Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 65

The weather is changing, flowers are blooming, and the games are flowing like fine wine. April is over, but it’s been one great month for Genesis gaming!


Kolibri By: Ken Horowitz

On my last trip to Neo Japan Games, I snagged a loose copy of Kolibri (now nicely wrapped in a 32X clamshell case with laser-printed insert!), and I’ve been able to give this weird title some serious playtime. I’ve come to see that Kolibri is something of an acquired taste, and those looking for a Thunder Force-style shooter are going to be disappointed. Novotrade’s birdy shmup is a lot slower in pace, and it takes a bit of thinking in terms of where to go next and how to best attack/avoid enemies. Once you’ve got the hang of how things work, it’s actually an entertaining title, and a good entry in the 32X’s limited library. Worth keeping the mushroom around for!


Super Kick-Off By: Sebastian Sponsel

Are you looking for a fun 16-bit soccer sim? Too bad, you won’t find one here. But maybe a no holds-barred fast and fun kick? Well, if you want your soccer matches to be hectic, anarchic and outside of anyone’s control, then Super Kick-Off might be your cup of tea.

The Kick-Off games were immensely popular on the Amiga and Atari home computers – I myself played the heck out of Kick-Off 2 back in the day on my A500. Looking at the game today, I can’t quite understand why. The ball is all over the plays and near impossible to control, as it keeps bouncing away from the players. It behaves less than a soccer ball and more like a foosball table – if the foosball kickers weren’t fixed in place but rather rush around the field like a bunch of ants on speed.

In its way, it still is kind of entertaining – in the same way as it’s entertaining to jiggle your keychain in front of a cat for a couple of minutes.


Caesar’s Palace By: Christian Matozzo

As Sega-16 was down, a lot of our users migrated over to the Digital Press boards and hijinks ensued as old memes were brought up and funny pictures were posted in a thread that went past 500 posts in a mere week! Other things aside, an arcade was recently put up on the DP forums, and one of the featured titles is a simple Blackjack game that reminded me of my youth playing Caesar’s Palace with my brother on the Genesis.

Caesar’s Palace is your average casino game. You walk around the Casino playing Slots, Video Poker, Roulette, Blackjack, Craps, Keno, Horse Racing and even Scratch-Offs! (Though I can’t think of anyone who would pay $100 for ONE scratch-off!) You can tell that developer Virgin Games didn’t go cheap on the gameplay and dumb things down like most casino sims do, as Caesar’s Palace incorporates all of the rules and regulations casinos would have for slot machines and table games. The Blackjack game on the Digital Press forums has a mere $500 limit (Chump change!) and you can only play up to three hands, but in Caesar’s Palace there’s different tables with different limits, and you can play up to five! And to top off the game, the casino itself acts as a sort-of HUB world where you can walk around the casino to the different games you want to play. There’s even high roller tables where you have to have a certain amount of money to play. Why they throw in all these semi-useless things into a simple casino game is beyond me, but it’s enjoyable.

I wonder whose idea it was to have only one song throughout the game though. It makes things seem a little quiet, especially since you’re the only person in the casino walking around. How does this place stay in business? When my brother and I used to play this game back in the day, we used to make up stupid lyrics to that one song that plays throughout the game as you walk through the casino: During the bridge of the song we would sing “Up goes the escalator, down goes the escalator, up goes the escalator, down goes the escalator!” I don’t know what we were thinking back then, but it always got a few giggles, ha ha!

And in true life fashion, after you run out of money or simply leave Caesar’s Palace (Now there’s an aspect of the game that most people have a hard time grasping in real life, ha ha!) you’ll find yourself rolling down a desert highway seeing “You are now leaving Las Vegas…” It doesn’t get more realistic than that!


Phantasy Star By: Doug Jackson

Many years back I attempted to play through Phantasy Star II. I never really enjoyed my experience all that much but wanted to press on and complete what I started. I got almost to the end of the game but was cut short when a so-called “friend” of mine stole my copy of the game along with several others from my collection. I had since never wanted to start the game over again since the game is so hard, the mazes too confusing, and the music not that great.

Fast forward several years to where I’ve finally gotten the RPG bug back, and I’ve since been on a mission to play through several first RPGs in several series. I’ve since played Final Fantasy through and have finished all four of the original Dragon Warrior games for the NES and have played through a few others like Brandish for SNES and Ys for Sega Master System but never got around to the Phantasy Star series, though I knew I needed to.

A few weeks back I finally decided to play the first Phantasy Star game and played it to completion and really enjoyed it, far more than my past experience with part II, I might add. It just seemed to play so much more smoothly and feel more refined. I knew it was time to brave part the deadly waters of part II once again, since I plan on completing all four of them. I’ve been playing it, and I must say that my experience has been just as frustrating as it was the last time, but I can actually say that I’m enjoying it a bit more this time despite it being so daunting. I still don’t like most of the music and am only starting to appreciate the battle mechanics, but it feels very satisfying the more I progress. I’ve been playing it pretty heavily but have been taking it a lot more slowly. I’ve been following a walkthrough with maps (not even gonna think about attempting those mazes without maps) and have been taking time to level each character up evenly and buy everything I can for each character, though it’s still no walk in the park. In one night I’ve survived a game crash and being wiped out two times by tough enemies, but my persistence has held up, and soon (maybe a month or two) I will claim my right of passage and victory over this epic monster of a game!


Super Off Road By: The Coop

Ever gotten so bored playing a game, that you just walked away and had no desire to come back? It’s not because you sucked at it or that game was hopelessly broken, but rather that the game had so little to offer, that mowing the grass in the 105º heat seemed like a more entertaining thing to do. Well, I found just such a game. In the arcades, Super Off Road had Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s mug on the three steering-wheeled cabinet, and it was supposed to be the thrill of off road truck racing in gaming form. Mud, puddles, nitros, buy better tires and engines an such… it strove to make you feel the all the excitement ol’ Ivan surely felt during his career.

The problem was, it didn’t come close. The trucks bounced around almost nonsensically through the tracks, you’d get spun around for no apparent reason and wind up going the wrong way, there weren’t very many tracks, your power-ups never seemed to do much, and the CPU trucks always got powered up a lot faster, even when you got first place a lot. The game simply wasn’t fun or interesting, and the folks at Accolade/Tradewest brought it to the Genesis in true arcade fashion. Boring races, iffy music (Accolade wasn’t known for their musical prowess to be sure), tiny trucks, bizarre bouncing physics (if you can call it physics), painfully few tracks, CPU trucks that get upgraded far quicker than you even when you get first place several times in a row… it’s all there. But now you get the added bonus of having your truck mysteriously pass through walls at times so your race is utterly FUBARed.

Basically, the only reason I got the game was to complete a section of my collection. I had a beat up cart-only copy beforehand that I got from EB before they stopped selling Genesis games, and the only reason I played this copy was just to make sure it worked. I went through the few tracks, cursed a couple times at this or that, and then turned it off… shaking my head as I put the game in with its brethren. Maybe Ivan Stewart should have played the game first. I can’t imagine being attached to this borefest is a feather in his cap… personally or financially.


UndeadLine By: Greg Jurkiewcz

I’ve been playing a lot of Sega lately so it’s been pretty hard to pick a game to write about. I’ve also imported a lot of Mega Drive games recently. After the disaster in Japan I was looking for ways to help the people there. Unfortunately the international relief effort wasn’t very well organized, and Japan seemed to be handling the first aid & humanitarian disaster very well on its own. It was the economy that needed help the most. I decided that I would do my part to help out by importing a bunch of crazy Mega Drive games directly from their homeland! That way I got to do something to help out the battered Japanese economy and acquire more games for my Sega collection, win-win situation.

One of the games I picked up was UndeadLine. It was a bit on the pricey side, but worth every penny. The game is fantastic. It’s one of those rare shooters where instead of a spaceship flying through outer space you get a little dude running along the ground fighting hordes of monsters. The gameplay is polished to perfection, and while this game is very difficult, it isn’t so because of bad programming or cheap tactics. You get a well-balanced array of weapons and power-ups along your quest and you have to face off against hordes of evil yet cool-looking undead things. Good ol’ fashioned fun! It kind of makes me think of Diablo, if Diablo was a shooter. Most of the game is in English too, which is nice, there is some back story that is in Japanese, but fortunately this is one of those games that was fan translated to English, so you can always catch up on the storyline via your favourite emulator and the masterful translation by MIJET.

In addition to the balanced gameplay, neat looking enemies and awesome levels, the music in this game really stands out. The compositions are incredible – they are fairly long and non-repetitive and make such good use of the FM chip that you almost forget that the music is coming off a cartridge. I’ve found myself leaving the game on with the sound test loaded up just to listen to the tunes.

Overall UndeadLine is a fantastic game. It is definitely on the pricey side, but is well worth adding to your collection.


Sonic The Hedgehog By: Aaron Wilcott

Anybody who’s been around Sega-16 for even a small amount of time will know I don’t like Sonic The Hedgehog 1 very much, so why would I bother writing about it in here? Well, for one thing I was bored, but secondly I thought it might be fun to go over each level with my experiences. Heck, maybe the ending of this Reader Roundtable entry won’t be what you expected.
The first level is, of course, no secret to anybody. Green Hill Zone defines the Sonic series with it’s smooth level design and few obstacles to slow the player down with. It emphasized the concept of speed in a platformer, which was Sonic The Hedgehog’s main marketing gimmick. There’s usually at least two or three different routes to go through the act as well. How could anybody not like this zone? Well, other than the boss of GH Zone, which in my opinion is pretty lame, this zone is great.

But then, right out of nowhere, comes Marble Zone. If there was ever such a thing as a pacing killer, this should be the dictionary example. How did we suddenly go from the easy going and speedy Green Hill Zone to the slower-than-molasses Marble Zone? Shouldn’t this zone have been closer to the end? Or in the middle somewhere? *sigh…* Whatever the case, this zone usually kills whatever enthusiasm I had in playing Sonic 1. It’s extremely slow, there’s quite a bit of dumb stuff that can kill you and again, going through all three acts will feel like an eternity. It will make you beg for only two acts per zone, which is the formula for every other main Sonic game. Simply put, this stage is awful. It’s no wonder the common person or the gaming media never mentions anything after Green Hill Zone when discussing Sonic 1.

Next up is Spring Yard Zone. One would think, anything has got to be better than Marble Zone, right? Well, right. This stage may not be as good as GH Zone, but it certainly beats Marble Zone. I think this should have been zone two, instead of having to make up for putting the player through Marble Zone. Overall, Spring Yard Zone is pretty good. Decent pacing, the difficulty is okay and it doesn’t seem to take forever. The spiked balls can be a bit annoying at times but they are easy to figure out. Perhaps the only problem here are the vertical moving squares. If you try to jump between two of them you can get squished. Pretty lame…

The following zone is Labyrinth Zone. Everyone tells me this one is notorious for turning new players off completely, but strangely I liked it. Probably from all the water Zones I’ve played in the following Sonic games, especially Tidal Tempest from Sonic CD. Compared to the others, Labyrinth is pretty decent. Quite manageable, goes at a reasonable pace and doesn’t try to do annoy too much, other than Dr. Robotnik’s boss fight.

While I would be talking about Star Light Zone right about now, my Genesis went nuts here so I had to shut it off, so I didn’t get much time to see this stage. The music was strangely familiar, like I’ve heard it in a later Sonic game… Oh yeah, on another subject most of the Dr. Robotnik fights I played through were unusually disappointing. I think the encounters with Bowser in SMB1 were better designed than in Sonic 1. Lastly, the special stages were… okay. They were about as annoying as the ones in Sonic 2. Nothing tops Sonic CD or Sonic 3 & K’s special stages.

Overall, Sonic 1 really isn’t as bad as I initially deemed, but I still don’t think it deserves the miles of accolades it typically gets. The following Sonic games were quite a bit better. Heck, even Sonic 1 on SMS/GG is a bit better than the one on Genesis overall (not just from a graphical perspective). People are free to praise Sonic 1 up and down as the best of the Sonics, but they aren’t going to convince me anytime soon…


Space Turtle Battleship By: Carl-Johan Brax

Uzu Keobukseon, a.k.a. Space Turtle Battleship, is a Korean exclusive STG very similar to Toaplan’s Fire Shark and Truxton. In fact, I think they bought the rights to the engine of said games when making this one. It’s scrolling vertically, with a status bar on the right side of the screen. Your ship has bombs, the power-ups bounce around and even exploded wreckages of enemy ships remind me of the Toaplan games. One different thing is the fact that you can see how much HP the bosses have. Cool! A more advanced feature is that you can upgrade your ship to a different one with two new weapons.
This is a nice concept, but the problem is that if you ever get hit twice and go back to the first ship level later in the game, it becomes really hard. And if you die, it’s pretty much impossible to continue as your weapons are too weak and your ship very slow. This makes extra lives nearly worthless, which to me gives the difficulty a poor balancing.

Uzu Keobukseon looks and sounds a bit basic to be a 16-bit game, but is still too good to be an 8-bit game. This explains the fact that it is a port from the famous 12-bit systems that came after the Entertainment and Master Systems, but before the Mega Drive and the “Super” N******o. They are known as the Neck TurboCPU-12 and the SNK Geo and were only released in obscure parts of Eurasia.

The Mega Drive version is ultr@ r@re and quite expensive, but not worth your time and money unless you are a diehard collector like me. It’s a nice piece to have in your collection though, and I would like to thank molotovwars at our forums for helping me get this game.


Virtua Racing By: Frank Villone

When Virtua Racing hit the arcades and pizza parlors of the early ’90s, I was not very interested. Sure, the graphics were three-dimensional, but it was all just arrangements of simple polygons! It was such games that led me to dislike early 3D polygon-based games in general. I played the arcade V.R. just a little back then, and I could see the resemblance to real-life driving. Still, the graphics were simplistic and boring, the car was hard to control, and each individual game was short, so that your quarters vanished at a frightening speed!

When Virtua Racing came out for the Genesis, I could not have cared less! Then I saw it at a friend’s house and was horrified at how much more simplified the graphics had become! Fire it up and it is hard to believe that those polygon blobs are supposed to be people replacing your tires before the race! The steering wheel and tires are extremely pointy and angular, and their lack of roundness is just painful. I have had the Genesis cartridge for years, but never bothered to give it a real shot until recently, I decided to get used to the controls, and see how it was meant to be played. As I did so, I was surprised to find that the game grew on me!

The car controls decently once you get used to it, and the game is much more fun when you are not always watching the terrible crash sequences (which were lame even in the arcade, at the time). Eventually I found the Expert track to be the most enjoyable (for its road lay-out, scenery, and music), so it is worth building your skill at least until you can comfortably cruise through each track. I had initially thought that two of the four viewpoints made it nearly impossible to see anything, as they were too close to the ground, but with enough familiarity, each of them really does work! With time, V.R. does become a fun way to burn off about five minutes at 328 KM/h!

I have also always had the impression that the title Virtua Racing was in part exploiting the early ’90s hype for virtual reality, which was often abbreviated as V.R. The world was dying for virtual reality to come of age, and become the next big thing that changed life as we knew it! Unfortunately that never really happened, while games like Virtua Racing (and Virtua Fighter) seemed to exploit that hype, as they instead rushed in a new world of ugly, simple polygons.

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