So what did you get for the holidays? Lots of great Genesis games, we hope! The final installment of our Reader Roundtable series for 2007 has some great titles that you should make a resolution to check out, as well as a few worth promising to yourself to avoid. As always, there’s plenty of 16-bit action going on, so read on for the scoop on what our readers are currently playing!
Altered Beast By Ken Horowitz
I was skimming over my Genesis collection earlier this month, trying to find some hidden gem that I might have bought and cataloged without really playing first. Lord knows you’ll find one or two when your collection gets big enough, and I was surprised that the one title that stood out at me the most this time around was the first Genesis game I ever played. It’s funny that it only took me eighteen years to really sit down with Altered Beast again. My game room quickly reverberated with the loud pangs of irony as I ended up spending some time with Sega’s original 16-bit arcade port, and after looking at the ending sequence a short fifteen minutes after booting it up, I quickly remembered why it had been so long since I’d last played it. Needless to say, I quietly slid it back onto the shelf and fired up Christmas Nights for some holiday action. Short, repetitive levels and simplistic gameplay was fun back in 1989, but this beast has not aged well. I still love to hear “WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM!” though. Funny how the sound test was the funnest part of the game.
Bonkers By Vince Thornburg
Sometimes you can go a little nuts with Amazon.com. Sure, this is nothing new. There have been plenty of times where that notion of filling up a virtual cart just makes you want more and more until you’ve suddenly spent a couple of hundred dollars trying to get that one last thing. I had such a day last week. This time around, I made sure I just went for the little $1-$3 games from assorted sellers. While I was able to keep myself to around $30-$35, I still made a good haul. Good I say, because one game brings it down a level.
Bonkers. Why did I grab it? I’m still not sure. One, it’s slightly uncommon, so I figured it’d be cool to pick up something like that for $2.17. Two, I’m nostalgic for Late ’80s/Early ’90s Disney Cartoons. Three, I wanted something a little easier to run through while I was sitting bored at home. Unfortunately, this game didn’t fulfill that third reason very much.
You pick from four bad guys and play four mini-games to defeat them. This sounds fine, especially for the children the game was created for., but wait until that fifth or sixth time you’ve covered a garbage-throwing robot (?) with bricks. Or wait until you’ve knocked out a talking hand bag for the thirteenth time or caught an old Ford truck that has happened to channel the spirit of an 85 year-old woman for the ninth time or put Fall-Apart-Rabbit together for the twenty-seventh time. When it tells you to do it again, you may just cry.
Once in awhile you’ll get a platforming level, which is actually only your bonus level. In other words, the basic platforming that this game probably should have been was made the small bonus stage you barely play. Overall, I paid less that $3 for this, so I can’t complain. But I still hate it pretty much.
Lunar: The Silver Star By Tom Briggs
Lunar: The Silver Star is a sentimental favorite of mine. Yes, I’ve already covered the game in a previous Roundtable, but the game is responsible for my ongoing interest in RPGs, anime, and gaming. I decided, this month, to write a feature on the beloved classic, and so it was time to dust off the old Sega CD and start the whole thing over. Imagine my horror, then, when I couldn’t find my copy of the game. I’ve sold countless classics over the years in order to feed my “latest and greatest” addiction, but I would NEVER contemplate selling Lunar. I panicked, and purchased a replacement copy on eBay. As Murphy’s Law would have it, I found my original copy, underneath my bed, just after making my payment.
Since finding it, I’ve logged in around twelve hours of game time. After all these years and a couple of ports, the game is still just as good as it originally was. In fact, having played both the GBA and PS1 remakes has aided in making the Sega CD original feel fresh again. Every time I play Lunar, I appreciate something new. This time, I can’t get over how wonderful the soundtrack is. While visuals ultimately become dated, the soundtrack here is timeless. I don’t think it needs to be said, but any and everyone with a Sega CD owes it to themselves to own a copy of Lunar.
Urban Strike By Alex Burr
Quite possibly the best of the Strike series (at least in my opinion), Urban Strike is the last of the 16-bit Strike trilogy. I always thought this one was the most popular one (as it was with my friends and I) but most every gamer from the 16-bit era seems to remember Desert and Jungle Strike more. I really like this game because unlike with the other ones, I could grasp the first level and have fun with it, rather than being smashed by groups of terrorists who for some reason have invaded Washington D.C. I recommend that if you like the first two games of the series and have never heard of Urban Strike, this is the one that will reinvigorate the fun that these titles were. Also, it is somewhat difficult, more so at the end than near the beginning (naturally), but it isn’t as tough as the other two and is much more fun to just pick up and play than the other ones. This is one of my top ten genesis titles, and I had just decided to start playing it again after deluging myself in sub-par game show titles for my first real feature.
Final Fight CD By Zebbe
I hate censorship. Whether it is concerning bouncing boobs, pentagrams, racial stereotypes or blood, ALL original content must be in my games. If a game can turn me into a sexist, satanist, racist and terrorist, I simply MUST have it. Then those people who think they have the patent on good morals (*cough* Christian Democrats *ruckle*) will be very upset – and that’s the way I like it! That is also one minor reason to play the Mega Drive before the Sneeze. If it wasn’t for the crapfest that is Mortal Kombat, Super Duper Smashing Brothers Brawlers might have been the most violent video game today. High school massacre emos would have dressed up in a pink dress and fought with frying pans. But it is not only about choosing the right system; it is also about the right region, which is Japan of course. If games aren’t censored by Republicans, they are by that nation of cocky people who have lost two world wars.
In the case of Final Fight CD, westerners missed some boobs. In the single-player-only version, there are no women at all, which probably means Nintendo had a 100% gay assurance policy at the time. Wait, scratch that, they still have it. In the bonus level you are supposed to destroy a car. If you succeed in the Japanese CD version, the owner says “Oh, my god!” when he sees it. But in the western CD version, he says “Oh, my car!” which probably means a) Japanese people see their car as their god or b) Americans hate religion even more than the Westboro Baptist Church hates gay people.
There is not much left to say about this game other than it being a ripoff of Double Dragon and that Streets of Rage 2 is light years ahead of it. So, God Jul, everyone! Hopefully, 2008 will be the best Mega Drive year in a decade.
Golden Axe By Tom Lenting
Some Genesis games aged so horrendously I can barely play them anymore. Good examples of this rapid aging process are Strider, Altered Beast, Super Hang-On, and even a later game like VectorMan. Many people will also count Golden Axe in the category “too old to be good,” and when you look at the game objectively they are probably right: the game is a little too slow, the animation is a bit jerky, the hit detection is just so-so, and overall it’s pretty easy. However, I grew up with Golden Axe. When I first played it I was eight years-old, and I have been playing it ever since. It was also one of my first game addictions, and I hummed the old school tune once in a while. Therefore, I cannot look at the game objectively, which makes me one of those sad persons that will keep telling you that Golden Axe is without a doubt, a “timeless classic” that’s even worth downloading or buying in 2008. Happy new year!
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts By Joe Redifer
Every once in awhile I like to plug in Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, set the difficulty to “professional,” and play though the game twice. It’s pretty easy. I don’t know why people think this game is hard. You certainly don’t need any cheat codes or tricks. Here is my strategy… SUICIDE! That’s right, suicide. Since there are so many undesirable weapons in the game, only a fool would allow himself to obtain them and try and find a better weapon later. No, that’s just the wrong way to play! You start out with the spear and your goal should be to get the dagger. The only other acceptable weapon along the way is the spiked disk thingy, but the dagger wins. It is better to die and start the level over than to try and play with any other weapon. After you beat the game the first time, put on magic armor and get the new weapon right away and never get any other for the rest of the game, not even the dagger. The boss of level four will be slightly tough with this weapon, but it’s easier than trying to re-obtain the weapon in the next level. The second time through the game is far easier than the first. Now go enjoy the most playable version of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts ever, simply because it allows diagonals! I hate the prequel, and I’m not too fond of the SNES and PSP versions. The Genesis wins!
PS – I do not recommend suicide as a way to defeat your bosses and get the girl in the real world.
Duke Nukem 3D By Damien Jennison
Well, I finally got it. I got it eventually, I waited and worried and fretted every day that I had sent the money over, worrying and worrying until I had opened it and tested it myself. Then I might have pinched myself, but I don’t remember. It had finally arrived. My complaining, searching and frustration was finally at an end. At least, my holy grail had entered into my hands.
My holy grail was a 16-bit Mega Drive game from Brazil.
My grail was Duke Nukem 3D. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece. I wasn’t expecting perfection. Far from it, I expected it to be barely playable. When I plugged it in with the EF cable, I was shocked to find that that wasn’t the case. It’s a technical achievement to get what is in that cart running on the Mega Drive, that is for sure, but it does show that it’s pushing the system in many ways. The tricks used by the programmers are excellent, but the music is grating and sprites for enemies up close can look rather horrible. Regardless, I was never one to be impressed by flashy graphics; all that matters to me is gameplay, after all. That is where I was amazed. I was amazed to find that, while hard, I couldn’t pull myself away from the game. The difficulty is immense and I practically got into saving after I killed every monster in a way that I was satisfied with, but I couldn’t stop playing. I even brought a Mega Drive and an old TV with me to our Christmas celebrations so I could play the Duke there. There’s something about it that makes me want to keep playing it. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of beating it. Maybe it’s the money my parents spent to get it, or maybe it’s because I am a glutton for punishment. We will never truly know.
Duke Nukem 3D By Daniel Horvath
The game that inspired me to write for the first time for Sega-16 is one I have hunted for a long time…my rarest collector’s piece and probably Tec Toy’s most famous release: Duke Nukem 3D.
Originally only meant to be the holy grail of my Mega Drive collection for its obscurity, I found myself playing it… and actually enjoying it! Sure, the difficulty level makes Contra seem like a game for n00bs, the graphics look grainy, and there are presumably a million better ports of this game available, but still, the magnificent feeling of having such a smooth FPS with such a big in-game window running on my good old Mega Drive makes me grin more and more with every enemy I defeat, even after a dozen tries and painful deaths! Truly, the old FPS formula of killing enemies and collecting keycards still works in this little gem, and when you don’t expect a 1:1 port of the PC-original, there is fun to be had!
And if frustration takes over, I, being a lamer, still have my Action Replay Pro 2 lying here, ready to give the Duke the boost he needs! Let’s rock!
Dangerous Seed By Uri Cohen
I tried to love Dangerous Seed. I seriously tried to love it. It had some cool ideas, good music, and it had the style of killing these weird bugs or whatever. I was trying out the game on the emulator to see if I’m going to buy it. I usually play the first two levels to see if I want to purchase it. After getting to stage eleven without dying I starting to think: “Lame.” Dangerous Seed wasn’t that much of a challenge at all (much to my disappointment). I don’t mind easy shmups (I love M.U.S.H.A.), but playing Dangerous Seed left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I really like the music, but the gameplay was disappointed. At least I saved $20 on not buying it.
Sonic The Hedgehog By Daniel Smith
This month I have been playing nothing rare, nothing controversial, just some good old fashioned Sonic The Hedgehog. Back in the day, as a young impressionable child on the playground, this game represented the height of everything cool. Although I would not own a Mega Drive for another two-years (due to my parents fears of new technologies) I could confidently strut around reciting Sonic’s level select cheat – I was cool. Sonic The Hedgehog would turn is a rare gem for a Sonic the Hedgehog game, as the only playable character is Sonic and it is just as playable today as it was fifteen years ago, although I often hear cowards whining about this game because “it has no spin-dash.” What a load of tosh! Whether you’re dodging lava in Marble Zone of struggling in the distant depths of the Labyrinth Zone, you really can get by without your feeble spin-dash attack. Platforming never before had so much attitude and, aside from Sonic 2, nothing has yet come close in terms of speedy awesome. Everybody with a Mega Drive owns a copy of Sonic The Hedgehog so go and play it now.