What better way to send off the month of love and friendship than by showing some love for an old friend? After more than two decades, the Genesis is still going strong for so many people, and one need only glance at the range of titles featured in this month’s article to see just why!
Space Harrier By Ken Horowitz
I have Space Harrier on the godly Sega Ages collection for Saturn, and with the Mission Stick that game is as close to arcade perfect as you can get without building a rotating chair. That being said, the 32X version is still incredible, and while some people derided it as being just a vanilla port, they failed to realize just how good a port it really is. That is what the 32X could have done that other machines at the time didn’t – do Sega’s arcade games justice. Afterburner Complete is another example, but we sadly never got more than that. At least Harrier struts his stuff on the mushroom with style, and maybe homebrewers will find a way to bring other arcade classics to the add-on. You never know!
I do kind of wish I had a Genesis joystick though. It would make this excellent port even better.
Earthworm Jim By Sebastian Sponsel
A while ago the price for Earthworm Jim HD on the Playstation Network was dropped down to $.99. Since the original Earthworm Jim was one of my favorite Genesis games back in the day, I thought that was a bargain, and I immediately snatched it up and started to play it.
The moment I the main menu came up, my girlfriend walked into the room and remarked “What’s that sound? Please, turn it off!” I was stunned. She was right; the original main theme, low, foreboding and driving, has been replaced with these shrill synthie tunes. Everything about this new main screen screamed “ZANY” and “WACKY”, to which I could only think: “annoying”! Yes, the concept of an earthworm superhero is silly, as is the weird focus on cows in the game. But personally, I had always seen the series as a parody of dark and edgy ’90s comics, not crazy talking animal stuff. That’s why I never liked the TV show, which didn’t get the game either and focused more on the conceived silliness.
Unfortunately, the HD remake seems to take quite a few cues from that one.
But what the hell, the main screen doesn’t matter, and as long as they didn’t screw around too much with the game, maybe even touched up here and there on a few more problematic areas, it’s still fine, right? Well, I started playing the game, and the more I did, the more pissed off I got. The iconic, awesome Tony Tallarico tunes have been tampered with, and the new soundtrack isn’t nearly as catchy. Before each boss fight, a hint screen comes up with tips on how to defeat him, which totally breaks the flow of the game (and also comes with their own theme music, which clashes with the current level theme). Also, the bosses have energy bars now. I played the original on my Genesis when it came out. I was 13 back then, and I NEVER needed any tips on how to defeat the bosses – does the game WANT new players, or does it want to solve itself?
More annoyingly, new voice samples have been recorded for Jim. That wouldn’t be bad in itself, except they didn’t replace the old ones sampled by Doug TenNapel; they just tacked on the new ones on top of them. So you play a level where both types of voice samples come up constantly. For example, in the “Andy Asteroids” stages that take place after every single level, you constantly get to hear the mix of old and new samples and how they clearly come from two different people.
The gameplay is still good, but every single change that was made is so half-assed, ill-conceived or simply wrong that it was hugely detrimental from my enjoyment of the game. I still had a little hope left for the three special stages exclusive to the HD remake, but those stages can’t hold a candle to the original designs. You know who the boss is for the third bonus stage? A rip-off from the “Keyboard Cat” viral video called “Pitch the cat.” Seriously? We already have “Evil the Cat,” why would the game need yet another cat-themed boss, let alone another one simply called “The cat?” Clearly, the creators of the remake didn’t get it. Yeah, the original creators from Shiny had nothing to do with this game – no Doug TenNapel, no Tommy Tallarico, no David Perry. Gameloft, who now hold the rights to the Earthworm Jim franchise, instead outsourced the entire development team to China. Whopdee-frickin’-doo.
So what did I do? I shut off my PS3, dug old my old copy of the original Earthworm Jim, and played it on my trusty old Mega Drive. Call me old fashioned, but I like the original better, without the annoying hints and with a much, MUCH more enjoyable soundtrack. Though I admit, the HD graphics did look kinda nice in places.
Quackshot Starring Donald Duck By Frank Ramirez
Having played Castle of Illusion and Quackshot back to back, I wanted to see how the Sega Disney games would compare to the Capcom/Disney games. They’re definitely an entirely different beast from Capcom/Disney games. I don’t think I can really say which one I feel is better than the other, but Sega Disney games are truly something magical, as I’ve expressed in my thoughts on Castle of Illusion in the last Roundtable.
First off, I was happy to be able to play as Donald Duck, who I always favored over Mickey Mouse! Not only that, but he has an Indiana Jones-style adventure? Totally awesome! The different parts of the world he travels to in this game presents a nice variety of locations and music, from the Ducktales universe’s version of India, Egypt, the Antarctic, Transylvania, to even a Viking ship and a lost continent, even! This game felt pretty big, too, with a slight Metroidvania vibe, as only completing certain areas and having certain items would allow you to progress further in other areas of the game.
This game is a winner in my book, for sure.
Judge Dredd By David Dyne
After playing through Rambo 3 last month, I decided to continue the Sylvester Stallone theme and go for Judge Dredd this time around. Based on the dreadful 1995 movie, the game is at least more enjoyable than the film despite its flaws. Incidentally, if you hated that film be sure and check out the 2012 movie Dredd for a more faithful and conventional adaptation of the character. Initially Judge Dredd feels clunky in his movements but once you’ve acclimated you’ll be shooting, ducking, climbing and crawling with relative ease. The soundtrack is a hit and miss affair throughout the game with some good menacing tracks in the beginning as you descend into Mega City One’s underbelly that are followed up by
mediocre tunes in the desert stages. When you return to Mega City One later in the game the music picks back up only to fall flat again during the Council Chambers levels.
Overall, Judge Dredd is a decent arrest, exterminate and explore title. At the very least, playing this game has given me an incentive to check out the various comic collections and the 2005 Judge Dredd vs. Judge Death FPS game on the PC and Gamecube. As for next month’s Stallone selection, will it be Cliffhanger or Demolition Man? Find out in thirty days!
X-Perts By The Coop
There are some games that reach amazing heights in terms of graphics, gameplay, music, originality, and traits like that. There are some games that seem to only strive to function properly, without really excelling in any one area. And then there are some games that are so utterly broken and lacking, that even THQ, Arena and Razor Soft would point and laugh at them back in the 16-bit days. I’ll give you three guesses where X-Perts falls.
This game is arguably the worst official game on the Genesis. Glitchy graphics, basically no music, dull gameplay, unresponsive controls, tasks that border on being nonsensical and highly repetitious, graphics that are fluid, yet ugly and silly looking in motion, constantly respawning enemies, hit detection issues; it’s just a bad, bad game. That it was ever released is amazing, seeing as it feels like it’s not finished due to all the problems it has. I can’t even imagine someone paying full price for X-Perts back when it was knew, it’s that bad. But you know what I did recently? I sat down and beat the damn thing.
That’s right, I played through this plastic turd from start to finish, and learned just how mind numbingly drawn out it is on top of the rest of its problems. There are five lengthy missions to play through. FIVE! It takes hours to get through this game, making it feel like it was never going to end. So imagine my surprise when I finally did beat the final boss with surprising ease, killed all the remaining enemies (which you have to do to be able to leave), and then ran from the underwater palace of gaming garbage. I got virtually the same ending as what’s played when you fail, except now there was a sub getting away from the base when it blew up. No credits, no ending story, nothing. The “no credits” part I can understand, as who the hell would want their name attached to this horrid game? But after all the crap I went through, I deserved a better ending damn it!
But, I did it for the ‘beat all the Genesis games’ contest, so it was for a good cause. I still bear the mental scars of plodding through the game, but at least no one else will have to suffer through it. I don’t think I’ll ever pick X-Perts up again, though. I sat through it’s horrors once, and I think that’s enough to last me the rest of my life.