Another month, another batch of Genesis titles on Nintendo’s new system. Last month we saw Sega clearly define itself as THE company to beat when it comes to retro games. Judging by sales, they successfully introduced classic games to a whole new generation of gamers. Last month, though, was a bit on the slow side. Only four titles were featured on this January’s list, but each is extremely solid in its own way. The Genesis is still leading the way in terms of quality releases, and looking at these titles, they seem to be listening to their fans. It was another great month for 16-bit fans.
Bonanza Bros. is a fun little platform-action-arcade game that graced the Genesis in 1991. In the game, you are one of two thieves, and it is your job to steal and escape from many different locations. You’ll run, jump, and shoot your way to riches. It’s all great fun, and most importantly, it features an excellent two-player mode. Though the game is known today by hardcore fans (most of us included) as one of the Genny’s best kept secrets, the game was and still is very obscure to mainstream gamers. It’s great to see Sega giving this game a second life on the Nintendo Wii.
Pass or Purchase? Though Bonanza Bros. has a lot going for it (its controls are suited perfectly for the many Wii options, it’s simple yet fun, and has a great two-player experience) I still see it being over-shadowed by other great 16-bit games. If you are a big enough Sega fan, you owe it to yourself to go out and find the cart. For the mainstream crowd though, there are better ways to spend you 800 Wii points.
It seems that Sega is going to release one or two absolute gems every month. Last month we got Ristar and Gunstar Heroes, this month we got Comix Zone. For those unfamiliar with the title, Comix Zone is a late-generation beat-’em-up which not only showcased the Genesis’ capabilities, but also the brilliance of Sega’s internal developers as well. While other games of the genre followed the tried-and-true formula made popular by games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, Comix Zone set upon its own path.
The game features a crazy story which throws the protagonist – Sketch, into a living comic book filled with plenty of dangers. It takes the standard combat found in the genre and adds to the mix complex combos that will be familiar to anyone who has ever played Street Fighter. This original take also features a colorful world, detailed sprites, and some great special effects. Many, myself included, consider the game an absolute classic.
I’m happy to report that Comix Zone plays brilliantly on the Wii. The visuals benefit from the conversion to 480p and the sound is perfectly emulated. Thus far I have only played one game on the Wii Virtual Console that I found “glitchy,” and like all Genesis titles up to this point, Comix Zone doesn’t suffer from any of these problems. I do have one minor complaint: the controls take some getting used to. I always found the six-button pad the best option when playing this game, and the “classic controller” is the closest to replicating the feel of Sega’s controller. Obviously though, there are only four face buttons. While there are two shoulder buttons, it can feel disorienting at first.
Pass or Purchase? This is a no-brainer. Comix Zone was a great representation of the 16-bit period as a whole, and it stands near the top of the Wii’s retro releases. The game’s presentation is nearly unbeatable, it controls well, and looks fantastic. This is what the Virtual Console was made for: retro games that can appeal to both experienced and inexperienced gamers. Comix Zone is absolutely worth 800 Wii points.
Space Harrier II
Along with Altered Beast, Space Harrier II was one of the first titles to prove that the Genesis could produce games very similar to their arcade counterparts. The original Space Harrier was a favorite of mine, and like a lot of early Genesis adopters, I jumped at the chance to play this sequel. Everything about this game is enjoyable, and it seems like a good fit for the Nintendo Wii. Space Harrier II is really just a simple shooter, which is a good thing. It’s simple, fun and great in short play sessions. Because it really only requires one button – to shoot – there really isn’t any accessory required to play. So just in case you’re completely against Nintendo’s decision to not include a pack-in classic controller, you’ll still be covered. Having the ability to save in the middle of any of its twelve levels is also a great benefit resulting from the emulation.
Pass or Purchase? Space Harrier II will always be fun. The game may have begun to show its age, but the same basic qualities that had me searching for quarters are still there. Still, I’m not sure it warrants an 800 point purchase. It’s a bit short, and there are many other games vying for your attention. This is the title I’m the most split on. Call me crazy but……
ToeJam & Earl
When I told my friend that ToeJam & Earl was being released on Nintendo’s Virtual Console, he smiled and said, “Man…I loved that game. I’ve never had more fun playing a game where I didn’t do anything.” And looking back, I’d have to agree. I’m not saying that TJ&E doesn’t have a clear objective, but it was the first game where I could just space out, walk around, and enjoy the music. The goal is to find the pieces of your spaceship, which are scattered throughout the game’s many levels. Along the way you’ll encounter enemies, friends, vendors, and a good number of awesome power ups. The visuals are pleasant, and the music is…funky? The atmosphere of the world presented is very well done, and really needs to be experienced. Since the game makes use of the three-button pad, in which two buttons are dedicated to different menus, the Wii can again accommodate all control preferences. ToeJam & Earl really helped define the Genesis as the “cool” console of the era, and it’s a great addition to the Wii’s growing Virtual Console library.
Pass or Purchase? There’s just way too many reasons to buy this game. It’s entirely original, funny, sounds great, works as a great multi-player experience, and has seemingly unlimited replay value due to its randomly generated levels. Spending 800 Wii Points on TJ&E is an absolute steal considering what it goes for on eBay.
Seeing somewhat obscure games like Bonanza Bros. show up on the Virtual Console is very exciting. Sega knows what their fans want, and so far, they’ve delivered. Looking ahead, they have already announced Gain Ground – another forgotten gem. It’s only time before we see games like Warsong and M.U.S.H.A. sandwiched between major Sonic releases. Regardless of your feelings towards Nintendo, it’s great to see wonderful games being rediscovered. Let’s hope that both Nintendo and Sega can fully realize the potential of the Virtual Console idea.