Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 67

Enjoying the last bit of summer fun before the new semester begins, or are you just sad to see that Fall is right around the corner? Then do like we do, and just stay inside! Who needs sunshine and fresh air when there are so many games to play?

X-Men 2: Clone Wars By Ken Horowitz

I’ve always been a big fan of Marvel’s band of merry mutants (until the mid ’90s when there were like, a billion different X books), and I was eager to finally sink my teeth into a decent X-Men game. The original Genesis title was pretty stale, and Capcom’s Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES was nowhere near as good as many people make it out to be. Given that this was the only other game in the franchise available, I was pretty much without options, and despite the fact that I had played Clone Wars when it came out, I had never gotten too far into it. Thankfully, it’s as good as I remember. Great level design, awesome graphics, solid gameplay – it’s all here! This is one action title worth playing, especially since it can be had for so little money. Now someone needs to finish that 32X X-Men game (32X-Men?)! Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Crossroads of Time By: Alex Burr

With the recent addition of the Star Trek library to Netflix Instant Stream, being able to view all of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager episodes that I either missed or couldn’t afford on DVD. It then reminded me that I did write a review for the game Star Trek DS9: Crossroads of Time, which I assume will be linked on our beautiful new site soon. I finally pulled out that game and tried to run through it. If you are familiar with the series at all, one of the first things you will notice is that it plays almost exactly like an early season episode of the TV series. Except that this game is a lot easier than the Next Generation effort, whoa was that game insanely difficult! This one was made by Playmates, of the action figure fame, so I kept feeling like making references to playing with toys as I played through this game. They try to add seriousness to the plot by putting Federation ships in danger, but as the old adage goes: the good guys have to come back for the next episode! Anyways, this game isn’t BAD and is a fun and odd little platformer that got little attention then and gets no attention now.


Monster World IV By: Tom Briggs

I’m amazed when I stumble across a great game that came out over a decade and a half ago. I always wonder how I could have missed something so wonderful in the first place. This month, I’ve finally gotten around to playing Monster World IV for the Genesis. Now, this time I have a valid excuse: the game never saw a western release. But honestly, I had never paid any attention to the series the game was a part of. No Wonder Boy for me.

The reason I finally gave the game a chance was merely thanks to a renewed interest in 16-bit games that didn’t make it to the US. The reproduction scene and its legal ambiguity interest the hell out of me. Obviously a great amount of work goes into translating a game and making it available on US carts, so these games have to be worthwhile, right? While that’s probably not true for every game on the scene, based on Sega-16’s Monster World IV review, I knew that it specifically was a special game, and I figured I’d give it a try.

Wow, had I been missing out! Monster World IV is everything that a great side-scroller should be. It looks great, controls smoothly, has a lengthy quest, and is contained in an amusing and memorable universe. I don’t know what I was quite expecting based on the review, but my expectations have been exceeded, blown away in fact. The game is often described as an action-RPG, but the real substance of the game is platforming. As a platformer, the game is excellent. Asha controls as tightly as any top mascot before her (hey Mario, how ya doing?) and using your Pepelogo to double jump is an amazing gameplay mechanic.

Speaking of your Pepelogo, the different ways you use him in situations are fantastic. Double jumping, extinguishing fires, shielding yourself from falling objects, and interacting with the environment are all parts of your helper’s daily life. Because of your Pepelogo, merely walking around and exploring your environments (which are oh-so-beautiful) is a ton of fun. The best parts of the game though, are the primary dungeons in which Asha has to explore and defeat a major boss from. These labyrinths are expertly designed and challenging, yet I never became too frustrated when I failed at something. That, my friends, is the mark of a truly great game – when you’re challenged yet not frustrated.

So there you have it, my gushing praise for Monster World IV. It’s an amazing game that has helped rekindle my interest in the Genesis (it’s been a while since I was a part of these roundtables). Everyone owes it to themselves to give the game a go. With so many way to play the game, there’s no excuse to keep putting it off.


Ultimate Soccer By: Sebastian Sponsel

Welcome to Phantar’s monthly video game awards. Today we’re going to present the title of “most annoyingly aggressive AI in a sports game,” created specifically for a game that managed to irritate the heck out of me due to said behavior over the past few weeks: Ultimate Soccer.

Now, it is understandable that in a soccer game, when the pressure is high and the defense gets desperate, that an opposite player advancing to the goal can only be stopped by one last resort: The dreaded tackle from behind. It’s one of the most unsporting fouls in soccer, and usually ends up in the committing player being penalized or even sent off. Why do I mention this? Because this behavior seems to be hardwired into this game’s AI! In one particularly dreadful example I set up an exhibition match between England (my team) and Germany (the computer), both tams pretty much on the same level of overall strength. Within a few seconds after the kickoff, I had managed to outdribble my opponent and score the first goal on the game. Upon this, the AI of the game broke with an almost audible “snap” and set its strategy to “aggressive defense” – where “aggressive” can be substituted with “insane” and “defense” with “tackle the shit out of the opponent”! It didn’t take a minute until the opposing team already received two red cards. Instead of taking care of not losing any more players and thus weakening its own team even further, the computer apparently grew more aggressive in its fouls the weaker the team got. Over the course of the game team Germany ended up receiving four red and seven yellow cards – over a span of just two minutes! This has got to be some kind of record!

Maybe you’re asking yourself: Did the strategy pay off? Well, apart from bringing the game to a grinding halt every couple of seconds (there were way more free kicks awarded than warnings handed out), there was one thing: after every member of my team had been fouled what felt like at least twice (and the midfield at least double that amount), about three and a half minutes into the game one of my forwards got injured! All it took for the computer was to get four players sent off in order to injure one of mine. There’s got to be a lesson in economics in there somewhere. Other than that, England managed to win the game rather comfortably 3-1.

Credit where it’s due, though: I can’t remember when a soccer game last managed to have me at the edge of my seat, yelling and cursing at the screen in frustration over the opposing team. So at least Ultimate Soccer managed to capture the authentic atmosphere of a real soccer game in that regard.


Ms. Pac-Man By: Christian Matozzo

Recently I’ve been on a big ’80s arcade game kick, I love the skill and challenge involved in breaking high scores and advancing as far as possible. Ms. Pac-Man is one particular game I’ve had an odd addiction to lately, and it’s spread into my home gaming time, as I can’t really find many Ms. Pac-Man machines I can play frequently near my home as there are few arcades. But the problem is almost all of the Ms. Pac-Man ports are nerfed, the gameplay is slow as molasses and just not fun, nothing like the high-speed chases of the arcade original! Well the only port that gives you some speed options is the Genesis one, so I popped that in the other day, and I still got a “Meh” feeling from this port as well.

While you can crank up the speeds in Tengen’s port of Ms. Pac-Man for the NES with the speed booster option turns on, your degree of speed also depends on the difficulty level as well. And unlike the arcade, the ghosts now travel as fast as Ms Pac-Man does. So you still can’t get the full arcade experience that you want because the gameplay is slightly changed. Also the updated graphics are pretty mediocre, especially with that annoying graphic of Ms. Pac-Man’s hair always being blown out of proportion.

But really NAMCO, I just want an arcade-perfect port of Ms. Pac-Man. It’s been on every system from the 7800 until the present date, how come I can’t get one? Now if someone can just steer me in the way of the nearest Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet…


Quackshot Starring Donald Duck By: Aaron Wilcott

When it comes to one’s favorite console, while finding new games to play can be fun, sometimes the most comfort and enjoyment comes from games you’ve already played to death, For me, Quackshot was just what the doctor ordered. I don’t know what it is about this game, but I can play it over and over again, every few months or so and it never gets tiresome. Maybe others feel the same way, or it could just be me. The never ending chase for a nostalgia high can do that to a guy if you’re not careful.

Even if I can’t really explain why, I can always just rattle off examples of how the game keeps me coming back. The graphics are really good for the time it was developed, the music has a distinctly classic Genesis feel to it, almost embodying the spirit of what made the Genesis so great, even in the face of the Nintendo empire, the decidedly Indiana Jones-style adventure, the simplicity and open-endedness of the game’s level structure, and puzzles and above all, the sheer magic of how it all works together so perfectly. The only thing that would make Quackshot better is if I had the box and manual for it.


Star Odyssey By: The Coop

Back in the early 1990s, I can remember seeing a few advertisements from a game maker/publisher called Sage’s Creation. They brought us the pretty good Insector-X with redone sprites, the so-so Crackdown and Devilish, and the horrid Ka-Ge-Ki and Shadow Blasters. Not exactly an awe-inspiring lineup, but there was one game of theirs that I was really curious about, if only because A) it was an RPG, and B) it soon vanished off the face of the Earth. That game, was Star Odyssey.

Not much was known about the game outside of it being an RPG set in space. There was little in the way of previews, and the advertisements didn’t exactly help much with their minimal bits of text. But being someone who had begun enjoying RPGs by that time, it was something I was watching for. Fast forward some 20 years, and what do we have? Star Odyssey finally released, two decades after the advertisements heralded its coming. So was the game worth the wait?

Well, yes and no. It’s great to finally own it, and to have gotten to sit down and play it. But despite that it’s pretty good, it’s not without its problems. The graphics are done well overall for 1991, the music is so-so much of the time, the “Force” (aka magic) setup is fun to play with, the story isn’t bad, having enemies that attack from the front and from behind is a nice touch, and the assortment of characters is pretty diverse. However, for an RPG, it’s also quite short (under 20 hours total, with grinding… but I beat it in about 14), and the random encounter rate is enough to make you want to punch babies while screaming, “JUST LET WALK, DAMMIT!”. There are also moments where the game isn’t very forthcoming about where to go next, with a spot or two where what you had to do to get farther into the game was pretty obscure. Add in that the backtracking between areas was made tedious at times thanks to the high encounter rate, and it’s a game with some issues. So while it’s a welcome entry in the Genesis library, it’s not a game that’s going to give the Genesis RPG greats like Phantasy Star IV and Shining in the Darkness a run for their money.


Tiny Toon Adventures 3 By: Greg Jurkiewicz

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of weird unlicensed/pirate games for the Genesis/MD mainly thanks to Az who has been tracking down these obscure pirate carts and dumping the ROMS. Most of them are absolutely terrible and only vaguely interesting as a curios and oddities. However sometimes you hit on a good one where the pirate programmers obviously put some thought, time and effort into making a game that is actually fun to play. Tiny Toon Adventures 3 is one of those. It’s a colourful little game made by Gamtec (the same guys that brought us Squirrel King and the original Legend of Wukong) that has absolutely nothing to do with Tiny Toons other than the title. The game has you take control of Clever Rabbit (a purple cartoon rabbit that vaguely resembles Buster Bunny) and take on a slew of corrupted cartoon animals that are being controlled by The Prince of Darkness (actually a leatherclad lion that looks like he should be in a punk band). Sounds silly? Well it is, but it’s still fun.

Unlike most pirate games, this one actually plays pretty well. The graphics are nice and colourful, and the gameplay mechanics are simple but well implemented. It’s your standard fare of move from left to right and kill enemies by jumping on them – a simple formula, but one that has proven successful countless times when implemented correctly. There is also a run button that is mostly useless until the final boss. The levels are very colourful and pleasant to look at, though the odd and somewhat neat thing is their design. Many of the tiles used are all original creations but they are made to seem like they belong in Super Mario World. The pirates who created these obviously put a lot of time and effort into capturing the aesthetic of the SNES classic. It’s a little odd to see at first, but it definitely makes for an interesting aesthetic experience. The enemy sprites are likewise nicely detailed and again like some of the backgrounds and tiles are made to resemble SMB enemies without actually ripping their sprites. This less blatant form of piracy that actually requires some creative thought is interesting to observe.

Overall, the game is pretty fun to play, although it is on the easier side of side-scrollers (unlike Squirrel King, which becomes fantastically difficult in the later levels). It doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking or original in terms of gameplay, but as far as simple sidescrollers go it does simplicity right. I’m definitely glad that I had the opportunity to play this hidden gem of unlicensed gaming.


Sonic The Hedgehog By: Eduardo Villanueva

This past June our favourite hedgehog turned 20, and although there was a lot of celebration, nothing matches what the first game was to me. This game has been involved in many situations in my life. Compared to later installments, Sonic 1 might look simplistic, but it is still colourful and fast. That was the reason it was the most played game by me back in 1997. I was three years-old then. I remember entire afternoons spent on this game, and if I recall correctly I was good enough to reach Star Light Zone.

Sonic 1 was also witness to how my dad spilled alcohol inside the Genesis by accident. Unfortunately, the Genesis was on, and it slowly died over the next three months. When I finally knew that emulators existed, this game became my most played one. And when I got my first working Genesis in a long time last year, this was the first title that I played. Overall, it´s for me such an important game that it has become one of the main reasons why even though I have a lot of consoles, the Genesis remains supreme. If you want to get some good fun, please get Sonic 1. You will never regret it, and hopefully, you´ll recommend it to others.


Cosmic Carnage By: Frank Villone

If one has read much about Cosmic Carnage ahead of time, one will probably expect a bad game, as I did. But this title surprised me, like a giant pixelated kick in the face. I found it to be a great 2D fighter, especially when using the simple code to play the original version (Cyber Brawl), with a better scrolling story: “A horrible disaster occurred in the world of darkness and dead silence.” Two ships randomly warped to the same spot in space, destroying each other, and their wreckage is now drifting along. Only one escape pod is still intact, so – you guessed it – there is a fight to the death, for that ticket to ride!

Cyber Brawl pits four humans of one ship, against four alien creatures of the other, whereas Carnage has the men slightly updated to look like aliens themselves, for a full set of eight aliens – though I cannot imagine who would find this preferable to the original roster of men versus aliens. The fighters show off the colors of the 32x, with each selectable armor piece bringing a new colorful outfit. The whole screen zooms in and out like the classic Neo Geo arcade fighters, and many moves show a unique scaling effect. When passing closer to the screen, hands and feet appear huge, with blocky pixels, seen especially in spinning attacks. Most matches end in a fatality, provided a special move is used as the final blow. An epic soundtrack completes the experience. Pick up Cosmic Carnage to see your 32x do its best impersonation of a Neo Geo!

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