Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 45

The month of August marks the American debut of the Genesis, and what better way to cap off the month than by reminiscing about that one particular launch window title that really stood out? This month’s installment does exactly that, so read on about what games we remember most!


Rambo III By Ken Horowitz

Rambo III is a game that doesn’t get the love it deserves. This was the game that sold me a Genesis, believe it or not. After seeing those awesome boss battles (well, they looked awesome back then), I knew that this was the console for me, and I owe it all to this early shooter. A run-‘n-gun in the classic sense, Rambo III doesn’t offer the mind-blowing effects later titles in the genre, such as Contra Hard Corps or Gunstar Heroes do, but what it does, it does well. There are plenty of explosions, large levels to explore, plenty of explosions, big and detailed boss battles, and plenty of explosions. Did I mention that there are plenty of explosions?

I admit that perhaps there could have been a bit more personality, but it is a game based on a Stallone film. No one sees his movies for the gripping drama, and no one should come into Rambo III looking for more than plenty of bad guys to kill. It may not be a game to play all day, but Rambo III is definitely a title to break out every now and then for some senseless fun.

Last Battle By Alex Burr

I have no idea what the heck is going on with this game. The dialogue doesn’t make any sense to me, and for years I thought that I was missing was some sort of epic back story in a comic in the box or something. I was wrong. It’s all explained in this glorious video. “I wanted you to meet Alyssa!” “Now you have the look of a hero!”. What? A Bubbling Beezleboss? “What’s the matter?” “I want to be a hero.” Okay, why? A hero of what? Having a kick that doesn’t look physically possible? Finding a woman? Beating the tar out of the jolly green giant?

Now, I was just over two years old when the Genesis launched, but this game perhaps more than confused me to this day. Some how there is some anime attached to this game and a lot of blood and gore removed, which I guess made the punches look a lot stronger. But all that does is make it like Diet Caffeine Free Mountain Dew. Playing this game is like going to a place to eat and the only pop they have is Diet Caffeine Free Mountain Dew. I do have one question for all you peeps though: is that Fist of The North Star any good? What is this Barbie no Ken (it’s a joke!)? What confuses me the most is why in god’s green earth would Sega go with this game at the North American launch? Maybe they hoped that people didn’t read gaming magazines at the time. I mean, I guess it’s not baaaad or anything, but I think I would be fairly livid had I dropped the $50 (or even $60, I was too young) on THIS game! But, no other launch title can have such a groovin’ tune like Aarzak is Lost! I still have my leather jacket. ON! I guess for that song, I love this game. I just have no idea what it’s all about.

Space Harrier II By Sebastian Sponsel

When I first got my Genesis in its year of launch it didn’t come with Altered Beast packed in! Oh no, I could pick my very first game myself. My older sister’s boyfriend had his own import/export business, managed out of his parents’ garage . And he didn’t hold that game (Altered Beast) in a high regard, to say the least. So he let us pick our pack-in game ourselves, so to speak, and allowed us trying our hands on several different games.

Back then, Space Harrier II struck me as being the most impressive. Though keep in mind, I was nine years old back then. An inpressionable kid that got stupid ideas. I played for a while, then for some reason decided to put on some red-green anaglyph glasses. First I was all like: “Wow, look, now it really looks like in 3D!” Well, sort of, since all sprites were still flat, but the motion got blurry and had somewhat of depth to it.

Ten minutes later I felt sick and got a headache. I didn’t pick the game back then. It was all great and new and had some neat effects… but somehow, I didn’t feel like picking it up any more.

Tommy Lasorda Baseball By Christian Matozzo

Tommy Lasorda Baseball, one of my early Genesis titles, I used to always try this one, but I knew Sports Talk Baseball was the better game. Tommy Lasorda Baseball is just too hard. It’s good, and it has nice gameplay, good music, and good voice, but the AI is just too tough! I can barely get a run on these guys! They crush me over and over again. A game usually goes from 1-0 in my favor to 12-1 in a single inning. Sometimes it can be a very frustrating game, but it’s a good two-player launch title and a good sports game all around. Genesis knew how to do baseball well, that’s for sure.

Golden Axe By Tom Briggs

I was one of the unfortunate on the Genesis’s launch day. I had to wait until Sonic The Hedgehog to get one of those 16-bit bad-boys! Can you imagine that wait? It was excruciating. But even though I started a bit late, I made sure that I didn’t miss out on all of the great early titles. One of these titles, Golden Axe, has actually aged gracefully (unlike the pitiful Altered Beast), and has remained a favorite of mine until this day.

Golden Axe is one of those ideal arcade experiences. One or two players get to choose a distinct fighting style, dispose of countless thugs, and traverse multiple fantasy lands. It felt like Double Dragon, but with witches and wizards. The variety didn’t end there, you could also ride a reptilian beast, chop away at a thief, and use screen clearing magic! Yeah, it all sounds pretty goofy today, which might explain why the recent Golden Axe (PS3/Xbox360) game bombed, but it was just plain fun. The game would eventually be outclassed by its own sequel, but as a launch game, Golden Axe was a resounding success. How many other games could so well prove that the Genesis could accurately replicate an arcade experience? Not many by my count.

Thunder Force II By Joe Redifer

When I bought my Genesis, funds were limited. I had initially planned for my second game to be Ghouls N’ Ghosts (the first game being Altered Beast, obviously), but Ghouls wasn’t available yet. I just had to have another game right away. So a couple of days after I bought my Genesis, I picked up Thunder Force 2. It was either that or Super Thunder Blade. Space Harrier 2 wasn’t an option as I could always just borrow that from my friend later in the week.

Anyway, I finally got to my dad’s house and popped in Thunder Force 2. It was messing around with the first level which was top down. I saw a hint of multi-layered scrolling here and there. I finally got past that stage and went to stage two which had arcade-like parallax with overlapping an layer. I was soooo impressed! I said out loud “To hell with Ghouls N’ Ghosts, this is better!” I was extremely happy with my purchase. The game was fun as an added bonus! The graphics were good (for the time) and the music was and still is fantastic!

A few days later I slapped on headphones for the first time and that was when I realized the Genesis was in stereo. I just figured it had a headphone jack, but I never figured video games would be in actual stereo! WOW! Another reason to be impressed! I still love Thunder Force 2 to this day and still own that same cartridge.

Thunder Force II By The Coop

Back when the Genesis was a brand spanking new machine in the U.S., there were only a handful of games ready for the public to grab hold of and try out. There was an iffy baseball game, a decent sequel to an arcade classic, a decent arcade port, a basic beat-’em-up, and a little known shmup called Thunder Force II. I remember looking at the back of the box of this shmup, and thinking, Hey, this looks like the same kind of thing as R-Type and LifeForce. And since I liked those games, I took it home, and popped it in.

I was first hit by the music that had more meat behind its sound than the more tinny tunes of the other launch titles I had played. They sounded great through headphones, and made it feel more like a new level had been reached with game music sound than the likes of Altered Beast and The Last Battle . Then came the graphics, which were good. Noticeably more color than the NES and Master System, some nice details on the stages and ships, enemies that were pretty big… cool stuff. There were many weapons at your disposal, which was impressive given how a lot of shmups at that time generally had at most four or maybe five. And finally, the side view missions were great fun, with loads of obstacles, and cool stage designs. But not everything was rosy.

The top view missions were almost a joke until the final one where you fought the mother ship, Preareos/Plealos. The previous four top missions were over and done with in literally under a minute. They were too easy, way too short, and felt more like filler levels when compared to the side view missions. They didn’t look bad, or feature horrid music or anything, and their free roaming aspect was cool. But man… did their longevity leave much to be desired.

Of course, as we all learned in time, this game was just the precursor to the awesomeness that would come with part III and part IV. But, even though nearly half the game blew by in less than four minutes, it was still a fun shmup overall. And hey, it was the introduction of Tecno Soft to the world outside of Japan. So while it may not hold the highest slot in the Genesis library of shmups, it sits comfortably in the top half, and it gave Genesis owners a taste of what was yet to come.

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