Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 86

Spring is here! The flowers are finally coming into bloom again, and the sun is shining brightly. Too bad we’re missing it all. With so many great games to play, there simply isn’t enough time to take in the sights. No worries though; the flowers will be back again next year!


Dark Wizard By Ken Horowitz

Having beaten Sega’s strategy classic many years ago, I felt the urge to see the awesome cut scenes again. I ended up starting a new campaign and playing for three hours. There’s something addicting about watching your forces evolve and mop up the floor with the enemy. Moving through each map and watching my manticores and berzerkers evolve into bigger and more powerful troops is quite satisfying, and one tends to become attached to those that survive several campaigns. The strategy element is very present as well, as one needs to know which troops to use in each map. For example. Hydras are excellent in water but completely useless on land. The feeling of power one gets from watching the correctly selected troops blitzkrieg over a map is awesome, and I ended up playing the game nearly to completion over the weekend.

One of these days I’ll remember to tell life to screw off for a few days. I’ve got a game to complete!

Risk By Sebastian Sponsel

This year the forum members of Sega-16 are trying to play through the entire U.S. catalogue of licensed Genesis games within one calender year. I welcome this challenge, not only because it gives me one more reason to dust off my Genesis collection. It’s also a great excuse to go ahead and either revisit old favorites of mine (like Speedball 2 or Road Rash III), replay old games I haven’t touched in ages for one reason or another (like the availability of improved sequels, as was the case with the original NHL Hockey), or even try my hands at something entirely new that, for whatever cause, I had never really considered picking up before.

Reader Roundtable 86-1So I may have played other titles more than that, but for the latter reason, Risk somehow stood out from my Genesis experience this month. Usually I don’t play Genesis ports (or computer-ports in general) of boardgames. Most of the times I just don’t see any need for that – computer AI, as advanced as it may be (and we’re talking mid-’90s standards here), can’t hold a candle against the experience of playing against a real human being. Playing a card-and-dice game with a controller usually translates to some awkward fumbling around with the gamepad. Also, no computer can simulate the temper tantrums my cousin was able to produce whenever he was on a losing streak, which were both annoying and strangely, satisfyingly delightful at once…

I couldn’t help but wonder though how Risk would translate to the Genesis. I remember how the usual board game session of Risk goes: A single game could last forever, and sooner or later the first one gets eliminated and goes off pouting, because “the dice were unfair” or the others were “ganging up on him” and now he was forced to watch the others finish the game without him for the next hour or two. At least I’ve never witnessed my Genesis hurling the dice across the room in frustration, yelling insults at other players or emptying its drink over someone else’s pants like a certain sore loser I know (though it would be an interesting experience for sure).

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah… anyway, the Genesis version of Risk is quite nice, as far as board game ports go. There aren’t any mission cards, so there’s only one goal left: Taking over the world (of course!). The game controls smoothly and the sequences when you attack another countries are actually quite nice, if lacking variety. The game isn’t very hard, though I haven’t tried playing against the highest AI setting yet. It’s something I rarely had known about Risk board game sessions: It was over pretty fast. And without another player throwing a fit because he or she is losing, it was actually quite enjoyable. Maybe I’ll give it another go some time and check out the higher difficulty. If the AI actually poses a challenge, this might just be interesting. Though for a strategy game it’s rather random. I mean, it’s Risk, after all.

Shadow Dancer By Marlowe221

As a newcomer to the SEGA universe I have a lot of catching up to do. I have spent the past month or so playing Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi as part of the effort to beat all 711 official North American releases for the Genesis in 2013.

Now you don’t have to hang around SEGA fans long to learn that Shadow Dancer is the red-headed stepchild of the Genesis Shinobi trilogy. In a way, it’s not hard to see why. A limited move set, relatively slow character movement, and one-hit kills don’t sound like the best combination of features on paper. But Shadow Dancer manages to be more than the sum of its parts. The game falls into a wonderful sub-genre that exists in my head: “Thoughtful Action.” Flinging oneself forward with reckless abandon is a great way to find yourself back at the beginning of the stage. In practice, the game is one part planning, one part memorization, and a healthy dose of quick reflexes. The controls are crisp and precise and there are no cheap deaths to be found – a must in a game of one-hit kills. When I die in Shadow Dancer it is because I was in too big a hurry or because I made a mistake.

The graphics are sharp and animations are smooth, as in any Shinobi game. I also thought that the graphic artists managed to evoke the feel of a Shinobi arcade game despite the technical confines of the Genesis hardware. The music is serviceable and while you won’t catch yourself whistling any of the tunes in the shower the morning after an all night session, it fits the game well.

Perhaps the best part of the experience is that the game made me feel like a ninja. Planning out my attacks, dispatching several foes in quick succession, cheating death by mere pixels and coming out clean on the other side is very satisfying. And after all, if a ninja game can’t make you feel like a ninja how good a game is it?

Back to the Future III By The Coop


It was advice from the first movie that I should have taken when I fired up Back To The Future III for the Genesis not long ago, trying to add it to the list of beaten games I’ve contributed for the “beat all Genesis games” contest in the forums here. Besides the dingy, dark graphics, the bad music, the questionable controls, poor hit detection, and the lack of any real cohesion as a game, what can be said about BttF III? Not much, really.

First you ride a horse dodging birds, rocks and outlaws, trying to catch the runaway wagon the Clara is stuck in. Then you’re in a shooting gallery, firing at various duck and outlaw targets that require you to get a set number of points before you can move on. After that, you’re in an awkward looking and controlling 45º angle stage, throwing pies at outlaws. And finally, you’re running along the train, collecting colored logs so the train will go faster and get the old Delorean it’s pushing up to 88 MPH… while fighting off outlaws. Someone thought this was a good flow for the gameplay during development, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how it seemed like a good idea to them. Not only is it frustrating in spots thanks to the wonky controls and hit detection, but there’s just no fun to be found because it’s all so utterly simplistic and dull. I mean sure, I get that each section is based on something from the movie, but BttF III wasn’t really an action movie make a fast-paced action game out of. There were a few suspenseful spots (the train/wagon chase, the showdown near the end), but there were no constant battles or gun fights to work with, or over-the-top fight scenes. So all the added shoot-’em-up stuff in the game just feels forced and out of place… and broken.

So yeah, bad visuals, bad music, bad ideas, and bad execution. I’m sure there were a few people who enjoyed it, though. After all, I liked Heavy Nova (which feels like a masterpiece compared to BttF III), and others liked Dark Castle or Air Diver. Taste can sometimes be a strange and fickle thing. But I just don’t see any redeeming qualities to this game… other than its being very short, and over with quickly.

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