Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 116

By now, family has left, you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all those leftovers, and people have lost their collective minds over discounted merchandise. Instead of braving Black Friday, why not stay at home and play some great games? For many, the long weekend was a perfect time to work on that Pile of Shame that’s been accumulating all these years!


DinoLand By Ken Horowitz

This is a weird one. On its face, DinoLand seems to be a no-brainer for me. I love pinball, and I love dinosaurs, so this should be the best pinball game ever made. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s great and highly playable, but there’s one fundamental element that just doesn’t allow it to achieve immortality. The most important aspect of any pinball game is its physics, and while DinoLand doesn’t outright fail in this regard, it’s off just enough to make a difference. Perhaps it’s because I’m spoiled from playing the incredible Pinball Hall of Fame series on modern consoles, but I notice the difference very quickly now, much more quickly than I did back in the day. To be fair, this complaint is valid for many pinball games of the day, so perhaps I’m putting too much into it, but I guess it’s one of those things you can’t “unsee” once you notice it.

Debatable physics aside, DinoLand is still fun for a while. There are arguably more enjoyable pinball titles on the Genesis, but I did have a good time while playing this one, particularly during the boss battles. I wish it had put as much emphasis on the pinball aspects as it did on the dinosaur presentation, but for what it is, I find it to be worth some time.

Pier Solar By Sebastian Sponsel

Well, this was a nice surprise: last week I got back home from work when I found a package for me waiting on the doorstep: A nice Pier Solar Package from the fellas at Watermelon.

Reader Roundtable Vol. 116-1I must say, it’s very pleasant to see how far this little Mega Drive fan project has come up to this very day. It was nice to see it sitting in the PSN-store earlier this year, for example. But receiving that package from Watermelon has once again shown me: No digital distribution can hold a candle against the awesomeness of some great packaging! Really, both the physical copies of the PC and the Dreamcast versions are pretty cool, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the official strategy guide that came with them. High-quality paper, nice glossy look (and that goofy picture of our favorite Swede Zebbe will never ever not draw a smile to my face). And I’ll definitely wear that 64MB belt buckle with pride!

So hey, it’s Thanksgiving, right? So thanks, Watermelon! You’ve given us a great gift with this game and all you’ve done so far surrounding this.

Foreman for Real By David Dyne

After reviewing the disappointing George Foreman’s KO Boxing, I decided to check out the second 16-bit iteration of Big George; Foreman For Real. Released two years after KO Boxing, Foreman For Real stakes out the middle ground between arcade boxers like Buster Douglas and the more complex simulations such as Greatest Heavyweights. You get to choose from a pool of novice contenders, each with their own stats in areas such as power, speed, offense, defense and the like, who have to fight their way up to challenge George who is the current champion. Your stats do increase slightly after each fight so there is a sense of progression along the way. Here’s where things get weird though.

On my first playthrough I selected Joe “The Dragon” Hoffman who could be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat’s long lost cousin. Joe excels in speed and stamina but lacks power in his punches. After getting my butt handed to me while figuring out the controls and gameplay mechanics, I started to win a few matches and moved up the ranks by winning match after match without knocking out my opponents. That’s right; no knockouts, no technical knockouts, not even a single knockdown in twenty fights. I won all these matches by laying on more punches on the other guy using speed and agility to avoid most of theirs which turned the matches to my favor according to the computer judges.

Even the final match against George Foreman and the subsequent re-match went the same way. I figured something must be wrong so I went back and started another playthrough, this time with a character who excels in power instead of speed. So far the results are mixed after eight fights. I’ve beaten the stuffing out of some guys by depleting their stamina bar but can’t manage to physically knock them to the mat. Has anyone had the same experience with this game? I’m still enjoying it although I’m wondering if I’m missing something in the process. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sagaia By The Coop

Way back when, I was introduced to the game Darius at an arcade near where I lived at the time. Seeing that triple-screen arcade cabinet, hearing that stereo soundtrack booming from the speakers above my head, seeing the robotic sea life that made up the bosses… it was crazy, awesome, and something I always played whenever I went to that arcade. That was in 1990. And being a Genesis owning young’un, I was really hoping Taito… or at least someone… would port it.

It was somewhere around that time that I saw the second issue of Mega Play, which featured Darius II in its preview section. Needless to say, I was excited and eagerly awaited the game’s arrival. It wasn’t the game I’d been playing in the arcade, but it was the sequel I’d yet to get to play, and that was a good thing as well. However, something odd happened to Darius II when it came to U.S. arcades that I knew nothing about, and the Genesis port was going to get the same treatment.

It was in late 1991/early 1992 that I was browsing in an Electronics Boutique, and noticed a game whose cover art caught my eye. It was a picture of a ship that looked very familiar, crossing in front of some huge, robotic eel-like creature. I knew that ship. Everything in my brain said I did, and that it was the ship from the Darius arcade game I’d been playing. Even the back of the box had familiar pictures, with that little ship, robotic fish, and the like. At first I thought someone had just blatantly ripped Darius off, and named their game Sagaia. But then I read the back of the box. The very first word was “Darius,” and that got me wondering if this was a new game in the series.

Well, it was from Taito, and it was about Darius, so I was sold right there. I brought it home, and played the hell out of it. The watered down graphics were still pretty good, the music was quite cool, and it had 28 stages to see and blast through. I saw the multiple endings, the easier and tougher paths, the second-player ship that was a bit more powerful thanks to it being boosted up a level with its weapons… it was great. I was playing what I thought was the third game in the franchise, yet wondering whatever happened to the second game that was supposedly coming to the Genesis.

It was a good number of months later that I was rereading that second issue of Mega Play while I was on the crapper, and I saw that old preview of Darius II again. The screenshots of it held what had become very familiar visuals from Sagaia, and it was on that toilet that the pieces fell into place (don’t go there). Darius II and Sagaia were the same game. For whatever reason, it had gotten a name change that no one in the magazines I read had said anything about, leaving me in the dark about it.

I can remember feeling a bit conflicted about that revelation at first. I thought that I had been playing a third game in the series, when it was in fact the second game that I thought had just vanished. I went from thinking that maybe that second game would show up someday and give me another Darius game to enjoy on my Genesis, to finding out the game I had been enjoying for a while was the second game. In the end, all that was left to really say to my original belief was just, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

But hey, whatever. So what if I felt tricked. So what if for two years, I’d thought I had another Genesis Darius game to keep a look out for. That’s fine. I don’t care. I’m not mad… or hurt… or… anything. **sniffle**

Duke Nukem 3D By Paige

Well, this month I’ve been spending my time playing largely non-Genesis games, and the time I did spend playing something on the system was mostly spent on a game I already wrote about for the Reader Roundtable! So, I am instead going to write about the Genesis game I have played most recently which, incidentally, is also the game that was released most recently. That’s right—Duke Nukem 3D for the Sega Genesis!

But first, a little back story: I picked up the other Genny FPS I own, Zero Tolerance, about two years ago after reading about it on this very site. Opinions were mixed, and I’m not particularly familiar with the genre, but I was intrigued enough to go out and get, even if only to admire its 3D world. I found a loose copy of ZT at a local retro game store, bought it, and began playing it immediately upon returning home. I instantly fell in love! The game gave me that sense of nostalgia I get when I play Sonic 2. I beat it my second time through with Satoe Ishii, and that was mostly because I didn’t write a password down correctly before shutting the game off during my first playthrough and lost all my initial progress.

I then searched the internet for information on more games like ZT, and while that list was extraordinarily short, I did read about the Brazil-only Mega Drive port of Duke Nukem 3D. It looked very similar to ZT, and for that alone I was dying to own it! But, the high price tag the game commanded online was enough to end my search rather quickly, and I continued to play other games.

Imagine my delight when I read that Piko Interactive was planning to re-release Duke Nukem 3D for the Genesis back in October! I pre-ordered it immediately and waited. I kept tabs on the developments, anxiously awaiting the tracking number for my game. The days felt like years. It finally shipped mid-November, and it arrived in my mailbox not even a week ago. I couldn’t wait to get home from work to play it! I opened the package, inserted the cartridge in my Genesis, turned the system on, and…

Damn, is this game hard. I can’t make it past more than four enemies without dying. If I don’t get shot to death, I end up getting blown up by that thing that explodes upon contact. Sometimes I don’t even have to touch it before it explodes. I haven’t made it far enough to know if there are health packs that I can pick up, and I’ve only been able to find one extra round for the gun because the enemies don’t drop any. And I don’t want to know what it’s like to play the original release of the game, without the crosshair.

I have since read online that the game is pretty tough, so I take solace in knowing it isn’t just me. I feel my inability to get far at all in the game is due to two things: that this game only contains the second of the three parts that make up the Saturn release (and so I’m inclined to think that perhaps Duke should have a few powerups by the time he reaches the starting point of the Genesis port), and that I’ve been spoiled by playing ZT as Satoe Ishii. But, as I am not experienced with FPS games at all, I could be completely wrong about that first point. Oh well, here’s to hoping I can get past another four enemies before the end of the year!

Golden Axe By James Villone

Recently I brawled my way through Golden Axe for the first time ever! Even though I first played it in the 90’s, it never really captured my interest!

Back then, the controls felt stiff, and they still do, because the sword-fighting is less effective than running and smashing into enemies! And this is counter-intuitive because everyone probably starts off expecting a lot of swordplay action, until they realize that they should mostly just run around and slam into everyone. The simple fighting action is still fun though, and there is always a sense of curiosity to see what new enemies and stages might turn up next!

The part that really stands out is the epic soundtrack, ripped straight from the arcade for the Sega CD version of Golden Axe! The music kept me playing more than anything else! Sega Classics Arcade Collection is worth owning, just for this version of Golden Axe with arcade audio! This disc is also nice and convenient to just keep in the Sega CD tray permanently, so anytime the Genesis’ cartridge slot is empty, a few classic games load up like magic!

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