With the new site design up and running, it’s time to get back to doing what we do best: play video games! Our Reader Roundtable feature returns after a two-month hiatus, and we’ve got some great titles to share with all of you. Read on and see what our staff and readers have been playing in July.
Thunder Force II by: Ken Horowitz
I’m a big fan of this series, but I must say that this is my least favorite installment of the series. The overhead stages are very confusing sometimes, and they scroll so fast that you often aren’t aware of a wall or obstacle until you crash into it. They slow down the flow of the game so much, and that’s unfortunate, since the side-scrolling levels are excellent. The action gets really frantic and there are some large bosses that are challenging. However, once you get into any sort of groove, the game throws you back into the overhead stages, and all momentum is lost. I think I’ll stick with the two sequels for my Genesis Thunder Force action, thanks.
Road Rash 3 By: Sebastian Sponsel
Yeah, I’ve talked about this game only a few months back, but what can I say? It’s an old favorite of mine. Anyways: The great thing about video games is that you can accomplish things that you could never do in real life. Or, in some cases, never should. Prime example: Road Rash 3. Now, racing through the countryside on a motorbike isn’t that hard to accomplish – in fact it’s a favorite hobby of mine. Whacking another motorcyclist over the head going 160 miles per hour and kicking him in front of an oncoming car, on the other hand… well, the results wouldn’t be very pretty, to say the least.
Nevertheless, this is what sets the Road Rash series apart: To win the game you don’t have to rely solely on your driving skills. Instead, you have to literally battle your way to the finish line; using clubs, chains, nunchucks, cattleprods, or simply your fists and legs. Personally, I prefer the last. One swift kick at the right moment, and you have one less opponent to worry about. Yeah, the game brings out a more sadistic side in me, but if you give your all and manage to finish on top on a inferior bike, that is immensely satisfying. Also, there aren’t that many games where you can mace a cop and make a run for it. Overall, a very fun game.
Shining Force By: Frank Ramirez
I’ve never really been a fan of strategy RPGs. Traditional RPGs are usually the way I go. My idea of a good strategy would be something along the lines of “Use buffs! Raise everyone’s speed and defense! Raise the fighter’s attack power!” While watching a friend play Shining Force on his phone, it just boggled my mind a bit how good he was at positioning his characters, taking advantage of terrain, and whatnot.
Why don’t I give Shining Force a shot myself? Gotta love Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. So I did just that. I lost four characters on the very first battle. I was HORRIBLE at this game. Months passed, and I didn’t touch the game. I just figured strategy RPGs just weren’t my thing. Then my friend who had the game on his phone came by, and offered to give me a hand. I decided to start over, and he gave me pointers here and there. Next thing you know, I finished the battle with NO casualties! I guess it takes making progress in a game that’s tough for you to fully enjoy it. Right now I’m somewhere in Chapter three. There had been tough battles, but I persevered!
My opinion of this game is quite good. The graphics are nice and bright, nice art for the portraits and battle scenes, and the music is pretty cool too. I like the little vignettes between chapters, as a young girl reads to me what’s going on, like she’s reading out of a storybook. The game can be tough, but not maddeningly so. It’s a good introductory strategy RPG for those of us who aren’t tactically minded.
I can’t wait to finish this and start Shining Force II.
Rocket Knight Adventures By: Eduardo Villanueva
In my life I’ve been in constant exposure to several classic titles. Some of them are quite obscure and Rocket Knight Adventures is one of them. I have played Genesis games since 1997, when I had my first Genesis. I was three years-old by then. My Genesis came along several Games and an issue of the Spanish magazine “Mega Force.” The issue in question was from September 1993 and contained several reviews and previews. One of the previewed games was Rocket Knight Adventures. At first glimpse it didn’t look as an appealing game, but rather a poor one. It might be because of the photos used in the article.
Time went on until 2009. It was the first time I would be able to play the game in an emulator. The controls seemed too difficult to me, as did the game. It became quite clear to me it definitely wasn’t a worthy game. I stopped playing it even before finishing the first screen.
And time passed, until April 2011.
It was vacation time. Having my Genesis I would be able to play at least 12 hours per day. The other eight would be used in computer and one in the gym. I started asking for good games. After watching several YouTube videos and asking my friend Guntz, I decided to finally buy the cartridge. When it arrived I put it in my Genesis. On the first few tries I failed in such a weird way that I was about to throw away the game. But then I started to improve, and in few days I had beaten the game.
After thinking well and having experienced the game I could notice I was wrong. The game has absolutely superb graphics effects, which pull the VDP to the limit. The music is very good, having quite a decent range of tunes and styles. All of them pushing the YM2612 to a state-of-art range. Controls might look hard, but if you get used to them, they become easy. And also the character, Sparkster the Possum, is really cool.
All this mixture makes this game a complete success. It has been renowned as one of the best Genesis games in the entire game library. In my opinion, Rocket Knight Adventures is a perfect game. And I definitely say it’s a must-have.
Star Odyssey By: Greg Jurkiewicz
This month, like many other happy Sega gamers I’ve been playing SFT’s latest offering, Star Odyssey. I must say that I’ve been enjoying the game quite a bit. The storyline is surprisingly deep and involving. I’m not sure if credit should go to SFT for beefing it up during their translation process or if it was this good originally. Either way – well done to everyone involved! The translated script is very well written and makes the game seem a lot more like a novel than a video game.
The graphics on the other hand are mostly low-end, you can be cute about it and say something like “they’re charmingly simple” but I’ll cut to the chase here: the majority of the game looks like a Master System release. The exception to this is the fight sequences which look pretty damn good, featuring nice animated backgrounds, HUGE sprites and some pretty cool effects for the magic. It feels like when this game was originally programmed 20 years ago they had two completely different teams working on the battle sequence graphics and the environments outside of combat. Honestly, though the simple graphics don’t bother me, they actually remind me a lot of the first Phantasy Star so it’s all good. The musical compositions are also really nice, albeit few in number. They certainly are catchy, and I find myself humming or whistling along as I play the game. More variety would’ve been nice, but the quality over quantity route isn’t bad. I’d rather have one really good tune playing over and over instead of six terrible ones that make turn off the volume, and early Sega games have seen their share of bad music, so I’m sure glad that Star Odyssey doesn’t fall on that list.
Overall I’m really glad I picked this game up. Thus far it is my favourite Super Fighter Team release and I’m really enjoying this trend of them putting out increasingly better games. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Rocket Knight Adventures By: Aaron Wilcott
Out of all my Genesis games, there’s one in particular I’ve had a love / hate relationship with. It’s one that would surprise most readers of this fine article as it is not known to be a bad game among common Genesis owners and enthusiasts. The game in question, is Rocket Knight Adventures.
From what I’ve heard of this game, it’s a little spoken of gem in the Genesis library, often getting trampled over by the likes of Gunstar Heroes and Phantasy Star IV and in recent time, imports like Alien Soldier and Mega Man: The Wily Wars have taken the popularity spotlight around Sega-16 and surrounding online communities. Some time ago, Rocket Knight Adventures enjoyed a nice share of attention, but not so anymore.
But enough about the game’s public image, the Reader Roundtable is supposed to be somewhat personal. Rocket Knight Adventures does indeed deserve some of it’s praise, but not all of it from my point of view. Let’s start with the game’s virtues.
To put it simply, Rocket Knight Adventures is thankfully, not a throwaway platformer like what infected the video game industry during the early ’90s. It had a good premise that was interesting enough to hold your attention, the graphics were astounding, the sound was an excellent example of Genesis music done right and there were lots of innovative features thrown in for good measure, like the rocket pack, side scrolling shooter sections, multiple boss fights during each stage and other little one-time events.
However, I have some dislikes with Rocket Knight Adventures. Dislikes that are almost never spoken of, which for the longest absolutely astounded me. First of all, I feel the jet pack was VERY poorly implemented. It offers zero control in any way, even after the rocket power wears off and gravity takes over. All you can do is charge it up, push the D-Pad in a direction and hope Sparkster doesn’t hurt himself on an enemy or harmful object or worse, falling into a pit or into an instant death object like lava. Another problem which focuses on a similar subject to the jet pack, is the physics of the game. The best word to describe it is “unpolished.” When hanging from tree branches or other related objects or just simple platforming, I find the force of gravity makes Sparkster move WAY too fast at times. Not even Sonic behaves this unpolished, who is all about speed.
But, in recent time, I’ve come to appreciate the things Rocket Knight Adventures gets right instead of what it does wrong. I like the game so much, I took it upon myself to make a Sega-16 forum banner featuring Sparkster which was added to the collection (many thanks to The Coop for cleaning the banner up). It was kind of disheartening to see such an unappreciated game go without a banner at the very least, while literally every other game on the Genesis was getting one.
On one last note, I encourage all of you reading this to go and find a copy of Rocket Knight Adventures and momentarily forget about your fancy Gleylancers and Bare Knuckle 3s. RKA is barely worth anything, even when it comes with the box and manual. Trust me, you’ll end up loving this game, it grows on you…
Splatterhouse 3 By: Adam Holt
I recently picked up a lot of about a dozen loose games on ebay for a steal. Included in the lot was Namco’s gorefest Splatterhouse 3. Having played the first two games, I came away very impressed by all of the additions Namco made in S3 to enhance the gameplay. First, the level design does not follow the side scrolling beat ‘em up standard, instead levels are set up in a non-linear pattern. You can explore in any direction you choose, be it up, down, left or right. And you are rewarded for exploration as weapons and extra lives are often hidden in rooms that are off of the beaten path. Second, S3 features different weapons which add some variety to the gameplay, but more importantly, there is now a power meter. Once the meter is full, Rick can be transformed into a large, grotesque version of himself, capable of executing a special attack. I found that the boss battles were much easier when I was able to power up for them. A third significant addition to S3 is the level timer, which adds replay value to the game. If the timer runs out before the level is completed, something bad will happen and the plot changes. So, there are a number of different ways that the game can play out. Splatterhouse 3 surpasses its predecessors in every conceivable way. It is an excellent game that takes the beat ‘em up formula and adds a deeper dimension to it, resulting in an engrossing experience for the gamer. I highly recommend it.
Virtua Fighter 32X By: Frank Villone
Lately my room has been filled with two women and six men, punching, kicking, and shouting strange jargon. They jump and float as if they were on the moon, and their muscles seem to be built of chunky polygons. Of course, I could only be talking about one thing: Virtua Fighter for the 32X! Recently the mail brought the last thing needed to complete my 32X set-up: a mixing cable to connect it to my early Model 1 Genesis. Finally the blast-processing can be harnessed for 32-bit graphics! Diving into the small pile of 32X games I have collected so far, the best of the pile is Virtua Fighter!
Characters are fully three-dimensional, with the controls of a classic 2D fighter. Aside from the moon-jumps (which actually work well for moving around the stages, with some practice), moves are fast, realistic, and simplistic: Punches, kicks, and the occasional kick-flip or chest-stomp. No fireballs or projectiles, as this is based on real-life one-on-one fighting! The challenge grows steeper as the opponents go by. When I finally beat Dural, the metallic boss of the game, my left thumb was screaming in pain, with a huge blister from the furious action on the D-pad. Virtua Fighter will leave you hurting!