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Reader Roundtable Vol. 73

After Valentine’s Day has left you broke, you probably don’t have money for modern games, so it’s convenient that retro games are mostly cheaper! And if you don’t have a special someone to spend your hard-earned cash on, that leaves more money for Genesis games! This month, we’ve given the love to our favorite little black box – the one without chocolates inside.

 

Arcus 1-2-3 By Ken Horowitz

I’ve decided to review more import titles, especially those for the Mega CD, and this one caught my eye. Aside from the awesome dungeon crawling RPG gameplay that I love so much, the menu system is very simple, and there’s a handy guide for the whole thing! I’m currently stuck with one mother of a boss midway through the second game, so some extra grinding may be in order, but rest assured I will prevail! The incredible soundtrack, exploration, and anime cut scenes really make me wish someone had decided to bring this collection to the west. I’m sure it would have sold well enough, especially after the success of Lunar: Silver Star. Still, it’s highly playable and very enjoyable, so look for a review in a few weeks!

OutRun by Sebastian Sponsel

You know what? I’m incredibly angry, furious even! Not because of OutRun – the game is awesome. Not because it’s going to be part of our next Mega Drive tournament – it narrowly beat out Super Hang-on, and I’m actually glad about this! Simple as it may be, the flow and experience of the game is very arcadey (is that even a word?), and I regret not getting the game any sooner than I did (I only had the Amiga-version back in the day, which was okay but nowhere near as good as the Mega Drive version).

No, I’m angry because when I finally got the game, I once more bore witness to how badly some people treat their consoles and their cartridges. I had purchased the Japanese version of the game, since it was easier to get hold of. I decidedly bought the game not on eBay, but from a game trader who had claimed the game was in “very good condition.” Boy was that a bold-faced lie! Oh, the game works, as intended. But the cartridge is a mess! It’s painfully obvious that whoever previously owned the game owned neither a passthrough cart nor a Japanese model Mega Drive, and recklessly jammed the badly fitting cart into and out of his poor console all the time! The sides look like a dog chewed on them, scratches and dents are everywhere, and a pice of plastic near the connectors is actually broken completely off! What kind of moron treats his games like that? Passthrough carts weren’t that hard to get hold off! Couldn’t he have at least filed off the sides of his consoles cartridge slot so that he didn’t have to force his imports in any more? It wouldn’t have looked nice, but it wouldn’t have fucked up his carts either, and judging from the condition of this OutRun game, I don’t want to imagine what damage the previous owner did to his Mega Drive! That’s it, I want my money back…

AD&D Warriors of the Eternal Sun By Joel Peterson

I’ll just come out and say it, then; fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons sucks. The mechanics feel way too much like a board game, the imagination has devolved into a spreadsheet, and the whole thing has a glossy and castrated finish that makes me feel ill. In light of that dissapointment, I picked up a set of the old first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, played for a night with a friend, and felt much better. But I wanted more, and there was nobody else around; nobody except my Sega Genesis and a copy of AD&D Warriors of the Eternal Sun.

The game is a lot of fun and definitely worth a look for D&D and RPG fans alike. Being a notably shorter experience than many other RPGs, it is fairly straightforward in its structure, and doesn’t really demand a whole lot of micromanagement for the most part. You find hidden equipment, put it on your character, learn some spells, kill some monsters, and after about fifteen hours or so, its time to move onto the next game. The graphics are nice, the sound is decent, and the game play is straightforward fantasy fun. Definitely worth the price of admission!

Phantasy Star II By Frank Ramirez

No, I haven’t gone senile (yet). Yes, I most certainly have already done a Roundtable submission for Phantasy Star II, but this is an update, I guess you could say.

I’d gotten out of playing this fine game about a week after my first entry, because at the time, I found the game to be a little too punishing. I picked it up again recently though, found stores that sell Trimates, got a few more party members with varied skills, and it took THAT for me to finally get into the swing of things, and truly enjoy this game. The strategies used for battles can be tricky, largely dependent on which party members you bring with you. There’s a brilliance to it that’s not usually seen in games from that time period. Hell, I find myself these days eager to get home from work so I can continue on my interplanetary adventure. I’ve attempted to resist the urge to consult maps, only to buckle under the pressure a couple of times already. This is a tough game, but unlike my last attempt, I don’t plan on leaving the game for any great amount of time this time through. I intend to see this to the end!

But first I have to shamble my way through Climatrol…

Pier Solar By The Jackal

This month, I’ve been playing Pier Solar, a game I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. After the first two runs sold out, I thought I’d never have another chance to own it, so when it become available to buy last month, I hastily ordered it. The game came pretty quickly, though I did get a hefty Customs charge (thank you UK Customs for that…), but that was no biggie – I finally have Pier Solar in my possession! To be completely honest, JRPGs aren’t really my usual genre and PS’ steep difficulty curve has meant I’ve not progressed that far in the game, but I’m determined to push on. Hopefully it all pays off, but judging by the excellent visuals, gorgeous music and addictive battle system, I’m sure it will…

B.O.B By Goldenband

Since the start of 2012 I’ve been chipping away at Electronic Arts’ B.O.B., and finally beat it a few days ago. Despite the negative reviews it’s garnered (including a 4/10 rating here at Sega-16), I had fun playing through this quirky release. While much of the game is fairly standard “platforming with a gun” fare, it’s elevated by its clever use of items, nuanced level design, and (according to my girlfriend) “adorable” protagonist. The strict time limit adds a sense of urgency, forcing you to be efficient without requiring perfection.

B.O.B. is difficult at times, but never really felt unfair. True, it’s a little bit of a drag when you get punched in the face by a floating stone gorilla and are sent flying helplessly into an instant deathtrap, or when you take a headlong dive into lava and lie there stunned while your health is rapidly eaten away. But I found that I quickly got on the designers’ wavelength, and seldom was I caught out by the same trap twice. It also helps that the game offers a password after every third level, which eases the frustration factor and made it a convenient choice for 30-60 minute gameplay sessions.

Several people have alleged that the SNES release of B.O.B. is the better version, and no doubt I’ll check that out at some point. But overall, I’m happy with the mileage I got out of this Genesis version. Somehow it seems appropriate that my copy of this underdog game is the opposite of pristine: I derived more enjoyment from a loose cart with a janky label, stuck in a borrowed clamshell, than I’ve gotten from most of the sought-after mint rarities in my collection!

Skeleton Krew By The Coop

A good number of years ago, there was a big, indoor swapmeet-type of place, with a mixture of long time shops and “just starting” stores. There were cafes, fruit and vegetable stands, meat counters, and of course, one video game store that also sold movies. I was visiting that store one day, sifting through the many NES and Genesis carts they had set up on stand-alone wire racks. After a good search, not finding anything worth while that I didn’t already own, I turned to leave… only to stop at the doorway of the shop. I looked back at the Genesis section, and something was nagging at me. I had this strong feeling that I’d missed something, and this feeling was telling me to go back and look again. Not being one to argue with such mental moments, I did just that. And buried in a small sea of red cardboard boxes, was Skeleton Krew.

I’d remembered reading about this game in an old issue of GameFan, and how it got pretty good marks across the board. So, since the shop only wanted $8 for it, and it was complete and in very nice condition, I snatched it up and went on my merry way. I drove home, took care of some things, then sat down and popped in my new game.

As I was one to usually do, even back then, I hopped into the options screen and played around with the music and such. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the tunes, finding the majority of them to be… odd. But, that was just one part of the whole, so I decided to check out the game itself. After getting used to the somewhat strange controls, and tinkering around with the three different characters to choose from, I dove into Skeleton Krew‘s darkish world. The graphics were certainly nice, and the somewhat morbid enemy designs were interesting. There was plenty to kill, and God knows the game didn’t make getting to the end easy, regardless of which of the three characters you chose. It kept me busy for a good while, but I did eventually best it, adding yet another notch to my Genesis victory belt.

So was it worth the $8? I’d say so. There aren’t too many games like it on the Genesis, and having been made back when Core Design was still worth a damn, it’s a solid game on basically all fronts. It has some quirks, and it’s not a perfect game, but it’s a fun, challenging little game with a few interesting traits. Overall, I enjoyed the game that I nearly walked away from unknowingly.

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master By Frank Villone

Until recently, I had only played Revenge of Shinobi, an early classic that I had trouble appreciating! Joe Musashi’s stealthy, slow walk made me constantly wish that he would also run fast. He kills other ninjas, of course, but facing soldiers with guns is already a stretch. So why does he fight Spider-Man and Godzilla, I wondered? How does it all fit together and make sense?

Shinobi III clears everything up! Musashi has been practicing his running, so now he sprints freely with a double-tap of the D-pad. His movements are fast and fluid: sprinting, double-jumping with a deadly spray of shuriken, and sword-slashing enemies when they are close.

His weapons hit with a small splash of blood, and enemies die in a fiery blaze! Ninjas were mythologized even in their own time (the 15th–17th centuries of Japan), and they were believed to control the forces of nature, like fire — which might be why his enemies fall and explode, and why he gets powered-up to throw shuriken fireballs! Most or all of his powers, actually, seem based on ancient legend and folklore!

The first area seems to be a forest of feudal Japan, the natural habitat for ninjas to exist, and destroy each other. The guys with baskets on their heads are also ninjas, wearing the disguise of wandering Zen Buddhist monks, who played shakuhachi bamboo flute as they walked, with their heads mostly covered. So from there, why does Musashi go on to face soldiers, superheroes, and Godzilla? Because this is ninjutsu (the way of the ninja) versus the world’s armed forces, plus robots, comic books, science fiction, and monster movies. This is ninjutsu versus everything! The ninja master slices through it all!

Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football By Bones Justice

After reading the recent feature on Sega-16, I decided to pull this game out of retirement for a while. Because of the sequels, I haven’t played this game in over fifteen years!

The first thing I noticed was how clean and simple the graphics look compared to the sequels. Although the players are well-animated, they look more cartoony than the realistic look that the sequels strive for. And this is all horizontal scrolling view, no alternate camera angles like the newer games in the series. Even the field goals are played from the horizontal view, which the NFL hasn’t even really done for decades. And the playbooks, simple and antiquated compared to what BlueSky did in later years, but these have animated blitz routes!

For my “first” game, I chose Cleveland versus Phoenix (nowadays, it would be Arizona, I guess). The computer takes an early 7-0 lead on me because I had forgotten how much momentum these players have compared to the later games. After a slow start, I get the hang of good pursuit angles and start shutting Cleveland down. My passing leaves a little to be desired in the first quarter as I recall one of my complaints with the game back in the day – receivers can often break their routes if you throw the ball with poor timing. Still, after predominantly running the ball on first down for most of the first half, I change up and throw a strike on first down on a corner route to my tight end with less than two minutes to go in the first half. We end up tied 7-7 at halftime.

The halftime feature includes an animated version of the announcer that the Sports Talk series is famous for. Back in the day, I didn’t know who Lon Simmons was or that he had done the voice audio for these games. I’ve since looked up his bio, but to this day I still think of the animated halftime announcer from Joe Montana II whenever I hear his voice in any of the Sports Talk games.

By the second half, I start feeling like I’ve gotten the hang of the game and playbook again. Although I fumbled the second half kickoff and the computer took a 14-7 lead, I feel confident that I can make a comeback. Even though I had chosen to only play five minute quarters, I figure that there’s still enough time to win. I soon tie up the game then start trying to control the ball on the ground or with short passes. The computer’s play calling isn’t the greatest but still enough to beat me, 21-17, by the final gun.

I finish with a paltry 51% completion percentage and two interceptions. Those stats would have had me throwing the controller in 1991, not unlike the animated coach in the game that throws down his headset when you throw a pick! Maybe I’ve mellowed with age, but I still had fun despite losing to this old pro.

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