A new year means new games! Well, maybe new in the sense of “I haven’t played these yet.” Genesis fans are constantly searching for those titles that they may have missed out on or just glossed over in the face of more well-known competition, and our Reader Roundtable is the place to see what they’ve found!
Castlevania: Bloodlines By Ken Horowitz
So many people are down on Castlevania Bloodlines. “It doesn’t have graphics as good as Super Castlevania IV,” they say. “The music isn’t as good,” they whine. You know what? They’re right. Does that make Bloodlines any less awesome? Hell no. There’s more than enough classic ‘vania gameplay here to keep even the most skeptical of fans happy for many an hour. I’ll be the first to admit that the SNES classic is superior in presentation, as it was specifically designed to be so in order to pimp Nintendo’s new hardware. That being said, it doesn’t take away from Bloodlines‘ great gameplay and great design. It also does a fair amount of Genesis pimpin’ of its own, with some snazzy software effects that are pretty cool to see on the console. Games like Bloodlines make me yearn for the olden days of Castlevania, back before it was attacked by a Metroid and turned into the yearly ritual we see today. *Sigh*
Light Crusader By Vince Thornburg
I recently received a phone call while traveling abroad and was told that a copy of Light Crusader had been found at a local flea market for $2. I soon came home, and tried it out for my self once more. about five years ago I had purchased the game from a Game Crazy and was happy as I had put a good half hour into the game until I tried to save. Keyword: tried. Little did I realize that the save battery was completely useless! I returned the game, since at the time I didn’t know much about replacing them myself.
But today was different! Not only did the game boot-up like any good game should, but it had full save files! I erased the shortest game and started playing. I missed this game! So much! I soon beat the first dungeon and saved. And it worked! While Treasure’s first little RPG may not be the best for the system and can be quickly forgotten, for a day or two last week it brought me some happiness as I made it through a bit more and more everyday! I’m still playing, and should eventually be able to beat this game! It’ll be an awesome moment of a most likely lackluster day.
Dune: The Battle for Arrakis By Tom Briggs
Normally, I’m not a fan of strategy games. Strategy/RPGs, yes. Sim City and Rollercoaster Tycoon, you bet. But not strategy games such as Starcraft and Command and Conquer. I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m a little intimidated by the gameplay complexities. Whatever the reason is, I’ve stayed far away from the entire genre… until this January, of course.
I decided to give Dune: The Battle for Arrakis a shot for one reason: I’m in love with the Dune universe. For the unacquainted, Dune is a series of science fiction novels set in a politically charged universe. Arrakis – or Dune – is a particularly important planet because it produces Spice. And because Spice is so rare and valuable, all important alliances battle to rule Arrakis. It’s a brilliant series, yet it seems like an odd fit for a video game. As a strategy game though, Dune works brilliantly.
Being so unfamiliar with the genre, I welcomed the overall simplicity in Dune’s gameplay. You have a base, expand, make money, expand, battle, etc… It’s all standard fare, but the execution is pulled off extremely well on the Genesis. What surprised me the most, though, was the depth of what was a port of a 1992 game. In Dune, you’re able to tackle the campaign in three separate and distinct ways. Since buying the game, I’ve played as houses Atredies and Harkonnen – series favorites. The experiences I had with both were completely different and fulfilling. Sure, this may be the norm today, but as someone who has actively ignored an entire genre, this is a pleasant surprise. Now onto Starcraft!
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 By Alex Burr
After marathonning the new (to me at least) Knuckles and Sonic 1, I had played Sonic 3 (without knuckles), and my best buddy asked me “Hey, you write for Sega-16, have you ever beaten Knuckles in Sonic 2?” Er, I haven’t. So, I picked up the old Genesis when I was home the other weekend and marathonned it and beat it in about two hours with an embarrassing game over and having to use a continue. I only had three emeralds too! It was not one of my finer runthroughs, but I still enjoyed it. I liked how it wasn’t possible to just fly over everything without actually having to play the level, yet I didn’t feel screwed over by Knuckles not having enough speed. I do feel, however, like the game has not aged well. Maybe it is just because I was so tired, because I beat it at two a.m., but I just feel like the game didn’t look as good as it did with Sonic in it. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but this game is just better with Sonic ALONE (Tails alone is okay too, but mixing them together is like mixing baking soda and vinegar). Even thinking about it now is making me tired, a good kind of tired. I think I’m going to let Sonic lie for a while, after spending what was basically an entire weekend with it. Knuckles and Sonic 2 is not bad, but I guarantee you that this game was better ten years ago then it is now.
Gleylancer By Zebbe
Sometimes it feels like the developers were very focused on what strengths a game would have. Instead of going with the same old story, add some parallax and a few half-assed weapons here and there, you can do much more to make a great shmup. What it takes is priorities. You don’t have an unlimited budget or development time, so there comes the focus on certain parts of the game.
With Gleylancer (a lance made of clay – or perhaps the laser weapon in Engrish?) they decided to make the second shoot-’em-up with a good story, with the power of anime. The Pokémon cartoon cannot compare to Gleylancer. In this game, you are Lucia Cabrock (a taxi made out of stone?). Her father was snatched away by some kidnappers, who used warping technology to achieve their evil plans. Then Lucia decides to save him, by stealing and using a prototype. No, not the Sega Neptune – she took the spaceship on the box art. After some levels, there are more cut scenes to make the story even deeper. This is very original for a shmup. Most shooter fans are so hard-headed they only have shooting in their heads. This story may cause their heads to explode, because it is too advanced and dramatic for them. But I survived, because my mother named me after Zeb Macahan – one very tough AND sensitive shooting cowboy!
In Gleylancer, you can decide how your options will aim. I always choose “Search,” because it is pretty much homing. To change the direction of the options, I press C. It almost gives me full control of my shooting. I like that. Not to mention the goose bumps-inducing music by Noriyuki Iwadare and three other lads. What they decided to put down on the priority level are the backgrounds and enemy design. But hey, two steps forward and one backward is still better than standing still. So Gleylancer is very special, and it was worth all the hard effort in tracking it down.
Shadowrun By Zack Young
Of all the intriguing games to return to in the Genesis library, I think that Shadowrun is one of the most interesting. These days it’s very rare that people remember pen and paper RPG’s. D&D has virtually replaced it, or evolved it depending on your point of view. Shadowrun was one of the few games of the genre to get a transition to gaming and I have to say, I’m pretty glad about that. What Shadowrun has going for it, ultimately, is a sense of style. The story that develops is pretty good—definitely intriguing at times, but it’s not the most innovative tale you’ve ever heard. But it is told with a good deal of style. What really separates Shadowrun from other, less fun games is its huge sense of atmosphere. There are a few other games that do this better, (Ys, Lunar, etc.) but not many. It helps that the game has enormous replay value and that the color palate of the Genesis and the sound hardware and everything is directed into creating what was, at the time, an incredibly large world. Combat and control can be a bit clunky, but, even at its most irritating, that inevitable style makes you want to keep playing. Fortunately, the other aspects of the game are pretty rock-solid and the sheer amount of NPC interaction is simply amazing. Provided that you don’t get confused and give up on the game, you’re in for a very entertaining ride.
Thunder Force II By Joe Redifer
Man, this game is great, but I can’t remember where all of the bases are in level seven (the fourth overhead stage). I used to be able to get past this level fairly easily, but now I can fly around forever and only find three of the four bases. This level really needs mapping out. It’s definitely the hardest level of the game.
Maybe my Thunder Force 2 cartridge forgot the last base since it is over eighteen years-old and its memory is beginning to fade? That’s the only logical explanation I can think of. Anyway, Thunder Force 2 is way better than Halo 3.
Golden Axe III By Damien Jennison
I have a bone to pick with whoever said that Golden Axe 3 is a bad game. To me, saying Golden Axe III is bad is like saying that slapping a man around the face because he suggested that they try something else with something that has been accepted as the norm. To me, all you have to do is play it to see that it has many strengths despite its weaknesses.
Very few games are perfect, and Golden Axe III is no exception. Yes, you fight a very small amount of different enemies, but wasn’t that always the case? All the other Golden Axe games had to fighting palette swaps, as do most games of the same genre. This game has multiple pathways and an alternate ending that I do this day haven’t managed to get. I also find it a lot harder then the other two games and that it takes both good memorization and some amount of skill to complete, even if just to get the bad ending. Add to it that they made the combat system much more in depth by adding plenty more moves; tripping moves, attacks that strike both sides (that DON’T drain health), really hard blows that take a long time and even special moves, two of the characters getting ranged weapons! Add combined summons and what I find to be a gripping soundtrack, and I actually think this is not a bad game.
It isn’t the best game ever, no. But if you look at Golden Axe, I feel it was the natural progression and it was an improvement on many aspects of the Golden Axe gameplay. Let’s face it, the first game’s formula wasn’t exactly complex, was it? I personally have enjoyed playing it extensively this month to both try and get the good ending and to master one of the character’s ranged moves, both of which I can’t yet achieve. One day!
Link Dragon By Tom Lenting
Once in a while I search on ROM sites for obscure Genesis titles. Some time ago I downloaded Link Dragon and then I forgot all about it. However, someday I recalled it after all and I thought it would nice to write a little piece about it on this Reader Roundtable, but at first I couldn’t remember the title. Luckily, there were even bigger geeks than me on the Sega-16’s forums that could tell me the title. So I downloaded the game once more. And I must say, it’s totally unclear why I did all that effort just to play a poor man’s version of Snake – the game that has lifted on the growing popularity of mobile phones. Anyhow, this is Snake on the Genesis. The graphics are acceptable but the game does not hold track of your score let alone save your scores, which makes playing this totally useless. So, just for people who really like Snake, just Snake, ’cause there isn’t anything more to it (that’s enough Snake for today, darn it!).