Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 52

Spring is here! That means that the snow will soon fade, and the school year is on its last legs. It also means that there’s more time for Genesis playing (what did you think spring break was for, anyway?). This month has a great turnout of staff and readers who are ready to share their monthly game choices!


Robo Aleste By Ken Horowitz

I’ve given a lot of time to Robo Aleste over the years, but it just doesn’t have the same appeal to me that M.U.S.H.A. does. I know many people think the latter game to be overrated, and I can appreciate that Robo Aleste does seem to live in its shadow, but I think there’s good reason for that. The theme for the whole game is highly absurd, and while that usually doesn’t matter in a shooter, I just can’t get it out of my mind! I also think the soundtrack isn’t as good as M.U.S.H.A.’s in terms of composition, and the whole package just doesn’t impress me the same way.

I’m not saying that Robo Aleste is a bad game by any means. I just don’t think it’s as good as its predecessor. Even so, there’s some great shooter action to be had here, and the stages are long and enemy-filled. Anyone with a Sega CD should add it to their library, and chances are it’ll be easier (and cheaper) to attain than its cartridge sibling. There doesn’t seem to be a bad Toaplan/Compile shooter, so saying that Robo Aleste isn’t as good as M.U.S.H.A. is like saying that strawberry ice cream isn’t as good as chocolate. Either way, you can’t lose!

Fatal Fury 2 By Sebastian Sponsel

Twenty years ago… the mean and dirty streets of (a) south (Bavarian) city… a young Phantar once happened upon a video game rental story, hidden away on the far banks of the river that parted his hometown. There, in the midst of a shelf amongst hundreds of video cases, he and his closest friend were looking for a copy of Street Fighter II. But fate is a harsh mistress, and all copies of that game had already been rented out. As was the case with Eternal Champions, and Mortal Kombat wasn’t even available at the store (for the “protection of minors”). Young Phantar, weak at heart and low on spirit, hung his head in sorrow. His friend, though, refused to give in, vowing to whomever may listen that he wouldn’t leave the store without a fighting game in his possession. His words didn’t fall on deaf ears – for a wise and hardened video game master (the store clerk) directed his attention to a single copy of a game at the back, which had hardly ever been touched upon, but on which the clerk swore that it would be just as good as the games he sought, and that playing it would make his heart fill with joy, his tastes be refined and his skills those of the true warrior. The friend thanked his master, and took the game home with him to play. And all was good, for the game was Fatal Fury 2, and it turned out to be one of the damn best finest fighting games out there, period!

But woe, the good times were not to last. For a few years later, when the friend and young Phantar returned to the sacred video store, they saw that it was going out of business! In a last sale, the friends scratched together whatever milk money they had, and rushed to permanently acquire their most favorite of games. Alas, but Fatal Fury 2 was nowhere to be found…

Twenty years later… Young Phantar has grown, into a hardened veteran of the console wars! Still the video game rebel, refusing to acknowledge Nintendo’s victory over the once famed Sega (as one wise men once said, “We Sega fans are the browncoats of the console wars!”), he organized a Mega Drive tournament, and convinced the owners of a used video games store to be the host. And lo, there, hidden away on a back shelf, it was: a complete copy of Fatal Fury 2 just sitting there, waiting, longing to be bought. The manual was a bit worn and (sadly) had a handwritten mark of a video game rental on it, but otherwise it was in a fine shape. So Phantar swore that this time, he wouldn’t leave empty-handed – this time, the game would be his! This time, he would be the strongest of the world!

Well, turns out he ended up being the second in Germany (see the Mega Drive tournament results). But the copy of the game was his, his and his alone! And for twelve Euros ($16) quite cheap, too, considering the prices this game can reach on eBay!

And as I thought twenty years ago, I still feel the same now: This is one damn fine fighting game, one of the best there is on the console. And now, it finally belongs to me…

Bimini Run By Alex Burr

Bimini Run is probably the most anomalous (read: one of a kind) games ever released for the Sega Genesis, and I have quite fond memories of it even though it really isn’t that great of a game at all. I first rented the game in 1994 at my local video store vIdEo 2You (no, really, that’s how it was spelled). I remember that I really liked the blues and the reds of the box art and that it was somewhat of a legendary game, because it was way on the tippy-top of the shelves, which was a mere two hundred feet below where I was standing. They had Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam down there, why couldn’t this game be at the floor! I remember me and my friend Collin at the time (whose mom was a total loser) were playing this in the dead of summer and we wanted to take my Dad’s fishing boat out and look for Hoshi? Toshi? Something -shi. Then the review came out from Melf, and I was the only person awake at my friends house after we all had partied and I downloaded it and beat it. Yup, you know you’re addicted to Genesis when you’re the only one up at 8:30 on the morning after a big college party and you get up and sit through Bimini Run.

Comix Zone By Christian Matozzo

Unfortunately I haven’t been doing much gaming on my Genesis this month, so I’ll write about a game I got a little while back instead. Back in December I got Comix Zone as a secret santa gift, and I must say, this game is absolutely fantastic. The graphics look top-notch for the system, the story is interesting, and the gameplay is just pure beat-’em-up fun. The plethora of different attacks remind me of Die Hard Arcade, and it gives a lot of diversity to the game. There’s even a couple of special moves you can pull off and items you can use. This is, at heart, an adventure beat-’em-up, and it’s a ton of fun.

I can’t recommend Comix Zone enough. The only problem I have with it is the sheer difficulty. It’s mainly caused due to the annoying fact that literally everything you punch or kick hurts you in this game, plus all the enemies and traps laid for you on the way. I really like Comix Zone , but I simply can’t get past the second level. If it had some sort of lives system, this game would be so much better, and I’d be playing it more often. But it’s just too hard to beat on one life and only one continue. One wrong step and it’s game over, and that’s just very frustrating. Ah well, I guess I’ll just have to get better.

Final Fight CD By Doug Jackson

I love Final Fight. I’d even consider it better than Streets of Rage 2. I’m talking about the arcade original, not the SNES and GBA ports because both are flawed, especially the SNES version. I’ve been wanting to find a copy of Final Fight CD for the Sega CD for eons now but just couldn’t find a good price on a complete copy, no matter how hard I looked. My wife took a vacation to Washington D.C. this week, and I decided to have a game party to have some fun while she was gone. The day before I had the party I had to drive her to the airport, and it gave me the perfect excuse to visit my favorite indie game store that’s nearly forty miles away, since it’s right near the airport. I was browsing through the owner’s loose spindle of Sega CD games and I actually found a few copies of this game (disc only, of course), and I had to have it for the minimal ten bucks he wanted for it. It was mine along with a few other games.

I got home and that Friday night I remembered that my Sega CD had just blown a fuse, and I’ve been too lazy to order a new fuse online. I wanted to play the game so bad and realized that my chances of getting to play it anytime soon were thin since all of the friends I invited were casual gamers who could care less about a Sega CD and the other obscure consoles that I loved. Then I remembered that I invited my friend Grant. He had several Sega CDs, but I could only contact him via email. I quickly sent him a message, and to my astonishment he got it and brought a JVC X’Eye nonetheless. I got to play Final Fight CD for the first time this weekend on the X’Eye, which added to the thrill. I knew the game would be as close to arcade-perfect as it could get, but it more than lived up to my expectations, easily outclassing the poor SNES version and even blowing the GBA one away too as I knew it would. Aside from the graphics, this game is arcade perfect, difficulty and all. I love the fact that the Sega CD can have seven enemies on screen just like the arcade. It really makes the game feel like a true quarter muncher.

Sadly, I only got to play it for a little while, as my friend had to leave after not too long, but I got my chance I wouldn’t have gotten for a while otherwise. I will order the replacement fuse as soon as I can so I can continue to play my favorite beat-’em-up of all time. This is by far the best version and just when you or me for that fact think the Sega CD has too much crap on it out jumps Final Fight CD to remedy all of our Sega CD blues!

Gunstar Heroes By Jackie Bogard

Recently I bought a few games at a place, three for ten bucks, in fact. One of those games happened to be Gunstar Heroes. I love Treasure games, and I love run-‘n-gun games A LOT! and I really had not played this game in years. My friend Andy came over and we popped it in and started to play, the first three levels where not too hard, then we started the level with the game board set up, and man it got frustrating. We kept taking each others lives after one of us died. but eventually we made it to the boss after a little while. I had two health points, and he had one, which was not good at all, but somehow we managed to kill him. I just mainly jump attacked him while my friend blasted him. I ended up dying, but not before his life was low enough to be taken down by gun fire. Now, we still have not beaten the game, since the level after keeps beating us down. M.Bison-looking bastard we’ll get you!!!! One day…

All in all, I love playing the game and with my friend Andy it is a blast. I recommend it.

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master By Steven Campbell

Yeah, I know, this must be the 1000th Reader Roundtable Shinobi 3 submission, but I promise you my friend, nobody, and I mean nobody is as obsessed with this masterpiece as me. As much love as the game gets in Sega-16’s monthly Roundtable, it still just doesn’t seem to get enough respect. Everyone always praises games like M.U.S.H.A. or Thunder Force IV for their immaculate parallax scrolling, but if you look closely, Shinobi 3’s parallax is among the finest on the console. On the surf boarding level I count ten levels of parallax racing by at a ridiculous speed, just on the bottom half of the screen. A few different levels including the last use amazing parallax scrolling in the clouds, creating some beautiful backgrounds, but what makes the parallax so awesome in Shinobi 3 is its subtlety. Instead of just being all “HEY LOOK AT MY PARALAX” like a lot of scrolling shooters on the Genesis, in Shinobi 3 the developers use it as an integral part of the level, in a fashion that you don’t really stop and say “hey check out that awesome parallax” but instead say “hey check out this awesome level,” like the level where you’re falling through a cliff and have to jump from rock to rock as you descend.

I’d also like to take the chance to say that the soundtrack of is my all-time favorite. Among the best on the console, it’s one that really gets my adrenaline going. I often listen to tracks like “Mandara”, and “Whirlwind” while working out.

All in all, I’d just like to see the game get more credit than it gets, it pushed the Genesis hardware to its limits with the best of them, but the greatest thing about this game is by far the controls. The way they feel in your hand when moving the character through the game is just unexplainably awesome. It’s as if your hands and eyes are making love or something. Sega took moves straight from a character in a vs. fighting game and put them in Musashi for his third Genesis trek, and once you master them you’ll fall in love, just as I have.

The Ooze By Greg Jurkiewicz

The Ooze, by Sega Technical Institute should’ve been a great game. Unfortunately it came way too late in the 16-bit era and was the unfortunate victim of a rush job. Originally Sega wanted to make this the bundled game to go with the Nomad. That didn’t really work out, so they just released it for the Genesis. It’s a fantastic idea for a game, the gameplay is really unique and interesting, and it could’ve been a masterpiece if STI had polished it.

You get to control a giant puddle of sentient, toxic goo. You use tendrils as a way of locomotion and combat, and your character’s size is your health indicator. It’s really a neat idea. Sadly the game doesn’t play so well and the levels are full of cheap deaths, and almost anything can insta-kill you, which is annoying as hell, especially on the first level. They also recycled a lot of the sound effects from Comix Zone. They’re good sounds, but very obviously recycled.

I’d be curious to see if anyone actually beat this game. It is beyond ridiculously difficult. I want to write a review for it, but I refuse to do so unless I can beat it.

Dynamite Headdy By Aaron Wilcott

Dynamite Headdy is a game I wasn’t really expecting to play anytime soon. I had no intention to purchase a copy since it seemed a little too generic from the pictures. I know I know, shame upon my being for saying that about a Treasure game. Well, during my sporadic and less-than-once-a-month trip to the pawn shop (I don’t get out much, heh heh), I spotted a cart-only copy of Dynamite Headdy on the shelf of lonely Genesis games. Knowing how popular Treasure games were, I was shocked to see that this hadn’t sold yet. I immediately paid a measly $5 for it and took the buried treasure home.

Later that day I cleaned it up and popped it in my Genesis. To be honest, way back when I only knew this game by the title, I thought Dynamite Headdy was in a Contra-style setting strangely enough. Not a mascot platformer in the same vein as Rocket Knight Adventures or Ristar.

As I began playing Dynamite Headdy, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from it. It had amazing graphics and sound but the level direction was rather confusing. I mean, even from starting the very first level (or perhaps, “first part of the game”), I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was suppose to go. I had no manual and was too lazy to look up a guide so I was largely SOL.

After defeating this kitty enemy, which I gather was probably the first boss, I’m dropped off in a sort of… Umm, actually I wasn’t sure what this place was. Perhaps a toy town? There were occasional buildings I could enter into akin to Alex Kidd or Keith Courage where I could practice using an ability. I played through a game where you have to hit targets surrounding you in eight directions and a vertical scrolling one but I couldn’t make heads or tails out of them. After finishing I was sent back to the main area with little feeling of accomplishment.

I couldn’t see much else in the vicinity, so I traveled to the right side of the screen to see if this was the start of a level or if it was a Super Mario 64-style level hub. As it seemed, this starting area was neither. Now started the real adventure, though I found the starting area to be quite an adventure in itself!

Luckily I was at least taught about Headdy’s different heads. I wasn’t sure how to get one I needed for a specific situation, but at least this revealed to me Dynamite Headdy’s stand-out gimmick. Swappable heads for different jobs. My favorite so far is the sticky (or perhaps Velcro haha) head that allows you to stick to walls and ceilings.

My adventure didn’t last much longer after this as it was starting to get late in the day. I made it up to a flying dragon boss inside a restricted room. I don’t think I had the right head equipped as it was hard to get any hits in without getting myself hit. Either way, I concluded myself from the game to take a break. So from a lonely store shelf, to utterly confusing a new owner, Dynamite Headdy has been quite an experience!

VectorMan By Frank Ramirez

I remember the very first time I ever played VectorMan, was back when it had first come out on the Genesis way back when. I was pretty amazed by the graphic, showing off what power the Genesis could still pump out. Unfortunately I could never pass the first level. Years later, thanks to Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the Xbox 360, I had another chance to show this game what’s what.

Today, I think the graphics still hold up nicely with their detailed 3D graphics, and very atmospheric music. And guess what? I FINALLY beat the first level, to find a bonus level with graphics that seriously impressed the hell out of me. I didn’t think I could get such a sensation of height like that out of the Genesis, but… wow.

To me, VectorMan is an impressive game… visually. The actual gameplay of it is a bit on the simple side, but it’s addicting, so it’s far more than just a visually impressive tech demo. In the end that’s all that really matters though: good gameplay. The great graphics are the icing on the cake.

Raiden Trad By Eduardo Figueriredo

Raiden Trad was one of the games everybody in my circle of friends wanted to play back in 1992. There was a Raiden arcade cabinet in the neighborhood, and having the game at home on the Mega Drive was simply one of the coolest things ever!

As for me, I was always afraid of the checkpoints in this game. I felt it was unfair having the ship stripped down when dying. But it’s part of the game, and it doesn’t actually make it more difficult than the arcade version, which is checkpoint-free. It’s just different, and still highly challenging.

I had lots of fun playing Raiden Trad again this last week. And I was amazed at how faithful it is to the original game its was ported from, overall a very decent effort for the Mega Drive. I feel it’s a bit overlooked by MD fans, and that’s a shame. It’s great fun, and it crushes the awful SNES version in all aspects you can think of.

Do you want good vertical shooting action on the Mega Drive? Make no mistake, Raiden Trad is for you. Give it a chance!

Gargoyles By A. A. Dawson

This month I happened upon one of the more overlooked Disney titles. Maybe it was the fact that it was published on a subsidiary label or perhaps it was due to its later release in the Genesis’ life-cycle (1995), but overall, Gargoyles is a bit overlooked when compared to other Disney classics such as Aladdin, The Lion King, or even The Jungle Book. Its lesser noted status coupled with positive reviews and appealing screen shots inspired me to give this one a shot.

The visuals that spread across the TV screen are quite impressively rendered with the utmost quality that you’d expect from a Disney game. The music appropriately fits the setting of each dark, action-packed level with an accompaniment of good sound effects and decent (though sometimes screechy) voice samples. The gameplay is probably the game’s weak point, though that isn’t saying much. Aside from a few cheap hits you might take (from excessive flying projectiles!), the gameplay should be rather easy to get used to, especially since most level bosses can be exploited with a little practice. The control setup isn’t so bad since the only real trouble you might find is how to break through barriers (walls/floors).

Overall, this game is quite good. If you love and appreciate classics like Aladdin and The Lion King, then there’s no reason to overlook Gargoyles any further. I’m quite happy to have tried it out and include it as a part of my collection this month!

Sonic Spinball By Nick Mclean

Sonic Spinball… as I scanned the pathetic collection of games in front of me, this was the only one of interest. A week earlier I graduated from college and was now visiting my mom out of town. Ahh, the comfort of home cooking and my own bed. Unfortunately, it got monotonous pretty quick! As all my Genesis games are down at my place, I was left with my trusty spare Model 1 and all of my doubles from when I left home.

There weren’t a lot of games I felt like playing. Streets of Rage 2 was tempting… but predictable. Sonic Spinball stuck out like a sore thumb. I accidentally bought it because I had confused the copy I already had with Mean Bean Machine and thusly wound up with two copies, neither of which ever saw more than a few minutes of action on my Genesis.

Now, I am a bit of a pinball nut. During my college stint I frequented the movie arcade and hit up the classics: Addams Family, Medieval Madness, Indiana Jones… great machines. My knowledge of pinball techniques was now far greater than it was when I first played Sonic Spinball so I decided to give it a shot.

You know, that game gets a really bad rap! Initially I thought to myself that is very slow, and the ability to control Sonic with the D-pad seemed gimmicky and difficult. Over time though, I grew to know its nuances like any pinball machine. The flippers aren’t very touchy at all, which is a disappointment because it removes a lot of skillful maneuvers from play. Trapping the ball is extremely easy, but it is almost impossible to shoot at a reverse angle with any speed with a trapped ball. Left flipper can only shoot hard right etc… which means that you can’t pass to the same flipper either.

Aside from this the mechanics are pretty good I think. I just wish kicking the Genesis could do a death-save!

Atomic Robo-Kid By The Coop

Ever read about a game where it just gets beaten, yelled at and has rocks thrown at it like an abandoned mongrel mutt skulking about the meat shop in the village street? It gets chased away at every attempt to get some attention and is eventually driven off to the outskirts of the village with threats and insults. Once it’s gone, it’s hated at first, spoken poorly of to others later and finally forgotten. Well, I played just such a game not too long ago.

Like the unloved dog, Atomic Robo-Kid has problems- the biggest of which are the respawning enemies. They’re like the fleas on that mutt. Every time you kill them all and you move on just a little, BOOM!… they’re all back again. It’s the Ninja Gaiden syndrome, except now there are multiple enemies that respawn. I’m guessing the respawning was how Treco chose to make the game harder, but to be honest, I’d rather have it be a cakewalk than see something I killed a second ago reappear because I moved a little too far. The game’s other main issue is the music. Akin to a loud, piercing bark, it doesn’t use the best sound engine (even for the time), it features rather grating instrument choices and the tunes just aren’t very memorable. That’s two good sized strikes against this unwanted thing. But if you look past those areas, you might see that it’s not without some positive traits.

The graphics are pretty good, the bosses fill the screen (big bosses were the thing in 1990), there is a nice assortment of weapons to get (through a strangely random power up system), the controls are good and you can generally take each level at your own pace because the screen only moves when you do. It’s not unlike if the mutt still had a relatively nice coat, was pretty laid back and somehow knew how to put up its paw to shake on command.

Is it the worst game on the Genesis? No. The best? Not even close. Overall, it’s pretty much average with some decent traits that get over shadowed by a couple of bad issues… kind of similar to that mutt from the village that so many pushed away.

The villagers that chased if aren’t going to seek it out and give it another chance. They’ve long since put it out of their minds and moved on. Perhaps as it shuffles along, it’ll find a person that’ll be willing to kneel down and hold out their hand. It’s not something that’s going to win any “best of” awards to be sure, but if someone new gives it a little attention, they’ll find out that while it has its problems, it’s not all bad like the man running the shop said it was.

Art of Fighting By Danny Ramirez

My, oh my, it looks like all of the kiddies have gathered at the Roundtable this month. Feeling the excitement in the, er, forums, I dusted off my PLAYSega USB pad (don’t make the same mistake that I did, and avoid these and all other knock-off Saturn pads at all costs!), fired up my Kega Genesis, and popped in a RO-er, cartridge to contribute another MEGA POWER -ed Roundtable entry.

Art of Fighting, or Ryuko No Ken (that’s Fist of Dragon & Tiger to us non-Japanese) was originally released on the Neo Geo back in September 1992. It is remembered by most for its huge character sprites (which showed physical damage as the fight went on) and the then-innovate use of “scaling” which developer SNK would later perfect in their Samurai Shodown series. Much like all of SNK’s pre-Fatal Fury 2 fighting games however, AoF was more of a game of flash than substance, as it’s impressive graphics and sound hid its simplistic, stilted gameplay. It did however, feature a unique, yet controversial system based around a “spirit gauge,” which prevented the abuse of special moves.

Back before The King of Fighters became SNK’s main squeeze, the AoF series was considered third tier compared to the Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown series, yet it’s first installment, like many of SNK’s earliest Neo fighters received ports to numerous home consoles of the time, namely the SNES and Genesis.

The Genesis port, developed and published by Sega themselves, was released in Japan in January 1994, several months after the SNES port and shortly before the release of “Art of Fighting 2” on the Neo. (The Genny always got the short end of the stick when it came to fighting game releases.) It finally crashed down on the U.S, alongside the horrendous Genesis port of fellow SNK fighter “World Heroes”, in the summer of 1994 to the apathy of most, seeing as they were almost two years old by that point.

Having the distinction of being the first in SNK’s “100 MEGA SHOCK!” series along with being on superior hardware, it’s no surprise that the 102 MEGA POWER “Art of Fighting” suffered some cutbacks in its conversion to a 16 MEGA POWER Genesis cartridge. Genesis AoF contains all of the hallmarks of a Genesis fighting game port: shrunken sprites, simplified backgrounds, animation cuts, muted color palette and scratchy, garbled voice samples (though still no match the king of scratchy-sounding Genny fighters: Street Fighter II: Special Laryngitis Edition). Despite that, the Genny hardware gives a good rendition of the original Neo soundtrack, and the gameplay was slightly altered, in a way that allowed for some SF2-like combos. Unfortunately, the “Ryuko Ranbu” desperation move was omitted in this take on AoF, which along with its other flaws makes it inferior to the SNES port. On its own however, it’s a respectable port……much more then what could be said for World Heroes.

While it’s always fun comparing and contrasting certain games and their Genesis ports, I honestly see no reason why anyone should pick this one up for more than $5, with the super-cheap Art of Fighting Anthology (PlayStation 2) being readily available, and the ultimate package for all five fans of the AoF series out there (myself not included). Unlike other Genesis fighting game ports, the original game wasn’t too hot to begin with outside of the eye/ear candy, so the Genesis port ain’t really worth checking out either. Still, you could do worse………like World Heroes. That’s like the Super Thunder Blade (worst Genesis game ever for the record) of mainstream Genesis fighting games. “Hey, kakatte kina!”

Golden Axe By Thomas Alexander Dark

Golden Axe is a game I had played quite a bit during my childhood, and I still play it even now. Sure, it’s simplistic. Also, let’s admit it, the AI is pretty bad, but simplicity isn’t a bad thing, and the AI is amusingly bad. It also makes a pretty darn good multi-player game when, of course, you’re not beating the crap out of your partner for accidentally hitting you first (And doubtless the abuse towards each other leading to both of you getting killed before the end).

But what makes this game special to me? Attacking the screaming children, of course. Not to mention that the Amazonian chick is hot when angry… oh, and, the nostalgia, of course. *shifty eyes*

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