Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 11

October means Halloween for most, but that’s no reason to let your library languish without being played. The Sega-16 gang keeps their Genesis consoles fired up year round, and there are plenty of good games worth checking out. From baseball to platformers to RPGs, there’s something for everyone!


Shining in the Darkness By Ken Horowitz

I was listening to the soundtrack to Shining in the Darkness again the other day, and it motivated me to give the game another go. After only a few minutes, that classic Shining charm bubbled to the surface and reminded me why I love this series so much. Being the adventure that gave birth to everything Shining, this particular RPG still manages to wow me with its great visuals, mind-blowingly complex dungeons, cool story, and goofy characters. Who could forget tag-along Dai’s hilarious “tally ho! just before doing a whopping one point of damage or Pyra’s casting a slow spell on the lizard bounty hunter Gila?

Some may complain about the small viewing area and the fact that the action only takes place indoors. Phooey I say! The pseudo-sequel Shining the Holy Ark remedied those minor flaws, but then, sequels are supposed to improve upon the original. For some great dungeon crawling, excellent spell effects, and a stunning soundtrack; you just can’t beat the original.

Out of This World By Nick Gibson

So maybe there are better ports out there. I don’t doubt that there are – the Genesis version is plagued constantly with slowdown. But that can’t change the fact that this game is a work of art, and I have no idea why the heck it isn’t more famous. The intro alone is genius, and the game only gets better after that. I think Out of This World is pretty much the only game on the Genesis that makes you feel like you’re actually playing out a movie, thanks to the dramatic, scripted action sequences and the gorgeous little touches. What’s more, this game has the honor of being the first game to make me laugh out loud. (Gotta love the scene where you first meet the aliens.) There are problems, of course -the aforementioned frame rate lags are ever-present. The game is also amazingly hard! Expect to die more than you can possibly imagine. But I would urge you to give it a shot without resorting to a walkthrough. You’ll feel like a genius when you figure out some of these ludicrously obvious yet tough puzzles. And once you’re done with it, there’s always Heart of the Alien on the Sega CD and even the spiritual sequel, Flashback, for our very own Genesis.

Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball By Vince Thornburg

Sitting in my console (solely for article research purposes) is Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball. Having just played it this morning for the first time since it’s original release, It was just like I remembered. The graphics were nice and clean, but the actual gameplay was pretty bland, considering how much better it could have been. The home run derby seemed to be the only way to actually it a ball that didn’t almost always result as an out. Still, I like the game, if only for its unique scenario mode, and maybe those graphics are just too nice to ignore. In the end though, you can and have most likely done better with other baseball games on the Genesis.

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts By Joe Redifer

Recently I played through Ghouls ‘N Ghosts for the Sega Master System. Then I decided to play through the arcade version and finally the Genesis version. I have always found this game fairly easy yet extremely fun no matter the platform I played it on even though I’m not too fond of Ghosts ‘N Goblins and dislike Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts even more.

Anyway I am surprised at how close the Genesis version is for such an early game, especially the sound. In fact, I’d say that the music sounds better on the Genesis than it does in the arcade. The sound effects are amazingly close to the arcade. The graphics? Well there is certainly a lot missing, but that is because this game only has five mega power. If only this game had been 64 or 128 megs, it would have been much better than the arcade even!!!1!!

But the game play is what sets it apart even from the arcade. True it doesn’t have the fabulous shops that make the Master System version so incredibly special, but it does allow for diagonals to be pressed unlike the evil arcade version. With the arcade version, if you are running and accidentally press even the slightest bit up on the controller your character will come to a dead stop. Not so on the Genesis version. This makes playing much more enjoyable. Hot damn I say!

King’s Bounty By Zack Young

We all play terrible games sometimes, right? I mean I’m allowed to go back and pop in a game one day out of boredom to see if it’s as bad as I remembered, right? Well that’s exactly what I did with King’s Bounty, and let me tell you, it’s terrible…and I mean terrible. I like RPGs, but this one was nothing. It’s an old game, one of the earlier ones for the Genesis, and the graphics really show their age. They could’ve been taken straight from the NES with only very slight changes at the most. The story is pretty terrible too, and I like playing old-school RPGs with simplistic stories. You’re a knight and you’re making a name for yourself. So with your gold you hire some troops and roam the lands searching for outlaws, evil knights, wizards and their perversions, and strongholds to loot.

Sounds good huh? Well it’s not. You have so little gold to start with that you can buy some troops, MAYBE some extra stuff, although you’re practically forced to hire a ship and set out and find more gold fast. Now all of this could’ve been marginally forgivable if the gameplay had been strong enough. It wasn’t. You eventually run into enemies and have battle. The battles are choppy, boring, and confusing, and I LIKE turn-based strategy. Your damage against opponents seems to be rather random with no obvious reasons for certain effects. Eventually you’ll be reduced to standing in front of the castle waiting for time to run out, because the all-powerful enemies are waiting at every exit you might take. Even the music is bad, loud, jarring, and in painfully bad taste, that is to say, cheerful. With all of these horrendous aspects I applaud you if you ever risk playing this one, and I’ll give you a standing ovation if you escape with your sanity. (Editor’s note: You forgot to mention the 56 character password!)

Cobra Command By Uri Cohen

I love Cobra Command, and this is coming from a man who preached about why full-motion video games are the worst type of all time! It’s really hard to hate the game after playing it for a while. About all the audio in Cobra Command was redone in excellent fashion by Wolf Team. The intro of the game was a lot better than the arcade original (the music was perfect), and the action never gets old. While the main flaw in just about all FMV games was that they play like a book, I found the action in Cobra Command to always be amusing. I love shooting the enemy planes in the middle of New York City. I love shooting the tanks in Easter Island and seeing enemy helicopters crashing on the Mori heads. I love going inside narrow tunnels and in the end blowing up a huge section of an enemy base. This and Road Avenger (Road Blaster) are my two favorite FMV games ever (both were done by Data East)! The Sega CD version of both games, while not looking as nice as the arcade originals, had what was lost during the transition made up for with the awesome audio. Thank you Wolf Team for giving both games some really excellent intros that were better than the arcade. Even though I love both these games to death, I’ll always preach about hating FMV games until I’ll go to my grave.

Space Harrier By Carl-Johan Brax

Space Harrier was the game that defined the rail shooter genre when it came out back in 1985. Constantly running or flying forward with your gun in a third-person perspective, Harrier has to shoot aliens and robots and avoid objects, like poles, in a surrealistic land called the Fantasy Zone. Now, just shooting and avoiding with no power ups or new weapons may seem tiresome and boring, and it may be after awhile, but this kind of minimalist gameplay leaves out strategy and puts all your effort into something many shooters lack: the adrenaline kick you get in all the action. With dozens of robots coming from both the behind and front shooting, while you are flying forward at high speeds, a millisecond of your lost attention is your death. Together with the unique colourful graphic design and classic synth-rock soundtrack that makes you hum along, Space Harrier is a milestone in video game history.

Since many Mega Drive owners out there don’t have the 32X, maybe they should begin with the sequel released on the 16-bit before the 32X original. It is somewhat pared down in appearance, but if you like that game you will love the arcade perfect original to the 32X.

Kolibri By Matt Frey

Kolibri, for Sega’s 32X, is a hummingbird-based shoot-’em-up.

I’ll say it again: Kolibri is a hummingbird-based shoot-’em-up. I know it sounds ridiculous — and it is — but that’s just part of this overlooked title’s charm.

I feel I should start with a confession: I never liked Ecco the Dolphin. It’s kind of boring and I never know what I’m supposed to be doing. That’s why I’m so surprised that I like Kolibri so much. Like Ecco the Dolphin, the goals of each stage are never very clear and rounds begin and end in nondescript areas, but the asinine concept, stunning visuals, and haunting tunes keep me coming back. In a medium that prides itself on shattering your nerves, Kolibri sticks out as the most serene game I’ve ever played. The photorealistic graphics rock super hard and use the 32X’s increased color pallet to the fullest. Foliage, water, animals and sunsets (the glorious sunsets!) are truly a sight to behold. Happyish, new age synthesizer music floats through your speakers during half the levels in the game, and can be very soothing at times. (It kind of feels like something Enya would come up with on an off day.) The other tunes are panicky and urgent, but both sets fit the action in an odd, “I’m a badass, rapid-fire hummingbird off to save the Earth,” kind of way. The gameplay is only average, but it’s the atmosphere that sucks you back in.

If you like Ecco the Dolphin (for some reason), if you’re looking for something unique, or if you just need a reason to take Virtua Fighter out of your 32X, give Kolibri a shot. Check it out: the manual even gives you tips on how to build your own hummingbird feeder. I was just upset when I made one as a kid, and the hummingbirds that came to visit didn’t start blowing up the beehives around my house with their laser beaks.

You lied to me about nature again Sega, (see: Sonic the Hedgehog, Dynamite Dux, etc.) but it’s so much better than the truth that I forgive you.

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