It’s hot, almost too hot. That’s why it’s better to stay inside! And if you’re not going out, you’d better find something to do. Daytime television is not an option, so let our staff and readers show you why Sega games always make things better. There’s always something to discover or revisit, so read on and see what we’ve been up to in July.
Skeleton Krew By Ken Horowitz
I’m not a big fan of isometric perspectives in 2D games due to their control issues, but I’d been meaning to give this one a try for years. I finally managed to acquire a complete copy for a decent price, and I have to say that the gameplay isn’t what I thought it would be. It does take some getting used to, but its infinitely more intuitive than the last isometric 2D shooter I played on a console (Crusader: No Remorse on the Saturn). That game was a button combo nightmare, but Skeleton Krew seems to be aware of its limitations and keeps things simple enough to avoid any major stumbling. The presentation is fantastic, and the levels are really cool to explore. This was a game that I had only glazed over back in the day, and I’m glad I finally took some time to sit and play it. It’s definitely an underrated title.
Micro Machines ’96 – Turbo Tournament By Sebastian Sponsel
The past few weeks, I had little time for gaming. It was one of those months where I could get my gaming fix only in a few short bursts, no more than 10-15 minutes at a time, tops. So, a fun little car game was just the right fix, just not your regular racing game, but a fun little romp, granting action-packed duels alone or in a team, shorts bursts of adrenaline, and a high potential for schadenfreude. I wanted one that had ramming opponents at full speed to get a lead, racing along on unusual ground, and activating your rocket boosters to make a somersault attempt for a last second goal…
Oh, sorry. That was Rocket League.
I did play a little bit of MM ’96 as well though, and while these two games seem utterly differtent at first glance – one being a racing game with toy cars, helicopters and planes, the other a soccer match player with jet-powered vehicles – they seem a share a similar source for their fun factor. It’s competitive, hectic and somewhat chaotic action, where the joy is greatest when the matches end in close calls. Where you go in for a quick game but find yourself following that up with a seemingly endless series of rematches. I could definitely sink hours into both games, even though I currently only find some time for a quick match every now and then right now. But that’s okay, as long as it’s fun.
Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition by James Villone
With the latest Jurassic Park movie now in theaters, I had to revisit a related Genesis title from a couple decades ago, when the JP phenomenon had only just begun! In the ’90s, I only knew about the first Genesis cartridge, which was famous because… only Sega lets you play as the raptor! Meanwhile, the poor kids with Super Nintendo could only play as Grant in their Jurassic Park games!
Rampage Edition is obviously built from the first Genesis cartridge, with the action increased ridiculously. Dinosaurs are leaping and flying everywhere, while humans are standing and shooting machine guns everywhere. Grant now has deadly weapons to blow away the dinosaurs, and the men too! Raptor mode has our velociraptor doing double-jump flips in the air, and there is a “rampage” when he collects a few items and goes invincible, with the screen tinted red. This title is fun and playable, though I prefer using Game Genie for unlimited life, because the unavoidable damage can become pretty impossible, between the bullet hell and the dinosaur hell!
I do miss the consistency with the JP franchise (since this title takes off in its own direction), and the unrealistic style of the raptor’s moves is disappointing, because I would much rather control a realistic dinosaur! The raptor’s sprite (and some others) have black outlines that are ugly and garish, like the outlines in a cartoon, and it ruins any sense of the graphics being realistic. Environments are full of details and colors, yet somehow they mostly still seem bland. Music often sounds like grinding electric guitar — not what I would associate with dinosaurs, and the soundtrack is quite forgettable.
One oddity I found was that with the Game Genie on for invincibility, the raptor’s last boss seems invincible too. The little power switch on the Game Genie needs to be turned off, and suddenly the red raptor behaves quite differently, jumping away when he takes damage, and he is defeated pretty easily.
Rampage Edition is thoroughly ridiculous, but it deserves a play-through by anyone who likes dinosaurs!
Tails Sky Patrol By Guntz
Out of all the Sonic related games I’ve played, Tails Sky Patrol has always been a bit of an enigma for me. I first played it on Sonic Gems Collection back in 2005 (or 2006), and I thought it was fun. Ever since then, I’ve noticed it’s gotten its fair share of lackluster opinions and occasional hatred. I’ve never understood this to be honest. Perhaps more than the game itself, Tails Sky Patrol is my Sega enigma because it was a game I really wanted to own on its original console, but due to its obscurity, I never did. What follows is something I think all of us have gone through at some point.
I first got into the Game Gear in 2007, I think. Before that, I had also gotten a Genesis and before that a Dreamcast. During those times, I really wanted to explore all that was Sega. I missed out on so much in my younger years, so I kind of went crazy with the buying. I had a large assortment of Game Gear games, except Tails Sky Patrol. Several years later, after much contemplation over what I actually liked about Sega in the first place, I did actually sell off what GG stuff I still had. At the time I didn’t think I needed it anymore.
Fast forward a bit more to this year, luck would have it I’d stumble upon some Japanese Game Gear games in an online auction. One of the games included was Tails Sky Patrol. Much to be shock and amazement, I won it for basically a song. Just recently a fellow Sega-16 member helped hook me up with another Game Gear, a nice LED-backlight and cap kit modded one too. It’s very bittersweet to finally play Tails Sky Patrol on the real deal.
I think part of why I like Tails Sky Patrol is because it’s a very different kind of Sonic game, or I guess it’s actually a Tails game. Technically I think it’s a horizontal “shooting” game, but the only weapon you have is one solitary ring. It’s cool how Tails can ride certain objects during each stage, which adds to the strategic movement required. I haven’t yet played the other Tails game, Tails’ Adventure, but perhaps at some point I will. Maybe I will seek it out to accompany my new Game Gear…. For the second time.
Blades of Vengeance By David Dyne
This month, I’ve taken a break from more military madness and have gone pure fantasy to play through Blades of Vengeance, which is another game I missed out on back in the day. I finished it not once, but six times. Why six? I’ll get to that in a minute. A proper playthrough includes beating the game with the Wizard, Barbarian and Huntress who all have different weapons and abilities which can be upgraded and you can purchase additional equipment such as potions, scrolls and rings from the shop at the conclusion of each stage. One of the most important upgrades you can purchase is for armor and weapons which becomes available several stages into the game. With this, each character receives a set of armor that allows them to take more damage, changes their default weapon and gives each of them a special attack. The Huntress trades in her sword for a crossbow, the Warrior his axe for a mace with a chain, and the Wizard’s standard ranged attacks become slightly more powerful. These upgrades make the game much more manageable in the later stages and make the final battle with Mannix, the two-headed dragon quite easy if you’re loaded down with potions which you should be by this point.
For an added challenge, I thought, why not skip the weapon and armor upgrade and see how it goes? It took a few tries, but I did manage to finish the game with all three characters while burning through almost all my inventory items each time out, which is something you never worry about if you have the upgrades. The battle with Mannix is more difficult, and you’ll be quaffing potions every few seconds to stay alive. By skipping the upgrades you’ll have some extra cash on hand, so be sure to fill up on healing and force field potions as you’ll need plenty of them. Also, make sure you have at least two Midas rings to deal with those pesky flying demons who love to follow you around until you’re dead in the final stage.
A single playthrough of Blades can take you about an hour and half, so making it through this game six times took up most of the month. Now that it’s on the completed list, maybe I’ll get around to tackling another marathon title like Batman Forever. That one is supposed to clock in at around two hours if you know where you’re going.
Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf by Chris Alaimo
I’ve never really been a fan of golf, either playing it at my local course or watching it on TV. But for some reason I really love golf video games. Maybe it’s the simplicity paired with the instant feedback system that keeps me chasing that perfect shot.
Lately I’ve been playing through all of the 1989 Genesis releases, which of course includes Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf. The game was released in Japan as Naomichi Ozaki Super Masters, Ozaki being a famous Japanese golfer. Although Sega ponied up for a celebrity endorsement in both the east and west, neither Ozaki nor Palmer actually appear anywhere except on the box art.
The game allows you to play one or two-player one-off rounds, but also has a “tournament” mode, complete with a password-based save system. In this mode, your player’s skill will increase, and he’ll earn money allowing him to upgrade his clubs.
The obvious comparison to be made here (in my opinion) is between Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf, and Power Golf on the TurboGrafx-16. The games were released within about a month of one another and were the first two golf games of the 16-bit generation. APTG features humongous, detailed sprites, the choice of several different music tracks (or no music at all), much better control, and three different 18-hole courses, making the game clearly superior to Power Golf.
While the game would be made obsolete by EA’s PGA Tour Golf series, it’s an under-appreciated gem from the early days of the Genesis that deserves a look if you have even a passing interest in the genre.