It’s the last Roundtable of 2014, and we’ve no better way to end the year than by playing our favorite SEGA games! And we’ve all been good, so ol’ St. Nick brought us a ton of great ones to play. Read on and see what our staff and readers were playing during the holidays!
Mega Everdrive By Ken Horowitz
This year, I decided to finally get myself an Everdrive (merry Christmas to ME!), and I’m so glad I did! I’ve been able to play all those great fan translations on real hardware, as well as enjoy some of the great unreleased titles that are out there. It’s been a bit tricky to get the cart to do all the things it should (like save states), but I guess that’s just part and parcel of the homebrew scene. Overall, I feel it was more than worth the cost because of all the incredible software that it has opened up for play on my actual Genesis (and I can play my RPGs without worrying about bad save batteries!). Yes, I know that all this stuff has been available on emulators for ages, but I don’t want to emulate. I want to play them on my Genesis!
Do yourself a favor and get a Mega Everdrive. It’s the single best tool you can get for your Genesis!
Eye of the Beholder By Sebastian Sponsel
Generally I’m a fan of RPGs, both in computerized or console format and in their pen-and-paper styling. Yet I never was much of a fan of the Dungeons & Dragons system. Nor do I particularly like dungeon crawlers, to be honest. I prefer the characters and the potential for world and story building over what essentially breaks down to killing monsters and finding loot (and occasionally solving a puzzle or two). Still, isn’t D&D sort of the grandfather of the computer RPG? And aren’t great games like Bioshock Infinite, a shooter I enjoyed very much, in a way, derived from the classic 3D dungeon crawlers of old? There’s a certain evolution to be made out for sure: Might & Magic -> Dungeon Master -> Ultima Underworld -> System Shock -> Bioshock. By that logic, something that makes those newer games great for me must be found in the older ones as well, doesn’t it?
When EtoB first came out I was a mere 11-years-old and not yet interested in role playing games of any kind. I had looked at it but wasn’t particularly interested. My cousin, four years older, was practically gushing over the game all the time. So now, more than 20 years later, I sat down with the Sega CD port and tried to see whether this game could catch my interest after all.
After playing for a few hours I’ve got this to say: I’m still not a fan. I can’t really say what it is, but this game doesn’t catch me. The AD&D style character creation – though “generation” would be the better term – still irks me, as I find the randomness of it all so infuriating. “Oh yes, we know you picked the fighter class, but the random dice throw determined that you’re too weak to wield a longsword” – blow me! Every D&D gaming group I knew had a house rule that allowed you to keep your best dice throws for the attributes that class needed for that very bullshit reason. But Eye of the Beholder does it old school, so you keep generating random stats until you eventually come up with some numbers that look halfway satisfying. Or get annoyed with that eventually and just stick to the pregenerated party like I eventually did.
That little annoyance aside, I gotta admit, the presentation is nice. It’s a good-looking game with interesting enemy sprites. It’s painfully obvious that the game wasn’t meant to be played with a gamepad, though with the mouse it controls rather nicely. I was even a bit surprised when, even with all my skepticism, I realized how quickly an hour of play time had passed without me really noticing. So there must have been something engaging about the whole experience. Maybe I’ll give it another try in the future, but for now, I think I won’t carry on with my quest. Scouring a dungeon without interesting characters and no noticeable story just doesn’t do it for me, and though there’s definitely action and danger present, progress feels so very slow, especially if you have to rest every few encounters to heal up and memorize spells again. So sorry, Melf, but I don’t think I will sling any more of your acidic arrows any time soon. I guess beauty really lies in the eye of the beholder..
… though I kinda wonder what’s in the other 12 eyes…
The Revenge of Shinobi By Benjamin Galway
It’s funny how Yuzo Koshiro’s name is splashed right there on the Revenge of Shinobi title screen. You just don’t see that… like ever. I can’t think of any other non-licensed 16-bit game which flaunts its composer as Revenge of Shinobi did. Yet those guys who made the game? Pfft to them.
Pfft to me, too. Revenge of Shinobi never found its way to my Genesis growing up. I never really bothered with it afterward because Shinobi III was just so amazing, and Shinobi’s earlier titles lacked the moves to keep up. I miss the running. I miss the jump kick. I miss not struggling with jumps too high and far for Joe to reach. Woe to the ninja-lacking Mijin to cast the jitsu of Fushin.
Sure enough, I had trouble clearing Chinatown because I couldn’t quite stretch that jump from the post above the traffic light to the rooftops beyond near the end. After several minutes of trying I somehow managed, but even then I don’t understand how I did it. At least the ground is there to catch my falls unlike the jump at the end of stage seven. I hate Fushin. It makes taking to the air feel all wobbly and tough to judge when I can double jump.
Joe, you may have taken out the Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman, and others on my run; but you really don’t feel like much of a Super Shinobi when you’re consistently crashing to the ground and taking a dive. Your bride’s going to be crushed when she sees what a poor ninja you are… at least compared to your future self.
Rampart By Goldenband
“While ev’n the hissing grape-shot’s iron hail / Against the rampart nothing could avail” – Frederick Swinborne, Gustavus Adolphus
Now, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at video games. Some genres aren’t my speed, of course, and I know I’ll never be a whiz at anything described with terms like “FPS”, “bullet hell”, or “football” (whether American or European).
Still, once I decide to put time into a game — once I commit to it — I can usually beat it sooner or later. Sometimes the highest difficulty level eludes me, as with Shadow of the Beast II‘s well-named “Ridiculous” setting… or more embarrassingly, Shaq-Fu on Expert. (Hey, stop laughing — you try it, it’s tough as nails!) But at least I cleared those games on the other, lower difficulties.
In Rampart, however, I have met my Waterloo. It’s the Lucy to my Charlie Brown, the Road Runner to my Wile E. Coyote, the Itchy to my hapless Scratchy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to beat it.
Whether I play poorly or brilliantly, my games of Rampart always seem to end the same way: with that last island battle and those two forlorn castles against a massive armada of enemy ships, and me frantically rebuilding turn after turn, until there’s simply no way left for me to rebuild my castle walls. A few times I’ve managed to hold out long enough, and inflict enough damage on my enemy, that I thought I’d finally done it…
…only to have yet another armada arrive and bomb my forces into the Stone Age, while I inevitably end up that one square short of completing my castle walls.
And all this — on easy difficulty.
Is there a malign intelligence behind Rampart? Does it rub its algorithmic hands together gleefully when it deprives me of the one piece I need? Will it always pull away the football of victory at the last moment? If you told me “Yes,” I think I’d believe you.
But here’s a New Year’s resolution of sorts. May 2015 be the year when I barely scrape out a win after thousands of attempts, and finally get to see those beautiful, halcyon words of congratulation:
“NICE JOB! NOW TRY NORMAL DIFFICULTY.”
Aladdin By Tom Briggs
I’m sitting at work, and “A Whole New World” is playing over our office speaker system. It’s the perfect song for me right now. Last April, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said yes, and our wedding is set for May 2015. While I’m very excited for our future, paying for things like our honeymoon travel has been a bit stressful. Finances have been tight, and I decided to sell off a significant portion of my games collection mid-2014 to support some of our upcoming expenses.
Of course, I couldn’t bring myself to sell ALL of my games. That would just be silly. And recently I took back up to playing one of my favorite Genesis games of all time: Disney’s Aladdin. Aladdin was a Christmas gift from my dad many years ago, and it was a game I played day and night with my twin brother and little sister. The film remains one of my favorite Disney movies ever, and getting to play a version of that story, complete with great visuals, animations, and sounds, was a real treat.
I find myself more appreciative of the work that went into Aladdin today. While it’s not always the best controlled game, there’s so much polish in everything else. As the game has aged, it’s far outshined its SNES, Capcom-made contemporary. It’s a gem of a game that should be considered a system defining classic. Sure, there are gamers out there who are quick to call the game overrated, but if you were to take away the hype and the movie-cred, you would still have an excellent game. It’s just so much fun and so great to look at; a true masterpiece.
Ecco: Tides of Time CD by Frank James Villone
As 2014 neared its end, I found myself without a title that really moved me. Despite doing playthroughs of a few different ones, they all had failed to really make a splash!
Finally it seemed I just had to revisit an old favorite that is always a moving experience! Ecco: Tides of Time on Sega CD: In my eyes, the absolute peak of the whole series! While I also love the cartridge soundtrack with all its atmospheric gloominess and terror, I prefer the CD tracks, which seem to be overflowing with relaxation and the joy of being alive! New Age synthesizer hums along warmly, amid clear samples of flutes, drums, wind chimes, and the sounds of underwater animals calling out to each other! The FMV sequences look awesome, as recordings of 3D-rendered underwater life, obviously created by some powerful computer, and just played back on Sega CD.
I tend to use level-select for skipping around, mostly among the special stages, just for the enjoyment of swimming through the oceans in 3D-perspective. Stunning detail and bright colors are everywhere throughout all the environments and creatures, including dream-like visions of future worlds!
Tides of Time is the perfect stress-release to take a break from real-world pressures that never end, but which seem to vanish when diving beneath the waves!