As August fades and everyone ends vacation time or gears up for new semesters of high school and college, let us take one last look back at those carefree days and bid them a fond farewell. Soon, the seasons will change, and our lives will go back to their daily routines. Never forget though, that your Sega Genesis is there year round! It can always be a 16-bit summer, no matter what time of year it is.
Power Base Converter By Ken Horowitz
This marks the second roundtable entry where I spent the majority of time playing Master System games on my lovely little Power Base Converter. It’s so handy not having cables and wires to set up when I want to use it, and it gives me a great opportunity to keep exploring the excellent (and highly underrated) library of Sega’s 8-bit machine. This month, I tackled The Ninja, using a modified three-button Genesis pad, and I finally, FINALLY managed to beat it! It’s only taken me 28 years to do so, too! The Ninja was the game I got with my Master System back in Christmas of ’86, and I’d never been able to find all five hidden scrolls. I finally decided to get some help and checked the Internet for the last two. After almost three decades of trying, I finally got to see the last stage and boss! My reward, a really crappy ending. But hey! At least I finally closed one of the longest running chapters of my gaming life!
Pirates! Gold By Sebastian Sponsel
Ah, Pirates! Pretty much every game in this series ranks among my all-time favorites on their respective platforms. I still own a complete boxed copy of the C64 original, I played the heck out of the 16-bit update Pirates! Gold on the Mega Drive, and I pretty much spent days on end on the PC version of the latest child in the series, Sid Meier’s Pirates (I even kind of like the iOS port of the latter, though personally I feel that they watered down that version way too much). And every once in a while, I love to pop in one of those games and plague the 15th/16th century Caribbean as the scourge of the seven seas. And since my C64 is currently not hooked up and collecting dust on a shelf in the basement, and my PC doesn’t have the latest version installed at the moment, I love that I can just grab my copy of Pirates! Gold out of the shelf and just pop it into my Mega Drive at any time, starting instantaneously.
Usually when starting out I follow my standard strategy: I love to start out as a dutch trader and immediately ally myself with either the French or the English; Since Dutch colonies are rather rare, it pays to have at least one allied nation for some safe havens, but you have more opportunities to get promoted for the dutch when capturing a city that way. Simultaneously, I love to wage my private Seven Years War against the Spanish, who usually make for great targets. And since usually someone is at war with Spain at any given time, it’s usually a pretty solid tactic that allows you to plunder and pillage all your way through most of the Caribbean while getting promoted for at least one nation at the same time…
… or at least, that’s how it usually goes. This time however, I ran into trouble. I’ve been playing for four in-game years now… and not once did any nation declare war on Spain! (well, there was one time France and Spain were at war, but they declared war shortly before I had to appease my crew and split up the plunder, and by the time the mandatory four months had passed before I could set out for a new expedition, they had already made peace again… and even became allies shortly thereafter!). At the same time, Holland and England have been in a constant state of war for four years straight. Too bad that the English don’t make such great targets during the 1640’s!
As a result, there was little opportunity to get promoted for any country, and I considered starting a new game. But then a strange thing happened. I was on my way down to the dutch port of Curacao, trying to get one of my rare promotions, when my crew of about 400 was starting to get cranky and unhappy. So I decided to attack Maracaibo with them. As luck would have it, the Silver Train was in town, so I immediately set after it and caught it – made a nice bit of cash! Unfortunately the crew still wasn’t pleased. Even attacking Gibraltar afterwards didn’t make them any happier. So I decided to attack Maracaibo once more before finally heading for Curacao – get some of them killed by the relatively strong defenses there, make a little bit of gold, and have a smaller but more content crew left. I didn’t make much loot the second time around, but with now about 200 relatively pleased men left, I now felt safe finally heading to my intended harbor. But on the way there, I encountered a pirate sloop. No biggie, I though: Capture the ship, take a prisoner, sell both off, make a little more money. I fought, and won, but then accidentally made the wrong selection: Instead of holding him hostage, I asked him about the Treasure Fleet. And what did he tell me? That the treasure fleet was – of all places – now in Maracaibo! So, back again, straight at Maracaibo, and sure enough: The Treasure Fleet was in town! So I attacked it.. again… and plundered the city for the third time in less than four in-game weeks. When I finally reached Curacao, I had about 90 crew left, but about 300000 gold in the hold – and two of the rarer Pirate Quests down pat!
So I guess I’ll keep playing that run after all. Who knows. Maybe if I keep attacking Maracaibo long enough, the Spanish will get annoyed and finally start that war with Holland I’ve been waiting for…
Batman: The Video Game By Benjamin Galway
Next to my crusade against those who say E.T. was a terrible game is my dislike of how people insist there was never a good Batman game until Arkham Asylum. Sunsoft’s Batman for the NES was and remains a terrific platformer, and its Genesis game is good fun, too, though not on the level of its 8-bit older brother. Given the dominance of the Famicom in Japan, I can’t help but think Sega was reduced to Sunsoft’s B-team here apart from Naoki Kodaka, the excellent soundtrack composer who worked on both games.
The Genesis Batman retains the feel of the film better than its NES sibling, but it suffers a bit as a result. The graphics are bathed in browns and grays, and the level design is lackluster, stuck in its fixed scrolling purgatory with none of the variety found in the NES game. The Genesis game carries on that plodding side scroller feel of a lot of late 80s arcade clasics like Altered Beast and E-SWAT with how stiff Batman feels and the way he determinely plods through each level. It feels like a Data East game to me; you could re-title it Bat Dudes, and I wouldn’t blink.
Thankfully, Batman‘s short enough to where I don’t mind the repition much, and the two shoot-em up levels help break up the monotony. I rather like how the game’s bosses are all just powered-up thugs — I kind of hate how every Batman thing these days just has to stuff in as many rogues as possible, and apart from the Joker going Super Saiyan, the game feels more grounded than most Batman fare. Sunsoft’s Sega effort is by no means a contender for the best Batman game, but it remains a good game worth revisiting for the music alone.
The Revenge of Shinobi – Joseph C.
As with last month, this is another old favourite that I recently reacquired. I have only played it briefly this month but it served to remind me that this game took me a long time to finish. I was quite good at platformers as a child and I’m still not bad today but this one beat me, at least for a time.
It wasn’t that I didn’t get to the end because I did. And it wasn’t because it was cheap or unfairly difficult – because it wasn’t. No, what prevented me from finishing this game was ignorance. The first time I got to the end I remember watching Joe’s love crushed to death and seeing his heartbreak before it cut to a night scene of him remembering his lovers face in the stars. This troubled me but I assumed that it was the ending and I just had to accept it.
I didn’t stop thinking about it though and I wondered if there wasn’t a way to quickly defeat the boss before she was crushed. It was roughly a year and many games later before I eventually came up with a convoluted plan. The plan required retaining a power-up item from the labyrinth all the way to the boss room. I don’t remember this being easy to pull off and I had to restart the level a couple of times before getting to the end. Having the power-up meant I would do three times the damage to the boss but I also needed to make sure I didn’t lose the power so the lighting shield (ikazuchi) skill would solve that. When I got to the boss I defeated him quickly and easily and with plenty of time left to save the girl. I was very happy to see the true ending and discover for myself what I thought was a challenging secret.
Then one day I was reading a magazine and I found out about the holes either side of the level that temporarily stop the crushing mechanism when hit with a shuriken.