Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 72

What better way to begin 2012 than with another installment of Reader Roundtable? For over five years, we’ve been gathering the monthly play accounts of our staff and readers and letting them share with everyone. It’s a great way to see what we like and what games we may have missed, and this year is no different.

Arrow Flash By Ken Horowitz

It had been years since I last gave this one a whirl, and I’d forgotten its charm. I like the plentiful parallax scrolling and the colorful graphics, and though I don’t really see the need for the whole transformation dynamic, it doesn’t hurt the gameplay in any way. It’s interesting how each of the stages goes through a change, giving players two different backgrounds to gawk at (again, the parallax!), and the bosses are large and menacing. All in all, it sounds like the standard quality one would expect from an early Genesis shooter. It also has a bit of the difficulty too. There are more than a few areas with cheap deaths, like enemies zipping onto the screen and right into a kamikaze crash. Then again, it could just be me getting caught gawking at the backgrounds…

Sonic & Knuckles By Doug Jackson

I honestly haven’t been playing much Genesis games at all lately. It all started a few months ago when I gutted my game room to remodel and insulate it. It took forever to get anywhere with it and I didn’t have the time or the space to keep a spare TV hooked up to play classic games at all. I finally have most of the room done and have a makeshift setup to play some Genesis (X’Eye for me). My stuff had been packed away for so long that I couldn’t find the hookups for half of the systems I own so I was stuck playing my CD-i (I know, yawn!) since it was the only system I could find hookups for for the longest time. Once I finally had some semblance of a room I had a friend over to show him my new PC since I destroyed my old one (long story that also delayed my gaming too but I’ll save that for some other time) and when we were done screwing around with computers we decided to play some Genesis games since I finally found the power supply and AV cables for the X’Eye.

I had bought a bunch of new games but we didn’t really know what to play since it was just going to be some casual gaming night. I was busy helping my wife with a few things and my friend threw Sonic & Knuckles in to play some blue sphere stages since the regular game has gotten pretty boring for us by now. He didn’t play it for that long but I got the urge to play afterwards. I had left copies of Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle and Demolition Man on the floor and just grabbed them because they were there and HOLY CRAP does Alex Kidd create one evil blue sphere stage when plugged into S&K. I quickly gave up on it and we went on with out night. The next day I decided to try it again and it was confusing as heck and REALLY hard but I finally beat it after a ton of tries and felt really good. The next day I decided to try it with Demolition Man and that one proved to be even harder and even more confusing but persistance paid off and I finally finished it. When it was all said and done it finally gave me the urge to start playing Genesis games again and I’ve been able to get another review done quickly because of my time with S&K.

In closing has anyone of you ever tried S&K with Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle  and Demolition Man? You should give those games a try and share your thoughts on how hard those stages are. I’d be curious to hear your opinions!

Yu Yu Hashuko: Makyo Toitsusen By Sebastian Sponsel

Recently I met with three pals of mine for a dedicated day of nothing but Mega Drive gaming. So we each grabbed a controller, dusted off the old multitap, and spent a few blissfull hours with some of our favorite games. And true, games like NHL ’96, Mega Bomberman, NBA Jam T.E. or Micro Machines ’96 only unfurl their full potential when played with four players at once.

However, as always, my personal highlight of the day was when we engaged in an all-out brawl in Yu Yu Hashuko! This game is simply a gem, and even if it’s hard to come by (I got my copy over at Play Asia, when they still had it in stock), I can only recommend getting it, because it is 100% pure, undiluted awesome! The four-player vs fighting is pulled off exquisitely, be it smacking your opponent across the screen and knocking him into the other two players, avoiding projectile attacks by hopping to another plane, trying to charge up your special moves in a relatively quite moment while the other chracters are wreaking havoc all around you. Everything is pulled off smoothly, and the controls are simple enough that pretty much anyone can pick up the controller and immediately start playing. My favorite moment in every multiplayer match is when two players gang up on a third one and manage to flank him. The pinnacle of Schadenfreude occurs when some poor bastard gets trapped right inbetween the combo attacks of two other players – then all he can do is watch as his character gets helplessly smacked back and forth while his energy bar drains out and the screen is filled by “max combo” counters, all accompanied by the dirty snickers of his so-called “friends”…

… and that’s what such a multiplayer session is all about!

Atomic Runner By Alex Burr

I hear the word Runner in a science fiction and I think one thing: Logan’s Run. It’s a laughably ’70s science fiction movie with quite the interesting story: Life is amazing, every wish you could possibly imagine is at your disposal. There’s just one catch: Life ends at thirty. Yadda, yadda, yadda. This game has a similar goofy premise, with enemies called the “Deathtarians” and your dad dying in the first five minutes of the movie. But he gives you an “ultra powerful suit that has various weapons and devices…”, I have one thing to say: IF IT’S SO POWERFUL AND I AM THE ONLY HOPE, THEN WHY DOES ONE HIT KILL ME!? AHH! I am so happy that shooters released now days are more forgiving. I can’t stand this game and it has such promise. Well, I can’t even clear the second level. It’s a fun game and has promise, but I still can’t believe that no one thought that if you’re going to tell the player that they have a strong suit of armor, then actually make them able to TAKE MORE THAN ONE HIT.

Bill Walsh College Football ’95 By Steven Campbell

In case you didn’t notice yet, it is basketball season. I’m not a real, real big fan of basketball. I like it, but for the most part, I just can’t sink my teeth into the sport. Two weeks ago, the local newspaper that I usually cover high school football games for asked me to start writing game stories for the basketball team. It was a paying gig, so I didn’t want to tell them no. I took the job, and I’ve been going to the games and almost falling asleep. I think for the next game I’m going to lug the old Nomad along with me with a good football game (and some extra batteries!).

Let me tell you right now that one of the absolute best football games ever made is Bill Walsh College Football ’95. Alex “The Sports Guy” Burr nailed the hammer right on the head of the nail with both of his Walsh reviews here for this site, and I consider both of them essential Sega-16 reading. I think one of the main reasons why Walsh ’95 doesn’t get as much respect among the retro gaming community is because it was exclusive to the Genesis. We all know the Genesis doesn’t get much respect these days. It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of retro gaming consoles.

Walsh ’95 is the best American football game on the Genesis and has been stuck in mine for the past month. One of the main reasons why? Atmosphere. The game just has a lot of charm. Especially for a hardcore football nerd like myself. The playbooks are awesome with option plays, and my all time favorite offensive formation, the T Formation. It doesn’t get anymore oldschool than the T Formation. I love it! Walsh ’95 is almost perfect. The music is just what music should sound like for a football game. I can’t think of another football video game with more appropriate music. There are a lot of subtle things that contribute to the great football atmosphere in Walsh ’95.

None of that matters though, right? It’s all about the gameplay. Who cares about how the game looks, or sounds, or what players, and teams are in it. The most important thing about the game is the gameplay. Walsh 95 has the best balance between simulation, and arcade pick up, and play fun of any football game ever made. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert, or a seven year old, you can pick this game up, and have fun with it. The wide variety of the teams also contributes to the solid gameplay. I don’t know anything about College Football. I don’t know who is in this game, and I don’t know much about the teams in the game. I’ve never even heard of a few of them, but if you know anything about football, you will enjoy the variety, and balance of the teams in the game. Each team has a very unique strength, and weakness, and it gives the game almost infinite replay value.

I think it is a shame that EA never made a Pro Football game as good as Walsh 95. The Madden games on the Genesis don’t even come close. Bill Walsh 95 is in my humble opinion, the very best American Football video game ever made, and it just so happens to only be available on the Sega Genesis.

Ballz 3D By The Jackal

For this month, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Ballz 3D: The Battle for the Balls (yeah, awesome title). Published by Accolade, and praised on the back of the box as the “closest thing to Virtua Fighter on the Mega Drive.” Ballz is a strange 3D fighting game where every character is made of… well balls. To be honest, the game is simple, real simple. Gameplay consists of spamming the same attack over and over again, and the occasional sidestep; Virtua Fighter this is not. But, as the game is going for pretty much peanuts and there’s no demand for it, it makes for a nice ,cheap entry in any Genesis collection.

Double Dragon By McTom

This month I acquired a (complete but bit worn) copy of the original Double Dragon for the Genesis/Mega Drive. Besides Sonic & Knuckles it’s the only Mega Drive game in my collection with a carton box, which makes it kind of an oddball between all hardcover plastic boxes in which my other games reside. Double Dragon lacks the sophistication, visuals and fun of the excellent Streets of Rage 2 (which is the ultimate street brawler game), but overall the Mega Drive conversion isn’t too bad. The graphics and sound are decent, and the controls are not perfect, but they’re usable. The real downside is the shortness of the game – they’re only four (!) missions and you can finish it in 15 or 20 minutes and then you’re done. Due to the fast animation, this Double Dragon edition seems even shorter than any other edition of the game I played. Well, at least the classic soundtrack is there.

Heart of the Alien By Frank Villone

Lately my Sega CD has really been Out of this World! The cinematic introduction shows how it all started. Scientific experiments should not be attempted during lightning storms! Lester teleports himself recklessly, and he materializes in a random pit of ice water, still seated at his desk, and greeted by crystal-clear CD audio of water splashing and bubbling. The desk sinks down, and he must swim to the top before a sea creature grabs him! Surfacing, he coughs, and starts to explore the alien planet, making footprints in the sand.

The ambient soundtrack greatly adds to the immersive atmosphere, and it can be found only on the Sega CD! Some versions of the game are largely silent, like the Amiga original, while others received their own music. Yet none of it can compare to this enigmatic soundtrack, which arguably makes this the definitive version of the game. (Plus the official sequel, Heart of the Alien, is included on the disc, as a Sega CD exclusive!)

Out of this World is the improvisational stroke of genius of one man who developed it all, from start to finish. (Read about how Eric Chahi did so at his site, which includes a high-resolution re-release to download!) He created the unique method of using 2D polygons to build the visuals, and used rotoscoping for fluid, lifelike animations.

Lester explores the planet one screen at a time, dying often. He must solve obscure environmental puzzles, as well as blasting through laser gun battles with hostile aliens. Once it is all played through, and the sequence of actions figured out, there is a surprisingly high replay value in doing speed-runs, to keep the action and cut-scenes flowing, and to make the whole experience as cinematic as possible. The unique art style has surprises throughout, such as figures walking by in the foreground, or even shooting at Lester from the foreground!

Grab that laser gun and run for it!

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