Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 58

Take some time off from the start of professional sports and the school year to see what we’ve been up to this month. September’s going out in a big way!


Dragon’s Lair By Ken Horowitz

Recently, I heard that Dragon’s Lair will be coming to the Wii, along with its sequel and Space Ace. A sucker for games most people don’t like, I’ve been partial to the original laser disc classic since first playing it at my dad’s marina back in ’84. Yeah, all you do is play Memory and press the right button at the right time, but when it’s fluid, it’s really fun! I own the Sega CD port, and playing it again now is pretty entertaining as well. It’s not as grainy as I remembered, and the control is solid enough. There’s just something about Dirk that keeps me coming back time after time. Perhaps it’s Daphne in that skimpy outfit she’s wearing. No, no, it has to be the gameplay…

 Road Rash III By Sebastian Sponsel

Dear EA,

There are many of your series that you’ve milked so much, there’s hardly any more liquid to be pressed out of them. Madden, FIFA, NHL, NBA… all of these games see yearly updates. Your once acclaimed Need for Speed series has been rehashed so many times that now, with every new release, it feels even more stale and uninteresting than previous year.

But back in the old 16-bit days, you had started an ongoing series of games that were fresh, original, and entertaining. A racing game where you not only fought traffic on the road, but literally battled with your opponents: Kicked and smashed and bashed them out of their way and off their bikes, so that players had to fight for the first place by any means possible. You had to outrun the police or else they would arrest you. If you were too careless, you wrecked your bike. And all of that was fun, immensely so.

Opinions may differ, but maybe the best installment was the third game (the first three all were exclusively for the Genesis). With eight different weapons to fight your opponents it brought more diversity, and with the “Repo Man” or “Snitch” missions you got second chances should the player be unable to pay his fine, preventing a game over in a more diverse fashion.

Now it’s been more then ten years since the last installment in this series. Why? What happened? I have played Road Rash III recently, and the game was fresh and fun as on it’s first day. Maybe because of the lack of recent installments? Could be…

Dear EA: Do yourself a favor. Grant the NfS series a pause, and create a new installment of the old motorbike bash-fest instead! We would all greatly appreciate that! Until then, I’ll keep playing your good old Genesis hits…

Batman Returns By Christian Matozzo

Alright, so I’ve got to admit. I haven’t played the Genesis in a while. In fact I just unhooked my CDX, it’s a shame. In fact I haven’t been playing many video games at all, it’s really disappointing. Aside from a little bit Sega Saturn and some N64 with friends, plus the games I play at my local video game meet, my video game playing time has been clocked at a big fat zero! I don’t know what’s going on. It’s getting to that point where unless it’s something I really want to play, I just don’t want to play video games alone. With the exception of pinball and arcade games, I still can play those in arcades for long periods of time oddly. Maybe my attention span is just getting shorter, who knows. But I digress. The last game I played for my CDX was Batman Returns, which I bought from Goodwill for $2, only to trade it away for a nice minty copy of Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei last Saturday. That prompted me to actually try and beat Panzer Dragoon, only to fail miserably, unfortunately.

Anyway, so last month sometime I pop in Batman Returns, after hearing such great things about the driving stages (It got an 8 out of 10 here on Sega-16), so I figure for $2 how can you pass up a CIB copy, right? Well, I pop in the game and start it up, and the first thing I notice about the driving levels is that I can’t fire and accelerate at the same time; it’s just not possible. Maybe I was holding the controller wrong? I simply couldn’t hold A and B while steering to hit the motorcycles in front of me. Either I was going too slow and they would be out of range, or I would be going too fast and the enemy would be right next to me, so I had no way of hitting them. At first I thought you just had homing rockets which made for some decent gameplay, but then I find out there’s only a limited amount of them and then you have to use the vulcan as a weapon, and that’s where I couldn’t figure out how to control the car efficiently. I just couldn’t get the hang of the controls.

The graphics were decent. I liked the scaling effects, which are pretty impressive for the time considering you couldn’t pull that off on the Genesis. But that rock music in the background just kind of got on my nerves, so overall it wasn’t too pleasant of an experience. So after a few levels I manage to get to the truck boss, and I could not beat him. He fired copious amounts of missiles and I could not keep up. I kept getting too close and getting obliterated, and I had run out of rockets. And once I had lost all of my lives that’s when I said “Forget this” and put the game back in the case and threw it right into the trade box. If someone can gladly explain how to actually shoot and drive at the same time while controlling the speed of the car, please tell me.

Maybe if I find this game again I’ll give it another chance. But I couldn’t even get past the driving stages, and that’s supposed to be the good part of the game? I don’t even want to know what the platforming stages are like then. When I want my racing fix, I’ll stick to my import copy of OutRun on Saturn for sure.

Super Off Road By Alex Burr

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! Now say that right after inhaling helium. Because Super Off Road is more like Micro Machines goes off-road than a serious 4×4 off-road game. The arcade game that this is a port of also has this feeling, but it’s a lot more fun than this game, and I think most of it has to do with the controls. It’s just really difficult to control the little truck with a D-pad. It’s insane, but with a lot of practice, there’s a great deal of fun to be had with this game. As far to my knowledge, the game doesn’t really ever end and you can keep upgrading your truck until it’s somewhat controllable. It takes an awful lot of touch to win, perhaps more than any other game I have played for the Genesis. Yet, I still enjoy picking it up and giving it a half hour run or so. I think there are somewhere between sixteen and twenty four different tracks to play. You can’t choose them, and there’s a semi-fixed order that you play them. One thing I want to note is that the sister game to this, Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat, is basically the same game, but with Indy cars and I think it’s a lot more enjoyable than this effort. Of course, it’s not ported to the Genesis. Sigh. On to football next month!

Stargate By Greg Jurkiewicz

So I picked up Stargate on eBay for something like a dollar, because it came in a nice shiny clamshell, and I need those to replace some of the sad looking ones I have in my collection. I expected the game to be utter movie-tie-in trash, so I didn’t have a problem getting it for the case and than trading it away in a busted up clamshell. I was about to take it to the local game store when my wife convinced me to give the game a shot because she was curious about seeing it in action.

I cleaned it up and put it in my trusty Model 1 and was instantly surprised to see that the game ran a lot like Demolition Man! In fact it uses the same engine. Now I was intrigued, I didn’t care much for that Stargate movie, but this game was proving to be some fun. I found it a lot easier than DM, and it doesn’t have the top-down run-‘n-gun levels, but the side-scrolling action is great and the hand grenades are wicked fun. So after three hours of solid game-play Stargate had definitely earned its keep and its shiny mint condition clamshell case, and I found another hidden Genesis gem… Now if I could only find some clamshells…

Splatterhouse 3 By Nick Mclean

I am a huge fan of Splatterhouse. To this day, it is the only game I have ever run on MAME because I don’t own a TurboGrafx or PC Engine. I played the hell out of Wanpaku Graffiti on the Famicom when I was younger and honestly one of the reasons I purchased a Genesis was because of the Splatterhouse franchise.

When I finally got a copy of Splatterhouse 2 I was forced to buy a Mega Drive version from the UK and have it shipped over to save on cost. Unfortunately they are some of the more expensive games on Sega’s black box (and they don’t even come with a teacup!). But I was not disappointed, as it quickly became one of my favorite games of all time.

Now, I have finally managed to obtain a copy of Splatterhouse 3 via trade through Sonic’s Bazaar, and I can finish the epic series I love so much. I was so pleased to hear the wonderful score by Milky Eiko has been continued from the second game. While I feel that the orchestral soundtrack of Splatterhouse 2 is more haunting, the somewhat dance-like beats of part three fit the rhythmic beat-’em-up gameplay.

The original sequel had a quite long introductory sequence, with the terrifying pan across the disgusting and misshapen trees in the forests outside West Mansion, while the third installment is very cut and dry in that regard. The mask talking to Rick in the beginning of part two is really scary, and although part three has the digitized graphics (which, surprisingly, worked out quite nicely), it is lacking the narrative and atmosphere the sequel seemed to command.

That being said, the game itself is beautiful. The graphics are crisp as ever and the controls are godly, I mean this has to be one of the most playable beat-’em-ups of all time. I was very skeptical about the change to the floor layouts and departure from the side-scroller, but I think they really pulled it off.

While Splatterhouse 3 isn’t quite the bone chiller its predecessor managed to be, it is a fantastic game and one of the best in the beat-’em-up genre. So any skeptics out there who might have skipped over it, you should really give part three a try! Videos on YouTube simply do not capture the real glory of this game.

Altered Beast By The Coop

I can remember back around Christmas of ’89, opening up that big box that had a couple of smaller ones sitting on it, and seeing the word “Genesis” as the wrapping paper was torn aside. There was much joy in getting the system I’d been eyeing up for a while, as well as seeing the two games I got with it. But you know, for as good as Thunder Force II and The Revenge of Shinobi turned out to be, that’s not where I started. The first game to be opened, hitting me with that waft of fresh ink, was Altered Beast.

Now keep in mind, up to that point, I only had my Atari XEGS to play. I had some friends who owned an NES, which was more advanced certainly, but none of these systems really gave you ports of arcade games that were “close” to the higher end stuff hitting about that time. That didn’t mean they were bad, it just meant they were behind musically and visually when compared to the arcade original. Smaller sprites, missing voices, all that stuff.

So imagine my surprise when I fired up Altered Beast for the first time. When I heard the clear “rise from your grave,” “welcome to your doom!” and that death cry that drove my parents nuts after a while, it was wondrous. When that was coupled with the big (comparatively speaking) sprites, fuller sounding music, and instruments that seemed so much more believable… it was like being at the arcade as I sat Indian-style on the living room floor. And considering I’d just been introduced to the arcade version of Altered Beast at a local arcade not a few months before, I was in heaven.

As time passed, more ports came home that were of similar closeness to their arcade cousins… games like Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts, Strider and them. Original games such as Herzog Zwei got released, which offered gameplay that was different from what you could find at the arcade. The music on the Genesis grew in terms of sound quality, and the graphics got better with more visual depth and detail. As all this happened, Altered Beast got left behind as the likes of Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets of Rage and Thunder Forcer III were released, only to be further buried under Rocket Knight Adventures, Alisia Dragoon and their quality kin.

But just when it seemed like the original Genesis pack-in would be forever abandoned, I always wound up going back to it. I’d sit down and pop the game back in for a play through or two, trying to beat a high score I’d seen printed in a game magazine, or just going for a personal best. At one point, I learned to play the song “Rise From Your Grave” on piano, making Altered Beast the first game I ever remixed… long before I even knew what a remix was.

I still have that original pack-in copy of the game. The manual’s a little worn from all the opening and closing over the many years, and it’s all still in its clamshell box that gets a bit dusty between visits. And though you’d think after over twenty years, with all the games that have deeper gameplay, better visuals and such, that I’d be done playing Altered Beast. But, that’s not the case. I still occasionally sit down and play through the game. Its graphics might be rough, its music tinny sounding, and its gameplay not very deep, but there’s just something about the game that pulls me back, if only for a little while at a time. Maybe it’s to hear those familiar voice samples, or perhaps to play as a werewolf or weretiger as you pummel evil minions. Or maybe, it’s just to reclaim a little nostalgic taste of that moment when I got introduced to what would in time become my favorite gaming system… that instant when playing video games at home took a big leap forward for me. Who knows really. But I’m thinking it’s time to visit the game again.

Columns III By Frank Ramirez

My contribution this month is a follow up to last month’s entry, which I wrote on the original Columns. As soon as I could after playing the first game, I downloaded Columns III from the Wii’s Virtual Console service, and I gotta say, this kicks the ass of the original Columns! Instantly, I noticed that the gameplay is a lot more aggressive than the first game. There’s just so much to help and hinder yourself and your opponent, so the competitive aspect really shines through. I loved every second of it! It just felt so much more modern, almost like it’s an early version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. And the music… gotta love those Genesis tunes.

Doom By Aaron Wilcott

This month I decided to give Doom on 32X a real try. To be honest with you readers, I’ve barely ever played Doom over the years, so much of the game’s content is new to me. I’ll say this right now though, I didn’t actually beat Doom. I was confronted with an impossible road block imposed upon me by unforeseen forces. How did this happen? Well I shall tell you…

For much of Doom, things went very well. I never actually died at any point in the game, even against the Barons of Hell. Though I DID set the difficulty to “Hey, not too rough,” hmm… Even though each of the later levels become progressively complicated, I kept my wits about me.

Then, I entered level twelve. I didn’t expect this one to be any different from the previous levels I had completed, but my 32X had other ideas. A few switches and doors into Level twelve, my controller began to act funny. I tried to open another door, but the map screen kept being activated instead. At first, I thought I was pressing the Z Button instead of C. After a couple more attempts, I looked down at my game pad. Nope, I was hitting the C Button alright. Something was awry here. I tested the X and Y buttons, neither allowed me to cycle through my weapons. The Start button also refused to work. What the hell was going on? I had no idea. I got up from the couch and walked to the 32X and started rocking it and the cartridge back and forth. Doom didn’t freeze. Not a sign of malfunction outside of my controller. Therefore dust wasn’t the issue, so I figured the 32X must have overheated. Especially considering I had left the 32X running overnight. With no “use” button, there was nothing else I could theoretically do, so I shut my 32X, disappointed that all the effort I put into playing Doom was for naught.

The moral of this story? Umm, don’t leave your 32X powered on overnight I guess. No matter how clean it is, the little black mushroom might suffer brain damage from excess blast processing heat. One of these days, I shall attempt to finish Doom on 32X completely, starting from Level one. But alas I have yet to find the time yet…

Shining Force CD By Frank Villone

A few weeks ago, I picked up Shining Force CD and began playing through it for the first time ever. Right away, I could see that this is one of the most polished games to be found for the Sega CD, as well as the entire (extended) library of the Genesis. The graphics are rich and colorful, with some great artwork here and there (especially for fight scenes and their backgrounds), while the overview artwork is cute and simplistic. The soundtrack makes great use of the cutting-edge CD technology and the massive storage space it offers, providing epic orchestral music that fits well for each scene.

This is actually the first strategy/RPG that I’ve played, so it has been great to explore the new genre. As I fought through the first few battles and got the hang of it, I found myself getting just a little bored when it was my turn to sit and watch the enemy flip through its warriors and decide their moves. I found myself getting restless, taking breaks from the game and eventually multi-tasking as I played, combining any number of activities: eating, balancing my checkbook, texting friends, or reading news articles on the web. I just do not have the attention span to watch the enemy take all of its turns! While the music is top notch, it can also get a bit repetitive at times, given how long each battle can take, and how some stages share the same music with other stages. I found myself muting it occasionally and playing the radio instead. Shining Force CD is awesome, but it has made me a horrible multi-tasker!

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