Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 68

Say goodbye to summer! As the weather changes and cools off, we have fewer reasons to go outside and more excuses to stay inside and play games! Our staff and readers have been sending off the days of sunshine and heat with some serious Sega gaming, and as always, we have their experiences here for you!


Disney’s Aladdin By Ken Horowitz

I’ve always been a fan of this title, from when I first bought it upon release. The incredible animation, visuals and the great soundtrack really captured the feel of the film. Virgin showed everyone how to do a licensed game right, walking that fine line between faithfulness to the source material and an experience that felt fresh and engaging. Though it never strays too far from the movie, Aladdin manages to bring enough newness to the table to keep players wanting to see what’s next. It’s  a shame that so few developers have managed to emulate that formula, and though licensed games overall have improved considerably over the years, there is still always room for improvement. The fact that someone made such a clear showing of how to do so almost 20 years ago is a testament to the talent of the developers.


Spellcaster (Master System) By The Coop

Sometimes you learn little things about games, and you wind up doing some backtracking to find out just what it was you missed. I didn’t own a Master System until a couple of years after I’d gotten my Genesis. A bit backward, yes, but that’s how it happened. Early on in my Genesis’ life, I’d picked up a game called Mystic Defender. It was a simple, somewhat short, yet entertaining little action game with some weird enemies, nice tunes, and an odd weapon set up. I played it to the end, and remember thinking, Uh, is that woman nude? when I beat the final boss. But while I went back to it regularly for a while, it eventually got put it on the shelf and forgotten about for months at a time.

About a year or so afterward, I remember reading an article somewhere about the game, and it listed its original Japanese name, Kujaku Ō 2: Gen’eijō. That got me thinking, 2? What was part one? That answer required a bit of odd of luck to come about, but when it did, I read elsewhere that the first game was called Spellcaster (Kujaku Ō) for the Master System… a system I’d just gotten by that time. Toys ‘R’ Us still sold Master System games at that point, so I made it my mission to find this game the next time I went. And sure enough, on a trip to the local T’R’U store, there it was… and on sale to boot. I bought it, brought it home, and sat down to play.

Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a lot of dialogue and such, making the game look more like an RPG at first. I wasn’t turned off by it, but it caught me a little off guard since I’d first played the action/platformer that was its sequel. It wasn’t long before I hit an action scene in Spellcaster, and quickly learned that Mystic Defender focused on the action, leaving out the RPG elements. It didn’t take long for the back and forthing between RPG and action sections to settle in, and I found myself enjoying the game as I made my way through to the end.

Years later, I learned both games were based on a Manga of the same name by Makoto Ogino. I’ve never bothered to read it, as I just wasn’t that interested, even in this age of older mangas being scanned and hosted online. But all that aside, I do have to admit that I enjoyed Spellcaster more. It was a longer game, and the gameplay made it both tougher, and more interesting to play through (even with the infuriating pyramid and its hidden entrance). Do a little talking and exploring, go kill some bad guys with your fireballs… fun stuff. So in the end, it’s a shame Mystic Defender didn’t continue the gameplay style of its predecessor. I would have loved to have seen a 16-bit follow up to the original.


X-Men 2: Clone Wars By Greg Jurkiewicz

X-Men 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, for any system, and is possibly my favourite X-Men game ever (it’s too close to call between this one and X-Men Legends on PS2). In any case, I’ve spent so much time playing this game over the years that I’ve practically got it down to a science, and it’s one of those games that I can just turn on for some casual play-time when I don’t want to commit to an extend gaming session. X-Men 2 has always been there for me to keep me entertained.

Recently though I’ve been putting in some more serious gaming time into my collection of X titles in eager anticipation of the release of X-Men Destiny. I thought it would be interesting to play through X-Men 2 and use characters that are least optimized for each level – like Beast in the free-fall level, or Beast in the Apocalypse temple level, or Beast in the Savage Land… ok, well, Beast in just about any level. Despite his impressive attack damage, poor Hank just isn’t the best character in that game, it’s not that he sucks, it’s just that every other character seems to have some advantage over him that makes them a more attractive play choice for most levels. Anyway, I managed to beat the whole game using just Beast, which was kinda cool because I really didn’t think it could be done, but in addition to the blatant bragging rights, I also got to experience some game music that I’d never heard before. In many levels the music is different depending on what character you’re using, since I never really bothered playing as Beast it was pretty cool to hear some of the tunes that I’d been missing since 1995.

Now the moment of truth is almost at hand. I’m eager to see how X-Men 2 will stack up against the latest X-Men game. Will it finally be deposed as the best X title of all time? Or will it continue to reign supreme… A part of me hopes that the new game is going to kick so much ass that it’ll set the new standard, but another part of sneakily hopes that nothing ever beats out the Sega classic.


Super Hydlide By Zebbe

Super Hydlide for the Sega Mega Drive. Actually a port of Hydlide 3 for the MSX and Famicom. The series is extremely legendary. It preceded the Legend of Zelda series and is groundbreaking with its very realistic gameplay and numerous innovative ideas.

For starters, there is a time system. As time goes, you have to eat at least twice a day and also sleep at night, just like in real life. If you don’t you lose health and become weaker. This can be annoying, but mostly it feels refreshing to battle against the clock because it challenges the time optimist in me. Another thing very original for its time is the weight system. Everything you buy has a set weight, and if you carry too much your character will be slower. No feeling safe with 99 potions here, fella! A minor but still interesting feature is the inclusion of “good monsters,” which you should not kill because it decreases your morality factor. A morality factor that is too low will cause traps to appear in your journey, and a high factor may give you some treasure here and there. Nothing big and groundbreaking, but certainly welcome to me.

Compared to other games, such as Final Fantasy XIII, Super Hydlide doesn’t have the fanciest graphics although the sprite changes every time you change your equipment. But then again, Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t even a time system, weight system or good monsters, and not even towns! All you do there is walk in a long corridor, which is boring. Super Hydlide has very varied dungeons and gameplay, so it is better.

The title is a mistake actually, as it was meant to be called “Mega Hydlide“, but that title was given to the SNES port in the biggest form of irony. Mega Hydlide is nearly the same as the Super version on the black box. However, the fastest speed setting with no weight is equal in speed to the slowest speed setting with max weight in Super Hydlide and the sound is naturally a bit muffled. Oh yeah, there are some animation frames cut too.

It’s Super Hydlide for the Sega Mega Drive. Probably the most underrated action-RPG I’ve ever played.


World of Illusion By Aaron Wilcott

Last month’s entry of Quackshot reminded me of another Disney platformer I also enjoyed playing on my Genesis, World of Illusion starring Mickey and Donald. Most people side with Castle of Illusion being the better game. Alas, I have yet to play it, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the later entry in the series. Among the great visuals, sounds and game design, perhaps the best part of the game is its two-player cooperative mode. It’s not just fun, it also doesn’t feel tacked on either! The game has different level arrangement and exclusives depending on which character combo you play the game with, either Mickey and Donald, or one of them alone. Perhaps it’s only problem is some of the cooperative levels have obstacles to overcome, which have no indication of what buttons you need to press or where the characters have to be standing in order for the obstacle to be passed.

Definitely don’t pass this game up if you’re in the mood for some platforming fun. It’s sort of become a sleeper hit over the years, which seems to describe the life of the Genesis these days anyways.


 Puyo Puyo Tsu By Sebastian Sponsel

I was browsing on eBay the other day, when I found a nice little seller who offered dozens of Mega Drive Games – all Japanese versions. Though there was the odd game where my eyes almost popped out over the price (92 Euro for a CIB copy of Tom & Jerry?) there were also a few games that were quite a bargain. So after skimming the selection for a while, I settled for a couple of games that were no more than 5 Euro each – including a copy of Puyo Puyo Tsu, the sequel to that jelly bean puzzler that Western audiences know by the name of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. It was only after I placed my order that I realized that the seller was based in Japan – a fact I hadn’t noticed, since the postage fees weren’t that unusual even for a regular German seller. Post services must be dirt cheap in Japan…

Anyhoo, it took about two weeks, but eventually my package arrived, and I was particularly intrigued by the CIB copy of Puyo Puyo Tsu, as it still included all inserts of the original release: A glossy, high quality manual, a poster shilling the rare Japanese version of the 32x – there was even a coupon for a Japanese bakery that sold Puyo Puyo-style cookies, including an exclusive one shaped like Carbuncle, the mascot of the game. I wonder if those are still available…

As for the game itself… well, it’s Puyo Puyo. There’s a higher number of opponents than in the predecessor (30 instead of 12) that admittedly have a greater variety in strategy and difficulty. There are now different two player modes, including one where you have to chain up six different Puyos instead of the usual four, and some kind of speed mode where you only need to link up two, which results in a frantic, albeit almost never-ending matches. Oh, and there’s also the opportunity to counter when an opponent attacks you with a multi-chain, which adds more variety to the gameplay. Those are only slight improvements over the first games, but they are good ones. I wouldn’t recommend getting both this one and Mean Bean Machine, but if I had to choose between those two games, I would definitely go for Puyo Puyo Tsu, mostly because the final boss and main antagonist is actually called SATAN! I mean, how bad ass is that?


Metal Head By Matt McWhorter

It was way back in 1996 that I purchased my 32X for $20 and of course I needed some games for it. So when I saw all the 32X games on clearance I picked up a couple. One of those games was Metal Head. I had read reviews about this game in various magazines and figured to give it a try. The first point worth mentioning is that this was an early 3D game and as such it hasn’t aged very well. But does that render the game unplayable? I think not.

In Metal Head, you take control of a giant armored mech called, but what else, “Metal Heads.” The first level of this game is relatively easy, and it’s a blast destroying enemy mechs across the city. However, I soon realized, after the first level things start to get hectic and you will have to have some skill to make it to the next levels. Of course, I like a challenge and I pressed through and finally beat the game. Yeah, I felt accomplished after that and what did I do next? Play it on a higher difficulty.

One point worth mentioning is that the music in Metal Head is great for this genre of game. It’s fast, energetic and really gets you in the mood to destroy enemy mechs and save the world. The fast drums and the guitar riffs are all there, just like you’d expect with most shooters. Some of the best 32X tunes out there.

The visuals aren’t as great though. As I said earlier, this is an early 3D game and it shows, but considering the 32X hardware I must say that I was impressed with Metal Head’s graphics. Everything is nice and detailed plus the game runs smoothly. There is occasional pop up, but it never really bothered me as I was too focused on enemy mechs.

All in all, Metal Head is a great game for when I feel the need to pilot a giant mech and blow stuff up. Give it a chance. It just may grow on you.


 Zero Wing By Edward Figueiredo

It was a Sunday evening, and I was pretty tired from a weekend of deep studying and a 400 km drive. Before I ventured in yet another study assignment I logged into Sega-16 and saw a new thread on Zero Wing. It was inevitable;  all that talk about the game made me open my cabinet and find it to once more listen to its amazing soundtrack. I had promised myself that I would turn on the console only to enjoy the sound test, but alas! I can’t remember exactly when, but after a while I was holding that comfy six-button controller in my hands, transported back in time as the BGM for the intro poured out of my speakers at near maximum volume.

This time I thought I should play the game on HARD and so I did. My first credit ended horribly at the second boss, and I realized my mistake was that I didn’t take a speed-up icon (no speed-ups needed on NORMAL for me). New credit, new chance. Awesome BGM after awesome BGM, and I die like an idiot a few times inside the submarine tunnel. Once recovered I breeze through the game until I reach nightmarish Gerbarra, with all its feast of homing missiles and floating satellites. And then I died, I guess I was hit by one of the missiles.

As one (meaning anyone who has reached the last stage in Zero Wing) would expect, I wasn’t able to recover. The ship was too slow to allow any sort of evading maneuver from those dreaded missiles. MISSION FAILED! But man… it was totally worth it. Next time I might be able to beat it on HARD, for now I’m completely satisfied with the brief hour of pleasure this game gave me, indirectly motivated by the dear colleagues from the Sega-16 forum.

I’m often inspired by what I read, so take it from me when I say Sega-16 is the place to be if you’re a retro Sega gamer!


World of Illusion By Danny Ramirez

For my grand return to ye olde Roundtable, I forwent writing about Bare Knuckle III/Streets of Rage 3, which I had recently played through completion for the first time (perhaps next Roundtable!), and went with another game that remained unbeaten since my gaming childhood. World of Illusion the last of Sega’s trilogy of Mickey/Donald games for the Genesis, is a game that holds some fond memories for me. Like the day that my pops bought it for me back in ‘97 (after having bought me a used copy of VectorMan 2 earlier that same day….spoiled I was!) It was at a game store that I still visit to this day, and which STILL has an extremely sunfaded X-Men 2: Clone Wars poster from ‘95 hanging from one of its ceiling beams! Or the time that I lent my copy of World of Illusion to this girl in the fifth grade (only chick I’ve known who owns a Genesis), who loved the game, liked to tell me about her progress in it… and never returned it to me.

In between those two events, I had played through WoI and got stuck at one point, never returning to it and writing it off as, and I’ll quote a famous Sega-16 poet, “tosh,” compared to Mickey Mania (which I already owned). Re-visiting the game in 2011 led me to seeing World of Illusion in a new light. Not as “tosh” but as a charming game with solid visuals and gameplay, magical (no pun intended) music that invokes feelings of childhood innocence, and from what I’ve seen on YouTube videos, one of the most inventive co-op systems of any 16-bit game. I played through both Mickey and Donald’s quest, the latter definitely being more challenging, and liked the level variations between the two.

On the downside, the game’s just too kiddy for my tastes. The difficulty, aside from a couple of level sections, is easy, and the game can be finished in an hour tops. Still, it was nice to add another notch to my Genesis buckle, perhaps I should try the “prequels” next…

Trivia: Disney appeared to be strict on not allowing any references to death in its licensed games from Sega & Capcom in the early 1990s, so much that “lives” had to be switched to the softer-sounding “Tries”, as in WoI and Mickey Mania. I’m hoping it’s since gotten past that ridiculousness…


Heimdall By Frank Villone

Just as avid readers will crave a good novel at times, to escape and explore new worlds, avid Genesis fans will crave a good RPG. Searching for one that was relaxing and a bit dark, Heimdall came to mind, as it had looked promising long ago. An FMV intro sets the plot, drawing on the Norse mythology of the Vikings! Hey, why not. It is well-animated, with some depth added by the narrator’s grave tone of voice. The CD soundtrack largely creates the atmosphere throughout the game: Drums, flutes, and vague chanting enhance the battles, maps, and pause / main menu. However, normal gameplay is isometric dungeon-searching, without a sound! There can be environmental noise, like that of torches burning; Otherwise there is nothing! Some will enjoy it as a quiet, soothing gameplay experience, but others will find the silence maddening!

Floor traps are unseen, and any spot of any floor can fall into a pit! Thankfully, Heimdall allows saving at any moment, and in any area. Just reload to the last point saved, when all men should have had good health. Browse the manual for a few odd details, like why some scrolls are jumbles of symbols – because only men with enough Runelore can read them!

Real-time fights break up the dungeon-wandering, with lush music and smooth animation, but the battle system is overly simplistic. From the first-person perspective, one can either block or attack, but blocking will not help things move along. Attack enemies, and they will block or dodge, as they are only vulnerable at the moment they start attacking. Hit them just when they raise their weapons. Also, no final boss fight awaits the crew! (Not to call it anticlimactic.) The credits do offer another song full of drums and chants!


Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master By Eduardo Villanueva

Shinobi 3 is the last major installment of the Shinobi series for the Sega Genesis. It’s been several years since he defeated “Neo Zeed” and saved Naoko. Now Zeed is making a return, and using more complex methods than before, and you have to guide Joe Musashi through a lot of obstacles and mazes that will try to impede him from reaching his goal.

This game features many more scenarios than Revenge of Shinobi did. They range from a windy forest, passing through a sea level, to the scary Zeed HQ. As usual Zeed HQ has the labyrinth obstacle, that might be annoying to some and unbeatable for others. In my opinion, I find the game harder than its predecesors, but also more enjoyable. The control is very good and responsive, but it tends to be a bit slippery at times. This can be a bit frustrating in some of the more precision platforming levels.

The graphics show a real improvement. The sprites are bigger and more animated, there is much more movement onscreen and it’s more colourful. The music, although not made by Yuzo Koshiro, is very good. At times it makes much better use of the YM2612+ PSG combo than Koshiro did.

In general, Shinobi 3 is an improvement compared to Revenge of Shinobi that it invites you to play it over and over again. Fortunately, it’s common and it can be obtained easily, so don’t miss this great game. I’m sure you won’t regret buying it!

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