Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 55

It’s hot as hell outside, so why bother? Grab some refreshments, turn on the AC, and just kick back with a good Genesis game. There’s no other way to beat the summer heat!


Desert Strike By Ken Horowitz

Remember when it was actually cool to kick Iraq’s ass? Desert Strike had the right idea about how the war should go. Saddam was nothing next to my killer copter, and I had enough ammo to sear that beard (and what a manly beard it was!) right off his smug little face. Along the way, I’d free some P.O.W.s and return safety and security to the Middle East. Democracy? Screw that! I’m here to blow stuff up!

Of course, had the real Gulf War seen pilots forced to refuel every five minutes, constantly have to ferry people back and forth between the war zone and landing sites (all over the place and no land reinforcements for my helicopter? WTF?), and have their gunships be taken down by one dude with a rifle, we would probably have been stuck in Iraq for years… um, wait…

The Lost Vikings By Sebastian Sponsel

Once upon a time, there was a little known development studio called “Silicon & Synapse.” In their early days they mainly created ports for different computer games. But then came the time when they created one of their first titles of their own: The Lost Vikings, a puzzle game with platform elements.

And lo and behold: It was a good game! The characters – Eric the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout – all come with their individual skills, which have to be used in sequence in order to reach the level exit. The way the characters interacted with one another worked excellently, both in solving the puzzles (Olaf can either use his shield to block danger or to serve as a platform for Eric to reach higher objects) and in mid-level banter (Personally I like the comments of the Vikings if you fail and continue a single level repeatedly: “I feel like I’ve been here before in a previous life,””Dear God, not this level again- Listen, player, we are tired of this level!” or “Congratulations – You’ve just won the ‘you’ve got too much time on your hands’-award!” after trying the same level for about the fifteenth time).

Bottom line, this is a fun, colorful and creative game, one that I probably love more today than even back when it was first released.

And what became of Silicon & Synapse? Well, they changed their name and are now slightly better known… under the name of Blizzard Entertainment…

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts By Christian Matozzo

OK, so this week, after wanting to play this game for a while and not being able to find it, I borrowed Ghouls N’ Ghosts for Genesis from a friend of mine. I played through the first level of it and though Oh wow, this game is actually pretty fun. Then I got to the second level and couldn’t get past those blasted turtles, turned it off and did something else for the time being.

So I was in work this past Saturday (The 26th) and a friend of mine in the store put Ghosts N’ Goblins for the NES on the modded Xbox to play, and I told him I could get through the first level of Ghouls N’ Ghosts for Genesis without dying. So we turned that game on instead, and then I did indeed beat the first level without dying. Both of us then, right then and there, decided to simply alternate while playing the game and try to beat Ghouls N’ Ghosts. And after dying countless times and slaying countless monsters, while still being stuck on that same part of that one level for fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes, I knew I was hooked on Ghouls N’ Ghosts.

We managed to get all the way to the second-half of level five before I had to get back to work, to which then my boss accidentally turned the game off later. And not too long after I got home from work, I popped in Ghouls N’ Ghosts and played all night long. I managed to get all the way to the fourth boss the second time around, before pausing it and going to bed around 12:30, tired and needing a break before getting back into the fray. So I hit the hay, got up the next morning around nine a.m., and after doing my morning routine, it was right back to Ghouls N’ Ghosts! I knew I had to beat this game before it was time for Mass at eleven a.m., so I was truly determined. I managed to find the Psycho Cannon back in level three, so once I got past that level four boss, the rest was a breeze. And then it was onto Loki himself. I figured this would be the end-all, be-all, hardest boss of all time! Most people don’t even have the patience to get to this guy, and I have to stand up to him.

And I beat him in about five lives, to much surprise. I was so happy, I couldn’t wait to see those credits roll… wait a minute. “The end…?”

A cliffhanger? So that’s what I get for playing on Practice mode, time to beat it on Professional! So five p.m. that night, it was back to Ghouls N’ Ghosts! Since I had gone through the second playthrough of Practice mode, Professional felt like the same old stuff I had already conquered. And after about an hour and a half, I had done it again! Loki was once again defeated, and I couldn’t wait to see what those credits held in store…

“The end…?” Not again! But, all cliffhanger endings aside, Ghouls N’ Ghosts has now become one of my favorite Genesis games for sure. Now to tackle that copy of Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts I just picked up at work…

Toy Story By Jackie Bogard

Toy Story 3 hit theaters this month and its excellent just for the record, and that finally inspired me to dust off Toy Story and finally give it a good playing. First off, the graphics are very nice, though some of the backgrounds are bland. However, the animation is very nice looking, and the dance Woody does after each level is always nice to see. The controls are also very good, even on the RC Car level it was a breeze.

Unfortunately, I never finished the game, got to the level after the RC Racer knocking Buzz off the table, and my son reset the game on me. I’ll eventually get around to beating the game, since its very good from what I managed to play.

X-Men 2: Clone Wars By Greg Jurkiewicz

What can I really say about X-Men 2: Clone Wars that hasn’t already been said… Over a decade after its release this is still the best X-Men game ever made. It’s pretty much got it all, so I won’t bother praising the graphics and game-play and all that stuff.

Instead, I think I’ll indulge in the story of how I came about owning this gem. It was 1995 and I’d read about this upcoming game in an issue of my friend’s EGM. I was already a big fan of the X-Men and loved the first game on the Genny, so it was pretty much a done deal that I was going to get this one. Unfortunately, the distribution of this game was a little screwed up in my area, and none of the three local game stores were going to get it. I ended up having to beg my brother to drive me out of the city to the next town over so that I could pre-order this thing. After that ordeal (my bro wasn’t an easy dude to deal with), I finally managed to pre-order it. Then the wait began, I placed my order just two weeks before the release. Every day after that was torture just waiting for gaming bliss. My friends and I spent the days speculating about what characters were going to be included and how accurately their power would be portrayed.

Finally the release date arrived, and nothing happened. I was off school “sick” that day and literally sat by the phone all day waiting for a call from the game store. By four p.m. nothing had happened, so I caved and called the store. The guy told me the shipment was delayed and they didn’t have it yet. He didn’t know when it was coming in either. This torture continued for another week; a tortuous pattern of running home from school and asking my mom if anyone called, followed by calling the damn store and getting the same terrible rejection. I was beginning to think the pre-order was a scam and that store was going to pack up and vanish with my cash.

Then at last, one happy Friday I came home to find a message on the answering machine. It was the game store, they had my game and I could pick it up. After bribing my brother with an offer to do his laundry for a week, he drove me to the store and the game was mine! Needless to say I was not disappointed with my purchase! X-Men 2 is still as awesome today as it was in ’95 when it made me one happy kid.

Eternal Champions By Frank Villone

For a couple years, I’ve enjoyed the awesome Sega CD title Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side. But I only picked up the EC cart a couple months ago, and I hadn’t really given it a fair shot until the past few weeks. Also, I’ll mention that I’ve loved Street Fighter II since the arcade game blew up, and I’ve loved Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition since it came out for the Genesis. Around the same time, I played EC briefly at a friends’ house and thought it was awkward and impossible, with muddy graphics!

The past few weeks it’s been great to get to know this strange-but-merciless fighter. The mountain of difficulty shrinks away as you get familiar with all the moves for one of the fighters. At that point EC becomes quite fun and playable; however, it takes a while to get there. I’m now able to make it to the Eternal Champion in one sitting, but I haven’t beaten him yet!

EC was meant to dominate the fighters of the day, especially SFII, so I think it’s fair enough to compare them. I’d say EC’s gameplay is solid and unique; It holds up pretty well, provided you are able to give it a fair chance in the first place. It slowly becomes a rewarding and satisfying game. SFII, on the other hand, is accessible and awesome the first time you play it, which means EC is less playable in comparison, unfortunately.

Further adding to EC’s steep difficulty/cheapness is the “punishment” system of losing a match and then getting kicked two matches backwards! This fails to be an issue once you become pretty good at the game, but until then, it’s awful. Every other fighting game lets you repeat the same match right after you lose, so EC’s playability takes a hit here.

My other main issue with Eternal Champions is that at times the graphics just don’t seem clear enough, especially compared to the clean graphics of SFII: SCE. Characters’ faces and bodily details can at times get pixel-y and splotchy; sometimes faces seem too simplistic also. My personal gripe is when my usual fighter Slash wins, he does his winning poses facing the camera, yet his eyes are plain white dots, for example, and his teeth are just little lines. I popped in SFII:SCE to make sure it wasn’t just nostalgia; the characters do indeed seem more clear and detailed, more of the time than in EC. I can clearly see Blanka’s fangs and expressions!

Anyhow I’d say EC is a very good game, to those dedicated few who will become very familiar with it over time.

WWF Raw By Chris Leathco

As gamers, we all have our guilty pleasures. A game that may be publicly ridiculed, considered crap, or just plain unpopular, that you happen to enjoy, perhaps even more so than some other lauded titles that sell in the millions of carts.

This is one of my many guilty pleasures.

WWF RAW is not the best game on the Genesis graphically. It also has lackluster sounds, and there’s hardly any music to speak of other than mutilations of the wrestlers theme music. The gameplay can be frustrating to learn, and once you do learn it, you find its mostly just button mashing, tapping the button as fast as you can to fill a meter to pull a move off on your opponent.

And you know what? It’s damn fun, especially when you got more than a single player.

Two modes stand out to me. The first is the Royal Rumble mode, where the goal is to toss your opponents over the top rope. You have to go through the entire roster (roughly twelve wrestlers I think), though no more than four are in the ring at a time. This mode is incredibly fun with two players. A nice feature is that if you get tossed out, you can take the spot of the next wrestler that enters if you don’t have the final four in the ring yet. Between two skilled players, this quickly turns into a game of survival, tossing each other out until no more wrestlers remain to come in. The lower your strength meter gets, the easier it is for you to get tossed out, although even if you are at full strength you can be taken out with moves like a hip toss or back body drop.

Another favorite mode of mine is elimination. Each player chooses up to four wrestlers (although you can give an opponent an advantage by just choosing three, two, or even one and hitting start to bypass your other selections.) Than, you wrestle your match. Whichever player that gets pinned leaves, and the next wrestler they picked enters the ring at full health while the victor remains in the ring with their current health. The player that runs out of wrestlers loses.

Finally, my third favorite is the bedlam. Two tag teams against each other, but no worries about that awkward tagging issue, both guys are in the ring at the same time from both teams. Its especially fun when a player from one of the teams is eliminated, as it becomes a slaughter two on one attack, as the player with one guy struggles to stay alive in the fight, or to get a lucky pin or submission to return it to a one on one match.

The game also has your standard one on one and tag matches, but I usually didn’t mess with those, just the three categories I described for you guys. I would play this game for hours as a kid, either by myself or with a friend. Its not the greatest game on the system, but it is mindless fun at its best, and easily still one of my favorites that I’ll toss in from time to time.

Dynamite Headdy By Sean Barnham

Dynamite Headdy is an unusual game for me. It was the first Mega Drive game I had bought in the best part of a decade, and so it was a strange experience for me to be playing something that was – as far as I was concerned – entirely new on a console that I had owned for eleven years. I had heard good things about Treasure and their output of this time, so I thought I’d give Dynamite Headdy a whirl. Got it pretty cheap too, which is always a bonus.

This was unexplored territory for me. I was very impressed from the outset – I couldn’t believe that these vivid colours, the insanely detailed graphics, the SPEECH SAMPLES, were coming from my humble Mega Drive. It is not often that a game blows me away, but I think Dynamite Headdy did just that. For the first time, I was able understand a little bit of what it might have been like to be around when these games were as new and exciting to everybody else as they are to me now.

At least, that’s what I thought when I bought the game last year.

I have been playing through the game again this month and have not been so impressed. Now that I know what to expect of the game, suddenly everything isn’t quite as novel. The areas are bright… the characters are cute… yet it falls apart somewhere. One of the main issues I have faced is that although the levels are usually quite well-designed graphically, Treasure seem to have traded in the exploration element of good platformers in favour of set-piece battles. The stages have you traveling through gimmick-filled corridors before you can memorize the patterns of another “crazy” boss character. This isn’t such a bad thing if you are in the mood for it, but I felt quite let down after my first impressions of the game were so great.

I expect my main problem is that I have been spending the last twelve years playing Sonic & Knuckles. Dynamite Headdy is still a good, solid game worth getting – just not one of the greats.

Shadowrun By Nick Mclean

‘THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD’. The shuddering differential of the Econoline box van woke me up with a start. I wiped the drool from my chin and looked out at endless conifers and the road going off into forever. “Where are we?” I asked. Ironically, we were forty kilometers away from a town called Hope.

‘THUD-THUD-SNAP!’. My Dad pulled the van over to the side of the road. Halfway between Hope and God-knows-where. Four or five cars went by and after a couple hours a cop showed up. A few more hours yet and the tow truck arrived. And so began a long day.

The van had to get to a dealership to get fixed, that was for sure. There wasn’t one in Hope, so we’d have to head to Chilliwack, a fair ways away. I would rather have gone to Hope because they filmed First Blood there, one of my favorite movies.

Squeezing onto the bench seat of the tow truck, I sat between the driver and my Dad, the stick shift between my legs. It was probably the longest, most uncomfortable drive of my life. My legs were cramping from holding a weird position so that the creepy tow truck guy wouldn’t hit my balls every time he changed gears. He seemed to change gears a lot.

Eventually, we rolled into Chilliwack, in the heart of Fraser Valley. Relieved, I hopped out of the truck and my body crippled as a giant cramp overtook me and my muscles collapsed. The smell was unbelievable. It was hot as hell in the middle of summer, and all the smog and pollution from Vancouver had been blown into the Fraser Valley, and settled there. The heat and pollution was sickening, and I learned why the air in Vancouver is so clean.

Sitting at the Greyhound bus depot, waiting for the next bus, my body ached and my nose screamed. The bus depot had to be the busiest place in town; everyone in their right mind was trying to get the hell out of there. But that meant a long wait for the next bus with an empty seat. My Dad and I went across the street to Wendy’s for some food. Anything to help pass the time. Downtown was cute, almost funnily so. It was an anachronism, quaint and old timey, like it was trying to pretend that the town was still getting by as a farmer’s market.

Walking down the main street, there were some weird shops. Lots of antiques, bookstores, maternity clothing, liquor store, record shop, and a collectibles store with bars on the windows. As I walked by the window I looked in at the wares, and noticed something that interested me. It was a Model 2 Sega Genesis next to a folded up card that read: $15.

I went into that store and bought my first Sega Genesis. It came with hookups, one controller and a game. The guy told me I could get any game I wanted from the “bin.” I scanned it with my green eyes, not knowing what to do. Time wasn’t on my side, so I panicked and grabbed the coolest sounding game there. It was Shadowrun. I left excited, with my new Genesis in a plastic Safeway bag.

Now, all these years later, I still had only played Shadowrun once or twice. Although it is hailed as one of the best RPGs for the Genesis, I could never get into it more than fifteen minutes. For some strange reason, I wanted to play it this month. It really took me back. Not with it’s gameplay, but just the sheer memories of how it all came to be. The smell, the heat, the SNAP! of the differential, it all came back to me.

I think that is what makes older games so worthwhile. Young kids might complain that the graphics suck, that the gameplay is bad, and in a lot of cases that might be true. But for many, just remembering a moment when you were young and you saw a game in the glass case of a store, or rented a title, or borrowed it from a friend, makes up for all those shortcomings. Maybe it was a game you always wanted but never got, maybe it was under the tree at Christmas and you can remember opening it. That is the real magic of video games, and it is slowly disappearing more and more as VC and Xbox Live Arcade remove the physical element.

Next gen games are for people who don’t want to grow up, classic games are for those who wish they hadn’t.

Galaxy Force II By The Coop

Ever had that arcade game that you just wanted to play so much, but somehow in the back of your mind you simply couldn’t justify doing so? A game that looked quite cool, but the arcade simply asked for too much money to play it? Way back when, I was in just such a situation when my local arcade got the big sit down version of Galaxy Force II. This thing was almost an amusement park ride and it cost a buck to play. Not a lot to some, but when you only had $4 or $5 total to last you a couple of hours while your parents shopped, games like that weren’t doable.

So imagine my joy when I learned GF II was going to be coming to the Genesis. The idea of getting to play it whenever I wanted appealed to me greatly. Somehow, it never occurred to me as I waited for its eventual release that for a while, there really weren’t any screen shots of the Genesis port in gaming magazines (just arcade shots). Guess I was too blinded by getting to zoom over the surface of planets and careen through caves in the comfort of my bedroom to bother noticing.

So bit by bit I saved, waiting for the release date on Electronic Boutique’s computers to arrive so I could pick up and play that which wasn’t financially playable on my occasional trips to the arcade. Slowly, the money accumulated. Slowly, the date neared. And at last, upon calling my local EB once that release date had come and gone, I found out that it was in stock. I got a ride to the store, picked it up and returned home ready to save the universe. With the cart plugged into my system, I switched on the power. I was greeted by a familiar title screen and the eventual simplified planet select. The music sounded good, the graphics seemed pretty decent, and I chose my favorite stage… the fire planet. That’s when I hit the first big problem. The flicker. Sweet Jesus the flicker! It was everywhere! Bullets, ships, fireballs, fire towers, prominences of fire… parts of all these objects kept blinking in and out of existence as I raced toward them. It was frustrating to say the least, being hit by things that visually weren’t there because of the flicker. It was like a punch to the gut of my “GF II at home” dream as I continued to encounter it.

But soon I saw what was supposed to be the “entering the cave” point. That’s when things went into a death spiral. What the…? I thought. This doesn’t look like a cave. It’s a goddamned air duct! Rectangles were scaling toward me. Not rocks and such made of pixels, but rectangles! I tried to make the best of it as I blew up the gun turrets and enemy ships, but when the first sharp turn came along and I saw my ship suddenly get whipped into the wall before the turn actually reached me, the illusion was gone. The unnatural way this game handled the tunnels and their turns was like a finishing right cross to the jaw of my dream. I honestly don’t know what I thought was going to be done with this game on the Genesis, but I obviously expected more than what I wound up seeing. The flicker-filled levels outside the caves weren’t too horrific, but the caves were just butchered.

And so the dream was left shattered. I still played the hell out of it. I mean, $50 is a lot to sink into something and not at least try to enjoy it… to play it enough times to get that $50 worth. The music was good and even the sound effects were pretty well done. But the caves and all the flicker, they just wrecked the game. I had to wait until I received the Saturn version of GF II for my birthday years later before I finally got to have my GF II fix. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a hell of a lot closer than any port before it. Of course, now I own the import PS2 version in all its arcade-perfecty goodness (along with the other goodies on that disc), so all is right with the world. But even so, it’s hard to erase that sting of seeing an arcade game you wanted to play so much finally come home, only to have it go so wrong.

Golden Axe III By Frank Ramirez

Like Streets of Rage 3, I always felt the third entry in the Golden Axe series is the best, yet least liked, very unfairly. The gameplay is so much more varied in Golden Axe III than in its predecessors. The ability to block attacks is a rather nice touch, and adds quite a bit of strategy to what could have been a rather bland game. Not to mention amazing music and graphics, and large, detailed sprites.

What is it about the third games in both the Golden Axe and Streets of Rage series that they are liked far less than the games before them? The gameplay is more varied and way more fun than the previous entries, so… why the hate? Is it because it’s different enough from the more well liked previous entries? Honestly, the differences helped, rather than hindered, the experience. But that’s just my opinion.

Earthworm Jim By Aaron Wilcott

Since this is the first Sega-16 anniversary I’ve been around for, I thought I’d finally try out a true classic, Earthworm Jim (another reason is because Melf has an EWJ avatar in the forums). It also helps I found a boxed copy locally a few days ago. The box’s plastic insert cover is all torn up but the paper insert is still good and the cart is in great shape. I almost passed it up because of the box, but at the last minute I purchased it and I think $3 was a worthy purchase. I think I’ll tape it up somehow…

I first start the Genesis up and I see the now (I guess) iconic EWJ-style Sega screen. I’ve seen that sprite many times as avatars on Sega-16, so it isn’t nearly as funny now unfortunately. So far the game is looking pretty promising. Cool music, nice title screen, epic “Earthworm Jim” spoken line and a goofy-looking Genesis controller in the options menu. I know this game was likely very ground breaking back on it’s release date, so don’t think I’m not appreciative of what this game accomplished.

Even though I’ve seen videos of Earthworm Jim years before, I had never actually played the first level. Simply put, it was a very fun play through. The cow launching was funny and random, the controls are excellent, the animations are great and the tire boss is really neat looking (not to mention it offered a pretty good challenge) as was the second boss. The only thing I find kind of annoying is that you can’t jump up and above the ropes/chains/wires when climbing across them.

I don’t have much else to say about Earthworm Jim as of this Reader Roundtable entry, but rest assured I will keep playing it. I hope you guys don’t mind me keeping it simple and short this time around.

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