It’s time for another month of reader mayhem! With sheer number of games available on the Genesis, there’s never a shortage of something to play, and this month is no different from the rest. Our twenty-second consecutive installment features some quality titles, as well as a stinker or two. Hey, they can’t all be winners, right?
Captain America & The Avengers By Ken Horowitz
Man, do I miss Data East. Before it disappeared into the netherworld of dead publishers, it sure made some mean arcade games, and many of them ported quite well to the Genesis (Two Crude Dudes is still a favorite). Captain America & the Avengers may have fallen far below expectations visually, but it manages to retain the charm and the gameplay of the arcade hit. Heck, it even has virtually all of the voices! I could one-credit the coin-op, but the Genesis version has still managed to keep that prize from me. No worries though, as I have no qualms about continuing to try. I’ll keep zapping away with Iron Man until the Red Skull goes down in a single sitting! Playing this reminds of how cool the Avengers were back in their glory days in the ’80s (Masters of Evil storyline FTW), and contrary to what some misguided souls think, I actually like this one. Anyone who’s a super hero fan should check it out, and take the visuals with a grain of salt. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master By Vince Thornburg
With recent discussion about Joe Musashi’s career, the only thing I could really do is play the only game of his that I both own and really liked, Shinobi III. Honestly, this is the best game out of the Shinobi series, bar none. Revenge of Shinobi is historic, and Shadow Dancer is a cult classic to some, but nothing compares to the overall fun of Shinobi III. It starts out like usual, except you’ve now become a faster, leaner Joe, instead of the plodding Joe we once knew in ROS. While it seems to be the same overall, you notice the new moves and the better animations that just make this a much more fun game, even with the enemies all exploding like a bad episode of Power Rangers. What happens after you finish that first part? It’s time to ride your mighty steed (You hear that? I’m a steed!). As you fly down the infinite field, giant kites fly into view as your enemies run in front of you. Will that be a problem? Ha! Joe simply cuts all the ninja foes down!
Then, it’s time to take down an entire army and facility!
Then, you jet ski! JET SKI! This game is the best game ever!
Soon, you’ll reach Neo Zeed’s headquarters, and take out everyone along with the Shadow Master! Then the game is over, and you realized how awesome this game was. And you didn’t need a damn dog’s assistance either!
RoboCop 3 By Glenn Uhlendorf
Ahh Robocop… Being a child of the ’80s, I had a ton of the RoboCop toys. I even had the RoboCop pajamas, and to this day this movie is one of my favorites (ed. note. You actually LIKED RoboCop 3? You’re fired!). This MOVIE, not this GAME. The artificial intelligence is ridiculously cheap, the controls are horrific, and the levels have a degree of tediousness that even Sisyphus would despise.
When it comes to anything RoboCop 3, you’re better off watching the movie, and that’s certainly a mouthful.
Super Fantasy Zone By Carl-Johan Brax
I remember playing Fantasy Zone on the Sega Master System back in the day. It was a funny and different shmup with pretty graphics. I was very excited when I got the Super version for the superior Sega Mega Drive, and the game didn’t disappoint at all. I’ve always loved surreal fantasy worlds with bright colours, like other games that utilize it, such as Panorama Cotton and Space Harrier. I highly prefer watching it over the brown/grey trash of the FPS genre. The colours are very well fitting with each other, the parallax gives a nice depth, and the overall design just screams cuteness. For once it isn’t the music that is half the game to me in this genre; it is the graphics. The game has a shop system, which kind of makes it an action/RPG. In your valiant quest to save the universe from some evil guy, the shop offers you engines, weapons, bombs and rubber boots. If you die, all universe is doomed, so hope you saved your allowance to afford the equipment needed.
Since this game was only released in Europe, Brazil and Japan, Americans were left out. But fear not, fellow yanks, you aren’t completely forgotten. Just plug in your Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf cart and make one hundred strokes to try out a different version of this game. Or go to the strip club in Phantasy Star IV, close your eyes and listen to a remixed Fantasy Zone track. Or you can just import this and play it on your Sega Genesis system, since it has no regional lock-out. There are better options to those violent, gory and morally corrupting games like Halo 3 (Hi, Jack Thompson!) and Gears of War. Super Fantasy Zone is there for you, completely without blood and polygons. Buy or die!
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle By Benjamin Galway
In my dreams where I run Sega, I envision bringing what I loved about the company back with a spectacular reappearance of Alex Kidd. Yet, as I play through Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, I really wonder if he’s deserving of such a title. Loose control, cheap hits, shallow gameplay… Is this the flagship to launch of revitalization of a major video game company? I fear that any enjoyment I have in playing Alex Kidd is solely due to nostalgia, as I just don’t find the game very interesting today. Sure, it remains a fairly solid if average title, but while the novelty of having to play Janken to earn items is initially entertaining, that charm doesn’t hold through to the end. Cheap hits by falling Old Wizards in Rock Mountain two among others make it more of a memory test at times than I care for these days, and the game simply lacks any challenge not provided by cheap, blind hits or random Janken losses. Alex Kidd has an established 8-bit heritage, but it would seem the gameplay wasn’t able to grow-up when fed 16-bits. If it weren’t for Alex’s name on the box and trademark sideburns, I think this could easily blend in among the many “just decent” platformers out there that always fail to make anyone’s recommendation lists.
Shining Force By Joe Redifer
I recently acquired Shining Force during a local assault/robbery (those kids sure are getting tough). I had played the game before back in my rental days, and it didn’t click with me because Shining in the Darkness had always stuck in my mind as a first person game. Suddenly a new Shining game it out, and with a similar purple box to boot! It MUST be a sequel with great first person graphics that come close to matching the original Phantasy Star dungeons. Nope. It was one o’ them “strateejee” games. Me no like. Me return to rental store. Anyway I just started playing it again since I own it. At first it was a little odd, but I do like the way Climax and Sonic Software Planning do things with icons and whatnot. I got used to the game and actually started enjoying it! I don’t like that it takes ninety minutes just for any given character to get another turn, but overall it is quite playable, addictive and enjoyable. I am building my levels up right now so I can make it to the second town. Why do I always miss when I swing my sword at the giant bats? Why does it take six hours for someone who is asleep to wake up? And why is the music so repetitive during battle? Those are the only things about the game so far that make my anus itch.
Beyond Oasis By Kylera
Compared to most RPGs these days, it may be of the simpler type, but it is my belief that not many games allow a player to interact with its surroundings like Beyond Oasis. Zap a pole of ice, a puddle, a river or a lake for the Water deity (or whatever it’s called)? How very very convenient.
And not many games allow a player to have his full arsenal from the get-go. Sure, it sucks sometimes that I can’t pull off the proper maneuver because the joystick sucks or my thumbs aren’t as quick as they were, but I’ll be damned if I have to find some obscure corner to learn a critical move. Now THAT’S pick-up-and-play!
Here’s to hoping I can beat this without extending my life. Wish me luck!
Dark Castle By Damien Jennison
A typical adventurer need not fear the mundane when trying to save the kingdom. A bat is only a minor inconvenience and is easily reduced to something trivial when the character advances even a little into the game. Rats fall into a similar category. If a character doesn’t level, that’s okay too, as usually they are only encountered early in the game. When it gets annoying is when they are some of your ONLY enemies in a game. It doesn’t help that they look like small blobs of pixels. But that’s okay too; in Dark Castle, it is stairs that are the character slayers and small declines an inch in height that’ll make your hero fall flat on his face.
The graphics are bland and dreary, the music is a single tune looping indefinitely in the background and your hero has all the charm and grace of a blundering oaf. The sounds range from the annoying to the ear-grating (try listening to the eye monsters for more then ten seconds and you’ll see what I mean) Facing the forces of the Black Knight (or as I like to think, exterminating the pests in his home as that’s what it feels like) is next to impossible thanks to aiming your arm like it were a ballista and at about the same speed and throwing deadly rocks at your foes, of which you will desperately run out of within a few screens. There are power-ups in the form of the Shield and Fireball, but they aren’t even needed to finish the game and that to me is a critical flaw, as you only need to do the Black Knight’s level itself to complete it. Look on YouTube, there are speed runs in fifty-two seconds.
I expected a lot more from this game. Electronic Arts simply couldn’t have made a game that bad, I thought, after reading the countless negative reviews. I was wrong; they could. It’s an abomination to the Mega Drive and to gaming in general and I seriously put it up there with E.T and Pac-Man for the 2600. Why am I even playing it? Why is it still in my console? I don’t know anymore. The Black Knight sure knows how to instill terror into the hearts of gamers and it isn’t for his tankard throwing finesse.
PGA Tour Golf II By Daniel Smith
Before the joy of alcohol was taken from me by an overzealous doctor who deemed that waking up next to empty bottles of whiskey and not remembering buying them amounted to a drink problem, I used to indulge in the art of drunk Mega Drive gaming. Sadly, most Mega Drive games were not designed for inebriated reprobates, with too many bright colours, which makes a pleasant night of drunkenness feel like an acid trip gone wrong, music, which becomes a distraction and turns into a singsong, and lightening reflexes as a requirement.
One game that stands tall as the pinnacle for alcohol fueled gamers is PGA Tour Golf: II – well it could have been number III, but for some reason the games blur together. Let’s be honest, golf is tosh. The only people who like golf are men involved in loveless marriages and want to escape the clutches of their wife (see also: Gardening) and people with too much time/money. But combine golf with the Mega Drive, a friend (or two) and a bottle (or two) of whiskey and you have the recipe for optimum inane hilarity. Trying to swing your club with maximum power is nigh impossible, keeping the ball on the green becomes a joke in itself and nothing at all can prepare you for excitement that occurs when a course contains water. I once saw a brave and noble man chip the ball from the rough, hit the flag, and the ball bounce into the hole – it was a great moment for mankind. Naturally, I do not advise playing this game sober as it is mindless drivel and, to be honest, any substance that makes this game seem enjoyable cannot be doing the world any good, but my God! What I wouldn’t give for a night in with a few friends, a bottle of booze and a romp around the green – well, maybe I could do without the friends and the Mega Drive…