With summer drawing to a close, there’s one final long weekend to get in before the seasons begin to change. And there’s no better way to spend any weekend than with some quality video games, and that’s just what our staff and readers have been doing in August. Check out what they’ve been playing and see if there’s something you missed!
Joe & Mac By Ken Horowitz
I only recently got the chance to play the Genesis port of this arcade classic, having only ever been around the SNES version. That was an incredible port, so I was kind of eager to play it on the Genesis after I found a cheap copy at the local game store. Aside from an obviously diminished color palette, I’m actually finding it to be pretty solid. My only real complaint isn’t with this rendition but with the gameplay overall. Why do we need two different jump buttons? One is all that’s really required. Tap for a small hop and hold for a high jump. Instead, J&M has you choose. This may not seem like much, but I sometimes found myself hitting the standard jump button when I wanted the other, and this caused me to miss many dino egg goodies.
Aside from that minor complaint, I’m very happy with the Genesis port of J&M. It plays solidly, has decent graphics and some great parallax, and it’s just plain fun. Truthfully, that’s about all you can ever really ask from a game.
Beggar Prince By Sebatian Sponsel
Well, I’ve got there eventually. I had come late to the game when Beggar Prince and Legend of Wukong had hit the scene, so I never really got to play these Super Fighter Team releases for the Mega Drive before (though I did get Star Odyssey when it became available). So when SFT announced that they’d be releasing their three Mega Drive RPG in one bundle for PCs and Macs, I was pleasantly surprised, since it gave me a chance to legally get the games, even when they were not in physical form.
What’s my opinion of the Trifecta Pack? To be honest, I’m kind of disappointed. So far I’ve just played Beggar Prince and had a quick look at Legend of Wukong (since I already know Star Odyssey). These are really just the Mega Drive ROM files bundled with an emulator and a customized start screen. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad really, but I didn’t receive any kind of manual, and digging through three RPGs, each with their own battle and magic systems entirely by yourself can get pretty irritating. I’m not asking for much: A PDF of the Mega Drive manuals would be fine, a simple TXT file would also suffice. But nope, nothing there. Also, the bugs and glitches that were known to be in the Mega Drive versions are still present. At one time, my game froze up (right after talking with the Elf king), and I had to exit and restart the game! I really don’t mind if Super Fighter Team wants to wring a few extra bucks out of their old releases, but slapping ROM files into an emulator without fixing the remaining issues and not even including a manual is just lazy.
Too bad, really. On its own, I really enjoy Beggar Prince! The game mechanics are intuitive (even though I still have only a very vague notion about what symbol represents which magic category, and how to utilize the different categories in battle), the story intriguing, and there is a good amount of puzzling to be done. The game doesn’t just string you along and flat-out tells you what you need to do or where you have to go but gives little hints, giving quite a feeling of accomplishment whenever you proceed. And I like the character arc of our protagonist, starting out as a cocky and arrogant little prick and getting a completely new perspective on things throughout his journey. The game is definitely worth it. I’ll definitely keep on playing it to the very end, because I want to see how things progress.
Is the Trifecta Pack worth 20 bucks? Considering that all you get are a bunch of ROM Files in an emulator, I keep longing to have at least Beggar Prince on an actual cartridge, to be honest. But I know that Beggar Prince and Star Odyssey are quite good games (at least story-wise), so I can’t really complain. But I do wish they had cared a bit more when SFT created that bundle. Not including any manual for three role-playing games is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Lightening Force By The Coop
Ever had a game that basically made a gaming system worth owning for you? You know, one that as soon as you began playing it, you knew you’d be playing it so many times, that it would likely border on unhealthy when described to others? Well, that’s pretty much Thunder Force IV for me.
I kid you not when I say, I’ve played this game A LOT. Shmup, RPG, run ‘n gun, puzzle, platformer… you name the genre, and TF4 was given more time in my Genesis system than any game in that genre. I was hooked by the music, the graphics that were amazing in their detail, the stages that were long and several screens high, great bosses, a solid challenge, and an explosion that rumbled the floor when your ship exploded. The only mark on the game’s fuselage, is the slowdown. It shows up regularly, and it’s a shame. But given how much this game pushes on the screen, it’s not that surprising. It was just an awesome gaming experience from start to finish, and for me, is the best 16-bit shmup out there.
So yes, I’ll admit it. I’ve probably played this game too much. I’ve beaten every difficulty setting without dying once, I’ve made remixes of some of its music, and I’ve made forum signatures based on it. But what else would you do with a game that basically was [i]the[/i] go to game for a given system? Sure, the Phantasy Stars, the Sonics, the Shinobis, the one off games like Ristar, Beyond Oasis, Master of Monsters and M.U.S.H.A… they all gave the Genesis’ library quality stuff in my eyes as well. But there are some games that helped define what the Genesis could really do in the hands of people who knew the system well. And Thunder Force IV was one of those games.
David Crane’s Amazing Tennis By Goldenband
Towards the end of summer, I often find myself watching more tennis than at any other time of the year. Starting in late July the calendar is packed with tournaments in North America, culminating in the U.S. Open, and both the time zones and TV coverage are friendly to U.S. viewers. Thus, it only seemed right to grapple with David Crane’s Amazing Tennis in August.
The word “epic” has been horrendously overused in recent years but, speaking in the Joseph Campbell sense, there’s something fundamentally epic in a good, tough tennis game. You start out incompetent, barely able to hit a powderpuff serve or keep the ball in the court, and probably suffer a series of embarrassing defeats. But little by little you improve, figuring out the mechanics and dynamics of the game, and scoring small victories here and there: a point, a game, a set won — and eventually, your first win over a weak opponent. As you take on stronger opponents, your game improves and transforms, until you’re ready to conquer the game’s world.
In most tennis titles, one of two things happens next. Either you find a pattern that works to defeat every opponent in the game (usually by finding a reliable “power shot” or a way to break the AI), and have a fairly dull cakewalk to the end; or, the computer starts throwing near-invincible opponents at you — “backboards” who never miss a shot — and the only way to win is by exploiting odd bugs and loopholes in their consciousness. Neither is particularly satisfying, except in a “git-r-done” sort of way.
But in David Crane’s Amazing Tennis, that never happens. A victorious tennis player will typically offer up an array of empty truisms about a defeated opponent: “Oh, she’s such a great player, I was lucky to get past her today and really had to bring my A game.” Here, for once, that’s actually true. Making it to the end of the four-round tournament mode is a street fight (at least when you draw one of the top seeds), because neither player has massive, game-breaking weapons or an uncanny ability to predict the future. There are patterns, but only when you’re serving, and they’re not uniformly effective; instead, most of the game is a harried improvisation in which both players struggle to come out on top. The game has, for want of a better word, integrity of a kind you don’t see too often.
Sega-16 user StarMist wrote a controversial but spot-on review of David Crane’s Amazing Tennis, and his counsel led me to reevaluate a game I’d always dismissed as misguided garbage. Now I think it may well be the best tennis game on the Genesis, despite all its flaws; it’s certainly among the best I’ve ever played. Unfortunately, StarMist disappeared from the site about a month after the review was posted, and no one has heard from him since. We’re the poorer for the absence of this witty, insightful, and opinionated poster, and can only hope that it’s the product of new opportunities or changing interests — for there are more important things in life than games, onscreen or on court. But whatever the reason may be, let me just say: thanks, StarMist, for opening my eyes to a great game I almost overlooked.
Normy’s Beach Babe O-Rama By David Dyne
Its summertime again which means basking in the sun, surfing, and outdoor barbeques and sports are on the daily agenda. Or, if you’re a slacker like the title hero Normy you’ll be traveling through time bopping cavemen with rocks, hurling pies at armored knights, dodging crazy monkeys and tangling with aliens from outer space, all to rescue a bevy of buxom beach babes who have been kidnapped by the aforementioned aliens. Now, when was the last time you played a modern game with an outlandish premise such as that?
I’d first discovered Normy’s Beach Babe o-Rama about a year ago when I was searching through the extensive listings of Genesis reviews here at Sega-16.com and thought; what the heck is this game about? To me it sounded like another undiscovered treasure that needed to be unearthed so about two months ago I finally picked up a copy and put some serious time into it. I love the soundtrack to this game! Each stage has its own unique whimsical tune that puts me in a good mood every time I hear them which helps when I screw up a jump and watch Normy go sailing down into a pit with his arms flailing.
There’s a large variety of weapons you can pickup with my favorites being the pies on stage two and the spears in stage three. Both can be fired in rapid succession to keep any pesky enemies well away from you. As far as platformers go it does a pretty good job, nothing really special but still a solid effort all around. And of course how may other platformers allow you to sail around in a canoe and instead of duking it out directly with the stage four boss, you end up playing two mini-games in the style of Pong and Pac-Man to see who wins?
If you’re into obscure platformers with a whacky storyline and copious amounts of humor and in-jokes you won’t be disappointed here. Forget about saving the whales, the babes need you to save them! Best music track(s) in the game: stage two (medieval England) and stage 3 (the jungle).
VectorMan By Frank Villone
If there was one phrase to summarize VectorMan, it would be “gratuitous special effects,” and I mean that in the best way possible! It is clear from the start: Against a waving background of Sega logos, V-man can practice his moves, destroy the logos in a flash explosion, and trigger an avalanche mini-game for level-skipping! Not bad for what is probably the only interactive Sega screen in the whole Genesis library!
Blue Sky’s screen shows off some cloud-stretching special effects, and then the title screen is pure visual overload: 3D orbs shooting from the foreground onto the background, which animates and changes with various effects that are pointless and awesome! The theme of overload works nicely throughout the title, because the gameplay and controls are solid, although they take some getting used to. The soundtrack rocks futuristic electronic, and it all comes together for a unique experience, with infinite replay value, and a bunch of codes too!
Grab your controller and get ready for a trip into the future!