Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 15

February’s almost gone, but we couldn’t let the month go by without sharing our latest gaming fixes! Yep, we loves us some Sega, and this installment sees our staff and readers sharing some great classics, as well as some lesser-known games that you might have missed. Read on fan, and see what your fellow Segaphiles have been playing!

Silpheed By Ken Horowitz

Everyone remembers the first time they saw Silpheed. The jaw-dropping visuals were surreal, and they still hold up quite well today. Flat-shaded polygons might not be as yummy as they once were, but this was the type of game you bought your Sega CD for, the one you showed to all of your friends with a smile.

Way to justify that $330 purchase, eh? Get past the presentation and you’re essentially left with a good Galaxian clone. Silpheed doesn’t play all that badly, but it’s hard to see what made people consider it “the best shmup ever” (hey Game Fan, where ya going?). I guess you could consider Silpheed a wonderful example of style over substance. It has style in spades, but it’s decidely lacking when it comes to the substance part. Does that make it a bad game? Heck no. It’s still fun to play, and those polygons still blow up quite nicely.

Toxic Crusaders By Vince Thornburg

Toxic Crusaders is considered to be one of the worst games for the system, even though I’ve told people before to give it a second chance (or even a first chance), and I still say it. The game has its moments, and can actually be a nice little game to play for at least a little while. Unfortunately, for most people, including me, that’s not enough. While it’s not the worst, it’s not the best either. The cartoon was killed seconds after toys hit the shelves, and the game didn’t fare much better. Almost feeling like a beta at some stages, Toxic Crusaders’ animations go wonky at times, and sometimes the hit detection makes you rather want to be exposed to a vat of toxic waste, find a blind girlfriend, and become everyone’s hero while killing the bad guys, unless you get bored and kill an innocent just because they were there.

But even after all that, I like the game. With its crappy controls, generic music, and its ability to make a talking gangsta wolf actually seem boring, I’ll still put some time into it every now and then. Why? Because I like bad games sometimes too!

Sonic 3 & Knuckles By Patrick Wainwright

Allow me to begin my entry for this month with a story. Earlier this month I had a dream, a vivid picture of something so perfect it had to exist. This perfection was Sonic 3 and Knuckles. Only it was one cartridge. It’s not often I remember my dreams and seek meaning in them, but this vision left me with such a force that I had no choice but to seek out the reason for it My quest took my through beautiful yet dangerous areas including the Carnival Night Zone, the Lava Reef Zone, and the dreaded Death Egg. I fought with the easily dubbed Knuckles and scoured for hidden mystical emeralds. Using their incredible power, I was able to subdue the devious Robotnik and stop his ambitions. My reward for this arduous though highly enjoyable journey was an epiphany. The games may not exist as one entity, but through the magic of lock-on technology they will always live as one cartridge in my Genesis… or until I figure out how to weld two plastic cartridges into one.

Mansion of Hidden Souls By Rodger Swan

I got this first person point and click 3D adventure game for Christmas last year, and I finally got around to playing it. The game’s strange atmosphere mixed with a weird storyline of people turning into butterflies sets it apart from other games of the genre. It moves at a fairly quick pace, but it’s over far too soon. On one’s first try, Mansion of Hidden Souls can be beaten in less then two hours. Still, the graphics look great on the Sega CD, and the storyline is intriguing. Oddly enough, the back of the game’s case seems to market the game as a scary thriller, but it’s more of an artistic mood piece. Strange? You betcha. Sadly, the much anticipated Saturn sequel failed to live up to even modest expectations, and is even shorter than the original, which means you basically have to play it without blinking.

Lunar: The Silver Star By Tom Briggs

This month I decided to pop Lunar the Silver Star back into my Sega CD. I actually hadn’t visited this version of the game in around six years. All my recent Lunar adventuring had been done on the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance. Playing the original not only brought back a flood of memories, but it also allowed me to appreciate the simplicity of the RPG genre at the time. Both the story and gameplay were seemingly simple, but a layer of depth could be found beneath both. Things like range and position had to be taken into account during battles, and the story was more character driven than any other game at the time.

There’s just something about the Lunar series…it’s timeless. The game is a must-have for Sega CD owners, and remains my favorite RPG to this day.

Batman: The Video Game By Joe Redifer

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Batman for the PC Engine, as it was a new purchase for me. Of course, this put me into the mood for the Genesis version. Obviously, the Genesis game is better in every category than the PC Engine version except for length. I remember purchasing the Japanese Mega Drive import (along with Gaiares) waaaay back in the day before Nintendo would allow Sunsoft to release it here since the NES version already existed. The graphics and especially the music are fantastic. This has got to be the same sound team that worked on Blaster Master for the NES, since the music is full of great melodies that are actually worth listening to. Unfortunately, Sunsoft decided that they hated both good music and their customers and got rid of that sound team for Blaster Master 2, opting instead to put in some awful rinky-dink music. The same goes with Aero the Acrobat. What a horrible game with crappy music. Now look at Sunsoft. Do they even exist anymore? Should’ve kept that sound team, guys. Anyway, this game is fun if a bit short.

Revenge of Shinobi By Carl-Johan Brax

I have begun studying full-time for the first time since I started working about two years ago. I will become the Swedish equivalent of a patient care technician, and while it isn’t really tough, there’s a lot going on all the time. But I can always find some time for my Mega Drive and the Reader Roundtable feature, and now I’m going to tell you about last time I played the classic Revenge of Shinobi. Since I had already beaten the game on normal without cheating and no Naoko pancake, it was time to beat it on hard. To increase the relaxation, I had the infinite shuriken cheat on, collected lives at the factory, and used a map from GameFAQs for the final dungeon.

And boy, it was a great play. I managed to pretty much walk through Revenge, which is really nice, because the first times I played it there were so many irritating moments killing me. For example: the ninjas at the waterfall, the opening doors at the air plane, the cars and nuns on the highway, the lasers at the skyscraper, the final jump at the pier… After learning this game, the cursing decreases probably several hundred percent when playing. I managed to do the pier jump on my second try this time. I died immediately at the dinosaur boss. I was probably never going to beat him without my new tactic: “terrorist suicide bomb near death to keep the damage on the boss.” This tactic also worked on the head-banging final boss. But he sure took many more hits this time, and the spiky roof fell down much faster than on normal, so it was hard. Naoko was sitting down when I was thinking about the other suicide to try again, but after many lives and even more hits, the boss finally gave in and died. And I still had at least nine lives!

I was sure proud to see the sunset with Naoko and hear the great tune My Lover by Yuzo Koshiro that time. In June, I might hear it again, since PLAY! A Video Game Symphony will be playing in Stockholm then. Count on a feature about that, Mega Drivers!”

King Colossus: Tougi Ou By Zack Young

So lately I’ve been playing a lot of King Colossus. What’s that you say? Never heard of it? That’s probably because it was another one of those awesome little games that never saw a western release. I tell you, it’s all a Japanese plot to deny us western gamers the best games! Anyway, King Colossus is an action RPG and it is one cool game. It starts off a little slow and has some early tedium, but once you get past that the game’s awesome. You’re just this guy who goes around doing things for the overbearing man who brought you up until you learn that you’re destined to serve as a gladiator for the King. You disobey a royal command and get thrown in the dungeon. The plot moves from there, and while it’s by no means the best of 16-bit plots, it’s certainly a fun game. One awesome aspect of it is that though you get a lot of different weapons you’re not forced to upgrade to some “better” version of the old one, because the weapons all have their different uses. Another thing that’s quite amusing about King Colossus is that practically all of the characters in it are pompous jerks in one way or another, and say what you will, but there’s a lot of old school charm to that set up. The game also featured decent visuals and sound to boot. So there’s really no reason not to play it since it’s seen an online translation. A thoroughly fun little gem, if occasionally tedious.

Starflight By David Howland

Starflight is one of those releases that changed the way people thought about games. It existed as a DOS game for years before the Genesis port, and in that time it had already become legendary. Starflight drops you in the middle of a galaxy with 270 solar systems and over 800 planets to explore, and no clue of what your goal is. It’s all up to you. I think Starflight would have to be the most open-ended Genesis game by far.

The game is also engrossing. There’s so much to do and discover, with several alien races and an epic storyline to uncover. Unlike adventure games which seem to be called RPGs simply because they utilize the hit point and dice-roll systems found on pen and paper RPGs, Starflight literally has you playing the role of a starship captain. You become the head of your ship in every sense of the word, including plotting your course throughout the stars, managing your wealth, acting as a diplomat to alien races, managing your crew, and commanding in battle.

From the seeming impossibly large, fractal generated galaxy to the whopping 140 page manual which includes a short story by a nebula award winning author, Starflight is an amazing experience. Despite the lame graphics and terrible audio, it’s one of the best sci-fi games I have ever played on any system. Already it has soaked up a month, and I’m still not done.

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