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Reader Roundtable Vol. 23

You’re getting ready to receive dozens of kids who have only candy on their minds, or perhaps you’re planning to go and get some sugary treats from generous neighbors yourself. Before engaging in your Halloween activities, why not see what our readers have been up to this month? There’s a great diversity in titles this time around, including some bona fide classics!

 

Phantasy Star II By Ken Horowitz

Ah Phantasy Star II, you continue to hold me under your spell. From the green plains of Palma to the bleak mountains of Dezoris, I find myself continually enthralled by your sheer scope and size. Yes, your brutally unforgiving random battles can sometimes be more than I can bear, but your large and treasure-filled dungeons beckon me ever onward to exploration. Often, I find myself almost able to shake off the thick haze of your dark magic, but then I find myself finally strong enough to no longer need Monomate, and I opt to press on. Past the Myau cats in Skure! Off to the Esper Mansion! Just one more Shot for Rudo! A new slicer for Anna! That’s all I need to be set until the legendary Nei weapons are mine. Then, Dark Force and Mother Brain will fall and peace will reign throughout Algol again.

Someday, I will put you away forever, Phantasy Star II, but that day is not today…

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine By Vince Thornburg

I did it! It took me seven years, and finding another copy after selling my first one, but I’ve finally beaten Dr. Robotniks Mean Bean Machine! It’s a night like any other. I’m ready for bed, and I decide to play a quick round of Puyo Puyo before I go to sleep. I grab Mean Bean and play it for the first time since upgrading to RCA from just RF. As I start, I figure I’ll play the first three rounds before I get stuck on Coconuts like I usually do. Arms and Frankly are their usual push-over selves, with Frankly taking a grand total of sixty-six seconds to dispose off. Humpty takes a bit longer, but that’s due more to a mistake in depth with some purple pieces. Then I get to Coconuts. I usually turn the game off here, since I’ve had a history with it, breaking a controller years ago when Coconuts would pull combos out of nowhere while I cried “Just one last red bean, PLEASE!”

But something tells me to keep going. So I play Coconuts, and I beat him in ninety-eight seconds. I have to keep going now, my streak is too good! Davy Sprocket takes a couple of tries, but I eventually get his pattern down and kill him off in quick fashion. Sqweel is my hardest challenge yet. I actually have to stop playing since it’s so late, and I lose my abilities for the night.

The next morning, I have five minutes before I had to leave for work, so I decide to give the little pig on wheels another try. He’s done in around eighty seconds, and I cry that I cannot go on. My worked day is distracting, as all I can do is wait until I get home to finish Compile’s masterpiece.
Dynamight, Grounder, Spike. All done within seven tries! I then run through Sir Fuzzy in a squeaker on one try (!), while DragonBreath creates a hatred for anything dragon. After a half hour of going at it, he is soundly defeated, though it takes me a good four minutes.

Scratch? No way he’d kill my buzz! I take him out in two tries.

They’ve all been defeated, except for the big one, Dr. Robotnik himself. Could I defeat the doctor and free the beans, after owning the game a collective seven years? Well, I try… and try… and try. After forty-five minutes, I become mentally spent and am forced to put down the controller for the night.

Today, I’m off to work and force myself to ignore Dr. Robotnik for at least my work shift. Later that day, I clock out, and the background music starts to play in my head as I drive the fifteen minutes home. I leave the radio off, as humming the song to myself is enough. I get home and ask everyone at home to not speak to me for a while; I have to get something done.
I play for ten minutes, then I pull off the greatest combo I’ve ever done! I was building up a three-hitter, when right before I’m able to act, Dr. Ivo Robotnik decided to plant two little refugee beans onto my two starters, like he read my mind! I groan as I drop a blue bean to the side to use its green counterpart to build another combo. As it falls, I see what’s coming, and all I can do is stare.

As it falls, it finds three friends I had forgotten. As it escapes, others fall and soon follow! Before I know it, my screen is 3/4 clean, while a giant refugee bean lands on Robotnik’s screen, making the sweat come! Ivo can do little as I scream”YEAH, TAKE THAT BITCH!” Seconds pass as I wait. Then, it happens. His side falls! He flashes and sweats, then nothing. He is defeated! I HAVE BEATEN DR. ROBOTNIK’S MEAN BEAN MACHINE! My family asks me what I’m screaming about, until they see the controller in my hand and quickly walk away. I don’t care. It had taken me seven years, but this little copy of Mean Bean Machine was mine, and I beat it. I’m so happy right now, I’m having it bronzed. Not the game, my hands.

Mega Bomberman By Tom Briggs

Video games today are becoming more and more about multi-player experiences. Halo, World of Warcraft, Rock Band, and pretty much every mini-game infested Wii release all have one thing in common: social gaming. Yet none of these games come close to replicating the classic mayhem of Mega Bomberman. The series has always held such a simple concept: lay down bombs to break through walls, pick up power ups, use said power ups to blow your opponent(s) to smithereens. It’s a winning formula that both the hardcore and casual fans can appreciate. When dusting off the old Bomberman cart, a couple of friends and I talked about how angry we used to get with each other when playing this game. We laughed at how immature we had been; these are more civilized times… Within the hour tempers had flared, names had been called, and feelings had been hurt. One controller had even been tossed across the room because – as a friend so eloquently puts it – “everyone was ganging up on me!” So while my favorite game this month has been Mega Bomberman, I’m also happy, even a little relieved, to put the game away. The cart is dangerous and everyone should approach it with caution.

Street Fighter II: SCE By Glenn Uhlendorf

Say what you will, but I’ve always HATED Mortal Kombat. Sure, ripping a heart out of someone’s chest while lighting their body ablaze with your breath of fire was awesome, but who had the patience to memorize all those moves? For me there was only and will always be only one fighting game, Street Fighter II. This edition of SF brings all of your favorite characters into the mix, features champion and versus mode, and most importantly includes the destruction of an automobile in between fights. Even though my girlfriend insists on only playing as Dhalsim and attacking from across the screen, Street Fighter II is a game that an be picked up quickly and enjoyed by everyone.

Beggar Prince By Zebbe

I usually play one Mega Drive game for a long period, rather than switching games often. But thanks to my friend, I obtained an AC adaptor for my Nomad, so I have been playing one game on my Mega Drive and one on my Nomad this month. The game in my Nomad has been Beggar Prince, much due to the fact that it doesn’t run on a 32X (yet), and also because I haven’t touched it since I beat it a month after its release. The vast part of the disappointment of the third special run is now forgiven, and there is no need to continue whining about it when there are bigger problems in this world, as I only hope the developer has learned a lesson.

Beggar Prince is still as funny as I remember it. When playing a RPG for the second time, you lose much of the excitement when exploring the world, but you have more experience to find out much about the secrets of the game. Reading about some special items and multiple endings on our forum, I was very eager to see the things I missed when I played it over a year ago. Although I haven’t gotten there yet, leveling up my character and being more cautious about the bugs has helped me a lot in enjoying the game more.

What Beggar Prince lacks in audiovisual appearance, it makes up for with its many innovative ideas. Rarely you see such an original battle system, character development and gameplay that encourages you to think, all in one. It makes you realize that a good RPG doesn’t have to come from Japan. Beggar Prince has opened a door to a new world of Taiwanese video game greatness, which I hope and believe Super Fighter Team will explore and share with us many times again.

Rocket Knight Adventures By Tom Lenting

I’m not a collector; I’m a gamer. The main purpose why I play those old 8 and 16-bit games is because I’m searching for that retro feeling, that feeling that I had playing video games when I was a kid, that Proustian mémoire involontaire that makes you almost visualize past times. Of course, when you go looking for that memory it isn’t so involontaire anymore, and most of the time I’m disappointed. Many games weren’t so great after all, or they’ve aged plain horrible; however, once in a while a game comes along that hasn’t lost any of its original magic touch. For me, one of those games is Rocket Knight Adventures. Taking the role of Konami’s opossum knight, this game can still hook me every time I play it. If only the ending wasn’t so darn difficult and the sequel didn’t suck so hard, it would have been perfect.

Cyborg Justice By Joe Redifer

When I saw the mega-hot game Cyborg Justice sitting unloved in a glass case for $1.99 US, I couldn’t pass it up. Although this is probably the highest price this game has ever gone for, I ponied up the change and ran home so fast that I even left my car at the store out of pure excitement. I slammed the game into my Genesis, nearly shattering the plastic on both the system and the cartridge, but I didn’t care. I had to play this game NOW! I turned it on and it was beautiful, just beautiful. The most colorful and detailed graphics on any system ever met my eyes, and the audio put the Sega CD to shame. I was greeted by a fantastic story which was the result of the collaborated efforts of J.R.R. Tolkien (resurrected from the dead to work on Cyborg Justice), Stephen King, Tom Clancy and John Elway. The story pulls you in and never lets go! Then the game starts. You control actor Ben Affleck (he’s inside the robot suit) through many stages of Streets of Rage-type action. Why do I compare it to Streets of Rage? Because the box logo looks almost exactly like Streets of Rage’s box logo, so the game must be similar. The challenge is to keep playing as long as you can before shutting the system off. Someday I plan on playing this game for more than ten minutes before becoming bored. I like games with challenge!

Zero Wing By Damien Jennison

Someone set up us the… No. No, I won’t do it. I must resist… on to the thing at hand. I have been playing a lot of shmups of late and none are more iconic then Zero Wing, the one that started an entire phenomenon all due to one employee’s case of bad Engrish. So many people know the single phrase from it without ever playing the game, and I am sad to say that for me, it’s probably better that it remains that way.

When I first got it, I expected it to be amazing but I was — and still am — disappointed. There are two things that get at me, one more so then the other. The first thing that stops it from being amazing, while minor, is that the very final power up is so random that I have only ever gotten it once, ever. What irks me far more though is the speed. For you being the only Zig to “move for great justice,” you sure are taking your sweet time doing it. It kills the pace of the game, especially if you make the mistake of getting far too many speed power ups. You end up whizzing around the screen so quickly, while the screen scrolls so slowly that the very terrain (which CAN kill you) becomes more deadly then the enemy fighters and things. Add to that that they can throw so many enemies at you that you cannot avoid getting hit either by them (their bullets or the darn terrain), and for me, the game loses its luster. Great-looking graphics, amazing music and originality by the bucket-load cannot save it for me. It takes so long to get through the first level that Zero Wing forces me to plug in a faster shmup and lose all my lives faster than the time it takes to get anywhere in it. Hellfire is guilty of this too, but I can only really do one game on this, so Hellfire, you got lucky.

Should people get it? Absolutely, if only to say that you own a piece of gaming and culture history that will remain with us for a very long time. But if you are buying it to play it, just be prepared to be playing it for a VERY long time. As the game says, “You have no chance to survive, make your time.” It’s not half wrong.

Streets of Rage 3 By Daniel Smith

Many people would claim that Streets of Rage 2 is the best game of the series – these people are wrong. I hadn’t played it in a while, however, and I decided to crack open my copy in order to engage in some two-player action with a friend. Streets of Rage 3 is packed with so much awesome that it renders every other game in the series as obsolete. This game is tough too. You average street thug must have been supplied with steroids since the second game, as they are meaner, stronger and now have the ability to pick up items. Initially these enemies were “dispatched with consummate ease;” however, my comrade showed signs of wear during stage 3 (where I embarrassingly rolled into one of the pits… oh, the shame!) and after slugging it through the subway of stage four he finally gave up the ghost against the boss. The only downside of Streets of Rage 3 is the music, which is utter tosh, but everything else has built upon the platform of Streets of Rage 2 to give an awesome fighting experience. Any game that allows one to play as a boxing kangaroo has my blessing.

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