Still eating leftovers? Trying to work up the energy to put up the tree and decorate? Why not take a short break and read this month’s Reader Roundtable? There’s a great selection of game that’s sure to bring you some holiday cheer (and relief from all that turkey!).
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts By Ken Horowitz
I recently saw a video playthrough of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on a prominent YouTube channel, and I was quite disappointed that those playing never acknowledged that the game was a sequel to the arcade and Genesis classic Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (not like the name would, you know, give it away or anything), and only compared it to the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins on the NES. I know there is a *ahem* slight tendency at historical revisionism among some people when it comes to anything Nintendo, but I wanted to see if the SNES game was really the one worth remembering. I recently got a SNES Classic, and I was very excited to go back and play it. After a few hours, I can honestly say that while the SNES sequel is very good, I still prefer the Genesis game.
It’s not an aesthetic issue. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts has brilliantly detailed visuals and some amazing effects. The audio is top-notch as well. No, what establishes a clear difference between the two is the gameplay. As cool as it is to double jump, Arthur is just too slow in his movements, and it can be unnecessarily difficult to calculate jumps (the slowdown doesn’t help, either). In contrast, the Arthur of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is much faster and fluid, and the ability to shoot up and down is just much more useful. Why did Capcom swap this out for the double jump? Arthur would have been a major badass if he had been given both abilities. Instead, he’s weakened significantly.
I cut far too many classes trying to get skilled enough to beat the arcade Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on a single quarter (I did!), and the Genesis version still holds up exceptionally. They can keep the double jump. I’ll take a 4-way shot over it any day. Now I know why that YouTube channel didn’t want to compare the SNES game to it.
Monster World IV By Benjamin Galway
It’s a 20-something-year-old game, but I guess I’ll warn that Monster World IV spoilers lay ahead.
Video games rarely impact me in any meaningful way, but I remember being quite distraught when stumbling through my Japanese import of Monster World IV. I came to love my little blue Pepelogoo, and I truly grieved for him after he blocked that ridiculous missile spit out by the queen’s evil pepelogoo. Not only had I lost my double jump, but also I lost a friend. The challenges in the dungeon to follow just reinforced how much I had relied upon him to overcome obstacles and how empty the game felt without him.
Of course, Pepelogoo pulls a Gandalf and returns to save my butt again (and die again… and resurrect again…). The funny thing is that this was never nearly as dramatic as I took it to be. Now that I have access to an English translation of the game via SEGA Vintage Collection: Monster World, I see that Asha is directly told that Pepeloogo is still alive. Furthermore, I’m told to call out to him, and I can see the giant egg on the fountain quiver a bit. These were details lost on me, and it altered how the game impacted those initial playthroughs in unintended ways. I’m a bit saddened to see that my memory is based upon a false premise, and I think the emotional impact definitely of losing your pet is greatly diminished in this translated version, even though it’s the original intended sentiment.
I learned about Pepelogoo’s hibernation when I played the Xbox 360 release of SVC: Monster World in 2012. A recent PSN sale encouraged me to buy it again, using it as an excuse to play through Monster World IV for the nth time. Searching for information about the game after I was done, I was surprised to learn something new yet again. Apparently, if you play through the first dungeon without talking to the save wizard, you can encounter a hidden debug shop which will give you the best equipment in the entire game. This includes an option to spawn Pepelogoo in his different forms, even when they would otherwise not be available. Seems like this is 2012 knowledge at least, but I had no idea.
That prompted me to dust off my cartridge and check it out for myself, and sure enough, I’m reunited with my Pepelogoo before even hatching the little chicken. Wasn’t really planning on playing through the game again having just cleared it, but starting off with the end game equipment makes everything a breeze. Well, almost everything: I don’t have the patience to trial-and-error my way through the Japanese Ice Pyramid anymore. Back in the day, I wrote out each line and recorded what was the correct response. I suppose that’s my “trudged up an down the hill to and from school through four feet of snow” story with which I’ll be boring children of the future.
Anyway, I’m not sure I’d bring Pepelogoo back from the grave. Of course, I’d miss him, but I also know he’s not supposed to be there, just like those kids. Sure, you can bring Aeris’s polygon model beyond the first disc, but it’s clear that the game wasn’t designed for that to happen. It feels like an abomination. I think I’d feel the same about reviving Pepelogoo. It’d cheapen the experience along with my memories of the game.
Greendog: the Beached Surfer Dude! By Cafeman
Every now and then I get in a 16-bit mood and go on a binge, buying games I might not have wanted back in the day. One of those times not too long ago, I picked up Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude!, for $2.50. Greendog is a gnarly teenager surfer character, and was created by the late Ric Green. He throws Frisbees and rides a skateboard at times, traveling island-to-island and fighting animals, eating pizza and hot dogs and pop (for points).
Back when this was listed in the Genesis catalog, it couldn’t have turned me off more. But playing it today, its a nice complement to stuff like Cool Spot, with its nice beach & water/Caribbean/calypso musical themes. I’ve read that Greendog was created as part of an intern mascot contest at SEGA; but true or not, Sonic took that role, of course. Still, the game is definitely a nice experience and a nice reminder of what was typical for a 1990s 16-bit platformer, with large well-animated sprites and rather crazy-yet-cheesy ideas. Somebody should hack this game and make Greendog into Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
I like how Greendog uses a gyro-copter to get to Grenada and other islands. I’ve only played through three of the six islands, but my first impression was pretty good, surprisingly. It’s funny how things are more enjoyable at $2.50 than they are at $49.99! Anyway, sometimes a little dog (which is named Fetch) comes out. He’ll grab the health items dropped by enemies and eat them before you do! Sometimes there is bone that is dropped. If you grab the bone first, Fetch will attack enemies for you. He is drawn quite adorably.
Mortal Kombat By Thief
I have been playing Mortal Kombat in single-player since the 90s, but I did manage to get someone from my online MAME days to play some Genesis, CD & 32X MK1-2 for a bit once. This has got to be my most played childhood game, the Mortal Kombat craze was real, and I pity all the weak pathetic fools who missed out on it (but happy American Thanksgiving anyway). So how I do? Well, not so good. My first attempt with Scorpion ended in “game over,” but my second attempt with Rayden ended up in a controller-drenched clinched victory! I do admit that I had a bit of a cushion, with one continue to spare.
Sonic 3D Blast Director’s Cut (BETA) By James Villone
November 2017 saw GameHut’s beta-release of Sonic 3D Blast Director’s Cut, a hack that has gained attention in YouTube videos of its progress over the last few months. This hack overhauls and improves 3D Blast in general, and it’s from one of the original developers of Traveler’s Tales! (Click here for the hack’s webpage, including its full description and download link, at sonichacking.org.)
Director’s Cut adds some things that we’ve seen in other hacks, like Super Sonic, but also new elements that we haven’t seen before, like adding an unused enemy found in the ROM. There’s also an all-new stage-map screen. The improvement that stands out most to me is that the controls are better, so gameplay feels nicer and more manageable, because it’s less chaotic and frustrating. Sonic is also faster, so it’s more fun to run around, with more visual overload of the stage graphics scrolling by. Even the camera mechanics have been improved, and the color palette has been shifted to look better, and more consistent with the main series.
I’m enjoying 3D Blast more than ever before, and this is only the beta of this hack. When the final version is released, I’ll definitely spin-dash over to its download link, to see just how good this title can really get!