me (and countless other 11-year-olds I’m sure) to the world of electronic music. Most game tunes of the time were stuck in “bubblegum mode,” with light, airy melodies carrying you through yet another cutesy platformer. The music in Streets of Rage 2, however, grabs the player by the neck and drags their face over the pavement, screaming “This is life or death! Stick and move, kid!” Yuzo Koshiro’s work stands the test of time and even transcends its medium; if one didn’t know better, they might think that the tunes were produced for a current dance album.
Or maybe it’s the great controls and variety of attacks that keeps me hooked. A skilled player can come up with dozens of ways to dispatch the endless hoards of baddies, knocking down entire groups of them with one devastating reversal. The characters look fantastic while they’re kicking butt, and despite some uninspired copy-and-paste punks that inhabit the majority of most levels, Streets 2 has some of the best sprite-based graphics I’ve ever seen the Genny pull off.
Yeah, all of those things are wonderful, but what really keeps me coming back is Axel’s flowing, prettyboy hair. But you can read all about that in my upcoming fanfic Streets of Passion.
Anyway, go play Streets of Rage 2. Not only was it the best in the SoR series, it’s one of the best games on the Genesis and one of my favorite games of all time. Not just another mindless brawler, this one will keep you entertained for years to come.
Master of Weapon By Uri Cohen
This game sucks, that much is easy to say. Just look at the name; Master of Weapon doesn’t even make sense. When you play it, there are a lot of problems evident right from the start. Everything, from the gameplay, sound, and graphics are just trash. Seriously, I’m telling you that this game was so completely rushed that the developers forgot the most important lesson for a video game: fun. Why am I talking about this game right now? Because this is your only warning before you play the game after reading this. Spend your money at your own risk, and consider yourself warned.