Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 20

Darn it, summer’s more than half over and there’s still so many games to play! At least this month’s group has a wide variety of goodness, along with some rotten apples. It’s a smorgasbord of gaming for everyone!


Space Harrier By Ken Horowitz

I’ll be honest. Space Harrier for the 32X isn’t even my favorite home version. Nope, that distinct honor goes to the Sega Ages release on the Saturn, and only when played with the wonderful Mission Stick. It’s as close as you can get to having the real arcade version at home, and it will always keep a special place in my heart because of it.

I still adore the 32X version though. Space Harrier is such simple fun that it’s great on just about any console. This was perhaps the one to get before the Saturn issue, so it to deserves some respect. Everything is just about spot-on, and the ol’ mushroom gets kudos for doing this one right. Along with Afterburner, it guarantees my 32X a place on my Genesis.

Knuckles Chaotix By Vince Thornburg

Console renting was something that rarely happened around my house. We were pretty happy with the Genesis sitting in my living room, ready for play whenever it was needed. Why would we want to try a SNES or anything else that was available at the time? Things changed though, when my dad walked into the house one day with an odd looking suitcase and a plastic bag. The bag held two games, while the suitcase held a 32X!

Fun was had that weekend! For a mere $40, we were playing Star Wars Arcade for hours. Of course, we had some trouble knowing exactly what to do at times, so we just had fun in waiting for R2-D2 to get shot and scream in that high-pitched howl everyone knows. We soon got bored and decided that maybe the 32X wasn’t worth the purchase. But wait, the bad held another game! We pulled it out quickly and put it in.

Knuckles Chaotix got everyone starry-eyed the second the Sega logo came to the screen! Soon, we were brought into a brand new world, and it starred not Sonic, not that damn two-tailed fox. No, it was KNUCKLES! The red-haired bad ass who could glide his way to victory and climb walls. Sure, his jump sucked before, but here, that was not the case! He was now the leader of an great team of new characters! This weekend just got amazing!

Long story short, after playing for about three hours, my seven year-old playing skills defeated Knuckles Chaotix. I was so proud, and I never wanted to get rid of that suitcase! But, life was cruel when you didn’t control the money, and it was returned, and we never did get that 32X.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when a 32X and Knuckles Chaotix arrive at my door after work.
I still love this game! The graphics were still memorable. The music was still as catchy as ever (I KNEW I had heard that somewhere before!) and, after playing around for a couple hours, Charmy the Bee and Espio the Chameleon defeated the evil, and I was content. But the difference is, for only eight dollars I’m now able to KEEP the damn thing!

Fire Shark By Carl-Johan Brax

After five years at the backside of Sweden, Gothenburg, my half brother and his mom finally returned home to the Royal Capital of Stockholm. On my first visit to their new apartment I decided to bring a surprise for them – my Sega Genesis Nomad and the shmup Fire Shark. It is an old favourite of my half brother’s mom (from now on called my “plastic mom,” as we say in Sweden), who played it – and only that game – a lot back in the old days. She was surely happy to see it again and wanted to have a whole game evening of it. And yeah, she is around fifty years old if you want to know.

Even with my glorious RGB cable it looked like crap, since they have one of these new fancy flat-screen TVs, which are a big step back in picture quality, and I don’t get why people would take that for a thin TV. Anyway, it actually should look like crap, since the game surely does so, as well as it sounds horrible. It actually feels like an 8-bit game, audio-visually. The palette is thin with uninspired colours, most levels look the same and the enemies have less animation than dying fish on a bridge. The soundtrack feels like a lunatic guitarist is putting together a gazillion wacky riffs into one messy, progressive jazz song in major scales. I fail to understand why my plastic mom ignores or even NOTICES these aspects of the game, as she can only refer to it as “very fun.”

There are three weapons of the game and one heavy bomber (for bosses and super-excessive moments only). The weapons have levels (five I think), which are raised by power-ups. The starting weapon is the blue spread, with three fast and weak bullets which is excellent for bringing down greater amount of small enemies. Then there is the green luminous booger weapon, which everyone in our family hates from the bottom of our hearts (uh, at least the three of us who played it this evening). It is slow, not strong enough and can’t be used either as a spread or fierce front weapon. Worthless! When the screen is filled with green weapon changers you will be sweaty, especially if you have the last weapon. The red flamethrower vanquishes all minor enemies at first touch. It starts out as a strong front weapon, developing itself to a whole screen cleaner of massive destruction. Aside from beating the game, your main goal will be to have the red weapon at full power, because it is such a pleasure to see the mayhem it causes.

What made us think this is a funny game is probably because the well-balanced difficulty and power up system, despite the booger shot. It is very funny to find some tactics to get out those chaotic moments (sometimes you just bomb your way through). Building up your weapons makes you put care into how you play, unlike other games where you might stand in front of the boss sacrificing a life to give all you got for a moment. But losing a high level weapon is annoying, as building it up takes ages and it is impossible to save when dying. All in all, Fire Shark is a competent shooter with flawed look and sound, worth picking up after obtaining all the ultr@ r@re and classic shmups on the system (no, I don’t have all of those – I bought this for my plastic mom!).

Even though both me and my plastic mom have beaten Fire Shark earlier in our lives, we never did so during this magical evening. I managed to get to the final boss, but after you die, you start over way back, which made me irritated, and I died instantly, which made me start even further back, twice! Then it was hasta la vista for me and the game was over. Oh well, there are more gaming evenings to be in the future for sure. Both Space Harrier and Panorama Cotton were too hard for my plastic mom, but Thunder Force III should be fine. It is easier than Fire Shark, but forces you to switch weapons, aim at weak spots, beware the environments etc. so we will see how it goes…

Dungeon Explorer By Joe Redifer  

I’m playing through Dungeon Explorer with all of my weapons and armor upgraded as far as they can go and my level is thirty-two (which is pretty high), but I’m only taking on the fourth dungeon. I can’t get past it. Why not? Because the game is retarded, that’s why. Yes, they allowed the mentally disabled to design this game. And not just any mentally disabled group of individuals, these are the king retards here! For some reason they decided that it would be a freakin’ AWESOME idea to put food in the game and always have your food rate constantly decreasing at an extreme rate of speed for absolutely no reason whatsoever. When the food runs out, your life goes down fast. You cannot buy more food, you must find it. Oh, did I mention that it only shows up only by chance and very, very rarely? Some food works automatically and gives you a measly 100 points back (which will last you about a minute), and others will give you more, but you have to stand still and go through menus for it to work (all the while you are vulnerable). There is absolutely no skill involved in finding the food. None. Pure luck. I can’t make it through the dungeon because I keep running out of food and I can’t get any more! I am finished trying. No reason to keep going back again and again when skill has nothing to do with it. Talk about urinating all over the replay value.

This version of the game is much more like Gauntlet than the TurboGrafx versions are. It even has the piss-poor voices that you can’t even begin to understand. In fact, I think the voices are much worse than Gauntlet. Anyway, stick the the TurboGrafx versions of this game. Both are far superior, and neither has this “food” nonsense!

NHL ’95 By Dave Clair

Seems that no matter what new sports games are released for the most recent video game system I find myself always drawn back to good old NHL ’95 for the Genesis. Why the ’95 version and not the beloved ’94 or one of the later versions? It’s a difficult question to answer, really. The inclusion of a full season mode and the ability to create players were awesome additions to the game, as were then new moves like fake shots or the ever-so-self-sacrificing skaters diving to block shots. But there is still something more to this game that draws the sports fan to it. The sounds – whether it be the hits, goal horn and organ music – were wonderful and really let you feel like you were at the game. NHL ’95 was not without quirks, as it was quite easy to deke out the goalie if you knew the right moves, and create the perfect team of fictional players to completely dominate the league. But it was the sum of these things combined with the great animation that really set it apart from the rest. The balance between accuracy to the actual sport and the easy of play really went a long way to further prove that the Genesis was the system for people who loved sports games.

Golden Axe III By Daniel Smith

Golden Axe has aged about as well as a chain-smoking crack whore, whereas Golden Axe II is as tedious as listening to an aged chain-smoking crack whore tell you about herself. Why, oh why, did I have any form of expectation when I inserted Golden Axe III into my Mega Drive? Golden Axe III is easily the toshest of the Mega Drive Golden Axe games. As Mr Spock may or may not observe if he were to play the game (and were a real person) “It’s Golden Axe, Jim, but not as we know it.” Gone are the man, dwarf and woman we have come to know and love, and in their place are a new man, a new woman, a puma man, some bizarre brute man type thing and (in the duel) a giant eagle/hawk. The fighting style, while an improvement on the previous two games, gets quite dull quite quickly, with most of the boss characters having moves cheaper than an aged chain-smoking crack whore – those stupid four-armed goat creatures being the worst and most irritating. The joy of having the option of taking multiple routes is ruined by the fact that the graphics in Golden Axe III are uglier than a cheap, aged, chain-smoking crack whore. The magic in Golden Axe III is as annoying as it ever has been and the game itself seems easier than a cheap, aged, chain-smoking crack whore, I was able to negotiate to the final boss without trying to hard – seemingly most enemies struggle against jumping attacks. While I am quite pleased to say I finally have the final Mega Drive Golden Axe game, I am less than happy to say I have played it.

Earthworm Jim 2 By Denis O’Donoghue

Earthworm Jim 2, what can I say? I rented the game when I was in my younger years and thought the world of it, yet around ten years on (or a fortnight ago) when it arrived in my post, donning a beautiful cardboard box, I had no recollection of the game, other than the fact that I remember it being great.

Did it flatter to deceive? Hell no. What an absolutely epic game it is. It’s so fantastic I don’t even want to call it a platformer because it puts all the rest to terrible shame bar Dynamite Headdy and Sonic 1 & 2. The game is so laden with goodies its frightening and not in a bad way either, each gimmick is implemented only for the advancement of gameplay. Its charm is unparalleled, putting ticking time bomb cows into bath tubs, dodging grannies on an “automated granny staircase escalator?” – the list of quirks and joy to be had goes on.

The level design is so innovative and creative that it has made me reconsider my love for Toy Story, as beside Earthworm Jim 2 it’s simply run of the mill. EJ2’s responsive controls and beautiful animation were almost relegated to side-notes because I was so engrossed in the game’s fun. It rivals Sonic for speed, Dynamite Headdy for innovation, ToeJam & Earl for Wackiness and Toy Story for beauty. For the first time in a while the void that is a craving for more and more games has been filled, for a short while at least, thanks to this.

What next? Well its obvious, I’ve got to get my hands on the original, after all according to Sega-16 its even better. If so, it must be incredible…

Space Adventure By Uri Cohen

God, what a crazy weekend at CGE. Saturday night I was hanging out with Steve Woita playing pinball (at the Pinball Hall Of Fame) and talking about his days at previous companies (Atari, Tengen, & Sega). He was a weird fellow but a cool guy to hang out with (I’m consider weird according to him because my nickname is “Bird”). Anyway, in CGE things can be really, really cheap. I got myself a complete copy of General Chaos for $5, and a complete copy of Virtua Racing for $1. Now lets get back on topic. There was one seller (the same one who I got General Chaos from) who was selling The Space Adventure for the Sega CD (it’s uncommon, and yes it’s based on the famous anime series Space Adventure Cobra) for five freaking bucks (this was on Sunday). The problem, according to him, was that the game will lock-up in certain areas (mostly because the disc was scratched, but not too bad). It was complete but the case was broken, which wasn’t too big of a deal at all since I purchase Tomcat Alley complete for $5 at some booth and just swapped the cases from both games.

There are two reasons why I got Space Adventure, even though it might not work correctly. First, because I love the anime series, and second because it was only five bucks (and the game goes for $50-$60 on eBay). According to the seller, he had a hard time playing the game on the CDX and a Model 2 Sega CD. Now to make sure the game disc can be saved I must copy the disc onto my laptop because if it’s really scratched badly it’ll give me disc read errors. Well guess what? The disc didn’t gave me any read errors at all when copying (and thus the disc is still good). So what that means is that I need to get the disc resurfaced when I come back to Florida in the next few days. I can’t wait, Cobra with his cigars and woman in hot suits! Priceless.

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