Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 63

February is almost gone, and Sega-16 members are delighted that their copies of Pier Solar are steadily arriving. It seems that more and more people are becoming aware of just how great a gaming machine the Genesis is, and this month’s selection of titles truly shows off what the machine is capable of!


Captain America & the Avengers By Ken Horowitz

After reading Doug Jackson’s entry last month about this game, I decided to go back and see if it was as mediocre as he found it to be. After playing it almost to the end (Red Skull got me!), I can honestly say that while I agree that it could have been much better, it’s not actually a bad little game. There’s a definite problem with the visuals; they’re drab and undetailed, but the core gameplay is intact. Slashing through robots with Captain America’s shield is still a lot of fun, and Iron Man’s diagonal repulsor blasts are still king.

I also have to admit that this is a pretty faithful port. The music is good, and all the levels are there. Even the voice samples are all here, though they sound like they need some Robitussin for a sore throat. If you can get past the sub-standard graphics and are a fan of the arcade classic, this port is definitely worth picking up. Those who are wondering why Data East couldn’t do a perfect port should just ask themselves WHY SHOULD IT GO WELL?

Mario Lemieux Hockey By Alex Burr

With some games, it all lies in the controls. Imagine if M.U.S.H.A.’s ship moved down screen when you pushed up and up screen when you pressed down. Imagine if in Sonic, you let go on the right d-pad and Sonic is still running along, about to fall off the ledge for the sixth time. So, having too much momentum ON THE ICE, IN A HOCKEY GAME is a game killer. It just is. If you can’t stop and change direction, you’re sunk. It’s a key point in any hockey player, can they stop and change direction in a timely fashion?

I’m afraid that this game falls prey to the “no friction” bug that is a cheat code in games like Grand Theft Auto IV (there’s a video on YouTube, check it out!). You’re trying to play a rough game, and it turns out all five of your bums on the ice are sliding around on their rear ends as the computer arbitrarily goes on a 5 on 0 and they just hope the game automatically aims it wrong. By far, though, the worst part of this game is the overtime shoot out. What is this? Some kind of second rate skills competition? Mario Lemieux Hockey is the only video game I’ve seen (besides Pro Quarterback) that plays like a video game version of a coaches rant when they storm out of the locker room or throw sticks on the ice, or grabbing a player by the face mask in football. You get what I’m saying. NOW GET OUT THERE AND HIT SOMEBODY!!!

Pier Solar By Sebastian Sponsel

This month, I finally got around to sit down and play a few hours of Pier Solar. I had looked forward to that day for quite a while, not because I had to wait for that long – I actually received my copy around Christmas (great timing by the way!). But unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to play it. So, aside from a quick test whether it worked, and taking a quick listen to the delicious CD soundtrack (and looking through the credits for one name in particular), the game just sat there in its box, untouched, for nearly two months.

So this week, I finally had the time to take the game out and play it for a couple of hours. And I was very pleased. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the graphics are truly beautiful (though I admit, I don’t care too much for the way the cut scenes are drawn, aside from a few still pictures). I don’t get to hear the special CD soundtrack too much, though – I usually play a few hours on the bed, so I just pop it into the Nomad for convenience sake. On the plus side, the font is still quite readable even on an unmodified Nomad screen, though it gets a bit harder to discern items in the inventory.

I didn’t get too far, yet, but far enough to get to my first frustrating section that had me actually grinding my teeth for a while (switches and platforms! I HATE such puzzles!). It wasn’t too hard though, and the accidental level grinding that resulted from that helped immensely in the following boss fight. Oh, and my compliments to the guy who came up with the gather system! That’s a very neat idea once you get the hang of it.

So far, I’m very pleased, and I look forward to many, many entertaining hours of gameplay still.

Revenge of Shinobi By Doug Jackson

The last half of February has been a pretty hectic and tiring few weeks for me. Work has been crazy without much pay, and it just seems like I’ve been having a string of bad luck lately in the real world.

It all started Friday, February 18. It was my day off, and I was going to a dentist appointment and was running late so they told me to come in later that afternoon. I decided to go to Walgreens (really wish I hadn’t) to pick up some cleaning supplies for the house. On my way back, in my neighborhood and only three blocks away from my home, this douche bag female cop pulls me over (trust me she’s a douche bag because she has a reputation for hanging any and everyone with tickets, including her own family). So just to my luck, she pulls me over for not having a safety sticker on my E350 van that I drive, which the state of Illinois told me I didn’t need when I registered it. She gives me a ticket for that, which is bogus, and then she gives me a ticket for no insurance because I didn’t have my card with me. Then, she even gives me a ticket for not wearing my glasses (I have a restriction on my license), but the funny thing was that my glasses had just fallen apart at the store. They were in the cup holder right next to me, and I was going to fix them as soon as I get home. She then told me that she would have towed my van if I had been any further from my house, but she then follows me home. I can understand one of the tickets or the other, but all three is just bogus and a total jerk thing to do to me on her part since I’ve had a clean driving record for so many years.

I came home that day and was mad at the world and couldn’t really focus properly on anything that whole day. I finished my dentist appointment that day and came home and had to cool off. I started to play some Genesis, which I had to force myself to actually do. I tried several games in my collection that I haven’t played before, nice dull ones such as Saint Sword and Phelios but was losing interest and focus fast. I have been mainly focusing only on reviewing games lately and have been ignoring several of the really big name games that I haven’t been giving much time to. I finally decided to try Revenge Of Shinobi again since it’s been so long. I hadn’t ever beaten the second boss before that time, and even by stage two I was not playing well at all since the day had been so rough for me, and I couldn’t get my mind off of the tickets. As I started playing more I actually gained some of my focus back, and I actually made it up to stage four before I got lost focus again after continuing so many times and had to turn the game off. I decided to spend some time with my wife for a while then went to bed early that night to get my mind off of everything.

To wrap this story up, I’m still upset and have to go to court to fight these tickets, but thankfully the Genesis was able to help me relax this month (I love you Sega!) and I amazingly enough got further in Revenge Of Shinobi and actually started to appreciate it more and gain some love for it and now really want to finish it.

…and my string of bad luck didn’t end there. Late Tuesday night at work, in a bad area of town, I almost got mugged by a local crack head who was trying to get into my van with me. Hopefully next month brings better luck for me. I can only hope!

M.U.S.H.A. By Joel Peterson

It’s been a crazy month for me. This is my first Reader Roundtable, and it was a late submission since I have been playing a few Genesis games for review and could not decide which was worth talking about the most. But even in the midst of all that, I have still been finding the time to sneak in playthroughs of M.U.S.H.A. which I consider to be one of the best games on the Sega Genesis.

I have been in love with M.U.S.H.A. for years since first playing it through emulation on a friend’s Sega Dreamcast. Back then, the sound barely worked and the game was extremely choppy, but I managed to play through to the end and love every minute of it. There was something about it, some addictive quality I couldn’t put my finger on. When I finally went to buy it on eBay years later, I was shocked at the cost, but I plunked down nearly a hundred dollars anyway because I simply had to own it. Money well spent.

M.U.S.H.A. is my favorite shmup by far, and it absolutely shines in every department. The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is lightning fast, the levels are long and varied, and the music is some of the best on the Sega Genesis. Having the ability to change your companions attack patterns adds depth to the gameplay that many other shmups tend to lack, and there is actually quite a bit of strategy involved in surviving levels and taking bosses out as quickly as possible because of this. While most gamers will burn through M.U.S.H.A. in a few tries, the game can be played through again on hard mode, and you can change the speed of your craft, making it more difficult to avoid the many enemies and projectiles that will constantly be filling your screen.

It’s one of those rare gems on the Sega Genesis that every collector should own. The high price will be a barrier for most, but since it is also available on the Wii Virtual Console, there is almost no excuse not to try this game. Definitely one of my favorites, and one that I will continue to go back to, again and again.

Pier Solar By Frank Villone

December of 2010, WaterMelon Corporation made the announcement that the world had been holding its breath for: Pier Solar was finally being shipped out of China! A month and a half later, I got the note to pick it up from the post office. I made it there at exactly 5:00 (closing time) only to be greeted by locked doors, and then a miserable 5:00 traffic jam that took me an hour to get home. But the next day I made it there earlier, and carefully ripped open the package in my car! Inside the bubble-wrap envelope, the Genesis box sat in a clear plastic case, which was hugged by thick cardboard. WM certainly took measures to protect these in the mail.

As mine was one of the earlier pre-orders, I opted for the deluxe Posterity Edition, which included putting a brief message into the credits and manual! I suspect many young men wrote about the women they love. Of course two years have passed since pre-orders began, and since then, those same loved women have probably gotten sick of us, and kicked us to the curb! Oh well. We will always love them, and will always hope to reconnect with them!

The Genesis box itself is a work of art. Just imagine that, one night, you had a dream that you got your grubby paws on the most unique, elaborate Genesis box ever made. It is designed as a book, so the cover folds open to the CD and the built-in manual. Gold ink adorns the pages of the manual, as well as the bonus issue (#16) of SIZE Magazine. (That particular issue covers Pier Solar, and places it in context of the bitter 16-bit wars, which have been raging since the early ’90s. The first article reports that the Super Nintendo camp got cross-bowed by the release of Pier Solar!) If you were to search the Genesis box carefully, you might even find a button for secret items, which are hidden inside the structure of the box itself! (Yes, you read that right.) Sadly, current copies do not come with this fantastic box and secret bonus items. I hope WM decides to offer a similar package, at some point in the future.

As a turn-based RPG, Pier Solar will appeal to anyone who likes the genre at all. Graphics are colorful, detailed, and polished, with nice touches everywhere, including special effects that were seldom or never-before-seen on the Genesis. The CD soundtrack is filled with beautiful arrangements, and while I have rarely switched to the cart music, it is also great. The menu system (based on icons rotating in a circle) is unique, clear, and intuitive. The battle system is deeper than it first appears, given the options of Gather and Defend, and their important roles throughout the game. The storyline is epic, the non-playable characters are talkative, and the dialogue is funny. There are also many options available in-game, including choice of language, which makes Pier Solar one of the coolest ways to brush up on that Español you started taking in seventh Grade.

OutRun By Nick McLean

Work sucks. At the end of a long week, you need to get away. Go somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t here. Because you just can’t get away from your problems; unless you drive fast enough.

There’s nothing like hopping in your convertible Testarossa and taking your girlfriend for a cruise. When you’re going 290km/hr, nobody is hassling you, there are no deadlines, no morning meetings, and no desk… it’s just you and the road.

Turn up the TV, put on your Ray Bans and Dead Cruiser t-shirt, because it’s 1986 and you’ve got nothing but road.

Shining in the Darkness By The Coop

From the late ’80s into the ’90s, the dungeon crawler RPG sub-genre was a big draw on the PC. Eye of the Beholders 1-3, the Might and Magics, the Dungeon Masters… gamers were eating this stuff up. It was a chance to play from the perspective of the characters, and watch the dangerous world around you get right in your face as you explored caves, dungeons and sewers. This wasn’t much of a draw for the Genesis, as there were basically no games for those who really loved the genre. The original Phantasy Star had a fair amount of this, and Sword of Vermillion had a touch as well. But it wasn’t all about the dungeons, as those were just a bit of the overall RPGing pie in those games.

In 1991, Sega and Climax gave Genesis owners their first real taste of dungeon crawling with Shining in the Darkness, and I was there to have myself a helping. I can remember firing it up and exploring the simplified small village. Talking to everyone in the tavern, checking out the weapons and armor I had no hope in hell of affording, and of course, heading over to the shrine to save the game. I also remember how the dwarf got knocked off kilter when the screen slid over to show you more of what he had for sale, and how the characters all had little animations as they stood around in the throne room and tavern. But what I remember most was watching the labyrinth scale toward you from the map screen, then heading off into it to begin my quest… and how I got my ass kicked by what called that place home. Little pools of slime, big crabs, walls with hands and eyes, pits that would drop you down a floor into greater peril… it was all there.

Sure, you’ll do some serious grinding at times, but it was so different for someone who had never played any of the now classic PC dungeon crawlers due to not having a PC. It wasn’t like the other RPGs I’d been exposed to by that time (Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star II, Sword of Vermillion, Faery Tale Adventure, Miracle Warriors, etc.), and I loved it. The graphics, the music, the art that made even the simplest, unimportant characters and monsters stand out more with touches of personality… it was just enjoyable from start to finish. Sadly, it was also left behind when the franchise became more focused on turn-based strategy, leaving the dungeon crawling forgotten about until Shining the Holy Ark came along years later. It’s a shame really, as I would’ve loved to have seen a proper sequel before the Genesis went under. A 32Mbit Shining in the Darkness II? Hell yes, please!

But you know, there’s one thing that bothers me regarding this game. If memory serves, in an early issue of Mega Play, there was a screen shot for SitD that featured a small, dragon-like creature attacking the player. Now I’ve played through the game several times, and not once did I ever see that enemy. I’ve always wondered if I just somehow never got attacked by it, or if it was taken out of the final product. It’s one of those little niggling things that I’ve never forgotten about over the years that I’d love to get an answer to someday.

Brave Battle Saga By Greg Jurkiewcz

After finishing Pier Solar last month, I’ve been on a 16-bit RPG vibe and needed to get more. I decided to give Magic Warrior a shot after having just made up a repro cover for the game. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an unofficial translation of an unlicensed Chinese J-RPG, but having seen a couple of screen shots and some videos of the game sure got me interested.

Visually this game is gorgeous. The environments are amazingly detailed and colourful and look almost too good for a 16-bit game. However where the graphical eye candy really shines is the magic spells. They are plentiful, epic and look fantastic. I’m going to drop the bomb here and say that this game has the best looking magic out of any 16-bit RPG, the higher level spells look better than some 32-bit RPGs. The music is equally awesome.

In terms of gameplay, Magic Warrior is decent as well, the combat system is familiar and intuitive with elements unabashedly taken from other RPGs. This game does that a lot, but it does it well, which results in an intuitive and polished gameplay mechanic. The story is your typical J-RPG fare: “young boy and crew of friends save the world,” though it is executed well and takes some interesting turns. There is some humour to be found as well, like having to swap bodies with a town drunk in order to cheat on an exam – hilarity ensues. A lot of credit should be given to the rom hackers/translators Djinn and SteveMartin who did a great job with the script.

I could go on about this game for quite a while, but I’ll wrap this up. This game is surprisingly awesome, and in case anyone is wondering; the English translation works perfectly on real hardware.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 By Aaron Wilcott

Another month, a little closer to all sorts of awesome things, not to mention Pier Solar. But as always, I try to squeeze in some time to play at least my Genesis. This months I’ve mostly been playing a venerable, but played to death classic, Sonic 2. However, this is no ordinary Sonic 2 entry. If you’ve spent any time in the Genesis Does section of the Sega-16 forums, you’ll likely already know what I’m gonna write in here. But for those of you who haven’t, I feel it necessary to talk about this.

This playthrough of Sonic 2 started innocent enough; all I wanted to do was collect all the Chaos Emeralds and check out this game’s version of Super Sonic. This would be an interesting challenge, since I have always been bad at Sonic 2’s special stages and therefore, I’ve never gotten all the Chaos Emeralds in this installment. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a different matter entirely, but that;s a story for another Reader Roundtable.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, the first few Chaos Emeralds were of course, quite easy. There was minimal difference in difficulty between the first four stages and I got through them by the end of the Chemical Plant Zone. Special stage five however, saw a noticeably steep jump in difficulty and it took me quite some time to finish it. The sixth stage was even harder. There were just too many rings coming at me from so many hard to reach and suddenly appearing places. I had to employ the help of a friend to get by this one. Special stage seven, strangely enough, wasn’t nearly as hard. I was able to do it by myself on my second try. In the end I got all seven Chaos Emeralds by the Hill Top Zone. One would assume from here on, it would be smooth sailing, correct? Well, as I was collecting rings in Hill Top Zone Act Two, enough to activate Super Sonic and start whipping through these Zones like nothing, but in the middle of this ring collecting, I bashed one Badnik in particular… A Rexon, which crashed the game.

To make a long story short, I was pretty damn pissed. I keep all my video games perfectly clean. This was the first time I had this copy of Sonic 2 ever freeze on me. I thought it was the strangest thing that ever happened to me in a game. What a coincidence that the game freezes right as I’m collecting rings to become Super Sonic? Well, it wasn’t a coincidence. On the Sega-16 Forums, a kind soul pointed out that attacking a Rexon in Hill Top Zone can sometimes crash the game, a known and documented bug in Sonic 2. At last, this month ended on a somewhat happy note, since I could blame Sonic 2 with confidence for this inexcusable glitch.

That is pretty much it for this story. Not much else to add. I gotta say one thing though, this was the most amusing round of Sonic 2 I’ve ever played. It even flows like a plot in a typical story if you look at it right. I hope everyone else had an equally fun, but less aggravating time with their Genesis this month. Here’s hoping next month’s entry is gonna be about Pier Solar! It’s not likely, but an Armadillo can dream right?

Sonic The Hedgehog 3 By Eduardo Villanueva

Sonic 3 is considered by a many people to be the best Sonic game for the Genesis, and it appeared as the console was hitting its graphical stride. The lateness of its release makes it also a technical showcase, as it demonstrates the power of the Genesis with colorful, vibrant stages full of parallax scrolling. The music is awesome and is a complete departure from the scores of the previous installments. It uses a lot of samples (i.e. the mid-boss tune and some stages songs Angel Island, Hydrocity, Marble and Carnival). It’s worth noting that the tune for each act is different.
The storyline is very impressive too.

In my opinion one of the best stages in the game is Angel Island Zone, due to the colourful environment and the amount of sprites on screen and it has a great music. Hydrocity is a little bit harder, due to the water physics, but then it becomes easier when you rise to surface. Marble zone is like a maze, in which you can get lost easily, so be careful. Carnival Zone set in a fair in the night, and it has one of a kind obstacles. Finally Launch Base Zone is quite hard, but decent for being the last level before final battle. The Special Stages are also fun, and they are a good mix of speed and challenge as you must collect the blue spheres without touching any red ones (which is actually quite hard to do).

One of the good things is the ability to use Super Sonic, which makes several stages easier. However the game is not complete until it is attached to a Sonic & Knuckles Cart to get the game Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which introduces Knuckles as a playable character and the second half of the game and adds the Hyper Emeralds.

Overall, it is one of the best Genesis games, and surely the best Sonic ever made for the Genesis. Definitely worth playing!

Madden ’96 By Steven Campell

Man, I love Genesis football games; that’s what keeps me going from February to August (that and NFL Films). I love the old teams, the old players, and especially the old gameplay. Madden NFL ’96 is a very unique game, and while it falls short of other football titles on the console as far as gameplay goes, It certainly does stand out from them in a few different areas. The music and graphics are top notch in Madden ’96, and while the gameplay isn’t as fun as the Tecmo Super Bowls and Bill Walsh College Footballs, it is playable for sure. In fact, the game plays really fast, Blast Processing on full display as it is one of the fastest moving sports games on either the Genesis or SNES.

Tommy Tallarico was brought in and gave the game some amazing sound. The drums are actual sampled bass and snare drum sounds that are sharp and deep sounding. All of the sound effects and voice samples are A+ quality, great work from Tallarico on the music and sound. The graphics have a high resolution shine to them, with a lot of attention paid to small details such as the textures of the field, the team logos in the end zones, even the stripes on the players socks all very nice. The best thing about Madden ’96 is for sure the eighty unlockable classic teams, each with its original retro logo and uniforms intact. Some of the teams even have the actual players names in the roster, a one-time-only deal where you get greats like Ray Nitchke, Dan Fouts, even O.J. Simpson (who at one time was like the Michael Jordan of football, a truly dominant player. Oh how the mighty have fallen).

Madden NFL ’96 is the best looking and sounding football game of the entire 16-bit era in my opinion. I just wish Sega’s NFL series was still around to keep EA on its toes, that way they would keep pushing the envelope the way they did with this game.

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