Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 54

Summer is right around the corner, so it’s time to get those games we’ve been playing out of the way to make room for new stuff. May’s titles are all over the place, and our staff and readers have really been pulling out all the stops with their game collections!


Mega Man: The Wily Wars By Ken Horowitz

A friend shared his download of Mega Man 9 with me, and as it had been a while since I’d played anything in this series (I got burned out a long time ago), I figured it was time to get back into Capcom’s classic series. I eventually bought part ten, and then I went back to my copy of Wily Wars to completely sate my hunger for the Blue Bomber’s adventures. Truth be told, I should have stuck with the new releases.

It’s not that Wily Wars is a bad collection; it’s not. I just find that it doesn’t really live up to its potential. The save feature is nice, but the graphics and sound aren’t all that much better than the NES originals, and the gameplay is actually worse. What’s with the delayed jumping? I envisioned playing this with the godly Genesis controller, only to find that the games actually play better with the crappy NES cross pad. I guess it just goes to show that the original is sometimes still the best.

Lightening Force By Sebastian Sponsel

So yeah, basically I didn’t play this as a “Genesis” game this month… at least, not on original hardware. I was tinkering with my DS the other day and tried to get that “jenesis” emulator to work. I randomly copied three games to the DS without exactly looking. One of those was Lightening Force, aka Thunder Force IV. I definitely could have chosen worse.

I love kicking back every once in a while playing a wild and frenzied shooter, even if only for a few minutes… I find that oddly relaxing. I hadn’t played any of the Thunder Force games in years, which definitely showed. I didn’t make it through any of the levels! But the graphics, effects and music were awesome, so I decided to access the hidden options setting, set the lives to 99, and try again, just to see how long it takes to defeat the level boss.

The emulation worked pretty nice for the most part, even though the screen looked a bit compressed, and the game didn’t quite fit the screen, so there was stuff going on beyond the visible area. Still, it was very playable until said boss fight, when emulation decided to deliver a swift kick to my balls. As the boss of the ruins stage exploded, the screen froze and the emulator crashed. Nuts! I’d stick to my Nomad if region lockout didn’t prevent it from playing my PAL copy of the game…

By the way, what’s that extra “e” doing there in the American title? Does that mean that this “force” isn’t the lightning that accompanies the previous three “thunders” (which is odd in itself since thunder normally comes AFTER lightning)? Does it mean instead that this “forces” does “lighten” the oppression through the evil empire? We may never know…

Space Invaders ’91 By Alex Burr

Ha ha ha, you didn’t think I’d be playing this game, would you? No, actually I haven’t played much Sega this month, but I thought that since I took a whirl at Arkanoid for the NES, I’d stick with the late ’80s-early ’90s Taito for this one. It’s a pretty good game that almost mixes Space Invaders for the 2600 with a vertical space shooter, with some needed bonuses and changes and the ilk. Do you ever look at Taito and say “wow, they’re basically just riding Space Invaders as far as it’ll go!”? Really though, it’s a good game that’s worth checking out, because you’re not going to find it for sale because apparently it’s pretty rare. I enjoy it, is it anything that has or will have a major impact on the Genesis gaming scene? No, but it was worth a look for me this month.

Popful Mail By Christian Matozzo

Recently at work, a guy traded in a Model 1 Sega CD and some games, notably Lunars I and II and Popful Mail. So I swooped up the three RPGs and the system (all for the price of a couple day’s labor, heh) just to see what all the hubbub was about, even though I’m not an RPG guy. So my Genesis/Model 2 CD/32x hasn’t been hooked up for the past few months or so, and this gave me some initiative to actually hook it back up and start playing again (since I haven’t gotten a new game for it in a long time, and the Genesis hanging off the Model 2 has been bugging me for a while now).

I started out with Popful Mail and I must say, this is a pleasantly fun game. It mixes platforming with some RPG weapon-type stuff and storyline, and it makes for a fun game. The game doesn’t look too great, or have redbook audio, but the gameplay is just simply addicting and fun. It doesn’t get old like most RPGs do, especially the random encounter ones like Pokémon, where battling enemies becomes a chore (Which is probably why I’ve only gotten into the first five to ten minute of Lunar, heh). And even the dubbing in the game is great. The voices are clear and they don’t make you cringe like your average anime dub on Cartoon Network or whatever 4Kids has on Fox Saturday mornings.

The only flaws with the game that I have is that if you miss something you might have to backtrack a pretty long way (especially if you haven’t saved!), and the unbalanced boss fights. It feels like every boss fight is just ridiculously sped up and really difficult. When I got to the Wood Golem I first thought I’d have to go back through Treesun just to get the dagger to beat him, he moves way too fast and does so much damage. But I found a little trick to beat him, and went on my way. But I can safely say Popful Mail has rekindled my dying interest in the Sega CD, and the Genesis for that matter. I’ve started playing some old Sega CD favorites again that I haven’t touched in a while, and that magical feeling is back. It’s good to be back Genesis; I’ve missed you.

Super Skidmarks By Doug Jackson

I haven’t exactly had a ton of time to get very intimate with many Genesis games this month. I also don’t feel like writing about how much I hated playing Aladdin this month either. However, here it went, down to the wire with me again, and I was just able to sneak something in the last few days.

I recently got another import haul and got a copy of Super Skidmarks. This game may have the stupidest cover art of all time on a Genesis/MD game, but I finally gave it a try. Even with the region switch installed on my console, the screen still rolled and would not come in, and that sucks because it’s the only game out of the two dozen or so European games that I own that does that.

I went and found my old beat to heck TV with a vertical hold on it, and it was on the fritz so I still had no luck playing this game. I was out garage sale cruising and found another ancient TV with a vertical hold, bought it for $5 and brought it home, tried the game again and it worked minimally better, it still rolled a bit, and the game was one giant flicker fest on the TV too, but I at least got to try Super Skidmarks out. I was impressed, despite the limited playtime I had with it. It’s a game not unlike Championship Pro-AM or Micro Machines but only better. We Americans missed out on a great racer on Sega’s 16-bit console, so you Europeans are lucky here. Oh well, it’s off to do more mods to my console so I can get this game to work properly. If you have a way to play this game then I’d suggest you do it!

WWF Raw By Tom Briggs

Just like last month, I haven’t had a lot of time recently for Genesis gaming. I did, however, get to spend some time with one of my all time favorite wrestling games – WWF Raw. I’ve recently gotten a little back into the the faux-sport thanks to the return of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, a childhood hero of mine. So how do I celebrate my slightly renewed interest? Set up a match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels of course! It’s pretty funny to look back and see how simple the controls were and how much of a button masher the game really was, but hey, it worked. I’ve come to the belief that wrestling games peaked with Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy for the N64, and it’s been all downhill since then. It’s nice to play a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, provides a nice challenge, and contains a roster of favorites from the time I was a fan.

Eternal Champions By Jackie Bogard

Well this month, okay… a few days of the month, I thought I would give Eternal Champions another shot. I previously could not stand the game, its bad in so many ways.. could my opinion change? I popped the cart in, immediately feeling dread. but I will admit, I do enjoy how the characters destroy the SEGA logo. It always entertains me, and my son seems to like it as well. The intro music is also something I like. I press start and navigate through the ugly menus and start the single player game.

I choose Rax, mainly because I generally enjoy Kickboxer/Muay Thai characters, I really like his array of moves, but that is also my biggest gripe with the game. The special moves are just awkward to perform and just don’t flow well with the game. Some people seem to like the over complexity of the game, but to be honest it hurts it more than anything. I could deal with the cheap A.I. if the moves actually worked.

The difficulty, now that’s another annoying aspect of Eternal Champions. What was SEGA thinking? The controls are frustrating as is, and with the A.I. not letting up and constantly on you like white on rice, it makes it annoying, even to the point where the game is to cheap to play. And man, don’t you love getting knocked back two characters? Ridiculous.

So, No, I still hate the game. People who say Shaq-Fu have not obviously not played Eternal Champions, which is unfortunate.

Madden ’94 By Steven Campbell

Keep on scrolling, sports haters; it’s football time! Ever since writing my very first review for Sega-16.com (John Madden Football ’92) I’ve been in full-fledged Madden mode, and I have decided to dedicate this months roundtable slot to one of the greatest 16-bit football games ever. What I love the most about ’94 is the huge, well-animated, hand-drawn player sprites.

I grew up watching football, and Super Bowl XXVI (26, 1991/1992 Washington Redskins vs. Buffalo Bills) was the very first game I ever watched at the tender age of six. I was in awe of the pageantry of the event. Each team came running out of a giant football helmet at the player introduction ceremony and it just blew my little mind. The color full uniforms, the action, and the heroic rocket armed performance of redskins quarterback Mark Rypien kept me in front of the TV for the entire 3+ hours. From then on, I was a diehard Redskins fan and Rypien was my hero.

I recently found a YouTube video on the internet of the original TV broadcast of the game, and guess who was calling the play-by-play? None other than everyone’s favorite video game cover boy John Madden himself, alongside his lifetime sidekick Pat Summerall. Wow! Madden was there from the very beginning for me which makes it all the more tragic that he’s gone from the booth these days. You see my video game-loving pals, the game I love the most has been going through some major changes recently, and it’s almost just not even the same game for me. Starting with the absence of the man himself from the commentary booth. Playing the old Genesis Maddens reminds me of a better time in the sport of football, and as far as game play goes ’94 is among the best.

Captain Planet By Greg Jurkiewicz

I have a soft spot for ’90s cheese like Captain Planet, so I pretty much liked this game instantly. Though in light of recent world events with BP doing a fantastic job ensuring that we’ll all be floating around in Oil Ocean Zone, maybe rediscovering Captain Planet and the message behind it isn’t such a bad thing. Of course in this game all you have to do to save the planet from ecological disaster is beat the crap out of a guy with a receding hairline, named Zarm.

Overall the game is a straightforward side-scroller. You can play as Wheeler, Kwame, Linka and Gi (Ma-Ti having powers useful only for drunken party tricks, hangs back as an NPC). For some obscure reason (ie: uninspired game design) all four playable characters have the exact same moves and attacks. Their powers are essentially just palette swaps. That being the case, the game does make the best of a bad situation, and when you hit the reset it randomizes which character plays what level. The level designs are pretty nice, and the bosses are pretty cool in that they’re big and bad-ass looking and require some strategy to defeat. After beating all the individual levels you get to summon Captain Planet, mullet and all, and the game turns into a SHMUP. The last level really is quite fun as you get to fly around and fight off a massive battleship controlled by the game’s bosses.

I’m glad I picked this game up, it’s not the best of side scrolling genre, but it is a good example of it, and it gets massive nostalgia points. It’s a Mega Drive only release, but it came out before the region locks, so it plays on a Genesis just fine.

Speedball 2 By Daniel Smith

Bugger me, the months have flown by, and it seems like eons since I last posted in the Reader Roundtable let alone engaged in some Mega Drive awesomeness (instead I have been covertly betraying you people for my beloved Playstation 2 and Football Manager 2010). The other day I plugged in Speedball 2 and fired up a game.

For those who are ignorant, Speedball 2 is a futuristic American Football style game. Being from England, I know very little about American Football, or as it was touted on here a while ago: Handegg, and care even less about something I would have to describe as rugby for girls. Contrary to popular belief (and that popular belief is seemingly everybody but myself and Phantar) this game is utterly awesome. It’s fast, responsive, brutal, and when two people of equal skill get together to duel the game is a gruelling hard fought battle the like of which makes the whole of World War One seem like a picnic in a flowery field surrounded by sunshine and bunnies.

Now, I would indeed be flattering myself to say I am as good on this game as the epic Phantar, but somewhere in the heart Lisbon last autumn I had the honour of battling against him. I was the proverbial lamb going to the slaughter, but boy did this fluffy, adorable lamb have some attitude, and I distributed some harsh kicks in the nuts that caused my slaughterer to raise his eyebrows on a couple of occasions. In the end I was defeated by a superior opponent, but let it not go unsaid that the Mega Drive is awesome, Speedball 2 is awesome and, above all, I am awesome.

6-Pak By Chris Leathco

I know what you all are thinking- this can’t count, it’s six different games! Well, they are all on one cart, and it’s the cart I grab most often if I am going on an out of town trip with my Gen Mobile.

This is one of those games I got early on in my Genesis collection. I got it at a Sam’s Club significantly discounted. if I remember correctly, it was ten dollars. The primary reason why I grabbed it is I had yet to play the first Sonic The Hedgehog, having only the second one that came with the system. I discounted most of the other titles, and only when I took the time to explore the whole of the cart did I find I was dead wrong for writing the rest of the games off for the first couple weeks I owned the cart.

Of course, the original Sonic is fantastic. The opening music for the first level sounds awesome, and the first thing that catches my eyes are the trees, they almost look three dimensional. This game is what I played all the time when I first got the 6-Pak, until I tried Streets of Rage. I had originally discounted Streets of Rage as a Final Fight ripoff. I was dead wrong. The graphics may be a step down, but that’s more than made up for with deeper gameplay, more moves per character, more sprites on screen compared to the SNES Final Fight, and just a better experience overall. The game has this gritty look that fits the storyline wonderfully.

A game in the same style on the same cart was Golden Axe. This one was a lot harder than SoR, but the swords-‘n-shields setting is wonderfully well done. I don’t think I ever beat this one without cheating, but I still loved it. I always played the Amazon, and always went after getting a mount in the stages that offered it, at the expense of my own character’s health.

Next was Revenge of Shinobi. I loved the music in this one. It really set the mood for a ninja going in and just kicking ass. I had a little trouble with this one at first, but once I figured out the controls and learned that you can’t run and gun like in Contra, I began to enjoy it much more. To this day I still haven’t beat it, but I’m still trying, and one day it will fall!

I never got into racing games much but still put some time in Super Hang-On. I never had the patience to beat the third race, but still sometimes go back to it to run through the first couple races before I get bored with it. I’m just not into racing games.

Columns is the game I still can’t get into no matter how hard I try. I can’t look far enough ahead to build those huge combos, and any combo I get in this one is just dumb luck. I know lots of people love this one, but I find it the weakest of the package.

Overall, with the 6-Pak I got four games I hugely enjoyed, and the other two aren’t crap, and I can load them up for some enjoyment from time to time. This game is a killer value both back in the Genesis era and today, as well for new owners looking to play some of the best the Genesis has to offer, and it can be found at a very cheap price these days on GameGavel and eBay. For any new owner, I highly recommend they track this one down. There’s a variety of gameplay styles, and at least one or two of these games should appeal to anyone who tries the cart.

Clue By A. A. Dawson

Every system has “lonely genres.” Many fans say that Sega’s 16-bit machine was most greatly deprived in the RPG department. What they overlook, however is that the Mega Drive/Genesis is FLOODED with RPGs in comparison to the likes of first-person shooters, cue sports titles, and board game adaptations: the ever overlooked genre on just about every non-PC platform. With Sculptured Software/Parker Brothers being one of the few choices around, what’s there to satisfy your electronic board gaming fix?

You have only three “Parker Brothers” branded cartridges to choose from: Clue, Monopoly, and Risk. In my particular case, I settled for their 1992 adaptation of Clue. To my surprise, I was treated to more than just the standard formula associated with the game. There are different modes to choose from, cut-scenes (even depicting the murder sequences), and eerie music that gives the game a deeply mysterious feel. Will all of these features completely blow your mind? Maybe not, but it will certainly give Clue fans their fix, so long as they don’t feel that the additional features get in the way. Also, if you’re a Clue fan you’ll have to import this version as it’s a North American exclusive. Luckily, it’s region free for all to enjoy!

Super Hang-On By Nick Mclean

I have never really gotten into the classics on the Sega Genesis. Buying my console used, it didn’t come with Altered Beast. I played a wide variety of games long before Shinobi ever graced my console, and it was months before I finally caught that blue blur. But, even then, I didn’t really get it. I am probably one of the worst console gamers ever to even try Shinobi or Sonic, and I was always bad at Columns. Not even ungifted, the truth was I had a gift, and it was losing at Columns. Golden Axe? Hah! Talk about looking lost. I did finish the beginner training mode, and my best rank was a D.

Streets of Rage? Well, that’s another story. I absolutely destroy Streets of Rage, but alternatively, dislike Streets of Rage 2 and 3. Seems like I just can’t win! So why on Earth would the 6-Pak find it’s way into my console when it is basically a cruel joke to me? No idea. A couple nights ago I was going to bed and suddenly came to playing Streets of Rage. Evidently my non-conscious mind wasn’t willing to find my Streets of Rage cart in the cassette drawers and just put in the 6-Pak.

Now, I don’t even remember how I got the 6-Pak. I can’t remember how much it cost, or if it was a trade, or what. I remember being stoked to finally play the famous Golden Axe when I first got it. I was so bad at the games I hadn’t played the cart ever since.

Sitting down to play some Final Fight CD the next day, I popped out the cartridge and took a look. Ah yes, Super Monaco GP. I suck at that too. But then, what’s this!? Super Hang-On? I had never, ever gotten around to even trying it. Boy, was that a mistake.

The trippy scrolling colours of the title screen greeted me as I sighed. I figured I would probably suck at this one too. I started arcade mode, and got a selection of tracks. Now, for some reason I assumed this game would be some kind of top down run-‘n-gun with bungee cords or something. Just the name, Super Hang-On… it misled me. So now I expected an OutRun clone. I chose beginner (of course) and hung on for my life.

What greeted me was one of the finest racing experiences I have had on Sega’s 16-bit wonder. Better than Road Rash, and much better than Outrun 2019, which I recently picked up. Say what you will about the controls and inevitable delay, I loved it. The smooth, slow turning that required strategy and foresight to pass, the complicated braking system… it was great. I even liked some of the music tracks which are far from amazing.

However, like a German chick, Super Hang-On did not return my feelings. In fact, it beat me to a pulp. As it seemed, another classic Genesis game was too much for me to handle. But I was tired of giving up. This time I would put so much time into the game I would learn the tracks, and there is nothing that she can do about it! The game I mean.

Alas, it was for nod. I couldn’t finish the final stage in beginner mode. No matter how perfect I rode, no matter how well I passed I just couldn’t get there. I began to feel like I couldn’t do anything. I just can’t win. Giving the game a final spin before I pulled it out of the console for good, I thought about the graphics for a moment. The sprite is huge! I thought, and I also really liked the brake light. I pressed the button for the brake light, just to watch it flash.

And that’s how I learned there was a turbo button.

After Burner II By The Coop

Way back when I younger in the Spring of ’91, I can remember trying to save up some cash to get myself a Genesis game. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, as there were lawns to mow, cars to wash, chores beyond what I normally had to do, other goodies to waste my hard-earned money on… all the usual things that stood between a young person and their video gaming goal. I didn’t know which game I wanted yet, as the stores in the area fluctuated from week to week regarding what was in stock. But I knew I wanted a Genesis game and it would take a while before I could go and get one.

Spring faded into summer and little by little, my bundle of cash grew until finally around late August, I had what I’d hoped was enough money. Not long afterward, I was dragged along to Target… a trip that had both good and bad reasoning for taking place.

First came the good.

I began looking through what they had in their entertainment section. Some games like Strider and Ghouls ‘N Ghosts were still too expensive, while others just didn’t appeal to me. But farther back in one of the rows, buried behind a half dozen or so other game boxes, I saw part of a blue box sticking out. Curiosity got to me and I moved the other games out of the way to find a copy of After Burner II hanging on that particular metal rod by its plastic tag. Being a fan of the arcade game, I dug it out from the other games in front of it and brought my find up to the counter. There was no price tag on it, leaving me unsure if I could afford it. I was told by my parents that they wouldn’t help, so it was up the the fates and the paper money I had on me to decide if this was the game I was going home with. The cashier took it, rang it up, and I found out right then that I had two bucks to spare after tax. I happily bought it and felt a wave of victory flow through my brain. Unfortunately, that’s when the bad part hit.

I spent the next two-plus hours following my parents around Target as they shopped. I didn’t care about new pants and shirts, or if the new rugs would match this or that obscure object somewhere in the apartment. I just wanted to go home and fly my F-14 Tomcat in an attempt to save the known world dammit! And when my parents finally got done dragging me through nearly every other department in the store, home I did indeed go.

I played that game a lot over the years… up until I got After Burner Complete for the 32X. But before then, that little Genesis cart allowed me to hop onto the infamous danger zone highway, dodging missiles and enjoying a bit of toned-down arcade bliss. I still have that game and it’s in damn good shape too… though my younger self was rather stupid and wrote some high scores down using ink in the manual. But, at least I took good care of the rest of it.

Virtua Fighter 2 By Frank Ramirez

Maybe the screenshots just looked too nice. Maybe the whole idea of playing Virtua Fighter 2 on the Genesis (Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection actually) was just too attractive. Maybe I just expected too much.

I thought initially that this was Sega’s answer to the awesome Killer Instinct on the SNES: an arcade fighting game shrunk down on a 16-bit console, defying the odds with impossibly fluid gameplay. Was I so, so very wrong.

Screen shots were nice. Actual gameplay… not so much. It’s a stilted, choppy mess in motion, and the sound doesn’t fare too well either. Instead of awesome Genesis renditions of the music, we got tinny, metallic… NOISE. The voices were worse. And how exactly is this Virtua Fighter 2 with no Lion or Shun Di?

What a disappointment.

Metal Head By Aaron Wilcott

I’ll be honest with the bunch of you, I didn’t play any Genesis games this month… But ‘strictly’ Genesis doesn’t count Sega CD or 32X, now does it? No, it most certainly doesn’t. Had you going there didn’t I?

The game I played the most this time around was Metal Head. Me personally I really enjoy it. Metal Head isn’t perfect, but it’s not broken either. Possibly the aspect I like the best is the simply amazing graphics. Textured polygons in a 32X game? Yes please! They really add to the experience. Second, I guess would be the decent controls. They’re not perfect but they’re usable. Why does everyone forget the run button? I use it almost 100% of the time.

There’s not much else to say. Most everyone on Sega-16 knows the deal on this game. I just happen to like it, and I thought I’d say it.

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