Features Reader Roundtable

Reader Roundtable Vol. 125

Summer has left us, but the Genesis remains! This month, we’ve been going back over some classics that may not have gotten the attention they initially deserved, so join our staff and readers as they share what they’ve been playing in September!


Vay By Ken Horowitz

Vay 3Of all four Working Design releases for the Sega CD, it seems like Vay gets the least amount of love. After going back to it this month, I can kind of see why. The encounter rate is simply put: insane. If ever a game exemplified the “step and fight” dynamic, it’s Vay. Going anywhere in this game is a chore because it never lets you actually MOVE. All you ever do is fight, fight, fight. This wouldn’t be so bad if healing weren’t such a problem. Maybe I’m missing something (probably), but it seems that healing items are extremely scarce in Vay. Also, magic gets depleted far too quickly, and when this combines with the high encounter rate, it makes exploring dungeons a slog.

To be fair, I really like the atmosphere, the characters, and the incredible music. It had a great plot twist at the time (hint: another game on a Sega console that did it before Final Fantasy VII), and I actually got to the last boss the first time I played it years ago. I guess I no longer have the patience for these kinds of old school random battlefests, so back on the shelf it goes…

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure By The Coop

Recently, I had a bit of a… well, brainfart. See, a few years back, I found a copy of the PC version of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure at a garage sale. I tried over and over again to get it to run on my now retired Windows XP machine, but it would always close with some kind of error or issue. Windows 95 and XP don’t get along well it seems. However, at some point in the past, I must have picked up a copy of the Genesis version. I say “must have” because frankly, I don’t remember ever buying it.

This whole brainfart started brewing a few months ago when I saw someone talking about the Genesis version of the game online. I enjoyed the two Atari 2600 classics and I remembered that there was a SEGA CD version released. I went to eBay, looked it up and found a pretty cheap complete copy of that version. I was all set to purchase it, but something in the back of my mind kept telling me to hold off on doing so. After procrastinating repeatedly for a short while, I got the nagging idea to check my Genesis games. When I did just that, I found that there was a copy of the Genesis version sitting there. I have no idea when or where I got it, but it’s complete and looks like it was hardly ever touched.

Pitfall!: The Mayan Adventure 2So there I was, holding the game’s clamshell case as my brain’s trying to figure out when the hell I bought it, and from where. I was drawing complete blanks to be honest, as it could have come from eBay, a flea market, a garage sale, a pawn shop…. who knows. I can remember where I got basically all of my Genesis games, but not this one. Eventually, I let the mystery go and popped the game into my Genesis so that I could begin playing. The sluggish controls took some getting used to, but I was having some fun exploring the levels and seeing how the old formula was updated. After completing a few levels, I decided to go and do quick bit of research on what I was almost ready to buy.

Seems the SEGA CD version is basically just the Genesis version with added CD audio and a really short CGI movie. No new levels, no improved graphics, just new tunes and a grainy video. However, I did learn that the Genesis/SEGA CD/32X versions had more content than the SNES version (bigger levels, an extra level or two, etc.), so that made me happy. I also learned that the PC version was supposedly based off of either the 32X or the Jaguar version, with the SEGA CD audio added in. That made the PC version the one to really play as it gave you the nicer graphics and bigger/extra levels, with the SEGA CD audio boost. But, the PC port doesn’t like modern operating systems… or does it?

It was through dumb luck that I found a website that claimed to make the PC port of Earthworm Jim: Special Edition fully playable, with audio and CD music, via a couple of very simple tricks. Copy the game CD’s contents to a folder on your PC, put the game’s executable in “Windows 95” compatibility mode, and replace the WAIL32.DLL file in the game’s ASSETS folder with an older version of it from a previous Windows OS (provided in the article I read). After that, you leave the CD in the drive so the game can do its security check and so you can have the music, and then run the game from the executable inside the ASSETS folder you’d copied over.

Well, like that game, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was a Windows 95-only release. I figured that if that trick worked for EJ:SE, maybe it would work for P:TMA as well. I did the copying and replacing, set the compatibility, double-clicked the executable… and I had the PC port up and running with all of the audio. Seems the newer versions of WAIL32.DLL removed/screwed up some functionality that Windows 95 games like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and Earthworm Jim: Special Edition need to run properly. This results in those older games just not running, running without sound effects, locking up, etc.

Needless to say, with all of that done, I was set to finally dig into the PC version that I’d owned for several years. But, I still had the Genesis version to finish, which I’d unknowingly owned for several years as well. I didn’t want to just abandon I game I’d forgotten I even owned, so even though it took a bit of time, I got through the Genesis game before starting up on the PC port. I still have no idea where and when I bought the Genesis version. I mean, no idea. At all. That said, this whole event was a strange but kind of fun journey. A journey that ended with one version finally working, my rediscovering a version I forgot I had, and me saving myself a bit of cash.

I still want to know when and where I got the damn thing, though.

Crack Down By Joseph C.

This month I upgraded and formatted my computer and after getting everything running again began downloading a few games I wanted to play to test out my new processor. While doing this I noticed the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis Classics game in my library which I had acquired (I believe) through a Humble Bundle. I only have a handful of the games and most I’ve either played a lot or don’t like. It has a nice launch screen though with a virtual nineties living room where you choose a game which is then played on a CRT television. There is even an option to add scan lines!

Of all the games to choose from, I decided to give Crack Down a go. This is one that I don’t own now but did when I was a kid and I even remember how I got it. My uncle had bought us (I have brothers), a copy of Jewel Master which we already owned. We thanked him when we opened it but felt bad about telling him we had it. He read it on our face though and came and asked and took it back. He returned a week or so later with a copy of Crack Down.

I enjoyed Crack Down a whole lot more than Jewel Master though it was never a favourite. The main advantage it had over most other games was a fun co-op mode. With the play screen remain the same in both one and two player modes, it was clearly designed this way. I know I went through the game a few times as a kid but I can’t recall for sure if I ever got all the way to the end with a partner.

This month I played by myself and found I remembered a lot of the layout of levels and how to play. The first thing that jumped out was just how good the soundtrack is and as I write, I’ve had one of the tunes stuck in my head for most of the day. Other than this, the game isn’t technically impressive and despite the small screen size mentioned before, there is quite a lot of slow down. This would be more of a problem if it didn’t help to avoid the small projectiles flying all over the place and enemies often appearing from nowhere. Something else that I love is the short cut scenes between each stage and I always found the Mega Drive box art funny.

I’d like to play the arcade version some day but the Mega Drive port is still a fun little game and worth playing. Something that occurred to me as I write is that the principle mechanics are very similar to modern cover-based shooters. It even has annoying enemies with shields that you have to flank.

Bare Knuckle III (English Translation) by James Villone

I finally hit the mean streets of Bare Knuckle III for the first time, as a long-time fan of the first two titles.  I’ve always heard that the Western version, Streets of Rage 3, is inferior for a number of reasons, so I’ve always avoided it!  At some point, though, I had to check out the Japanese original, and I found this great translation-hack version online, to play the original with English hacked into it!  (Click here to check it out!)

First, the most obvious changes from the earlier titles are the doomsday plot, and the music!  Gone are the fantastic dance songs that rocked the first two titles, replaced with a new style that sounds chaotic and mechanical.  Yuzo Koshiro famously created a special computer program that helped compose this soundtrack, which resulted in much of the music sounding very artificial, complicated, and noisy – it sounds exactly like it was generated by a computer!  Most of the notes sound electronic, harsh, and arranged in ways that a human never would have thought of.  Still, it’s an interesting new take on the series, with plenty of driving beats that work fine for fighting!

I started off just picking up the controller, without reading any moves, to see how I’d do just relying on experience with the first two titles.  Running is a nice new ability for Axel, and so is rolling up or down the screen, but otherwise, his moves seemed mostly the same.  It wasn’t until after my first play-through that I started to appreciate the new depth of the move-set.  In the second title, I always avoid using A-button special moves (because they drain health), whereas here, we can use A-button specials without a health drain, every few seconds!  With no penalty for their regular use, they become part of the normal move-set!

I also looked up the move-list, and was surprised at how many there are.  I tried to count every single one of Axel’s moves, looking over the awesome website, Streets of Rage Online.  (Click here to check it out!)  Counting every slightly-different move, including those based on weapons, holding enemies, and partner co-op:  Axel has about 40 moves!!  

Running with a bat, plank, or sword, can lead into a nice slow, smooth slash that I really enjoy.  Plus, a sword can deliver a freaking energy blast across the screen!  However, his new double-kick doesn’t do much for me, though; I’d rather just punch enemies.  One terrific aspect of this series has always been that the specific moves used are a matter of personal preference, especially here in the third title!  

reader-roundtable-vol-125-1For the 6-button controller moves:  His long uppercut seems about the same as his normal uppercut.  His spinning fury move is cool, and resembles the A-button-alone special, so the spinning fury doesn’t make a huge difference.  Same for the “spinning fury upper.”  However, I did start to appreciate these moves when I started to avoid dying, so that Axel earns stars, which upgrade his uppercut into these more-powerful moves!  

Weapons seem fewer than before, and they now have a limited amount of use, whereas previously, weapons could be kept indefinitely, until taking damage a few times!  (But it’s balanced out by the new weapons-specific moves.)  The stages seem to have less breakable objects, and most of the stages themselves seem bland, although there are some nice new elements like bottomless pits to throw enemies into.

Knives can only be picked up and thrown, whereas before, knives used to be hand-held weapons.  This could be interpreted as realism, since in real life, knives are considered bad for fighting, with only a 50% chance that a knife will help in a fight, and a 50% chance that the enemy will take it, and use it as a weapon himself!  So I’ll just consider it realism that here, a knife is thrown away as soon as it’s found, in favor of bare knuckle fist-fighting!

As a coincidence, I was playing Bare Knuckle III during Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the DNC, live on the radio.  Her speech actually concluded while I was defeating Ash, flamboyant and dancing around the screen.  It was quite a bizarre mixing of two very different experiences!  

As for Ash himself,  I really don’t consider it offensive that one single character is flamboyant out of all the different ridiculous enemies, in all three titles! If someone was looking for offensive stereotypes, it would be a lot easier to say that the series is offensive to fat men (especially those who breathe fire) or offensive to women, especially those who walk around with dominatrix whips!  Heck, this series could be considered offensive to pretty much everyone, much more so than Ash’s community!  Yet I think the localizers were right to cut him out from the US release, because I can easily imagine his presence being interpreted as horribly offensive, and it could have turned into an ugly media controversy, like what happened with Mortal Kombat and Night Trap!  So I hate to say it, but I do think it was necessary for poor Ash to be cut from Streets of Rage 3!

The credits feature a sweet remix of songs from the earlier titles.  And incredibly, there is a tasteful drawing of Blaze in a sexy posture!  

Bare Knuckle III is just awesome, and it takes a little time to appreciate its new depth of gameplay.  The unique soundtrack makes this title feel darker, more chaotic, and more serious than the earlier entries in the series.  I’d rate it a 10, yet I still love the second title most of all, with its incredible dance soundtrack.  And the first title has the most classic charm, and the most cohesive themes, as the whole game takes place in the course of one continuous, dramatic night!  Bare Knuckle III doesn’t have the same appeal as the earlier titles, but it definitely has the deepest gameplay!

Chug a couple energy drinks, and go beat the hell out of your enemies!   

The Jungle Book By Emil

Is it wrong to replay games you’ve already played and beaten with today’s massive backlogs? Nah, especially when it’s based off an old childhood favourite like The Jungle Book. I replayed this again today because I was in the mood for loving how Genesis pulls off cartoon graphics, down to the often-criticised Genesis colour palette & limit, like it forced these artists to be more creative. After all, would George Lucas have pulled off how great original Star Wars turned out if he had total creative control?

I noticed some new things this time around, like the Dave Perry jumping-off -springs mechanic from Aladdin and Earthworm Jim originating as early as here. This mechanic is walking into the spring and pressing jump at the right time to send you flying higher. Every time I see a playthough of these gemes, seems nobody figures this out, including the recent James Rolfe playthrough of Aladdin and not being able to reach that second Abu icon. The second thing I realised was that “Lightning Lookout” in Donkey Kong Country 3 wasn’t the first stage to introduce lightning strikes toward players. This game did it earlier for its last stage, and you better believe lightning strikes in the same place twice.

It’s a pity this game isn’t longer. I would of cut those lovely cut scenes in a heartbeat for an extra stage theme. Otherwise this game is the total package. Fun gameplay, great graphics and unforgettable toe tapping music that makes you want to look up the movie’s original soundtrack right after.


  1. Pingback: Sega-16 Articles | The Essential Malady

  2. Games like Vay make me think about how idiots some sega staff were, they had really good games and made it worse with nonsense mistakes as the terrible encounter rate of this game. without it, it would have been a really good game for the system.

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