Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 62

Now that 2011 is here, how are we ringing in the new year? By playing Genesis games, of course! The calender is meaningless when it comes to playing classic titles, and the Genesis is the gift that keeps on giving!


Jurassic Park By Ken Horowitz

I recently acquired a complete copy of Jurassic Park for the Sega CD, after hearing a few people mention that it was worth looking into. I was well aware that this version was quite unlike the action-packed Genesis trilogy, and that actually suited me fine. The slower pace was a welcome change, and playing this game with a stereo system is AWESOME. I enjoyed the point-and-click gameplay (I’m a sucker for those), and nothing beats dinosaurs! My only complaint has to be that sometimes the dinosaurs can sneak up on you if you’re too enthralled by whatever you’re looking at, and by the time you actually turn to face them, you’re a dino snack. Ouch!

Cadillacs & Dinosaurs By Sebastian Sponsel

The Genesis was pretty hot stuff during the nineties. You know what else was hot stuff back then? Dinosaurs! They were practically everywhere, and their popularity caused developers to shoehorn them into every genre imaginable. So about a year back, I had set out to play every single dinosaur-based game released on the Genesis and its add-ons, as horrible as they may be. And every time I think that I’ve covered every genre imaginable, something new pops up. Like this FMV rail shooter for the Sega CD, a genre that’s generally not up my alley.

And you know what surprised me the most? I actually liked this game! Based off the independent comic Xenozoic Tales (rather than the TV-series Dinosaurs and Cadillacs based off the same source ), the game has an interesting storyline with a nice pulp-adventure feel to it (humankind in a post-apocalyptic future where dinosaurs have reclaimed the earth). The voice acting is good, and the graphics are really nice. The death animations are smooth, colorful, and versatile – and watching your Cadillac crushed by a Triceratops definitely has its appeal. I could really get into this one actually.

The biggest gripe I have about this game? It’s bone-crushingly hard… though someone with more practice in that genre might disagree, I don’t know.

Pier Solar By Tom Briggs

As with many gamers here at Sega-16, I have been playing Pier Solar ever since it arrived on our doorsteps. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. A full time job and increasing responsibilities limits time available. Still, I’m about a dozen hours in, and I feel like I’ve yet to hit the halfway point. It has been a impressive and challenging experience. The visuals are stunning, the music is gorgeous, and the gameplay is deep. Most importantly, I have had a great time playing.

Pier Solar isn’t perfect. The game can be diabolical in its challenges, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. There were multiple times in “dungeons” where I simply didn’t know where to go next. “Pay attention to your surroundings” I was told. And when I’d finally figure out what was required, I’d think “oh, that’s just harsh!” instead of feeling rewarded. But that’s just a part of Pier Solar’s identity. The game is meant to be a challenging experience, testing gamers rather than holding their hands.

Here comes the compliment: I love that about Pier Solar. I love coming to this community and either seeking advice on how to progress in the game, or giving such advice. It reminds me immensely of the early ’90s, when I was under ten years old, and games felt like digital playgrounds with hundreds of mysteries and secrets. How many of us grew up with Super Mario Bros. 3, discussing the whereabouts of the legendary warp whistles? How many of us had our minds blown learning the Konami code, or the Sonic 1 code? Pier Solar is a throwback to those times, and I find myself looking forward to playing more nearly every day.

Virtua Fighter By Steven Campbell

An excellent history Of the Virtua Fighter series was published here a while back by Sebastian Sponsel, and it really got me interested in the franchise. I had tried the fifth game on PS3 a few years ago, but I just really couldn’t get past the controls, which were not like the traditional arcade style vs. fighting game at all. After reading the feature, I gave the series another chance with a different mind set. I liked Virtua Fighter 2 for my Saturn, but I really liked Virtua Fighter 4 on PS2, and that game really got me interested in the franchise and going back to play VF 2 enough to fully realize its brilliance as being one of the greatest video games ever programmed. While at the retro game shop I found Virtua Fighter 32X for dirt cheap and decided to give it a chance, I was surprised at how good this game truly is. The music and sound effects are the absolute best out of any game on the 32X, uncharacteristically good music and sound for the notoriously bad-sounding mushroom. Akira’s scream sounds awesome, and the music in the fighter select screen is amazing. I really like the oriental, techno style of the music in this game, very nice and very Sega.

The best thing about this game is the classic Virtua Fighter gameplay. I had a ton of fun playing this with my Sega six-button arcade stick (though the game only uses three buttons), and this game plays fantastic with that controller. The gameplay that makes Virtua Fighter 2 so great is here; it’s a distinct counter style of fighting that separates this series apart from other 3D fighters. Mindless button mashing is useless in Virtua Fighter, and only smart, strategic combos, pinpoint timing and effective blocking will work. Virtua Fighter is the thinking man’s fighting franchise and has very complex gameplay that takes a while to master.

As a man with actual combat experience, I can say that the Virtua Fighter fighting game series (some better than others) manages to capture the tension of two combatants trying to outwit each other in a fight like no other fighting game, be it 2D or 3D. Once you get the controls down and learn how to really play the game, you’ll realize that it captures that feeling of squaring off in the pocket against someone else and letting your reflexes move you to take advantage of any opening your opponent gives you, while at the same time defending your own openings. It’s the sweet science, the art of hitting and not getting hit, and the Virtua Fighter franchise simulates that science in gameplay like no other. The very first one for 32X is no exception.

Overall, I was surprised at how much time was put into this port, this is solid programming from Sega. This game is to the Virtua Fighter series what Super Mario Bros. 1 is to the Mario franchise. It lacks the graphical eye candy or bells and whistles that were in later games, but it’s still worth playing if your a fan, as the core gameplay of later games is there.

Captain America & The Avengers By Doug Jackson

I loved the Captain America And The Avengers arcade machine when I was a kid. I can remember me and my brother dumping plenty of allowance money into that machine at my local Walmart. The machine disappeared after a while, and I always remembered it and did hear about the console ports that came out, but I never got a chance to try them out.

I just recently bought a copy of the game for $7.99 from a local used game store that was complete in its box. I knew the game wasn’t going to be that good but I’d been after it for a while now. I got home and tried the game on the normal mode, and I made it up to Crossbones and had a game over. It’s a pretty hard game for sure, and as I’d expected it wasn’t a very good port of the game at all, but it was a nice nostalgic blast from the past that brought back all of the memories of the arcade game and made me wish I owned the real thing.

I decided to give the game one last chance and put it on the easiest setting and maxed out the continues. I made even further, and when I was about to die on the last continue I grabbed the second controller and tried to hop in and see if the second player could continue where I left off. It let me press start, but I couldn’t select a player since I was out of continues. That’s when the weirdest thing happened. When the first player died the game glitched, and the second player was there but in a distorted mess that spanned across the whole screen. I could attack and be hurt too but had a really hard time telling what I was doing. When I died with the second player somehow the game gave me an extra two continues and stopped glitching up. I made it up to Red Skull and defeated his first form pretty easily. I got to his second form and was about out of continues and energy and thought I was going to lose for sure. Some how I got down to 1% of my health and miraculously dealt the final two blows to him and finished the game only being able to take one more hit.

Needless to say, it was one of the most exciting and most interesting experiences I’ve ever had playing such a mediocre game. I probably won’t play it again any time soon, but I’m glad that I bought it and added it to my Sega Genesis collection!

Zero Tolerance By The Coop

You know, back in 1997 when computer owners were raving about Doom II, Blood and Duke Nukem 3D, I’d neither heard of those games, nor ever read the phrases “Doom clone” and “first person shooter” in my life. The idea of walking smoothly through corridors and rooms, using shotguns, flame throwers and rocket launchers to blast away at whatever enemies were in front of you hadn’t crossed my mind, to be honest. Hell, I didn’t even own a PC. Truth be told, the closest thing to a PC around me back then was my Atari XEGS.

However, I got my first taste of the FPS genre, my “gateway drug” as it were, in late 1997 when I visited a local pawn shop and saw a complete copy of a game called Zero Tolerance sitting in their Genesis bin. It was $15, I was looking for a new game, and so I figured, Eh, why not? I got it home, popped it into my Genesis, and then proceeded to look somewhat alarmed as I heard this horrid cacophony coming from my system. For a moment, I thought something had gone horribly wrong with either my Genesis or my TV’s speaker, but then I realized that what I was hearing was the game’s music. My God was it painful to listen to. Bad instruments, off tempo, empty sounding compositions… it was so bad, that I wasn’t surprised at all when I found out I could turn the music off at the options screen. Needless to say, I did.

Not exactly the best first impression to leave on someone, but I warily pushed forward and started level one of the game. Much to my surprise, things began going uphill pretty quickly. The scrolling, while rough, was smooth enough to be playable. There were different wall textures scattered about, and the enemies could be seen well off down the various corridors as I ran around. A voice repeatedly announced various events during the levels, I saw blood flying backward onto walls that it then slid down, and I heard sound effects that were loud and good much of the time (guess we know where the aural allotment of memory was used up). The more I played, the more complicated the levels got, and the more numerous the enemies became. By the time I reached the sixth level of ZT, the FPS bug had bitten me. I had entered a new area of gaming bliss for the first time.

Was it the best game to hit the Genesis? No. It was sluggish at times, your character’s odd and slow reaction to being shot left you open to more attacks a lot, and with forty levels, it got a bit drawn out… especially the later levels with designs that made finding the last enemy on a given floor a real pain in the ass sometimes. Oh, and the music was God-awful of course. But those flaws aside, it was quite a bit of fun… something that was reaffirmed when I sat down and played through it again over a period of a few days about a week or so ago. It was my first FPS, and thankfully, it was an enjoyable one. It turned me onto the genre, and did so via a gaming system that few would have expected to give someone that first taste of creature-blasting corridor action. Shame the sequel never got finished, though. Maybe Super Fighter Team or WaterMelon can finish Beyond Zero Tolerance for one of their future projects.

Pier Solar By Greg Jurkiewcz

So I think I came dangerously close to missing this roundtable submission because I’ve been so busy playing Pier Solar.

A lot of hype and excitement surrounded this game since it was first announced, and it only grew as the years passed. Well, all I can say is that it was all warranted! This game is just awesome! All the technical aspects: the sound, the graphics, the game-play mechanics, are basically perfect. It’s easy to see how much care and work has gone into this project and I really can’t think of a way to improve any of the aforementioned details within the constraints of 16-bit hardware.

Where the game really shines for me is all the little extras, the fine details that make this game so much fun. Little things like being able to pass through NPCs that are in your way or the wide variety of items that basically do the same thing but just keep the game interesting, or the very modern unlockable features that basically didn’t exist in 16-bit games. It’s almost like Water Melon had an extensive checklist of everything that every 16-bit RPG ever did right or should have done, and as they were making Pier Solar they went down the list and made sure to include all these things. I can see the best features of RPG greats like Earthbound, Phantasy Star IV, Secret of Evermore, FFVII, Lunar, even Diablo and countless others shining through as I play this. It’s really quite an incredible gaming experience that I could ramble on and on about for hours.

It isn’t to say that this game is perfect though it does have some minor issues like the essentially useless auto-battle feature or the almost fetishistic amount of secret walls that don’t lead to anything, but for every little downside there are about eight positives, so overall this game is pretty awesome.

I’ll stop now, I’ve excited myself and need to play more Pier Solar.

World of Illusion By Aaron Wilcott

When it comes to video games, I tend to drift from game to game, system to system every now and then. Sometimes I play new games, sometimes ones I’ve beaten to death. The Genesis is definitely no exception. While I wait for my copy of Pier Solar to arrive, I will just keep playing the classics, namely World of Illusion this time around.

World of Illusion may not be as great as Castle of Illusion, a game I still haven’t tried out, but WOI is still a fantastically wonderful romp with the ever so familiar Mickey and Donald. What I enjoy the most about this game is it doesn’t require a whole lot of concentration or high end skill. It’s very easy going with great visuals and sweet Genesis sound. To me, I don’t find this level of easiness to be boring, it’s just the right kind of mix between easy and hard, one that really helps to reinforce a strong sense of nostalgia for the Mega Drive.

If ever I have a friend to play with, World of Illusion’s two-player mode is always great fun, despite some head scratching teamwork puzzles here and there. I also like how the game plays differently depending on what character configuration you play with, either Mickey, Donald or both together in co-op. Too bad there aren’t many more co-op Genesis games like this, the most I ever found was Slime World.

I hope the other users here are enjoying their copies of Pier Solar (and I hope those undelivered copies make it to their destinations) for I, unfortunately, didn’t have the faith to pre-order the game and instead I wait for the just as cool reprint edition. But for now, at least the Genesis is in no short supply of classics that have already been released. I still have plenty of stuff to tide me over for the big day when I have Pier Solar in my hands…

Mutant League Football By Chris Leathco

I’m typically not much of a fan of sports games. It takes something special to get my attention. There is the occasional game, such as NBA Jam or BaseWars, that happens to catch my eye. Sega and EA brought one of these to me with Mutant League Football.

EA took their basic Madden game engine and made some significant improvements. They made the basic game more interesting by adding mines, pits, and dropoffs into space in the field. You can bribe the ref to make calls that benefit your team, or kill the ref if he is making calls you disagree with. You can also kill off members of the opposing team. Nothing is more satisfying than making the team you are facing forfeit due to not having enough players alive!

Of course, mere humans couldn’t possibly survive in this game environment, so you play as skeletons, robots, mutants, or super humans. I’ve also noticed how some of the team names and player names are plays off of real-world names, and the plays are also good to give you a chuckle or two at the names. What sets this game apart is that these additions make it a lot more fun than your typical game of football. You start thinking strategically about dodging mines on the field, killing off a key player on the opposing team, or if you can sacrifice a five-yard penalty to get rid of that nagging ref.

And, other than Mutant League Hockey, we haven’t seen this franchise since. This is a travesty to me, as this is one of the best sports games I have ever played, and would probably be a good fit to be made into a modern title. There’s no way I’d buy a copy of Madden or NCAA Football, but if EA released a new Mutant League Football, I’d definitely pick it up, just because the additions made the game a lot more fun than its real-world counterpart.

Arrow Flash By Aaron Savadge

Sometimes I feel like playing a shoot-’em-up game without all the stress and white-knuckle action associated with the genre. I love a challenge, but there are days where I’m just too sluggish to stand a chance in most games, yet I still want to pilot a space ship and see things blow up. It’s even better if that space ship transforms into a robot. Arrow Flash delivers both of those things. The art design is very reminiscent of the Macross anime franchise, and the opening scene is practically a direct reference, which is also a plus in my book. It’s not going to win any awards on a console crowded with superior shmups, but it’s fun, colorful and very easy for just about anybody to play through. It doesn’t do anything unique or mind-blowing, but I got much more out of it than the two dollars I paid for it.

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