Its been two months since our last article on the Genesis Virtual Console, and since then Sega has been up to its usual self, releasing both classics and obscurities (Virtua Fighter 2?). This time around we’re privileged to play a number of amazing sequels. Streets of Rage II, Golden Axe II, and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 are all top representations of their respective genres, but are these games worthy of an $8 purchase? Read on to find out!
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
You could safely say that Alex Kidd was the original Sega mascot. While the series first saw life on the Sega Master System, it’s this Genesis entry that is considered the series pinnacle. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle takes everything great from the original entry and throws away anything that made the sequels so mediocre. What Genesis fans – and now Wii owners as well – are left with is a good ‘ol platform romp. Jumping, kicking, and punching should all work just as you remember. Due to the simplicity of Alex’s actions, each of the Wii’s control options translate well. Though destined to be overlooked by the “Sonic and Mario” crowds, Alex Kidd offers up a charming experience filled with quirky humor and gameplay.
Pass or Purchase? Fans of platform games should absolutely give this game a look. The late ’80s and early ’90s were riddled with these types of games, yet few achieved the same amount of individuality and polish. Still, the game is a bit over-priced at 800 points, and there are quite a few great Genesis games available to spend your money on.
Golden Axe II
I’m not sure if I’m in the minority on this, but I’ve always preferred Golden Axe II to the original. It’s not that there’s anything really new or innovative in this game, everything just feels a bit better. For those unfamiliar, Golden Axe II features arcade-style hack-‘n-slash goodness. You and a friend choose from three characters and hack your way to the end of a level. Along the way you’ll cast screen-filling spells and defeat ugly bosses. It’s all good fun, especially with a second player, and this time around things feel a bit more polished. The visuals are the most obvious upgrade to the series, with a noticeable boost given to both background and character sprite quality. Like most early Genesis games, Golden Axe II should work well with the Wii’s three different controller types. Unlike Gunstar Heroes, which suffers from the A button being close to the d-pad, playing the game using just the Wii-remote should be fine.
Pass or Purchase? Golden Axe II has been on my radar ever since the original was released for the Genesis Virtual Console. I figured that I’d only need to buy one Golden Axe, and this is it. Though the game is short, it’s high in replay value. Golden Axe II is great in short spurts when friends come over, and it looks pretty in 480p (come on, how many times has the Golden Axe series been called “pretty” lately?). Plus, the asking price of 800 points is definitely reasonable.
Kid Chameleon is a game in which I’ve never finished. Never. I know there are warp points strewn about, but I just could never invest the right amount of time into beating it. Which is why I’ve been begging to see a Virtual Console release ever since I learned that you could suspend a game whenever you want and come back to it later. “FINALLY,” I thought, “I’ll be able to conquer my nemesis”. Well, I haven’t yet. Apparently Kid Chameleon is a lot tougher than I remember (which I should have been ready for, just look at those sunglasses and that leather jacket). Kid Chameleon is a classic platformer in the vein of Super Mario Bros. or even Alex Kidd. You jump, break blocks, and wind your way through various themed levels. What sets Kid Chameleon apart though, is its reliance on different helmets enabling different powers. Find a samurai helmet to wield a sword, or a hockey mask to become “Jason”-like and throw axes. Each ability is integral to progressing through the games MANY levels. The game plays admirably on the Wii with one exception: a Classic controller or GameCube pad is a necessity. To run, which allows for long jumps, you need to hold down the A button. Which on the Wii-remote sits next to the D-pad. Obviously, this doesn’t work. At this point though, owning a Classic controller should be a given.
Pass or Purchase? Kid Chameleon is a funny game. Even though it comes up short in many areas, its garnered quite a cult following. I’ll admit that I love it. And I think everyone else should too. The game itself is a solid platformer made better through the use of helmets. The 800 Wii points required is fair, and Genesis fans already owning the game have reason enough to download the game thanks to the Wii’s save feature.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Like its predecessor, is there anyone out there that hasn’t already enjoyed Sonic The Hedgehog 2? To all non-gamers, Sonic 2 is like the original in that you speed through numerous stages (powered by blast processing!) attempting to collect emeralds and defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik. Sonic 2 isn’t a mere upgrade though. Added to this entry is two-player co-op and competition through the use of Tails, completely new special stages, much more complex levels, the spin-dash, and a better balanced difficulty. All of this culminates into arguably the best entry in the series. Most likely the best we’re likely to see on the Wii (since Sonic CD isn’t being discussed). The game is an all-out classic, brilliant in every way, and should play perfectly with any of the Wii control options.
Pass or Purchase? This should be a no-brainer, right? Well it’s not. 800 Wii points is just plain expensive for Sonic 2. And while the benefits of emulation through the Wii are nice, none are necessary. Still, if you’re only going to buy one Sonic game for the Wii, this one is a great choice. And for anyone who hasn’t owned the game, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Sonic 2 represents the brilliance of an entire console generation.
Streets of Rage II
There simply isn’t a better Beat-‘Em-Up than Streets of Rage II. The game was given to me as a Christmas gift years and years ago, and I haven’t fallen out of love with it yet. Just imagining that thousands of new gamers will be introduced to the same great game brings a smile to my face. In Streets of Rage II, you’ll choose from four different characters, each with their own move-set, and fight through hordes of enemies. Rarely does the action let up, and some serious fights over who picks up the health will most likely ensue when playing with a buddy. Streets II features more baddies, better graphics, more variety in locations, and an overall better balance in difficulty (something in common with the two other number 2’s already discussed). While the game can be played using all control options, the Classic controller would be suited best for the task.
Pass or Purchase? Like Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 2 represents a certain timelessness of the 16-bit generation. There’s nothing better than getting together with a friend and spending an afternoon bringing down Mr. X and all his cronies. The game is one of a number of “must have” virtual console titles. 800 points is well worth the amount of fun you’ll have with this game.
ToeJam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron
Unlike the other three sequels discussed, Panic on Funkotron isn’t a much-improved visit to a proven formula, it is an all-out redesign. Of course, this can be seen as both good and bad. The original’s open-ended world could both frustrate and elate. Panic on Funkotron is much more of a traditional platformer. As Toe Jam or Earl, you return to your planet Funkotron. But to you’re dismay, humans have invaded and begin to cause trouble. It’s up to you to collect and get rid of the humans. Panic on Funkotron plays fairly well. Everything feels solid, there’s a decent amount of gameplay variety, and the original’s quirky humor makes a return. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do a lot to separate itself from other platformers. Because this is a 2D side-scroller, a lot of the originality that made the series popular is gone.
Pass or Purchase? Panic on Funkotron is a difficult game to judge. It’s not bad, but it isn’t the original either. For what it is – a well made traditional platformer – Toe Jam and Earl is a solid buy for the Wii. The game controls well using the Classic controller, it looks amazing at 480p, and is a decent value at 800 Wii points. Still, there are far too many other traditional platformers to spent you points on.
Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter 2 for the Genesis is a little bittersweet. It’s awesome that it’s there, but it isn’t very good. I had missed the original cart release, so I snatched the ROM up when it hit the Virtual Console. At first I was intrigued, maybe even impressed, and then I became disappointed. The game isn’t a bad one, AM2 nearly pulled off the unthinkable task of porting a 3D wonder to a 16-bit machine, it’s just a bit mediocre. In translating Virtua Fighter 2 to the Genesis, sacrifices had to be made. The most obvious of which is the transition to 2D. As 2D fighters go, Virtua Fighter 2 is unspectacular. While in 3D the game takes on many layers of tactical depth, in 2D it’s pretty standard. In fact, many areas of the move-sets are missing. The game is graphically impressive though, and it looked nice on my Wii. As for controls, this is another game that needs to be played using either the Classic controller or Game Cube pad.
Pass or Purchase? The quintessential 2D fighter, Street Fighter 2, is already available for the Wii, and the promise of future Neo Geo games give gamers little reason to spend their valuable Wii points on Virtua Fighter 2. The game is definitely an interesting take on a classic, but no one should feel sorry for passing this one up.
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Wonder Boy in Monster World is a fun action-platform-RPG that doesn’t seem to get the credit it deserves. Originally, I had mixed feelings for the game. When starting the game, things feel a little slow and shallow. As you progress – solving puzzles, upgrading armor and weaponry – everything tends to just feel….great! The game has a certain charm that isn’t seen in games today. It is simplicity done right. The game features an awesome soundtrack, and though animation is at a minimum, the graphics are vibrantly beautiful. Unfortunately, the game is on the short side, and replay value isn’t very high. It’s also important to remember that Wonder Boy in Monster World requires regular use of all three Genesis face buttons, which means you’ll have to pony up for the Classic controller.
Pass or Purchase? Whether or not you should buy this game really depends on your gaming tastes. Casual fans of platform games and RPG’s should absolutely spend 800 points (which, yes, is a little expensive) on Wonder Boy in Monster World. Hardcore fans may find it difficult to justify such a light-hearted romp that doesn’t leave much in the way of replay value. It’s a tough one, but…
There’s a lot to be pleased with in Sega’s newest releases. It’s always great to see fan favorites like Streets of Rage II hit the market, and gems like Wonder Boy in Monster World get a second chance. It’ll be interesting to see in what direction Sega takes its virtual console once they run out of sequels though. I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to see originals like Landstalker and Crusader of Centy as soon as possible. And what will happen once Sega begins to release classics on the Xbox Live Arcade? Will we finally see enhanced versions of our favorites? Only time will tell.