Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 115

Close the door, grab a seat, and keep that candy for yourself! Let the little moochers of the neighborhood knock on someone else’s door; there are games to play! October is a great month to go back and play some of the spookier games on the Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System. There are also lots of other titles worth revisiting. Read on and see what our staff and readers have been playing this month!


Ghost House By Ken Horowitz

Reader Roundtable Vol 115-1I first played Ghost House on the Master System back in the mid ’80s. I didn’t know at the time that it was loosely based on an arcade game, and I remember being impressed at just how much Sega packed into that tiny card. The game is simple and engaging – very arcade-like in nature, and I think that’s a good thing. Sega’s strength back then was its arcade heritage, and Ghost House is a wonderful port that lets that heritage shine through. Most of my friends had never heard of the game, and I ended up showing them just how fun it is. It’s really a shame that such a quality title has largely gone unnoticed, but hopefully people will begin to revisit this and other Master System classics and see just how much they were missing back in the day. I still haven’t beaten Dracula, but I haven’t given up!

R.C. Grand Prix By Doug Jackson

My friend Russ and I have played the Sega Master System a lot when he visited the last few weekends. Lots of games have seen play time, like Shinobi, Rampage, Rastan, R.C. Grand Prix, and even the laughably bad My Hero. The one that we kept coming back to the most though is R.C. Grand Prix. I’ve never been a huge fan of this type of game, but I’ve had a lot of fun playing stuff like R.C. Pro-Am and Family Circuit on the Nes and Famicom. We had recently been in a long conversation about cars, and he finally said that I needed to play a racing game. I told him that he should try this out.

Reader Roundtable Vol 115-2This game is quite tough and very unforgiving as if you place last in even one race you get a game over. We didn’t let this stop us, and we started playing it for a while both nights. We got really far in it, but this game is all about buying the right upgrades in the shop or you won’t stand a chance even if you play well. Back in the day, there was a guide somewhere online (which I can’t find anymore) telling you what to buy and when. I could constantly make it to the last race but never finish, but we were lucky to make it to race five before seeing the game over screen. It was fun and had us on edge the whole time, and this is quickly gaining my respect as one of the best games in the U.S. Sega Master System library.

Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure By Sebastian Sponsel

During the last two weeks, a nasty cold had struck me, hindering me to do anything productive. With my nasal cavities swollen, fever causing me to sweat and mucus running down my nose, I was hardly able to get anything productive done. When the deadline for the Reader Roundtable grew closer, somehow there was only one game that came to my mind: Boogerman.

Opinions on Boogerman are divided. For some it’s an original, jaunty and fun, if not funny, platformer with memorable characters. Others just don’t “get” the gross-out humor of the game and consider it to be just another mediocre entry in the library with some rather disgusting imagery. Personally, I’m in the second category.

Our hero, Boogerman, attacks by burping, sneezing or flinging his snot at opponents (His audible battle cry is, after all, “Booger!”), and he is able to fly through the air by the power of his mighty farts. The game takes place in a place called “Boogerville”, with the mention of a parallel “Dimension X-Crement.” The stages are covered in Mucus and other human waste, inhabited by appropriately slimy or otherwise decrepit creatures, bonus areas are entered by our hero flushing himself down he toilet, and the main opponent is called the “Boogermeister.” And gamers wonder why people have a hard time taking video games seriously sometimes…

In all fairness, the game controls rather well, and the music isn’t bad and also rather appropriate for the game, somehow. The animation is also quite good. But beyond the grossed-out humor, what does the game really have to offer? To clear a stage you usually have to solve a small puzzle of sorts, but the level design is rather bland, and it’s sometimes not quite clear which direction you need to take. Also, while the cartoonish color scheme with brights greens, yellows and browns may be appropriate, it really doesn’t look like anything I would call “appealing”… sometimes rather “appalling”, frankly.

In the end, it usually comes down to tastes, and if you’re looking for something gross but still entertaining in video games, I suppose this platformer is as good as it gets. And since my tastes are themselves currently numbed by sweat and mucus, playing the game seems fitting somehow. I’d rather play the stage “Intestinal distress” or the bungie fight against “Major Mucus” from the first Earthworm Jim, though, as they play fresher, are more original beyond just being gross, and the latter game has much more versatility to offer in general. Then again, both Earthworm Jim and Boogerman were at home at Interplay, and released at about the same time. Maybe someone there saw a huge demand for gross games in 1994.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Sega CD) By David Dyne

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstien for the Sega CD isn’t the Genesis version with a few FMV extras. Instead, it’s an entirely new title in the vein of classic PC adventure games, where you roam around various places collecting items to solve puzzles and occasionally engage in brief fighting sections against enemies who die in grisly ways. I originally intended to devote some serious time to play through this game in last year’s Halloween Reader Roundtable. Unfortunately, I was only able to log a few hours this month, but so far I’m impressed with what I’ve played and want to keep forging ahead and at the very least, get out of that damned forest maze and into the next location.

Reader Roundtable Vol 115-3The game does have the usual grainy FMV sequences, but these are limited to transitional scenes from location to location and aren’t recycled clips from the film from what I’ve seen so far. Add to that some excellent animations, a stellar soundtrack from Mike Clarke, and you have a nice companion title to go along with the Genesis version just like the two versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the Genesis and Sega CD.

And now for the obligatory Hammer film reference, seeing as it is Halloween. While it may not feature my favorite incarnations of Christopher Lee as the creature and Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, I still intend to finish this title in the coming months to satisfy my horror game fix. Happy Halloween everyone!”

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon By Paige

This month, I have regretfully been unable to devote much time to my video games (thanks, school!), and when I did, I ended up playing a variety of games rather than focusing on just one. However, I’ve easily spent the most time playing Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon for the Sega Mega Drive, which I acquired sometime at the end of last month.

So how is it? Well, it’s a pretty fun beat-’em-up, with colorful graphics and catchy music to boot! I’m not 100% sure what the storyline is supposed to be, since the game is entirely in Japanese, but it appears to be more or less based on that of the first season of the TV show. You play as one of the five Sailor Senshi, punching and kicking the usual palette-swapped enemies in a variety of locations loosely based off those in found in the show (I don’t recall an episode in which Sailor Moon & Co. are surrounded by gigantic baked goods, but whatever). At the end of each stage, you are confronted with a boss which you must defeat in order to continue on–you know, the standard fare.

A couple of stages in you start to see glimpses of the storyline from the show when you must defeat, as bosses, the main antagonists: Jedeite, Nephrite, Zoisite (as the impostor Sailor Moon), and Kunzite. At the end of the fifth stage, you also fight Queen Beryl, the one who appears to be orchestrating whatever evil plan is in place. I didn’t realize until much later that if you play the game on Hard mode, there is a sixth stage in which you fight Queen Metallia, so I will have to check that out sometime.

I spent most of the time playing as Sailor Jupiter solely because I figured she was the strongest out of the bunch, like she is in the show. I tried playing as Sailor Venus, but found it difficult to get used to the timing of the chain she uses in lieu of punches (there’s a slight delay as the chain whips around to hit an enemy). I like that each character has her own set of moves, and that her special attacks, executed by holding and releasing the A button, are just like the attacks from the show. I also like that when your character gets hit, her expression changes in the image by the life bar.

I enjoyed playing this game a lot, and definitely find this to be one of the better beat-’em-ups on the system!

Splatterhouse 3 By The Coop

Ah, the Splatterhouse franchise… a delightful little romp through gore-infested halls and having polite conversations with masses of horrific flesh with a chainsaw. It started its life as a less than deep series, as it focused more on just walking and smashing rotting mounds of flesh with your fists or whatever objects were available to you. I mean sure, the first two games were fun, but after two very similar entries, it needed a little shot in the arm to spice things up a bit.

Then something happened when the series became a trilogy. You could grab enemies. You could slam them to the ground. You could use (simple) combos. You could power yourself up, and use even more moves. You could walk up, down, left and right to different rooms. There were multiple endings and digitized cinemas. Up became down, black became white and somehow, you had a pair of panties, yet just one bra. The world suddenly made no sense… and it was lovely.

Being able to walk all around a multi-floor house was such a huge change from the two games that came before it. You actually got to explore things on your way to save your family. It wasn’t just go from point A on the left, to point B on the right anymore. Sure, it kind of limited the diversity of the backgrounds you’d get to encounter, but it gave the game a fresh feel over where it had gone before. It also made sure to really test your ability to beat monsters quickly, as time was not on your side. And if you wanted to save everyone, you had to get to the bosses and best them… fast. Add in a final boss that was a fitting end, and you had a game that was expanded in terms of what you could do, but narrowed when it came to the overall scope being covered. You were stuck in that house and that was it, until you either died or won.

For me, Splatterhouse 3 was the ending of the series for all intents and purposes. There wasn’t even a rumor of a part four if I recall, and the series vanished until that questionable reboot appeared on various consoles in 2010. But with the original trilogy, you got your story’s beginning, middle and end. You saved your girlfriend who kept being attacked (assuming you did well on part three), and you battled with the mask that allowed you to save her. All this, while also defending the world from evil as you bashed in the moist skulls of ghoulish creatures. What more could you ask for?

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