You’d think that after so many months doing these articles, we’d have played through everything by now. The truth is, there are so many great games on Sega’s hardware that we could probably go another decade and never cover all of them. Still, we aim to try! Just as we do every month, our staff and readers share what they’ve been playing lately, and there are some great games to check out or revisit. Read on and enjoy!
King Colossus By Ken Horowitz
I already reviewed King Colossus, but I didn’t get the chance to actually beat it. At the time, I had to settle for playing on an emulator in order to use the English translation. That was awkward, to say the least. Now, thanks to my awesome Mega Everdrive, I finally got to sit down and give this awesome action/RPG the attention it deserves – on real hardware.
You get a very Ys-like vibe playing King Colossus. I don’t know if that game set some sort of mold, or if it just happened to be the first of its type that I actually played, but that’s the comparison that comes to mind. The action is very fluid, and the dungeon designs are great. I do wish that the character’s sword attack had a longer reach, but I used bows through most of the game, so it didn’t really affect me. The translation, which I finally got to read through to the end this time, is also well-done, and as I played I constantly found myself thinking about what a shame it was that no company brought this out back in the day. This had the potential to be a real 16-bit classic.
I’m really glad that I got to play through King Colossus in English. I still plan to buy the actual physical release, as it’s one of the few Mega Drive games you can find really cheap and complete on eBay. I can tell you, though, that I am really appreciating my Everdrive. Being able to play these fan translations on actual hardware is priceless!
NBA Jam T.E. (32X) By Sebastian Sponsel
So, recently I’ve acquired a new 32X game. Never really planned on doing so, actually. I just sort of stumbled into it.
A friend of mine had convinced me to visit a small expo called the “Vintage Computer Festival” (VCFe), chapter Munich. And it really was that, both small, and vintage. Crammed into a gym hall there were about 30 displays showcasing old or obscure systems, ranging from a PDP-8 (an old line of eastern-German 8-bit computers) and even a modern attempt to create a new, original MOS6502-based 8-bit computer on a plug board! It was all very interesting, though heavily retro… and VERY technical. Oh, and there was also a flea market section.
We were just about to leave when I noticed a small cardboard box holding a few cartridges crammed underneath a table showcasing old computer manuals and handbooks (and, for some reason, some boxed first edition German RPG rulebooks). Spurred on by curiosity, I decided to have a look inside. It was a very random collection – Commodore 64 carts, old Atari VCS games… mostly loose, but some of them in their original box. And in there, way in the back, was also plastic case sporting the typical blue-and-black spine of a PAL 32x release. This was definitely something I didn’t expect from an exposition of mostly ’80s and earlier computer systems. It was NBA Jam T.E., complete with manual and in excellent condition. I already got the Genesis version, but seeing that the 32X version is considered closer to the arcade, has a few extras over the Mega Drive release, and probably belongs to the upper tier of 32x releases, I figured I might just inquire about the price. So I called the owner and handed him the box. The guy frowned, looking at the case almost as if he had never seen it before, pursing his lips in thought. “Oh well,” I thought, “I didn’t really plan on buying something anyway.” I was expecting something outrageous, considering the price the Mega Drive version tends to go for and the rarity of a 32X system, and a PAL game to boot.
“You know what?” The guy finally said. “Let’s say five.” I was stumped. I don’t know what the asking price is, but I’m pretty sure that I paid more for my boxed Mega Drive version when I got it years ago.
“All right” I finally managed to say… here, surrounded by truly vintage and boxed games and systems, with a complete A1000 to my right and those first-edition DSA boxes to my left. “Sounds fine”.
To be completely hones, I haven’t really dared playing the game yet; my 32X isn’t hooked up at the moment. So, the box is just sitting there, in front of the rest of my collection. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. The condition is top-notch. Do I even dare plugging it in right now? Or should I keep it, as a memento, as an investment for the future? No, games have to be played! And I really like the Mega Drive version. Sooner or later, I’ll probably have to.
Ranger-X By The Coop
Scouts. No, we’re not talking about the groups kids join and get badges in or multiples of the guy from Team Fortress 2. Instead, we’re talking about a friend who knows you’re looking for something, and calls you when they find it for sale somewhere so that you can possibly come and get it before it’s gone. It’s this kind of a friend who gave me a ring one evening when they were at a video rental store that was selling off some of their Genesis stock.
A year or so beforehand, he and I had rented Ranger-X for my Genesis, and we had a blast. It looked awesome, sounded great, and played well. It was the type of game that had just the right length too, as it didn’t overstay its welcome and get drawn out. Part platformer, part shmup, part run-‘n-gun, it was action from start to finish with lots of visual splendor. Factor in having multiple endings, two vehicles that can be controlled separately by you at the same time, and some funky between-mission vector graphic cinemas, and it was a game that made me say, “I have to own this.” But, buying it was easier said than done.
Remember that town I’ve mentioned a few times? Yep. This took place there, and this game either never showed up, or only had a couple of copies come in, because I never saw it. Not even in the pawn shops. But, one video rental store had a copy for rent, and I was introduced to this game through them. And sure enough, eventually, they put that game on their sale rack shortly before my friend had gone in to rent a movie. He just happened to see the game on the rack with the other Genesis titles next to the SNES ones he was checking out and gave me a quick call to tell me about it. The downside? He didn’t have the cash on him to buy it for me and let me pay him back. Thus began my having to wait for my mother to get out of the bathroom so that I could discuss the idea of going to that store with sound and rational reasoning that would surely win over any counter argument she could make.
Who the hell am I kidding? I pleaded and bribed her with buying her a milkshake from the diner that was on the way (she really liked them). The rental store closed in 45 minutes, it was a 15-minute drive away, and I knew it wouldn’t be on the sale shelf for very long. I had the money, I just needed to get a human who was legally able to make the car go “vroom” and get me there. She was tired and had already put on her nightgown, telling me that we’d go tomorrow. But I turned on my powerful counter argument beam of justice (aka the milkshake bribe), striking her weak point as if she were a giant crab, and convincing her to drive me to that rental store. She got dressed again, and we got there just ten minutes before the place closed. I quickly went over to the four-sided wire rack where the games they had for sale were sitting, and found the purpose of my journey. Plus, not only was it cheap, but it was also in good shape and complete. SCORE!
And so, I got it and went home; a game in my hand, and a milkshake in my mother’s. I finally got to play and enjoy Ranger-X at my own pace, without having to hurry and soak everything in during the brief 24-hour rental window. I still have that copy today, too. For me, it’s a great game that really deserved a followup. Sadly, I think it’s safe to say that’s never going to happen, given how long it’s been. Of course, I’d settle for an HD remake of it. If for no other reason, than to see once and for all if those little floating and swimming enemies on stage two are tadpoles, or sperm. Because frankly, they could go either way depending on which frame of animation you look at.
Simpsons: Krusty’s Super Fun House By Benjamin Galway
I don’t know why I continue to slog through Ni No Kuni, because I hate the grind and all the backtracking. Time for a Genesis break? Reaching for… Krusty’s Super Fun House? Sure, why not!
Man, I forgot about all the backtracking in this game. Simpsons already did it! The puzzles are well done, but then you have to walk all the way back to the entrance door once you solve a puzzle. Plus waiting for the mice to run through the solution can take forever. Whoever decided to take Lemmings and have them trudge over miles of terrain without the foresight to include some kind of “speed up” button needs to be shot.
Still, at least the stupid return trips and more chore-like tasks are over in a matter of seconds. Feels like a vacation after the days and days of back-and-forth and hand holding in Studio Ghibli’s overhyped dud. It’s nice to be challenged in an interesting manner without Mr. Drippy butting in and giving me the answer all the time. If Krusty’s Super Fun House were made today, we’d have Mr. Smithers butting in at every chance to tell me where to place my block or pipe to solve the puzzle. When I made a rash decision and sent the rats over the wrong wall which forced me to reset the level, there would be Mr. Smithers popping in, preventing me from making the mistake before I even had chance to make it and deal with the consequences.
Different games, sure, but it’s still nice to remember a time when the player was expected to play games and not just be a passenger on a guided tour. Not that anyone would want a tour of Krusty’s Super Fun House. That place is infested with rats.
Shadow Dancer (Master System) By David Dyne
Shadow Dancer on the Master System is a strange one. Whereas Sega went for a variation or sequel to the Shadow Dancer arcade game on the Genesis, its decided to port the arcade game to the Master System instead with mixed results. It’s missing a few stages and is pretty darn unforgiving with only three lives, and the hard-as-nails bonus rounds are the only other opportunity to score extra ones. Unlike the Genesis version, in which you can make a few mistakes and still progress, the slightest screw up here yields instant death. Be prepared to see the “game over screen often. Still, I find it to be strangely compelling and keep coming back even though I haven’t made it past the second stage boss yet. Give this one a shot if you haven’t already. It has a similar feel to the PC Engine version of Shinobi which is another unusual port but still plays just like our favorite Sega ninja.
Virtua Racing Deluxe (Japanese version) by James Villone
Back in the ’90s, the Genesis version of Virtua Racing never revved my engine, because I found the graphics so unpleasant! Even the arcade original barely caught my eye, so years later, it was surprising that the 32x version drove straight into my heart, and made its own permanent parking spot there! This is arguably the single best version ofVirtua Racing ever made, with exclusive extras that blow away the arcade original. Later home versions on Saturn and PS2 are said to suffer from problematic sound effects and gameplay, so Virtua Racing Deluxe still leads the pack, even today!
The two new cars are better than the single Formula 1 found on Genesis and in the arcade, and the two new stages are also the best! Sand Park has the most extreme 3D landscape to drive over, with a backdrop that looks almost like a photo of desert scenery. Highland is the most challenging track of all, requiring nearly perfect handling of the car and its physics: Gunning the acceleration without losing control; drifting around tight corners without using the brakes; and hugging the inside of turns without straying off the road. The Rocky Mountains float in the distance, frosty blue, and they blend nicely with the 3D small town. The road winds through sloping hills and pine trees, past buildings, bridges, and waterways.
Highland also stirs up some emotions and memories, because it looks similar to when I really did visit a small town in the Rockies with my girlfriend of the time, who wanted me to move there with her. It was a beautiful and loving time period, even though I later realized she was very unfaithful to me, and apparently, she wanted me to move there with her, so she could cheat on me regularly with someone who already lived there! Highland reminds me of all that, and it is impressive that it bears such resemblance to real-life locations, that it drudges up real memories like this!
The Japanese 32x version is the very best of all, because it saves scores with battery back-up! I must purchase a copy someday, but in the meantime, I had to check it out with emulation! Aside from the saving, however, the other few differences are small. For example, there is a new background for the options screens, but it barely looks any better. The voice shouting the title sounds funny, but it already sounded pretty funny in the U.S. version too.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be racing the Highland course until I get first place, so I can unlock the mirror stages for the first time. I’m sticking with my U.S. cart on real hardware, but I’m just keeping the power on for days and days, so that my scores remain saved like the Japanese version!