Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 74

We say farewell to winter the same way we leave each season behind every year: by playing games! Our staff and readers have been toiling away at those great Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X titles that they hadn’t gotten around to playing or just can’t get enough of. Read on and see what we’ve been playing!


Dragon Slayer: Legend of Heroes 2 By Ken Horowitz

Ugh. I’ve been trying to keep myself interested in this title, despite how unabashedly boring it is. Even without the language barrier, the first few hours of the game seems to be little more than just running around from town to town, talking to people, and killing slimes. I know, I just described about a billion RPGs. The things is, that is literally all you do. It seems that only one person per town knows what you have to do to get on a boat, and you have to walk to each and every one to find who knows what you need to move on to the next town. There’s a warp feature, but good luck figuring out which town is which on the list! I’ll probably try a little longer, but my patience is wearing thin. Please tell me this game gets better!

Brian Lara Cricket ’96 By Sebastian Sponsel

The other day I suffered a massive culture shock. You know the state of confusion that befalls you when you’re drunkenly zapping through the cable stations at two a.m. in the morning and tune into a Japanese TV show where the contestants are stacking food on animals? Well, this still makes more sense to me than trying to figure out what the hell is going on during this tribal ritual the British call “Cricket.” But a friend of mine had this game thrown in with a bulk order of Mega Drive games, and after enjoying one or two beer late at night, we decided to give the game ago for a couple of matches… and learn something about Cricket along the way…

Match 1: Of course we don’t consult the manual for our first try! We’re men’s men, real hard-boiled gamers have no need for that! Reading instructions is something for weaklings, Christopher Lambert fans and crumpet-eaters! So we just start a “Quick Game,” pick two teams at random and jump right into the action. I start at the pitch. But whatever I do, the throw is incredibly weak, incredibly slow, and my friend seems to hit the ball every time. And whenever he does the view changes to the outfield, I can’t figure out what the hell is going on. It takes us about 20 minutes – me still pitching the ball – until we realize that I’m actually playing against the computer! We hadn’t noticed before because coincidentally, the two times when my friend intentionally didn’t press any buttons on the controller were the only two times the batter didn’t hit the ball.

Lesson Learned after Match One: Falling behind by more than 100 points before the game is halfway done means that you officially suck harder at Cricket than a jet-powered industrial hoover.

Match 2: We cave in, enjoy a nice cuppa tea, and actually read the damn manual. The instructions advice that when pitching, “timing is crucial!” Gee, thanks, I’d never had thought that when someone throws a ball it you, hitting the damn thing might have something to do with timing. Anyways, apparently, the goal of the pitcher is to hit the three sticks behind the batter. If he does, the batter is out. If the batter hits the ball, he can try running up and down the square. The more often he does, the more points he’s getting. By the end of the match, we realize that our levels of ineptitude are still roughly the same, so we decide to have a rematch!

Lesson Learned after Match Two: If a game of Cricket feels like it drags on for several days… it’s because it does!

Match 3: Cricket can apparently be enjoyed only in one of two ways: You either have ingested no alcohol before playing… or you have ingested loads of alcohol beforehand! Whatever the case, we apparently didn’t drink the right amount. Surprisingly, the game can be played with up to four players, though what function each one is supposed to fulfill eludes me (one batter, one pitcher, one… um, catcher?… and one… huh?). We finally figure out how to throw harder or in what way the place you throw the ball at matters. We realize that even if the batter misses his swing, the ball has to either hit the post or be caught by the catcher, otherwise the batter can still make a run for it. And if he makes a run for it, pressing the “A” button can make him run in the opposite direction (kinda like a hyperactive Labrador caught between two people taking turns in blowing a dog whistle). After getting a hang on things, the game is kinda fun. Also, Barack Obama is a Republican, the Pope is Jewish, black equals white and Rise of the Robots is a great fighting game!

Lesson Learned after Match Three: There’s a Monty Python sketch where during a Cricket match the batter and the pitcher are replaced by a green sofa and a Spin dryer respectively, and the commentators remark on how they make for better players. Suddenly, this sketch is starting to make sense to me…

Conclusion: I always thought sports and video games were meant to be entertaining and fun. Then again, this is a British sports game programmed by Britons, so maybe I’m mistaken. We still haven’t quite figured out how some of the mechanics (spin vs power pitcher) come into play, and there are tons of statistics that don’t make a lick of sense, but at least we can now play an entire match without constantly remaining in a state of befuddlement. If two players get really good at the game, they could drag out a match for eternity – though why someone would want to do that eludes me.
As I go home at around midnight, I pass a closed bakery. Through the window I see that the bread shelf has been emptied, except for three loafs of toast that still remain there. Somehow this still makes more sense to me than Brian Lara Cricket ’96.

Phantasy Star II By Doug Jackson

I didn’t play much Genesis for most of the month of March and haven’t participated in the Roundtables much lately either, so this month I decided to fix that by playing Phantasy Star II again. I have to give my self credit for persevering with this game, as it’s no easy task to play. It was especially difficult for me as many years back I got almost all the way through the game just to have it stolen a so-called friend. I finally started it over last year and played it on and off but decided that I was going to finish it once and for all.

I will admit that I used maps as I was not about to trudge endlessly through that game without them. I got to the last area of the game and was so under-leveled that it hurt. I had to painstakingly level grind for several hours before I knew that I could face the last few bosses and triumph. As I was grinding my way up I ended up finding the chest with Dark Force in it and decided to have some fun, though I knew I’d be slaughtered. I did get royally slaughtered, but it was just for fun, and I didn’t even try. I finally got my characters up to where I wanted them, with Rolf at level 37, Rudo at 36, Kane at 35 and Amy at 30. I learned all the spells I needed and gained the TP I needed and went to face the odds. I got to Dark Force again and hit the wrong button when I tried to save the game, and I instead engaged Dark Force, and knew I was screwed. The odds were stacked against me as I hadn’t saved the game, and just as I started the fight I got called into work. I had to work quickly. I held to my strategy and kept bringing it to DF, one character died, and I was able to revive her. All the sudden the unexpected happened, I actually beat Dark Force on my first serious try!! I couldn’t believe it. I saved the game and went to work knowing that the hardest part was over.

The next morning  my friends and I went jogging early, and when we got done I didn’t want to sleep. I had time to kill before starting work so I turned the game back on and decided to finish it and claim my victory. I got to the last boss and knew I shouldn’t get cocky as anything could happen, and it did. I actually lost the battle and had to redo it, but on my second try I did it. I beat the game, and the last boss was actually anticlimactic for me. It wasn’t nearly as brutally hard as many had made it out to be. I watched the fairly dark ending and was really happy to be done with the monster of a game after so many years. I can now say that I’ve finished the first two Phantasy Star games, and it time I will move on to PSIII. This has been an exciting month for me gaming wise!!

WeaponLord By Greg Jurkiewicz

I’ve been playing a lot of Sega lately, I’ve managed to finally get around to beating some games that have been on my “to beat” list, including Cool Spot, Castlevania, and I’m almost done with Sword of Vermilion. All three are fantastic games that I enjoy very much. However, I think I’d like to talk about something that’s been particularly noteworthy in my gaming life: WeaponLord.

Until a few days prior to writing this, I’d never played WeaponLord, I didn’t even know what it was really (I half expected a Stormlord sequel). Quite honestly, the name put me off, and I never bothered looking into it. However I found myself with some spare time one night, and I thought I’d make some printable covers for the cardboard box replacement covers thread over in the forum. Fellow member goldenband generously submitted a scan of that game, so I figured why not make this one. I spent an hour or so cleaning up the scan and enhancing the colours. Then, it finally came time to place some screen shots for the back of the box (scanned screen shots look absolutely terrible, so I make my own).

I loaded WeaponLord in Kega Fusion and started playing it. The atmosphere caught me right away, it felt a lot like a fighting version of Comix Zone (one of my favourite games EVER). The voice overs are some of the best I’ve ever heard on the Genesis and the gameplay is just fantastic. Next thing I knew, I’d been playing the game for over two hours and hadn’t taken a single screen shot! I felt like a kid with a new toy. I can’t believe I’d been missing out on this game for over 15 years! WeaponLord is such an overlooked gem it’s amazing. How many threads have I seen where people argue over the best fighting game on the Genesis and all that ever get’s mentioned is Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, with the occasional mention of Eternal Champions. WeaponLord people, WeaponLord!!! This game is awesome.

Now would anyone like to sell me a nice a copy? I don’t need the box, just cart and manual.

Shining Force By Guntz

This month’s Reader Roundtable entry is about a game which I should have played many, many moons ago. It’s a dishonor to my allegiance to the Sega Genesis and to the game in question’s integrity. A game that for no particular reason, I never thought to buy for my beloved Genesis during the past five or so years of my Genesis ownership… a game which many on Sega-16 believed I already owned, if my choice of avatar and forum username are to be assumed genuine. That game is Shining Force: Legacy of Great Intention.

The previous two platforms I played this game on was the PC (bundled with other Genesis games under the name Sega Smash Pack Vol. 2) and the GBA. Even then, I hadn’t played either version for several years. I chose my username because the game resonated that deeply within me. Now to play the original Genesis version again after so long – and on real hardware to boot – is something of a tearful reunion… and soon to be several weeks of late nights.

One aspect of the game that I especially liked was the endearing story, charming setting and interesting characters. It’s strange, one would think a game with a fundamentally generic story, setting and cast of characters would therefore be utterly boring. To me, this was never the case. Every other town and quest was brimming with personality and a sense of liveliness. That is something I can’t say about many other Genesis games, which can sometimes be rather lacking in atmosphere and charm. Indeed, it is so far the only game I’ve ever found things like centaurs, mages, elves, dwarves and dragons to be more than just tropes or uninteresting and old ideas. Nay, they felt fresh and strangely charming to me. It even made me wonder what kind of awkwardness would centaurs and humans co-existing create…

I think what helps to tie the game together is the memorable and well composed soundtrack. Every piece of music perfectly fits it’s intended use and to play the Genesis version again, hearing tracks like the battle overview music brings back very, very fond memories.

Also worth mentioning again is the story of Shining Force. The tension between Guardiana and Runefaust, the pacing of the story, the many simple yet charming plot twists and the genuine sense of adventure really made the land of Rune feel like great fantasy world. So much so that I’d hesitate to call it fantasy just because I’d be directly categorizing it with… Lesser, fantasy worlds… Maybe to an adult something like the story of Shining Force is quite boring and uninteresting, but to a kid with a bit less exposure to such story elements, such “boring” things can seem much more wistful and charming. Even today I still love every step of the game’s plot. It never ages as time goes on, which I suppose means I’ll always feel youthful when playing Shining Force.

Though as this entry comes to a close, Shining Force will always be a veritable classic which I feel every self-respecting Genesis fan should play. Even the ones who don’t like RPGs. It’s Sega at its finest, an opinion I hope to hold even as I think of playing Phantasy Star IV, just to see what all the big fuss is about. As Simone says after you choose to rest from the adventure, “Don’t stay away too long, though. We need you here to lead the Shining Force!”…

Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf By goldenband

I have fond memories of playing Koei simulation games on the NES when I was a teenager. Unlikely though it may sound, Romance of the Three Kingdoms was something of a hit in my neighborhood; one of my friends stayed home from school for almost a week, playing the game with his brother! Less linear than a traditional RPG, but more character-driven than most simulation games, these titles were the perfect choice for endless hours of unshowered escapism — while also offering a discreet history lesson to a generation of American kids who mysteriously acquired a working knowledge of a narrow slice of Asian history.

All these years later, it’s hard to find the time for such involved, intricate games. Most of Koei’s releases on the Genesis are rather rare, but like many collectors, I’ve been able to pick even pristine, complete copies up at relatively low prices…and like many collectors, my copies have sat idle on the shelf since I purchased them. Between the time-consuming gameplay, and the Genesis ports’ reputation for being somewhat inferior to their SNES cousins, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Koei games are among the least-played games in the Genesis library.

All that changed this past weekend, however, when my girlfriend and I sat down and finally took on Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf. It was the perfect time for it since we were both sick with colds, which liberated us from life’s usual obligations. Thus, an extended stint with a cup of tea, a box of tissues, and a Mongol conqueror seemed like just the thing.

Like most Koei games, the initial learning curve was very steep, and we were tempted to throw in the towel when first confronted with Genghis Khan II’s bewildering variety of options and 72-page manual. But we persevered, and after a couple of hours of gameplay we began to get a feel for the game’s dynamic. While loosely similar to Romance of the Three Kingdoms, there’s more emphasis in Genghis Khan II on alliances, marriages, and domestic policy. My girlfriend has always been fond of Oregon Trail-style games, and Genghis Khan II’s market system offers something of the same experience — though in a cruel irony, we had to play for more than five hours before the game’s merchants (who were practically glued to my territory) finally paid her a visit.

We ended up putting a full eight hours into two separate sessions over the weekend. Unfortunately, both of those sessions ended with her territory being overrun by foreign invaders, so we have yet to divide the world between us and duel to the death. Either way, Genghis Khan II offered us a wonderful return to our childhood memories, and we look forward to visiting Mongolia again sometime soon!

Doom By Frank Villone

In the early ’90s, I took an architectural computer-aided drawing course in middle school, held in a main room used for teaching and for drawing by hand. The back room was a small computer lab, theoretically used for computer-aided drawing projects. While most students worked on those, a few juvenile delinquents played Minesweeper or Doom, taking advantage of the fact that some screens could not be seen unless the teacher walked all the way into the lab, which was rare.

Once or twice, I got distracted by the delinquents playing Doom, and they twisted my arm to try it. I found that I could barely play it, with no previous experience with first-person shooters, or with using the keyboard for game controls! I knew that some day, I would sit down and properly play through this cultural phenomenon, and that day finally came, about two decades later.

The tight controls and vicious gameplay are intact on the 32x, with fast, smoothly-rendered 3D environments, albeit in blocky low-resolution. Gunshots sound full and loud, plus distinct from each other depending on the gun, and enemies have a few different groans when hit. The gloomy soundtrack gets criticized often, but it can actually grow on you. Some stages have better songs than others, and the music can be turned off anyways.

With the normal stages completed, I still have to reach the secret ones, so I can always do that when I stop feeling so sick of Doom’s dark, miserable atmosphere. Clearly this is the best first-person shooter for the Genesis and its peripherals, and it was another solid home port of the massively popular PC title, at a time when many folks did not own a computer yet. Welcome to your Doom!

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