Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 64

Did you know Spring is here? We didn’t, as that would probably require stepping outside to notice. What with all the Genesis games we still have to play, who has time to go outside? That’s what windows are for! Check out this month’s broad selection of games and see why our staff and readers lose track of the seasons!


Pier Solar By: Ken Horowitz

Preview- Pier Solar & The Great Architects 2Recently, I finally got my copy of Pier Solar and jumped right in. Needless to say, my anticipation for this game was incredibly high, and I was very eager to sink my teeth into the fruits of WaterMelon’s labor. About twenty-six hours later, I’ve reached the end boss (who soundly trounced me), and I can honestly say that this is one of the best RPGs on the console.

There are some things I don’t agree with or find irritating (why does my character use an item even when the person he’s supposed to use it on has been killed?), but overall this is a spectacular experience that everyone with a Genesis and a lick of sense needs to play. I’ll keep my comments short here, as my full thoughts have already been expressed in our official review, but I must once again stress the need for support of games of this quality. Suck it, SNES fans!

David Robinson’s Supreme Court By: Alex Burr

David Robinson's Supreme Court 4Sega was ALWAYS the second fiddle when it came to basketball video games on the Genesis, but this second effort isn’t TOO bad. It’s certainly better than Pat Riley. I still don’t understand that substitution system, and I really don’t like that the game has a fantasy draft every time you play the game. What’s the point of team names, then? A lot of things are odd about David Robinson’s Supreme Court, including the perspective, but I still think it’s worth a few plays. The view is odd, the ball physics are odd, but it doesn’t make me angry like Pat Riley Basketball does. I still cant recommend this one over the EA games, but like all sports games good or bad, this one is worth a play. Plus it has the Sega Sports Network – a short lived early 1990s cable network contracted to only show basketball games and crazy alien invasions.

Shining Force By: Sebastian Sponsel

The time for me to play Genesis games was pretty scarce – currently the only occasion I find to actually play some video games is on my daily commute. Luckily, there are a couple of Genesis games available for mobile play nowadays. I had never played Shining Force back when it was originally released, so when it became available in the App Store for less than a buck, I snatched it right up to see what I had missed out on.

And yeah, I’m pretty impressed. I love the strategic battles and the mass of characters you have available, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Putting together the ideal party for a battle can be a challenge in itself, but its worth it. Best of all? So far the individual battles were just long enough to fit right into my daily ride to work (and back). And the story, while apparently shallow and simplistic at first, reveals a rich depth over time that was very enjoyable back in the day – and it is hardly found in mobile phone games nowadays, especially not for less than a buck! Definitely a worthy purchase.

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side By: Frank Villone

Oh what a month! Anything and everything seemed to happen in March, and time with the Genesis was limited. But it was a good time for the catharsis of a good versus fighter.

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side is actually fantastic. Nearly every single thing from the first game is improved upon. The roster of nine fighters has expanded to thirteen when starting out, which then increases up to twenty-four as hidden characters emerge! Returning fighters have more moves than before, and everyone looks better than in the first game: bigger, more detailed, and more fluidly animated. The difficulty is still brutal, but at least now you can lose and then face the same opponent again.

The fighting itself is slightly bloodier, plus the game is packed with fatalities that are much more gory and elaborate than anything seen before, either in the first Eternal Champions, or in the Mortal Kombat series. Here is some of the best Full-Motion Video you will ever see come out of your Sega CD (all full-screen), used for horrific Cinekills as well as a stellar game intro, and game-over clips unique for each fighter. This is also apparently the most colorful single game ever released for the Genesis or Sega CD, claiming 256 colors on-screen at the same time! (The hardware limit, of course, is 64 colors on-screen at once.) Underneath it all is a solid fighting engine, most similar to that of Street Fighter II, but loaded with many more moves, including some inspired by the SFII universe, and others by the MK universe.

The Dark Side is calling you! Unless you are afraid of a steep challenge, and fatalities that might literally make you nauseous. Grab your wireless six-button controller, and just don’t forget your nausea medicine!

Shining in the Darkness By: Christian Matozzo

RPGs really aren’t my cup of tea. Frankly, I hate the repetitive gameplay, lack of pacing, clichéd storylines, and the fact that everything is just so long and drawn out. I don’t like putting in twenty hours in a game and feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. However, there’s one RPG that’s help a special place in my heart since I was kid, and that’s Shining in the Darkness. It’s an RPG with a lot of character, even if it is a bit more challenging than most.

Shining in the Darkness has you playing as the hero (Who you get to name) who has to save the princess of the Kingdom of Thornwood who has been kidnapped by the evil magician Dark Sol and whisked away to a local dungeon crawling with all sorts of monsters. I’ve have to say though, from the cover alone Dark Sol looks like a medieval version of Darth Vader. Look at him shoot lightning out of his hands! What a total badass. But you’re not taking him on alone! Your friends Milo and Pyra join you in your quest to save the day, and soon you’ll find yourself on a very small-scale but long adventure to rescue the princess and save the day!

But unlike most RPGs, Shining in the Darkness has this interesting character to it, like you’re really part of this rinky-dink kingdom that contains only the King’s castle, a dungeon, and a town that features a motley old tavern, two shops, and a church. This isn’t one of those RPG’s where you literally have to save the entire world from destruction, or go back in time to save someone, or do something that’s just utterly ridiculous. Even just talking to the people in the tavern or the castle is fun. They’ve always got something new to say after you’ve progressed a little more in the game, and you’ll find yourself interacting with them more than you think. In fact, they progress the storyline rather than boss fights or long cut scenes. It’s not like most RPGs where the characters themselves feel very detached from the rest of the world and lifeless, and are there just to serve a purpose, like Zelda II. The NPCs in the game are your comrades and friends, just hanging out in this old tavern run by a guy named Vik. Every time I boot up the game I felt like I was seeing old friends again. Even that old guy in the rocking chair who would greet you as you started the game up. There’s just this great little charm to the game. I’ve have to give props to whoever created the game over at SEGA. It did an excellent job on the characters and overall design of the game.

I just wish I still had a copy, so I could get away from this busy life and greet my good friends at the old tavern again. I sold it a few years back because I needed the cash and it was cart only. I never even got far enough to save the princess. So for old times’ sake, check this one out for me. And say hi to the whole gang in Thornwood for me!

DarXide By: Carl-Johan Brax

DarXide – raahh!! Yes, I finally acquired this game, after years of not-hard-at-all search and many actual and weird dreams at nights about getting it. Okay, I did have to pay not one, but two, arms and a leg to get it (I’m typing this by holding a pencil in my mouth, which I’m pointing at the keyboard with). Digital Press actually only had eight levels of rarity until they found out about this game, which is rated Rarity 9. Unboxing my package of DarXide was like undressing a woman for the first time – magical – playing it is like having sex and beating the first stage is like giving her a pinnacle. Which makes perfect sense since DarXide is the pinnacle of gaming. I thought about making a video when I did the unboxing and then upload it on YouTube, but then I realized they don’t accept porn. I can’t wait to beat the game, it must be like seeing your wife give birth to your first child or something like that. Baloo described DarXide as a “legendary space flight simulator,” which gives no surprise to the fact that it invented texture-mapped polygons. The X in the title is actually where the X in 32X comes from, which explains why an early name for the add-on was “Mega 32.” It also inspired Darth Vader to use the term “Dark Side” when he discussed chocolate dipped cookies. Damn, I really want some now. Later, aces!

Rolling Thunder 3 By: The Coop

Back in the mid ’80s, I used to play a Namco arcade game called Rolling Thunder. It was fed enough quarters by me, that I was able to get to rounds nine and ten regularly, but never quite beat the game. And since I didn’t have an NES at the time, I had no home version to buy and play, which left me unable to get in that extra bit of practice needed to beat the game.

But in the early ’90s, the original RT was forgotten about for a while when I found Rolling Thunder 2 for my Genesis. I played it, beat it, and enjoyed it. Then came Rolling Thunder 3, which I read about in an issue of GameFan. I later found a beat up, cart-only copy at an Electronics Boutique, but it wouldn’t be until just a few weeks ago that I finally found a complete copy at a local flea market. Getting to hold the box and instructions, reading both, and looking at a cartridge that wasn’t faded, torn and missing chunks of its label were wonderful things to finally experience. And to say that it put me in the mood to play the game again would be an understatement.

I remember what few reviews there were for Rolling Thunder 3 weren’t overly favorable. Seems some thought that RT2 was a better game, but I enjoyed RT3 about equally. It felt more like the first game than part two, and the extra weapons to choose at the beginning of each stage gave you some strategy to use. I also liked the motorcycle and jet ski parts, which helped break up the familiar left-right walk and shoot gameplay. Being able to shoot up at an angle was a godsend after two games, and those catchy little tunes that had the touch of spy-like jazziness to them were enjoyable as well. Sure, it may not have moved the series forward much, but it was still a fun game to me. The graphics, music, and such were nice, the gameplay was straightforward but smooth, no weird hit detection issues… it was solid, if a bit behind the times in its gameplay. But considering that I still like to get in a game or two of the original Rolling Thunder years later… well, maybe that makes me a bit more forgiving when it comes to the franchise staying close to its roots over three games. And hey, if nothing else, it likely gave people a good chuckle when they read who did the sound for Rolling Thunder 3… ROSE & DICK BOY!!!

Bubble Bobble MD By: Greg Jurkiewcz

Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of hacks and pirated games as I’ve been on a trend of making printable covers for them. It’s really amazing how many unreleased, unlicensed and pirated games are out there. They vary in quality from total crap to some truly amazing games that surpass official releases.

Bubble Bobble MDOne such game is Super Bubble Bobble MD. It’s an unlicensed Taiwanese pirate of the NES classic Bubble Bobble. However the only thing it pirates is the license, the entire game engine and graphics seem to be original to this release. And they are fantastic! The gameplay is polished to perfection and the graphics look amazing! The game is bright and colourful with gorgeous levels and incredibly well drawn backgrounds with plenty of scrolling. The music is equally fantastic, and really adds to the fun, especially the boss tune – by far one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Instead of the 2 familiar dragons Bubby and Bobby, you can play as Bubby and a pink female dragon (Betty?). Now since this is a Taiwanese pirate and they really don’t give a damn about copyrights you can also play as Doraemon and Cryon Shin Chan! They fit right in with the silly aesthetic of the game and really add variety and make it more interesting, especially in two-player mode.

Overall Super Bubble Bobble MD is a great game! We’re talking like 9.5/10 great. The only thing it could really use is a four-player mode since it offers four playable characters. Now that would be madness.

Pier Solar By: Aaron Wilcott

Finally, with much anticipation, my wait, for Pier Solar is now over. I’ve had quite a lot of time to take in all the awesomeness (and minor issues) so this will be a fun round table for me at least. Since I definitely don’t want to spoil the game for anyone by speaking directly about my progress in the game, I will instead voice my opinion on the quality instead. I write this roundtable entry mainly as a column of persuasion for anyone who didn’t buy this game already.

Pier Solar, to put it simply, is a great game. Not by homebrew standards, but by commercial game standards, like the kind of software Sega used to make. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but I like to think this speaks volumes to the WaterMelon team. At least one fan thinks this game competes with the likes of Phantasy Star IV and Shining Force? That’s amazing. I keep having to remind myself that this is a homebrew game, that alone is impressive to me.

Preview- Pier Solar & The Great Architects 2However, it isn’t very logical to praise a game without giving reasons for it right? Well, let’s start from the top. The graphics are amazing. Just… amazing. Most everything is well drawn and/or animated, excellent use of colors and the designs of things like scenery and monsters are great. In graphics, I like the monsters the best. They are just overall, well designed in every way. Kudos to the people who did all that. The sound is a bit of a toss up for me, but in a good way. The FM and PCM soundtracks are both overall, very well written. There’s some material that’s better in the other format and vice-versa, but this is purely subjective banter.

The underlying game itself is quite well designed as well. There’s quite a few common RPG pitfalls that WaterMelon was good to remember avoiding. The battle system works very nicely, quests are fairly straight forward and easy to understand most of the time and perhaps one of Pier Solar’s greatest strengths, is it’s dialog. I’ve never played a Japanese style RPG before that had dialog THIS well written. The best way to explain it is the script feels very natural. Almost as if these words were spoken by real people and not characters on some computer screen or in a book. That is worth a lot to me, because frankly I am quite tired of reading dry and cringe-worthy conversations between a couple of characters I don’t really care about. My gratitude as an RPG fan goes out to you Sean Currie!

As for complaints, understandably I have some, because no game is perfect. First, I’m sorry but there’s some music in the FM soundtrack that could have been better (Reja Town for one). I definitely prefer PCM most of the time. Speaking of PCM, as Joe Redifier noticed, the stereo isn’t centered correctly. This is more noticeable with headphones on though. Something else that is a little annoying is the difficulty. On one hand I appreciate that Pier Solar is no tulip, but at the same time it can get a bit irritating at times. Some certain apes later in the game are just downright insane. The sand creatures in the desert were also no treat to fight, but they were manageable, especially with some level grinding.

Overall, Pier Solar is a fantastic game. It’s more than a homebrew, it’s too professional to remain “just a homebrew.” It raises the bar so high for new independent releases it’s ridiculous. To any and all Genesis/Mega Drive owners who never bought this game: Shame on you. Every one of you stragglers, you owe it to yourselves and your dedication to the Genesis/MD to buy a copy of this game! Before the reprint sells out for good! Or, if you’re too good to give even one RPG a try, at least donate some money or something to WaterMelon, so they will have more resources to create the next game with! Who out there wants a beat-’em-up, a platformer, or anything new from WM? I sure do!

Lightening Force By: Eduardo Villanueva

Lightening Force (Thunder Force 4 outside the U.S.)is one of the best titles in the SHMUP genre and in the whole library. Its a game that acts perfectly at two main points: it’s lovely SHMUP which is challenging and lovely at the same time, and it’s a game that pushed the Genesis to the limits (even to the extent of causing slowdown). Also, it’s worth noting that it has one of the best soundtracks ever made, which is a nice fusion between rock and synth which also pushes the old Yamaha to the limits, both in real chip and ASIC forms.

The objective is quite simple: shoot all the enemies on screen in order to defeat Vios fighting against very hard bosses which get harder constantly. There are ten levels of awesomeness on the game. In order to beat it you’ve got a lot of weapons such as the twin shot, a default, all time available weapon, with a good power; back shot, which is useful for enemies that are behind you; blade, which upgrades the twin shot power with massive destructive power; the rail gun (update to back shot); snake, which fires bombs above and below the ship but is actually pretty useless; freeway – a weapon that shoots lots of bullets in the direction you push the D-Pad; hunter, which as low power but allows the discovery of the enemy’s weak points; and craw, that multiplies the damage of any of the weapons and coverage area of them. In the later stages it provides the player the ability to launch a Thunder Sword, the most powerful attack in the game.

Lightening Force has incredibly good graphics too, because it both uses all the four layers of parallax scrolling the Genesis VDP provides, and it also pushes too many sprites onscreen at once that they even can fill up the entire screen! Also the controls are good to allow beating the game, and they are responsive.

In the overall it’s a great Genesis Game which deserves to be played and be in your library, you won’t regret it!!!

NFL’s Greatest: San Francisco vs Dallas By: Steven Campbell

By now it’s no secret that I am addicted to Genesis football games. Good ones, bad ones, slow ones, fast ones, it doesn’t matter I play ’em all. Like most Americans, I go Ga-Ga over the sport, and always have ever since I was a wee young lad.

NFL's Greatest: San Francisco vs. Dallas 3Like most Americans, I got hooked by watching the legendary, epic NFL Films documentary’s of the old days. NFL Films used original orchestral music by the masterful Sam Spence, narration from John Facenda, and snippets of the dramatic radio broadcast to retell the story’s of the game in a much more interesting fashion compared to the live network broadcasts. Facenda would always recount the game as if it were a roman battle, rather than a football game, and the fittingly epic soundtrack and trademark super slow motion replays contributed to the distinct style of production that won over a lot of fans for the sport. There is nothing like NFL Films for baseball, basketball, hockey or boxing, and that is why its Executive Producer Ed Sabol will be inducted into the prestigious NFL Hall Of Fame this summer.

The old NFL Films documentaries are as beloved to me as the mighty Genesis. That’s why I was very, very excited to find a copy of NFL’s Greatest: San Francisco vs Dallas for the Sega CD at my local retro game shop. I remember reading a pretty negative review of the game here a while back, but the NFL Films logo on the box forced me to give it a chance. The Park Place Productions logo at the title screen also raised my expectations, as they developed the original Madden trilogy on the Genesis. Upon playing it, I quickly became disappointed. Sadly there is no “Autumn Thunder” soundtrack or “Voice of God” to be found, and absolutely no gameplay to speak of whatsoever. The grainy old footage is nice for an old football nerd like me, and I guess it is playable at the very least, but I got a belly full of it real quick. Its a real tragedy that NFL Films and Park Place Productions couldn’t have collaborated on something a little better than this.

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