Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 75

Wow! Has it been 75 entries already? Well, that just goes to show how many great games there are to play on the Genesis, and this month is no different from others in terms of the diversity of titles our staff and readers play. Read on and see what they’ve been up to.


Trampoline Terror! By Ken Horowitz

With as many years of Genesis collecting as I have under my belt, it came as something of a surprise to me when I looked at my collection in late March and noticed that I didn’t own a copy of Trampoline Terror!. I had indeed played the game back in the day (as I did with all of Dreamworks’ releases. Loved them!), but this one had never earned a proper place on my shelf. I decided to change that and scoured eBay for a complete copy, which I eventually found for around $8 shipped.

Once I started playing it again, I was happily reminded of how subtly cool this game really is. At first glance, the character looks quite goofy, and the concept of bouncing around on trampolines doesn’t sound too appealing. However, much like Zoom!, another underrated maze chase game, Trampoline Terror! is much deeper than it seems. The range of weapons available, the tricky jumps, and the collapsing platforms all combine to force the player to really think about that next bounce. I haven’t gotten all too far into it yet, but I’m definitely liking what I’ve played to this point. It’s always nice to rediscover an older game, and Trampoline Terror! is one title that I’m glad I took the time to know better.

Zero Tolerance By Sebastian Sponsel

More than two years ago, I took apart two broken controllers and patched together my very own Zero Tolerance link cable. I had the spare parts lying around and just wanted to see how hard it would be (turned out it was easy as pie). Since I did not own two television sets I never really got around properly playing the game in two-player mode (aside from a few short trial runs). So when I recently got to set up a couple of Mega Drive consoles at a gaming convention, it was crystal-clear that I had to bring Zero Tolerance and link cable as well. And eventually, I sat down with a pal of mine, and we started the game to cooperatively clear out the alien menace.

The experience was two-fold. Firstly, we drew quite a crowd of curious onlookers, often commenting with a mix of interest and surprise about the coop-nature of the game. (“This is multi-player?” “Connecting two Mega Drives? I didn’t know you could do that!” or “You know, this looks pretty good actually”). And secondly, I think that this is truly the way the game was meant to be played! I have to admit that in solo play I never got far – never even reached the first boss really. There was always a point where I ran out of ammo or was swarmed by enemy hordes and ran out of lives. Not so in multi-player, though. True, you have to keep check on who takes which weapon, as ammo is even more of an issue here. But having a partner at your side, being able to strategically move forward and cover corners, makes the game so much easier. We practically breezed through the levels and finished off the first boss in what felt like no time at all. I didn’t even lose a single life up until that point (though my comrade didn’t fare that well).

Seriously, if you have an opportunity to do so, play Zero Tolerance in co-op mode! It makes the game so much better, so much easier – and since it runs on two dedicated consoles, it doesn’t even slow down (not any more as the game regularly does, at least). There’s only one golden rule to keep in mind: the guy with the flamethrower ALWAYS takes point!

Ecco: The Tides of Time (Genesis version) By Frank Villone

April offered me very little time at home with the Genesis, as I was busy traveling the globe with beautiful women! After taking an ocean voyage on a cruise ship, and exploring foreign countries along the way, there was really only one game that could pull me in, after such an amazing life experience. Ecco: The Tides of Time was a natural choice, after spending so many days watching the water rushing past the side edge of the cruise ship. Tides of Time called out to me, with the pristine beauty of its aquatic ecosystems.

A few years ago, I got the cartridge version after first playing through the Sega CD version, with its soothing New Age music, composed by Spencer Nilsen in his finest hour. I got the cartridge to complete the experience, with its FM synth soundtrack. The cart has received less of my time than the CD, so I decided to switch between both versions, as I play through the game this time around. The CD soundtrack is just as wonderful as ever, heavenly synthesizer mixed with the calls of sea creatures. Switching frequently to the cartridge, is unsettling to say the least! It sounds haunting and dark from the first moment, oppressively so! The Sega logo starts the first song, soaked in mystery, tragedy, and foreboding. The same song continues through the title screen, starting area, first stage, and then the first 3D stage! Granted the compositions are brilliant, subtle and atmospheric, but before that 3D stage is over, I am always desperate for that first song to finally stop weighing on me! Although the game itself is almost exactly the same on cart or CD, the soundtracks make each feel drastically different. The cartridge songs are unbelievably full of terror and melancholy! Dive in, and remember to rise above the waves now and then, to catch your breath!

Super Hydlide By Goldenband

Ah, Super Hydlide. Despite the warm reception it received in its review here at Sega-16, most critics have dismissed the game for its primitive graphics, nonexistent animation, and unorthodox gameplay that, in the game’s early stages, almost seems designed to demoralize the player.

One of the quirks of my gaming personality is that when a game is widely panned, I sometimes find myself intrigued. Partly it’s because I’ve learned that my own tastes in gaming often don’t match the “average” reviewer. But I’ve also noticed that some of the most divisive games are often misunderstood, or misrepresented, by reviewers who don’t have the patience to get on their wavelength. A great example of this is the original Hydlide, which gets trashed by many an Angry Video Game Nerd wannabe on the Internet. But back in my NES days, I played it, beat it, and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was: not a Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy clone, but an offbeat RPG whose crude, dated exterior concealed an interesting gameplay dynamic. It may not be a masterpiece, but I found it to be a genuinely worthwhile game.

So is Super Hydlide another misunderstood diamond-in-the-rough? Well, if you’d asked me about halfway through the game, I would have said “yes.” The gameplay is definitely reminiscent of its NES forebear, but with far more depth and complexity. And Super Hydlide‘s unusual requirements feel completely organic to the game, and have plenty of precedent. I recently completed Faery Tale Adventure, so I’m no stranger to RPGs that expect the player to eat and sleep at regular intervals. Similar analogues can be found for the game’s Morality Factor, which prevents you from killing indiscriminately, and its weight-based movement system — see Ultima IV and Dungeons of Daggorath, respectively, for examples.

However, after getting a good ways into Super Hydlide, I began running into a seemingly intractable problem. The mechanism for saving is also the one for getting your required night’s sleep: if you go to bed, whether at an inn or in your sleeping bag, then you automatically save your game. You can’t go very long without saving since, if you try to pull an all-nighter, your attacking power will gradually diminish to nothing.

Now, Super Hydlide seems to have multiple save slots, but only one is actually accessible per character. So every time you get to the end of the night, you have to irrevocably commit to whatever actions you’ve taken that day. But since you can only carry 16 items, and have a strict weight limit, those actions will often include disposing of items (since the game doesn’t offer anything like a storage facility). In the early part of the game, that’s not much of an issue, but by the time you reach the later stages, you’re getting a lot of unique (and very heavy) items. It’s not always clear which ones can be thrown away and which ones must be kept…and Super Hydlide is the kind of game that’s more than happy to leave you in the lurch if you make the wrong choice, rendering your game impossible to complete.

Over the weekend, I made a big push to try to finish Super Hydlide, and wound up getting almost to the end of the game. But as you might predict from what I’ve written above, I think I might’ve completely screwed myself over, because — thanks to throwing away a certain item — I can no longer reach a key town. I’m not 100% sure, since haven’t had the heart to confirm this one way or the other — perhaps I’ll be able to finish the game regardless. But it’s a shame that, at least as of right now, an RPG I’d been very much enjoying has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Sonic Spinball By The Coop

Some games just rub you the wrong way. You ask some friends about it, and listen to them talk about how great or fun it is. But when you sit down to play it, you wonder if they were talking about the same game you were. That, or you wonder if maybe it’s time to get some new friends, as they’ve obviously sent you down a dark, treacherous path that can only lead to bloodshed, screams and jail time. For me, 1993’s Sonic Spinball is just such a game.

I’d heard the praises. I’d read on forums how wonderfully fun it was. I even had some friends (yes, I have them) that suggested I give it a real try, saying it was a game that grows on you. If I knew then, what I know now, I’d have responded to them with, “So do warts… and I’d rather have them.” The music is iffy at best with only a couple of good tunes, the graphics are dingy and dull, the hit detection is questionable, the slowdown is in great abundance, and the playing fields (or boards) are just uninteresting. They took Sonic, who had a great series being built at the time, and pinball, which is a fun game type, and put them together. But instead of that mixture churning out a great treat like hot, crispy french fries dipped in a cold chocolate milkshake, it ended up making something more akin to lawn mowings dipped in curdled, four month-old milk. Granted, it’s not utterly broken like some games (I’m looking at you, Slaughter Sport), or devoid of any kind of merit that warrants its existence (s’up Belle’s Quest?), but it’s not even an average game either. It’s just… best forgotten.

Now, I know people like this game, and some even love it. And I tried this game again recently, hoping that I’ll finally see what they do. But after a few plays, I simply still didn’t get what the fuss is about. Frankly, it’s the second lowest point in the 16-bit Sonic games to me (only Sonic Eraser bests it in terms of crappiness). It’s so far from being enjoyable, that it would take the light from “enjoyable” one thousand years to reach it. I had more fun with Beast Wrestler than this game… seriously. Sonic Spinball is a slow, poorly programmed, tedious game that’s not a feather in the cap of either the Sonic franchise, or pinball gaming’s legacy. And the sole reason I own it, is just to round out my collection of Genesis Sonics… which isn’t that dissimilar from someone buying KISS: Unmasked just to have the complete discography for the band.

Shadowrun By Greg Jurkiewicz

It’s been a good month of playing Sega for me. To celebrate the announcement of WaterMelon’s new game (a cyberpunk brawler/RPG) I’ve finally started playing my copy of Shadowrun (which has embarrassingly been sitting on my shelf for over a year now). I can’t believe I’ve had this game for so long and haven’t played it. Pretty much from the moment I turned it on I fell in love with it. Well, OK, maybe from the first hour after turning it on, all the menus and different modes of gameplay were a little confusing at first, but once I got past the learning curve I couldn’t put the controller down. I haven’t beat it yet; though to be honest, for the last week I’ve been completely addicted to running around in cyberspace and stealing data for profit in order to buy outrageously expensive tech to go and steal more data with. It’s amazing how in-depth the cyberspace aspect of this game really is. Sure it’s just a bunch of randomly generated “maps” and “enemies” ie: ICE, but it’s really cool how there’s such a variety of cyberspace environment configurations. Though going around the city and wasting enemies with some highly illegal SMGs is fun too. This game is turning out to be one of my favourite RPGs of all time, I’m really glad I finally picked it up and pushed past the learning curve, because there is so much fun to be had here. I might just be getting my cyberpunk on until that new WaterMelon game comes out.

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