Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 96

It’s time for another edition of our monthly Reader Roundtable! See what our staff and readers have been playing in February, as you never know if they’ve played a game you missed or a gem you should revisit. There’s a lot of good stuff to talk about this month, so read on and enjoy!


Disney’s Aladdin by Ken Horowitz

I remember buying Aladdin at launch from a Toys ‘R Us that was about 40 minutes away. I must have read that manual and box description a dozen times each on the way home! The game just looked so magical and fun, and I can honestly say that I was not disappointed when I finally got home and booted it up. The incredible animation and graphics, the exploration and platforming, and the music were all what I had hoped them to be.

Where the game did throw me for a loop was the difficulty. Even on easy, Aladdin is not exactly the type of Disney game you breeze through. It gets exponentially harder with each new level, and Jafar made me wish I had some real apples of my own to throw at the TV. It was very rewarding to finally finish the game, and I find myself going back to it at least once or twice a year. To me, that’s the definition of a classic:  a game that successfully unites great presentation with brilliant level design and intuitive gameplay. That’s the kind of game you come back to years later, and those are the ones you remember the most.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse by Sebastian Sponsel

While recently playing the remake of Castle of Illusion on my PS3 – which is a pretty decent game in its own right, I might add – I realized that it was high time I came clean about something. I had gotten the original game for my Mega Drive back when I was 10 years-old, on Christmas Eve 1990. I never really did get the story, since I had an import Mega Drive and the game only game with Japanese instructions and screen texts. I didn’t finish the game on higher than practice difficulty until about 20 years later, though I never got rid of my copy. The language barrier wasn’t the problem. The game quality wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that back then the game… kind of scared me.

It wasn’t so much the castle or the witch that got to me; castles and tales of witches are kind of the norm where I come from. And I also remember quite happily playing the first forest level several times. But when I got to level two, the game started to unnerve me. I don’t know why, but that giant playground, the toy soldiers, and the weird clown figures… they somehow got to me. It’s a bright and fun level for the most part, but still, I was always very glad when I got it over with. And the third level…  I don’t know why, but with the purple tinted mushrooms, the skeletal fish and the gloomy background, I always figured it must be some kind of post-apocalyptic doomsday world. Continuing the stage in murky catacombs didn’t make things better. By the time I reached the third level boss I was usually pretty shaken, so I never quite figured out how to defeat him back then.

I know, it’s kind of nuts. I had no problems beating Golden Axe, for example. Forgotten Worlds had been no problem at all, and I enjoyed Decap Attack and Ghostbusters. But Castle of Illusion somehow got to me. Well, at least now I’m old enough to enjoy both it as the great games it is. And yeah, the remake is also pretty good, I guess.

Sword of Vermilion by The Coop

Back when the Genesis was still getting its legs in the states around 1990, RPGs weren’t exactly numerous. Sure, we had Phantasy Star II, Super Hydlide, and the promise of others on the horizon for the following year, but entries in the genre weren’t yet coming in steadily. However, there was one more game that was being advertised in the various game magazines of the time, and it promised a bit more action with its RPG gameplay. And not long after it was released in 1990, I bought myself a copy of it.

Sword of Vermilion is a strange beast in ways. There’s dungeon crawling, there’s an overworld and towns to explore like JRPGs, there are side-view boss battles, and there are real time enemy battles not unlike some simplistic beat-’em-ups. It leaves turn-based encounters behind in favor of letting you run around swinging a sword and casting magic, which is a good thing to be honest. Because this game’s biggest crutch, is the random enemy encounter rate.

Dear God, do you get attacked a lot in this game. There will be times when you get attacked, beat the enemies, take a single step on the overworld map, and then get attacked again. And this can happen several times in a row before you get to take just two steps instead of one. It really begins to grate on your nerves after awhile, as you start to feel like you’re making absolutely no progress after hours of play. It also begins to feel like such a high encounter rate was done to pad out the length of the game. The maps aren’t massive, and the number of places to visit isn’t either. It just takes forever to get to and through the areas because you keep getting lambasted with enemies every couple of seconds.

That said, once you step outside of the R.E. rate, the game’s traits get noticeably better. The graphics are good for the time, the music is quite enjoyable, being able to fight enemies in real time is a nice change of pace, and even the story (though basic) isn’t too bad. The bosses look cool, and while the enemy count isn’t very high in terms of different designs, they’re decent in terms of differing attacks. So the ingredients are all there to make for a rather good game. They just tend to get overshadowed by the damned R.E. rate. If the R.E. rate could be cut in half, the game would benefit greatly. But, the game is as it is, and we should be thankful in a way… because it could have been a lot worse. Can you imagine doing turn-based, menu-driven battles so often? Ugh.

Battle Mania 2: Trouble Shooter Vintage by David Dyne

Over the past two month’s I’ve picked up several repro carts and Battle Mania 2 Trouble Shooter Vintage happened to be one of them. Last year I gave the original Trouble Shooter a shot on the Everdrive and wasn’t that impressed which was more due to me being absolutely terrible at it. The sequel is a whole different ballgame though. It still has its tough as nails moments, but man, what a blast it is to play! This game has it all: bullets, bombs, bad guys galore, a bad-ass soundtrack, bikinis and babes with big… guns! What, you were thinking of something else?

Seriously though, Battle Mania 2 was a real surprise pickup, and it’s a damn shame it didn’t receive a proper release outside of Japan back in the day. It’s been two weeks since I started playing, and I’m still stuck on the third stage, but I don’t care as the massive fun factor far outweighs any frustration. So, don’t be a chump like me and wait to check out this real gem. Fire it up today and get ready to go full auto on everything that comes at you!

Ghostbusters by KistuneNight

Another month, another roundtable, and this time I have been playing Ghostbusters for the Mega Drive (the American version). It was probably the best Ghostbusters game available, until the 2009 PS3 and Xbox 360 game, including the infamous NES version (which was a port of the C64 original), the Master System version a year previously, three different Ghostbusters II games (Ghostbusters II on the NES, New Ghostbusters II on the NES, just Ghostbusters II on the Gameboy), and finally The Real Ghostbusters on the Gameboy. All of them are quite different.

But what of Ghostbusters on the Mega Drive then? It was released in June of 1990, about six months before New Ghostbusters II. Unlike most of the other Ghostbusters games, this one is actually good! The characters are super deformed but well-animated, and the graphics are colorful and vibrant. The environments are varied: you have fire and ice levels (of course), a wood level, and so on. There is a map screen where you can choose where to go. The more money you can earn, the more difficult things become. After you finished the main four levels (houses), the fifth and sixth levels open up for you. There are also two shops, where you can purchase health and help items and weapon upgrades.

… but don’t the Ghostbusters make their own gear? So, why would they need to buy it? Well, most of these are superfluous beyond health items and the night vision goggles, which you need to be able to see anything in the fire level (that is, for some inexplicable reason, all dark despite a raging fire going on).

You can even choose your Ghostbuster, even though it doesn’t make much of a difference beyond what sprite you are looking at, and there are only three Ghostbusters to choose from, Winston is conspicuous by his absence. There is a story between the levels, but that has little to no impact on the gameplay, which consists of running, jumping crawling and shooting everything that moves.

Along the way, you encounter a mid-level boss or two. After you defeat them, there are ghosts you can catch for extra money. This catching and trapping is somewhat fiddly and imprecise, and I only manage to catch them either by accident or dumb luck. The Ghostbusters themselves are well animated, and you can tell who they are supposed to be. The control layout is easy to get a hang off, and the levels are vast (if easy to get lost in)

This is probably the best Ghostbusters game on the 8 and 16-bit platforms.

So, who you gonna call ?

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