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Genre Spotlight: Run-‘N-Gun Fiesta

We all love Run-‘N-Guns. Featuring HUGE weapons, massive explosions, multi-jointed bosses, and rocking soundtracks, they’ve carved out quite a place in gaming. Regardless of how much you’re into RPGS or platfomers, there’s just something about grabbing a big-ass rifle and blowing up everything that moves. Mindless action that requires no previous experience is something everyone can relate to, and the Genesis has more than its fair share of these classics. In fact, our little black box is home to some of the best ever made, for any console.

So what is it about plowing through a stage with guns blazing that’s just so much darn fun? Even after so many years (you do know how old Contra is, right?), the dynamic never gets tiresome, and people still look for the next “one man vs. the universe” hopeless battle. So popular are these games in 16-bit, that modern consoles have tried their best to mimic them, with mixed results. Who would have thought that Konami would have gone back to 2D for Contra: Shattered Soldier or that would try to emulate that legendary franchise with the disappointing Blowout? Even more interesting is Sega’s recent trade marking of the name Gunstar Super Heroes. Yep, the run-‘n-gun is still king after all these years.

For that reason, Sega-16 has compiled a list of the those available on the Genesis. Some are great and some are merely decent, but all deserve a place in your collection, because you can never kick too much ass. I am aware that just about everyone has their own definition of what exactly qualifies as a run-‘n-gun, and I believe that there are three basic types of games that fit the genre:

  • The side scrolling shooter, like Contra and Gunstar. These are all defined by their maniacal action, with unrelenting foes and huge bosses. Bullets are everywhere, and the only thing you have to worry about is killing everything that moves.
  • The side scrolling shooter with a bit of exploration, like Turrican and ResQ. Here, you have the big guns and bosses, but the game isn’t just “blast all the way to the right of the screen.” You have to find doors and navigate levels, etc.
  • The isometric or “top down” shooter, like MERCS and Skeleton Krew. They are basically the same as the second type, save for the change in perspective.

All of these games have one basic thing in common:  a default weapon with unlimited ammunition. Power ups are optional, but you always begin with a standard gun that never runs dry.

 

Adventures of Batman & Robin

Most Batman video games have been nothing to write home about. Aside from his excellent initial outing on the NES, all the others had something that kept them from greatness. The Adventures of Batman & Robin suffers from this as well. I know a lot of people will scream for my head for saying that, but I stand by my statement. Let me be quite clear; I have no trouble with the graphics or gameplay. It’s the repetitiveness and length of the levels, as well as the high difficulty level, which tend to turn me off. I use my Game Genie to eliminate the latter problem (the game is so long that it doesn’t ruin the experience). Long levels are usually a good thing, but they go to extremes here (they shmup stages are utter agony, they’re so long). I do think there’s a solid game here, and the graphic effects are incredible. Some people like the soundtrack, and while it isn’t bad, I’m just not into Euro synth-pop.

Please don’t let me get you down about this game. Adventures is very enjoyable with a friend (I’m still mad about there being no Batgirl). If you can get past the difficulty and aren’t bothered by the stretched out stages, you will have a lot of fun with one of the Bat’s better outings.

Alien Soldier

Probably the best Genesis game to never come stateside, Treasure’s boss-fest leaves you with numb fingers and a sweaty brow. Instead of the standard practice of long levels and a single end boss, Alien Soldier throws multiple bosses at you per stage, forcing you to keep your guard up constantly. Six different weapons are available to you from the start, and you can choose four to arm (individually or combined). Each has a set amount of shots, but ammunition is plentiful in every stage. It is wise to ration your bullets, as each level has anywhere between 3-4 bosses. You also have a slick set of jumping maneuvers and special attacks at your disposal, and once you learn how everything works, you will have a blast. This is pure, frantic, Treasure-driven action that is second only to Gunstar Heroes on the console, and even with its high cost, Alien Soldier deserves a special place in your collection.

Almost as gripping as the excellent gameplay is the weird plot that drives it. As the birdman Epsilon Eagle, you attempt to defeat the terrorist group Scarlett, which is attacking the planet A-Earth in order to kill you. Why? Apparently, you are the former leader of said group and have been imprisoned on A-Earth by the A-Humans. The new leader, Xi-Tiger, doesn’t want you coming back and usurping his command, so he’s decided to take you out. It sounds nutty as hell, but that’s really the storyline. Believe me, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. NOW IS THE TIME TO THE 68000 HEART ON FIRE!!

Blaster Master 2

I feel sorry for poor Jason. Ever since his awesome adventure on the NES, Sunsoft has fumbled and stumbled every time they’ve tried to to bring the series back. Long before his kids battled through the budget-priced Blaster Master: Blasting Again, Jason found himself on the Genesis of all places, in the decidedly ho-hum Blaster Master 2. Lacking all the charm of the original, and most of its gameplay, the sequel was everything Blaster Master fans hoped it would not be. The graphics were good, and Jason’s super vehicle, SOPHIA, was as strong as ever. So what went wrong? For starters, the character sprites were miniscule, and it was very easy for Jason to get lost in the background graphics, which made avoiding enemies a chore. His little environmental suit just wasn’t suited for such combat, and watching him go up and down ladders almost made me pee myself, he was so slow. Even worse, there was still no password or save feature, which meant you had to stomach the entire journey (and it was a long one) in a single sitting. I did like the way Jason would explode when he fell down a crevice. Seeing his little arm bounce around away from his corpse gave me strange sense of satisfaction.

Caliber .50

Remember Ikari Warriors? Remember how much fun that game was in the arcade, with a friend? Well, the Genesis has a few of those types of games too! Mentrix decided that the Genesis was in need of more Ikari Warriors-type shooters, and even though Rambo III and MERCS did it better, Caliber.50 still gave it a shot. Twenty years after Vietnam, you have returned to save American POWs. Gee, even the plot is lifted straight from Rambo. Ah, that doesn’t really matter all that much, since no one really cares about the generic storyline anyway. That’s the whole thing about Caliber.50. You’re going to find lots of things that don’t really interest you. Slow and plodding gameplay is complimented by 8-bit presentation, making for a game that’s best left in the bargain bin. You’d think that if Mentrix was going to copy other games in the genre, it would try and copy the good things. Think again.

Contra: Hard Corps

Had someone told me in 1990 that one of the best Contra games would be available on the Genesis, I would have first laughed in his face. Imagine my surprise when Konami unleashed Hard Corps upon an eager audience in 1993. The sheer madness of this game is still the talk of many an internet forum, and many people have gone so far as to place it above Alien Wars as the best in the series. Whether that’s true or not is for each gamer to decide after playing them both, but no one can deny that Hard Corps is definitely a great game. There are four different heroes to use and branching paths to explore (each with some kind of spectacular sprite effect that the Genesis simply should not be able to pull off). This was the last 2D Contra game until Shattered Soldier exploded onto the Playstation 2 a decade later. Between these two releases, the franchises was bogged down in mediocre 3D games that weren’t even done in-house by Konami (Appaloosa was the culprit here). This was another example of a company doing something simply because everyone else was doing and similar to other classic franchises, like Street Fighter and Sonic, Contra simply wasn’t the same in 3D.

Dick Tracy

Yet another game that gets a bad rap, Dick Tracy was an ambitious attempt to fuse the light gun-ish gameplay of Dynamite Duke and the side-scrolling action of Rolling Thunder. For the most part, it works pretty well. There are a few areas where you’ll be swamped by enemies and get confused between button presses, and those damn dynamite-tossing goons are enough to make you toss your controller across the room. The boss battles are interesting, given the need to use both dynamics, and I simply love being able to let loose on the entire stage. Windows shatter, bullet holes riddle walls and fences, and fire hydrants explode! In typical comic style, bodies just up and vanish, so you’ll have to look elsewhere to satisfy your blood fetish (keep reading. We’ve got ya covered there too!) Note: I included Dick Tracy on this list because of the Tommy Gun feature. It puts an otherwise standard action game over the line into RnG territory. Without it, this would be just another Rolling Thunder clone with slower paced gameplay.

Everything mimics the feel of the Warren Beatty movie, and contrary to most movie licensed games, it’s actually better than the film (though that’s not saying much). Tracy’s flowing trench coat and signature hat look very cool as he fills the bad guys full of lead, and there’s a lot of action here, even though the violence is more or less what you’d expect from a comic-based game. The bonus stages are a nice edition, and have you taking target practice against static displays to earn lives and health. My only gripe is that you don’t get to blast Madonna with your Tommy Gun. That would have been a boss battle worth remembering.

Doom Troopers: Mutant Chronicles

Some people believe that the more blood a game has, the better. Those people adore Mortal Kombat and would most definitely fall head over heels in love with Doom Troopers (ironically released by Playmates!). There’s enough gore here to make even the most diehard sadist laugh like a little girl. Monsters that vomit? Check. Bloody exploding enemies? Check. Disemboweled cyborgs? Check! Yes, this one has it all! It’s funny too, since the game stands well on its own merits, making all the nastiness just something extra for fun. I did find the jumping to be a little spotty and there were some cheap deaths, but I mostly had a pretty good time with this one. It’s a lot like Contra in execution, which is very good news, although it’s a bit shorter. Under appreciated by many gamers, this is a game you should be able to find easily enough. It may seem a bit tame by today’s standards but was quite a shocker when first released.

Final Zone

There seem to be a lot of games out there where you pilot a mech of some kind. Some were done better than others, and Final Zone fits somewhere in the middle, I should think. The action is fast enough, and there’s a good selection of weaponry with which to blast your foes into oblivion; however, there’s just something missing. I love Renovation’s games, but this seems to be the most uninspired of their shooting lot. The enemy A.I. is dumb as a brick, and the control scheme takes too much getting used to for a game in this genre. Bland music and graphics round out a more or less mediocre package, making this one of the few blemishes on Wolf Team’s otherwise great track record. I really tried to like Final Zone, but found myself asking why I was playing after only the first few stages. The repetitiveness of everything just overshadowed whatever it was that Wolf Team was trying to accomplish here. It may have been a bit better when released (I doubt it), but it certainly hasn’t aged too well.

Gunstar Heroes

What can I say here? Is there any doubt that this is as good as it gets? No other game on the system (or any other, for that matter) even comes close to matching Treasure’s masterpiece. Their first original work after leaving Konami (they did Alien Wars, which explains why they know the genre so well), Gunstar Heroes has everything you could ever want from a shooter in spades. Whether it’s the two-player simultaneous mayhem, tons of different weapons, or some of the most insane bosses ever seen, you will find yourself constantly pressing the pause button to wonder “how the heck did my Genesis do that?” This is the standard bearer for all games in the category, and even after all these years, it has yet to be matched. Sega’s recent trade marking of the name Gunstar Super Heroes has caused forums across the internet to light up in hope, but it remains to be seen if Treasure’s even involved, and if so, whether or not they can catch lightning in a bottle twice.

One of the key reasons why Gunstar is so highly revered has to do with just how tight and polished it is overall. Using the standard three button pad, a myriad of moves are available to you, and all are easy to pull off in the heat of battle. Chest dives, baseball slides, throwing enemies; all of it executes flawlessly. For even more fun, bring along a friend and you can hurl them into your foes! There is some strategy required here, as Gunstar lets you choose the order of the first three stages, as well as your weapon. Mixing power ups makes for all kinds of interesting combinations, which is really fun (I love the homing gun!).

MERCS

To my eternal dismay, MERCS will always be one of the more underrated run-‘n-guns on the Genesis. This simply should not be the case, given that the home version trounces the arcade original in so many ways. The complete game is here, so arcade purists will only have the small sprites to whine about. The real game, however, lies in the Genesis-exclusive original mode, which is an entirely new adventure that will quickly make you forget about the coin-op. Beginning with only a single machine gun-toting Merc, you advance through each stage, recruiting other Mercs (each with a different weapons). All have several characteristics to upgrade, such as speed and weapon strength. As you progress through the game, medals you collect can be used to buy power ups and healing items. It is very cool to be able to switch Mercs on the fly, and managing your team so that everyone makes it through alive is quite challenging. the only downside to the whole package is the lack of a two-player mode, so you’ll be saving the world solo this time. Aside from this minor detail, everything else is top notch. MERCS just doesn’t get the props it deserves, and that is a shame. It’s one of the better RnGs out there.

Midnight Resistance

In my eyes, Midnight Resistance is the one that started it all on the Genesis, even though Turrican came first. Sega’s port of the Data East coin-op was something of a surprise back in 1991 when it came out to little fanfare. It was clearly a Contra rip off, but not a bad one at that, actually. I don’t entirely agree with our review of it (I would have scored it higher), but I agree with some of Walid’s points. You will be screwed if you lose a continue early on, as the final boss is one nasty bastard, and it is highly generic in nature. You must keep in mind, however, that there was nothing like it available on the Genesis at the time. Yes, we really wanted Contra, but Konami was locked tightly in the grip of Nintendo’s fascist licensing agreements (like they were complaining about all the money they were making…yeah), so we had to take what we could get. The fact that it was a port and not an original game made for the system makes that pill easier to swallow, since I believe Sega looked at the NES Contras and said “hey, we should have one of those too.” What they gave us was a game that played like Contra but had enough of a personality to stand a bit on its own. HUGE sprites and a great soundtrack were the first things you noticed, and the collecting of medals to buy your power ups was a cool idea (did Capcom copy this for MERCS?).

In the end, it wasn’t a bad way to go for your RnG fix, and its low price makes it very accessible to those just getting into the genre on the Genesis.

Predator 2

Believe me when I tell you that I approached this one very, very cautiously. A licensed game done by Arena? Watch your step. I was a bit relieved to find that Predator 2 doesn’t stink as bad as I thought it would. The control takes some getting used to, you basically fight the same enemies over and over, and the level design is uninspired; however, it’s still fun! Running around, rescuing hostages from drug dealers (picking up..I mean, confiscating copious amounts of paraphernalia along the way) and basically just shooting the crap out of everything is enough to keep you interested for a while. The small, undetailed graphics may turn some people off, but most will be too busy to notice. The gameplay reminds me more of Capcom’s Commando than anything else, and seeing the Predator’s laser sighting zip around the screen looking for its next kill was pretty cool (bodies literally explode when he nails them). This one caught me off guard, and I plan to play it through. Not bad at all for a licensed game.

Rambo III

Here’s another little gem that has unfortunately been forgotten by many gamers. One of the earliest Genesis releases, Rambo III followed the movie’s plot closely, and tried to impress gamers with its boss battles. They may not be much to look at now, but they were very cool back in the day. In fact, it was the first boss battle that actually pushed me over the edge and made me buy a Genesis over a Turbo Grafx-16. I had liked the game up until that point but wasn’t decided until I saw that tank shooting at Rambo, who was slinging arrows into the screen! I still think the game was impressive for its time, and it was definitely a solid title for so early in the Genesis’ life cycle. The graphics were solid and the action was fast paced, and there wasn’t anything else like it on the Genesis at the time (Forgotten Worlds & Space Harrier II had you covered for shmups, but no other RnG was available). It was also pretty cute to see the helicopter from Thunder Blade chasing down Troutman’s jeep in the opening cut scene!

The actual game itself is pretty good, even after all these years. This is the third Rambo game on a Sega system (Rambo II on the Master System was an Ikari Warriors knock off and Rambo III was a light gun game), and the best in my opinion. It’s very arcadey in style, and anyone can pick it up and start wasting Soviets without any real practice. The 3/4 view is very apt for these types of games, and Rambo III‘s playfield is large enough for you to see where everything is, without having to worry about getting nailed from something off screen. There are lots of different missions to tackle, such as destroying enemy armament, freeing POWs, and taking out an entire installation (complete with escape count down and everything!). It’s short and the ending blows, but is fun enough to warrant a play through ever now and then.

Ranger-X

It may seem odd that I’m classifying Ranger-X as a run-‘n-gun, but after giving it some playtime, it seems to be the most ideal place to put it. It has all the qualities: lots of explosions, big bosses, mindless difficulty, etc- and most of all, it’s intense. Gau Entertainment (who also did Crusader of Centy) made the Genesis sing with this 1993 release. You pilot a mech that is composed of two parts: the main body and a cycle-like attachment (called an Indra courier unit) for quick mobility. Through eight levels, you blast through some of the most impressive visuals seen on the Genesis. Gau really knew how to squeeze as much color as possible out of the console, and everything is beautiful. the physics are also very realistic, and your mech’s jet pack only works in short burts.The gameplay works quite well but one recommendation: get a six-button pad if you don’t have one, as the stock pad doesn’t work well at all.

I’m surprised Ranger-X doesn’t get more praise. It’s an excellent game that really deserves some attention.

ResQ

Fans of Blaster Master 2 (all two of you) take note. ResQ does everything that game proposed to do, only a hundred times better. Superior graphics and sound, tighter gameplay, and a more interesting character put it past Sunsoft’s mediocre sequel. Crafted by Psygnosis, who did a number of Genesis and Sega CD games before focusing all their output on the soon-to-arrive Playstation, ResQ is a great little romp that was never officially released, but since developer Tempest Software made the ROM public, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it if you look hard enough. I must admit, I was unaware of its existence until I began to research for this feature. What I found surprised me and once again made me question the logic of company executives. The game is solid, it’s already in English, and fits the taste of American gamers. Tell me again why it was never given a chance?

RoboCop 3

Ugh. Why on Earth Ocean was allowed to continually rape the RoboCop license is beyond me. They churned out their fair share of stinkers on the NES, and released this turd on the SNES. Flying Edge, known for their affinity for sub par games, released the port on the Genesis. The graphics are worse, the music stinks, and the control is horrid. Why is it so hard to make a decent game involving this license? Data East did a stellar job with their coin-op based on the first film, and Virgin’s RoboCop vs. Terminator was great on the Genesis (more on that below). I know RoboCop 3 was an absolute bomb, but why go into development with low expectations? This was a great chance to do something decent. Heck, you could have copied the Data East game, only switching enemies to tie it in with the movie, and it would have been better than this. I like how the game’s cover has this big yellow box that reads “first time on Genesis!” Talk about raising false hopes.

RoboCop vs. Terminator

Fans of the Frank Miller comic by Dark Horse were looking forward to this game, especially on the Genesis (the SNES version is more subdued), and Virgin Games did not disappoint. Dark and bloody, it’s very faithful to the story. Skynet is supposedly based on RoboCop’s technology (he being the only successful fusion of man and machine up until that time), and the human rebels have sent a warrior into the past to kill him! In a strange twist of fate, Skynet is out to protect RoboCop, who plans to uplink himself to OCP’s computer and journey to the future to stop Skynet and save mankind. To do this, he must battle through waves of both humans and terminators. Of course, the terminators are not as unstoppable in video games as they were in the movies, and RoboCop’s powerful weapons are enough to take them out. Unlike the other Terminator games, however, RoboCop vs. Terminator is hard, very hard. What the evil cyborgs lack in physical strength, they more than make up for in numbers, and you won’t be breezing through this one.

The visual style is similar to the original Terminator game, and the stages are pretty straight-forward. Remember the awesome RoboCop arcade game? RvT will remind you a bit of it when playing, and it’s good to finally get a decent game on the Genesis starring the cyborg cop. There’s a bit of platforming to be done (nothing major), but most of the time you’ll be shooting everywhere, just trying to move across the screen alive. Heavily armed enemies come at you from all sides, and the bosses are big and quite nasty.

Skeleton Krew

Wow! This was unexpected! I had heard of Skeleton Krew but had never actually gotten around to playing it. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry I missed out on such an awesome shooter. Incredible graphics, awesome bosses, and a password save are only part of what makes this game so great. There are three warriors from which to choose, and you can take on the game with a friend in tow. Skeleton Krew was done by Core Design, back when they were still pushing to be original, and it shows here. The whole thing plays like Crusader: No Remorse in style (don’t worry, the gameplay is very tight), and sports some of the most detailed and colorful graphics on the system, no joke. I did tend to groan a bit at all the dead jokes (first level is in Monstros City?), but if that’s the best complaint to come up with, then there’s nothing to worry about. Find a copy and give it a whirl. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.

Soldiers of Fortune

Known as the Chaos Engine in Europe, Soldiers of Fortune was a port of the Amiga classic and made its way to the Genesis and SNES in 1993. With its two-player simultaneous gameplay, you can choose from among six mercenaries to blast through sixteen levels of mayhem. Done by the renowned Bitmap Brothers, Soldiers rocks, plain and simple. I love how each of the mercs have their own personality, no simple palette swap or simple weapon differences here. They each feel like their own character, and this gives the game a real sense of personality.

Should you not have a friend to play along with, the computer will control the second merc. The A.I. is very smart, and is never a hindrance. Granted, it won’t exactly run around doing all the killing for you, but would you want it to? Having a password feature is great for stocking up on lives and gold, which are necessary, as the latter levels can get pretty hectic. The overall presentation is excellent, and the game is just a blast to play. It should be in every gamer’s collection. There was a proposed sequel, but it never made it past the beta stage. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t anything special, so enjoy the original!

Sunset Riders

Let me get this out of the way right now. The SNES version of Sunset Riders is the superior of the two. All the arcade levels and all four playable characters make it the better version, but the Genesis port is still highly enjoyable. I question where three bosses went (the arcade had more than six), and why the stages themselves are all mixed segments of the coin-op. Surely the Genesis had the power to produce a faithful port. It seems that Konami just got lazy here (they pulled the same stunt with Hyperstone Heist, giving us a remixed version of Turtles in Time).

We all know that Konami, while very good at maximizing the Genesis’ color palette, wasn’t as proficient with the sound chip, and the scratchy voices and low tunes are proof of this. To make matters worse, most of the spoken dialogue has been replaced with comic book-style balloons. The game is also not as graphically clean and detailed as its SNES sibling. As either Billy or Carmone, you blast your way through the old west in a style similar to Gun.Smoke (now there was a cowboy run-‘n-gun) albeit from a side scrolling perspective. It’s good for some fun, but if you have a SNES, I recommend that version (get Wild Guns while you’re at it!).

Target Earth

So overlooked, so underrated. An early title from the now-defunct Dreamworks (not the Spielberg one), Target Earth is the American version of the long-running Japanese series Assault Suit Leynos, which also includes Assault Suit Leynos 2 on the Saturn and Cybernator on the SNES. Highly regarded for its great graphics, excellent storyline, and awesome soundtrack, it is most famously remembered for its insane difficulty. I’ve heard some people say that they’ve beaten it without any codes or tricks. Bull poop, I say, pure bull poop! Even so, there is no shame with using the famed invincibility code here; you will want to play through Target Earth. Massive space battles are complimented by full-on planetary invasions and frontal assaults with legions of mechs on both sides. Stage three particularly stands out. You float around in orbit taking out an invasion force, all the while trying to not get sucked down by the planet’s gravity and burn up in the atmosphere. The game just gets better as it goes and the last levels are truly awesome. Moreover, it boasts one of the best endings on the system for its time (love that ending theme!). You want it, you need it, you should have it. Go find a copy and share the love.

Terminator

While the Genesis cart is an excellent game, I am specifically referring to the Sega CD edition for this feature. Everything is virtually the same, save for some grainy FMV cut scenes and Tommy Tallarico’s brilliant soundtrack. The music is absolutely incredible, and that alone makes this the version to have. Following the plot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, you play Kyle Reese on a mission from the future to save Sara Conner from the unstoppable cyborg sent to kill her. Skynet must not have operating at peak efficiency yet, as Kyle’s weaponry can take them out with little effort. All kinds of guns and grenades are available for use in defending humanity, and many of the film’s famous locales are stages (the night club- awesome!). The dark and brooding graphics capture the whole future apocalypse theme very nicely and there are some cool details, like Kyle’s trench coat flowing when he jumps. An excellent game that was sadly pushed out of the limelight by its light gun sequel, which while good in its own right, wasn’t as well executed.

Tom Mason’s Dinosaurs for Hire

I had heard much about this game for some time before I actually got around to playing it. The license never sparked my interest, me not being a fan of the cartoon, and it didn’t seem like anything special. I was a bit surprised when I finally tried it out, at both the graphics (good) and the gameplay (horrible). It looks pretty darn good and plays very solid. There’s nothing here that sets the world on fire, and if you can get past the fact that you’re using gun-slinging dinosaurs, you may have a bit of fun, but don’t get your hopes up. I was impressed with the boss battles and overall look of the graphics; the developers really wanted to make this game stand out past the source material. However, don’t let the cartoon theme fool you. Dinosaurs for Hire can be tough (as in frustration-tough) in some places, and you may not be able to retain enough interest to get all the way through if you find yourself having too much trouble in the same spot.

The four dinos you can choose from each have their own method of combat, and the melee attack is a cool idea. This would work much better if the control were actually tolerable. Limited directional shooting and spotty jumping are the fuel to the frustration I mentioned earlier. You’d think that a dinosaur not being able to jump would make sense, then you discover that the game has platforms! Honestly, if you must play all the games on this list, then by all means, give Dinosaurs for Hire a try. Otherwise, be thankful for mass extinctions.

True Lies

I’m noticing that aside from a certain cyborg who shall remain nameless (i.e. RoboCop, the stinker), many of the licensed RnGs on the Genesis are quite playable and fun, in spite of their license and publisher. Just like Predator 2, True Lies is not as bad as you might think, even though it’s published by Acclaim. Yeah, the sight of a digitized Tom Arnold may shock a few people, but the almost super deformed graphics fit the feel of the movie quite well. Arnold has to stop and reload after a certain number of shots (his default gun still has infinite ammo), and acquires a good number of power ups along the way. There are civilians in each stage, and killing three of them means you scrubbed the mission and have to start over. The gameplay and graphics are adequate, and there’s a good variety of missions to play. True Lies isn’t as combat-intensive as say, Gunstar Heroes or Contra: Hard Corps, but this isn’t that type of game, and the emphasis on mission objectives is a nice touch. Go find a cheap copy, and give it a try.

The Turrican series

I don’t know why so many people speak so negatively about Turrican. It’s hard and frustrating at times, but it’s still a great game, and technically, it was the first RnG on the Genesis (Midnight Resistance stole its thunder though). Many gamers never gave it a chance due to its high difficulty level and mediocre graphics. Had they actually spent a little time with it, they would have found a neat little game that although challenging, is far from abusive. Sure, having no visual indication of being damaged leads to lots of “what the hell killed me?” moments, but you tend to learn to keep an eye on the energy bar at all times. The fact that Turrican never flashes when hit, gets knocked back, or even grunts can at times be frustrating, and this forces you to take things slow. It’s a run-‘n-gun, but you can’t just run around blasting everything in sight. You need to manage your power ups and buzzsaw attack (you only get three), especially for boss battles. Those suckers can take a beating. I actually have more issues with the sparse backgrounds and limited detail of the graphics than with anything gameplay-related. It’s both understandable and forgivable, mind you, given the time of the original release and source platform.

Mega Turrican is actually a port of Turrican III, and was done by Factor 5 (of Rogue Squadron fame). Any reservations you have about it will be dashed as soon as you boot it up, and it completely washes out the after taste the original may have left. The gameplay is very solid, and there’s a new plasma rope that lets you sling up to hard-to-reach platforms. I find that comparisons between this game and the Super Turrican releases on the SNES are not really fair, given that those games are more remixed than straight ports, and not entirely for the better. One of those RnGs that concentrate on exploration as much as shooting, Mega Turrican takes the series to new heights and features some great graphical effects to boot. As the final game in the series on a Sega system and one of the last overall, it really shows how much more Turrican had to offer.

Universal Soldier

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s true, than Turrican‘s face should be beet red right now. Accolade’s licensed shooter is essentially that game with a fresh coat of paint, but half the personality. More or less a port of Turrican II, it was thought that slapping a movie license on the game would make it sell better. This generally works…except when the license is a Van Damme movie. Still, I’m sure Universal Soldier on the Genesis did better than the film did, so at least the Muscles from Brussels was able to live off the royalties for a while. Too bad we never got that Blood Sport fighting game, eh?

So what was changed in the Genesis port? Quite a few things, actually. Turrican’s sprite, obviously, was switched for a pixilated Van Damme. any enemies were also altered to make them more realistic. The worst offense, by far, has to be that all the bosses were replaced! Like I’d rather fight a pudgy little Dolph Lundgren than that huge mech from Turrican II‘s first stage. *sigh*

Not all the changes were bad. Three original stages replaced the shmup-like levels from the Amiga original, so that’s something…small, but something. I still want to get this. It may be the red headed stepchild of the franchise, but hey, family’s family.

 

So there you have it. Regardless of personal tastes, there’s bound to be something here you haven’t seen before or simply never gave a chance. Run-‘n-guns are great for when you want to spend a few hours playing without having to really think about puzzles, learn difficult combos, etc; just move and shoot. I was actually surprised to find so many on the Genesis, as I never really considered the console to be particularly strong in this area. I was pleasantly surprised, and I hope you were too.

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