Video game marketing has come a long way since the sixteen bit days. Secrets and Easter eggs have been around since the earliest home console and arcade games, initially for laughs and to give creators some credit for their work, they evolved into a simple marketing device to get kids to drop countless quarters looking for rumoured hidden features. As Sega brought the arcade home with it’s Genesis console, it also brought the rumours, excitement and mystery prevalent in the arcades of the day. Today, the 16-bit wonder stands as a testament to a time when hidden content was truly that: hidden. Join us as we count down ten of the Genesis’ best Easter eggs.
10. Zero Tolerance
When Wolfenstein 3D made its groundbreaking debut for the MS-DOS platform on the last day of spring (May 5th) 1992, id Software had successfully created a whole new genre of video games, the first person shooter, or FPS for short. While that was great if you had a high-powered PC, the Sega Genesis, although still state-of-the-art for the time, had no means of replicated such complex games, or so most people thought…
Technopop, a small fledgling developer based in California, USA had other ideas. Released by former publishing heavyweight Accolade (also based in California,USA), Zero Tolerance made its way onto Sega’s 16-bit wonder in 1994, a mere number of weeks after Doom made it’s arrival on the PC and blew everything that Wolfenstein 3D had established two years previous.
The game itself is very primitive compared to the aforementioned games. Only quarter of the play screen is utilized, the music is somewhat dull and repetitive, and there’s not really a lot in terms different foes to dispatch. But, deep down, Technopop did a great job in ZT; it truly is a brilliant game. In 2006, Sega-16’s Nick Gibson published an feature, FPS Games on Genesis: Ambition or Folly?, which shed some light on some details of some-previously forgotten Easter eggs.
The most interesting one is the Secret Boxing match: by entering the password “BOXING” you would enter a boxing ring with no weapons and fight melee against the rocket-launching first boss of the game, but you don’t. No matter what combination of words you use, the password is never accepted. The next Easter egg is nothing great; see the portraits of your teammates? They’re based on the likeness of the game’s key staff members. Yeah, I know, how interesting…not…
9. Disney’s Aladdin
David Perry, like him or like him not, produced perhaps some of the most iconic games of the 1990s, from Earthworm Jim, Cool Spot, The Terminator, MDK and of course Disney’s Aladdin for the Sega Genesis. Perry programmed the game in 1993 while working for Virgin Interactive (now defunct) based on the movie of the same name that was released in cinemas the previous November.
Aladdin, a common thief, embarks on a journey to recover a magical lamp that can grant three wishes from a powerful wizard named Jafar. You know, good versus evil, which is common in most Disney films. The game itself is very playable, boasted brilliantly detailed graphics (drawn by the Disney artists themselves) and rather catchy music.
But amid all the Genie hocus pocus, there’s an Easter egg to be found. On the second level, “The Desert,” if you trek a little to the right, past the snake and spike, you’ll come across a washing line with a Mickey Mouse hat of all things hanging on it! But that isn’t the Easter egg. If you stand just to the left of the hat and leave Aladdin idle for a while, he’ll look to the right and his head will position itself directly under the hat; thus giving the illusion that he is wearing it. A cheeky little laugh will sound, and a bonus life will appear as if by magic!
8. Trouble Shooter
Vic Tokai made some great games, and Genesis owners will all no doubt recall Trouble Shooter. Known as Battle Mania in it’s native Japan, the game was slightly de-Japanized, as was typical of the time but is still one of the great, unusual shmups on the console in either form. It is comparable to Phelios, in the sense that the main character isn’t a robot or spaceship. Rather gamers are treated to something completely unexpected… a pair of deadly anime style heroines.
Typically, Trouble Shooter is remembered for the horrendous box art treatment it received when released in the U.S., but also lost in translation was one of the funniest easter eggs of the day. By hitting Right + C + Start on the second controller at the Sega screen, the player is rewarded with a little animation of the character Mania stomping on a Super Famicom. According to legend, the boys at Vic Tokai were Sega hardliners, and when Vic moved funding and resources off Battle Mania to Super Famicom projects, they retaliated.
In the end, Sega sent a memo to all third party developers warning them not to use competitor trademarks in games, and Trouble Shooter sold well, prompting a Japan-only sequel.
7. NBA Jam TE
Wide open, Clinton from downtown! Hits the rim, Gore grabs the rebound… BOOM SHAKALAKA! NBA Jam is probably one of the greatest sports games of all time. The hysterical over-the-top two-on-two gameplay just can’t be beat in this arcade classic from Midway.
But, being a Midway game it is of course loaded with Easter eggs, and not only that but they improve the replay value immensely! Not many games get sold because of their hidden characters, but NBA Jam TE certainly broke the backboard over the original with the inclusion of the Beastie Boys, and not one, but TWO princes; Prince Charles and the Fresh Prince himself.
Unfortunately, NBA Jam TE doesn’t possess the playable Mortal Kombat characters of the arcade version. Still, even without Raiden in Bosom Buddy short shorts, the list of playable hidden characters is impressive and will keep you busy for months. And trust me, seeing Bill Clinton’s shoes burst into flames after three consecutive baskets is still one of the most hilariously awesome sights on the Sega Genesis.
To unlock his highness, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air at the initial screen in Head to Head mode, hold down start, select W with the C button, select I with the B button, release the start button and select L normally.
6. Sonic & Knuckles
Following on the heels of Sonic The Hedgehog 3 comes the second part of Sonic 3. Sonic & Knuckles, which was released in the same year with only a small gap of just six months between each of the games!
After crippling Robotnik’s Death Egg after its short relaunch, Sonic must now return to the island to stop the fat doctor from getting his grubby mitts on the “Master Emerald,” which would give him infinite fuel for his doomsday satellite! Also thrown into the mix is Knuckles, guardian of the gem, who makes his first playable debut in the series.
After emerging from the magma cavern labyrinth that is the Lava Reef Zone, Sonic finds himself in Knuckles’ personal bachelor pad – Hidden Palace Zone. It’s here the egg-shaped mastermind makes his grand move. After a brief one-on-one battle between the blue hedgehog and hot-head red echidna, Robotnik attacks the Emerald Chamber and nabs the massive gemstone from it’s resting place. Knuckles tries to stop him but gets electrocuted by a fleeing Robotnik!
Now aware of his folly, Knuckles clears the way to a high-tech teleporter and gives a nod to Sonic to join him as he jumps in. Sonic and Knuckles find themselves next on the floating ruins of an ancient city. In the distance, Robotnik’s Death Egg has been launched and small robotic Robotnik duplicates scatter to the collapsing ruins below. An exhausted Knuckles then dashes off-screen to the right and lands on a button, and an extended bridge then appears which allows the blue speedster to continue his pursue of the Death Egg.
Ahh, but there’s a little secret to be found here. Stand to the right of Knuckles and press Down. Sonic will duck, but Knuckles sees this as a bow (in other words, a “thank you”) and proceeds to wave you off (in other words, “just go!”). Pretty neat, if somewhat pointless..
5. Streets of Rage 3
Streets of Rage 3 is one of the most debated Genesis games of all time. Love or hate the localization, it is still a pretty good title with some unique gameplay. Despite all of the changes, they left in one of the coolest Easter eggs of all time: the first playable Kangaroo in beat-’em-up history.
By holding Up + B + Start together at the title screen, you unlock Roo as a playable character. This feat can also be accomplished in game, when Roo appears in Round two. If the player murders Roo’s handler but lets Roo get away, everyone’s favourite boxing kangaroo will become selectable from the continue screen.
4. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was released for the Genesis in 1995, a year after its original debut on the Super Nintendo and Sega CD systems. Harry from the previous games has been kidnapped and you, playing as his young teenage son “Harry Jr,” must rescue him! Forgetting the generic story, the game itself isn’t that bad. It’s a solid game, if a little repetitive.
For those who feel nostalgic, did you know the kind people over at Activision (hey! This was years ago. They weren’t always “the second coming of EA”!) hid the original Atari 2600 version of Pitfall! game in there?
To play it, go to the title screen and input the following code: Down, A x 26 times and then finally Down. The Atari 2600 Pitfall! will then materialize on-screen in all its 1982 8-bit retro glory! This great little Easter egg can also be achieved in-game; but be warned: it’s a very tedious affair.
So next time you pop in Mayan Adventure in your Sega 16-bit console, there’s more than one jungle to conquer…
3. Sword of Sodan
If you grew up in the ’90s in North America, you most likely have memories of the FBI logo screen and slogan “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” in most arcade games. Indeed, it has become a cultural icon of the time, although now merely relegated to a retro and sarcastic saying (Major League Baseball proved this false). At the time, it was on the forefront of the very serious War on Drugs… which in retrospect is sort of ridiculous.
However, to really get that arcade feeling, the kind people at Electronics Arts added a unique Easter egg for players looking for a quick fix. During the game, if you drink one of each kind of potion at the same time, your character’s chest bursts open and you fall to the ground, dying. Text appears that reads “Winners don’t do drugs.”
2. Mortal Kombat II
Probe Entertainment made a lot of stinkers in its time, and I know I lot of people prefer Sculptured Software’s SNES port better. However, there’s no denying Probe did a great good with the Genesis version of Midway’s supremely excellent Mortal Kombat II.
While the first MK had its own fair share of secrets and Easter eggs; MKII blows it clear out of the water. There’s a secret game of Pong, a test mode crammed with cheats, silly death moves, secret opponents and much much more… With out doubt the strangest and down-right bizarre Easter egg (also exclusive to the Genesis version I might add) is the “Fergality,” a secret finishing move that is a play on the word “Fatality” (Mortal Kombat’s default finishing moves) and the founder of Probe, Fergus McGovern.
To see it, go the options screen and hit the following button combination: Left, Down, Left, Right, Down, Right, Left, Left, Right, Right. If you got the code right, a new option called “Test” will appear. Select it, and then turn on the “OOh Nasty” option and set the “Background Select” option to six.
Start the game and select Raiden. Win the match and then, just as the announcer screams out “Finish Him/Her,” walk up to your adversary and press Away, Away, Away, Block. Then, behold one of the craziest sights in gaming; your foe will morph into a midget Fergus with smoke emitting out of his/her right ear!!?
1. Rings of Power
Over the years, few rumours have been as constant and disappointing as the fabled “nude code.” How many of us knew that one kid growing up that swore to God that he performed a Nudality in Mortal Kombat 2 but conveniently couldn’t remember how? Well, the nude code rumours were so rampant that they were often overlooked and never considered.
Enter EA’s classic, freaky-hard PC port, Rings of Power. Developed by Naughty Dog Software (of Crash Bandicoot fame) in 1991, the game is highly un-noteworthy, but for one unique feature… possibly the only actual nude code in the 16-bit era. If one was so inclined as to hold Down + Right + A + B + C + Start on the second controller and soft reset the console, one was treated to a modified version of the Naughty Dog developer screen, where the Dog mascot and girl swap places… and she’s topless. No joke. Very naughty indeed…