The Rolling Thunder Series

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Rolling Thunder

I’ve described my childhood circumstances in many past articles, including the nature of my relationship with arcade games. I simply didn’t get to play them very often, because my grandmother felt it was a waste of money to give me quarters for games that I’d only last a few minutes on if I were lucky. Looking at it from that perspective, you could arguably see her point. But that doesn’t change the fact that arcade games and arcades in general were simply amazing back in the 80s and early-to-mid-90s. If you weren’t around in those times to experience arcades as they truly were, back when they were new, exciting, and relevant, it’s honestly very hard to try and really describe it to you. In many ways, while home gaming (especially my beloved NES) was amazing in it’s own right, some rightly viewed the arcades as the pinnacle of gaming. How it used to work, is that arcade games would inevitably be “bigger and better”, at least in terms of graphics and certain types of content, than home console or home computer games. So in some respects, arcade games back during their golden era, were the vanguard of video gaming as a whole.

As a gamer, you would go out to wherever your local arcade was, and if you weren’t, like me, lucky enough to live in a big enough town that had it’s own local dedicated arcade, then you went to whatever businesses where such machines could be found, whether it was local pizza joints, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bars (if you were old enough of course), or even laundry mats or gas stations/convenience stores. You would go to these places to experience the newest advancements in video game graphics or sometimes even brand new concepts in gaming. And then, as the process went, if you were lucky, some of these arcade games would eventually be “ported” (with obvious downgrades to accommodate lesser technology), to some kind of home platform that you hopefully owned or knew someone who had one.

Rolling Thunder
You know….it’s still beautiful, in a simplistic sort of way.


One of my own personal favorites, that I of course rarely got to actually play, was a game called Rolling Thunder. It was at my local Pizza Hut, where so many other treasures came and went over the years, like Klax, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Double Dragon II, and Final Fight, and Pole Position II, and Ghost Pilot, and 1943, and my biggest childhood arcade crush, Street Fighter II. Rolling Thunder was a very intriguing, unusual game that for whatever reasons caught my attention, and it was one of the games I gravitated to most whenever we’d go out for pizza. One of the allures it had, I’d have to say, was the unique graphical presentation. It was a sprite based game, as almost all were in the 80s and early 90s, but as you can see above, it had a very simple, shaded, almost “pre-rendered” look, akin to an early prototype of the sort of thing games like Donkey Kong Country would pull off years later. The characters also had unusually smooth animation for the time it released (1986), and the game had a very intense, but subdued, moody soundtrack, very much “secret agent” type of fare, and the whole thing was just very novel in it’s approach. I suppose the other reason this game stuck with me, is because of the “Game Over” screen: when you lost, it took you to the big screen from the title, where the boss “Maboo” (this big green fucker) would laugh at you for losing. That alone probably kept me coming back, because as a kid, this really genuinely upset me that this assclown was laughing at me, and I wanted revenge.

Rolling Thunder
This asshole haunted my childhood. What a jerk.

Rolling Thunder was developed by Namco, creators of groundbreaking classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. It was released in 1986, right in the midst of the “arcade boom” of that decade, and it was a different sort of game that caught people’s attention. At it’s core, it’s a side-scrolling shooter, similar to something like Contra, but unlike Contra where you just run, shoot, and hope you don’t lose too many lives per-level, Rolling Thunder was a lot more about strategy. The most immediately noticeable feature of the game when you start, is that you have limited ammo, even with the simple pistol you start with. You can’t ever totally run out of ammo with the pistol, but once you “run out”, you can only shoot one slow bullet at a time until you find more ammo. That alone plays into the “strategy” nature of the game.

Another main feature of the gameplay, is that the levels feature doors all over the place, and you can open pretty much any door you wish. However, it is sometimes a gamble, because certain doors have enemies that will pop out. Other doors (typically labelled “bullets”) hold more bullets for you, or even a temporary upgrade to a machine gun. And there are yet other doors that you can duck inside of to avoid enemies or enemy fire, and then pop back out to blast ’em in kind. Lastly, the other major facet of gameplay, and perhaps the one thing that this game really added to the gaming spectrum (as it was emulated by several other games down the road), was the ability to jump between the ground floor and an upper floor of each level. That in itself presented more strategy to be utilized by the player, to move upstairs or down to avoid obstacles or enemies. All in all, much like the graphics and music, like I said, a very unique game unto itself.

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

The basic story of the game, is that you are a secret agent called “Albatross”, who works for an international group called “W.C.P.O”, which stands for “World Crime Police Organization”. You are on a secret mission in New York, trying to rescue a fellow agent named Leila Blitz, who has been captured by the sinister terrorist secret society known as “Geldra”. Most of these “Geldra” goons are hooded baddies known as “Maskers”, who frankly look kinda like prototypes for the TMNT “Foot Soldiers”, as they are covered head-to-toe and come in different colors, each color having different weapons or abilities. The game has other enemies like mutant bats, ninjas, robots, etc., but the “Maskers” are the main course. Ultimately, the game plays out over two distinct parts, each having five levels, and at the end of the tenth, to save Leila, you face off with that green-faced asshole who laughed at you after every game over screen, “Maboo”. So at least, I guess, the developers were nice enough to give you the possibility of catharsis: if you could actually MAKE it through this fucking game, you could shoot that son-of-a-snake right in his smirking mug, and make him pay!

As you can see in the picture above, the game got it’s share of home “ports”, first coming to various home computers in 1987 and 1988. Tengen, Atari’s home console publishing arm that had infamous issues with Nintendo over their own less-than-scrupulous efforts to get around the NES lock-out chip that kept third party publishers from being able to put out more than five games a year on the system, put out many unlicensed (aka not officially approved by Nintendo releases) games for NES, and in 1989, one of them was Rolling Thunder. Namco didn’t yet publish their own games outside of Japan, and so they contracted Tengen to do it….which of course probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I digress. Nonetheless, Rolling Thunder on NES was, for all intents a purposes, a pretty strong port of the game. It didn’t have the technical prowess of it’s arcade original, but the core gameplay and atmosphere where still intact, and it’s still pretty damn fun to play. 

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

The first game was popular enough, that in 1991, Namco made a lesser-known sequel, Rolling Thunder 2. A slightly confusing affair, as the original game was apparently supposed to take place in the 60s, but now the sequel takes place in modern times, yet the characters in both games are named Albatross and Leila. In Rolling Thunder 2, Leila is now the main character, which is a cool touch, not only letting her get her revenge, but also making her one of the first playable female protagonists in gaming. The biggest addition to the sequel, was simultaneous 2-player action (a big feature in many arcade games of the day), with Player 1 playing Leila, and Player 2 controlling Albatross. They have identical abilities, outside of their visual differences, of course. The gameplay is essentially the same fare, focused on doors and jumping between upstairs and down. However, the level designs are more varied, this time splitting the game between Florida beaches and Egyptian ruins. The “Maskers” also this time become (if not visually) a bit more “Foot Soldier”-esque, as they are now robots, whereas in the first game they were live villains. Storyline-wise, Geldra, thought destroyed for good in the first game, is back, and it’s up to the heroes to stop ’em. 

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in the rest of the world), received a port of the game that included cut scenes and additional levels that featured new weapons and bosses. It was apparently successful enough to warrant Namco producing a third, Genesis exclusive game, Rolling Thunder 3, released only in North America in 1993. Gameplay-wise, it took a bit of a step back, once again only being single player, where part 2 was 2-players. But on the other hand, they greatly expanded the weapons format. Where the first and second games only made use of pistols and temporary machine-gun upgrades, in Rolling Thunder 3, you can choose one of 9 different “special weapons” before each stage begins, and you get two separate fire buttons, one for your regular pistol, and one for the special weapon. The special weapons, once out of ammo, can’t be used for the rest of the game, thus maintain the strategic element of gameplay. Another way the game differs, is that the levels now have no time-limit: instead, if you take too long, a sniper will eventually come out and try to kill you. Story-wise, the game seems to be a companion piece to Rolling Thunder 2, where while our heroes Leila and Albatross are busy fighting the main Geldra forces in that game, in RT3, a new hero, special agent “Jay”, is chasing after Geldra’s “Number Two” in command, another green-faced mother-fucker named “Dread”. In an era when the Super Nintendo tended to get most of the cool third party published exclusive games, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3 were an exception to the rule. 

Rolling Thunder
Albatross, Leila Blitz, and…………….Jay. Just Jay.

All in all, while I’m not as experienced with the sequels, I need to play them more, because the original Rolling Thunder will always have a special place in my gaming heart. If you’ve never heard of or never had a chance to play these games, find a way to do so (however that may be), because there are fun times to be had, guaranteed. And give my old pal “Maboo” a kick in the balls for me while you’re at it.

Asterix and the Great Escape

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 Asterix and the Great Escape

The French comic book star Asterix has questionable appeal across the globe (especially in the US and Japan), but has still been the topic of a literal smorgasbord of games.

This Mega Drive is far from the worst outing for the French ‘hero’ (although I will admit I have played only a few Asterix titles), but it still has some sizeable flaws that make it hard to truly enjoy.

The standard plot involves Getafix and Dogmatix getting kidnapped by the Romans, with Asterix and his rotund pal Obelix setting off to rescue them.

To do this they travel across Europe completing short stages.

Asterix and the Great Escape

You can choose between Asterix and Obelix before you enter each stage, although you can only select the other (if you want to) when you lose all your lives and use a continue.

The game starts as it means to go on however, giving you no guidance and beating you over the head with a misjudged difficulty level.

Opening with a simple stage set in a village that lasts around a minute, the game then truly throws you into the deep end with the second level.

It not only demands that you to know how to equip items, it also expects you to realise that you have to go backwards from where you start to grab an essential potion.

Asterix and the Great Escape

Even if you do somehow figure that out you’ll need to act fast – the clock is ticking.

The time-keeping aspect is one of the most notable elements of the game in fact, and helps and hinders the title in equal measure.

You are rarely given any time at all to complete levels, and you’ll often be reaching the ‘exit’ (a special potion) with milliseconds to spare.

Obviously this is massively unfair at times, but it does inject an added amount of tension and panic when you’re leaping and punching your way through stages.

Unfortunately constant design mis-steps threaten to make the game an entirely frustration filled affair.

Asterix and the Great Escape

One example is the underwater level that arrives early on. Even when you overlook the design inconsistency (in one of the previous stages touching water hurt you) it’s still got a sadistic streak a mile wide.

It not only has an irritating wibbly-wobbly filter in front of the screen, there are also foreground objects that actively hide dangers from you.

The main example is falling blocks, and the seaweed mostly conceals them from you – meaning you’ll have to tread very carefully.

But a conservative approach isn’t possible if you’re going to complete stages in time, as previously mentioned.

Asterix and the Great Escape

So here lies the game’s main problem, and if a correct balance between challenge and unfairness had been found this could have been a hidden gem.

As it stands the game only occasionally glimmers – some potion based abilities are genuinely interesting, such as ones that inflate you and help you build cloud platforms – but is ultimately dulled by repeatedly poor design choices.

It still looks good though, and it’s colourful cartoon graphics and comic book flourishes (see the ‘paf!’ bubble in the screenshot above) have clearly had a lot of work invested into them.

It’s just a shame you can’t say the same for the gameplay.

Altered Beast

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

Yeah, I know. ‘Wise from your gwave,’ Elmer Fudd, etcetera etcetera.

It’s probably a small mercy for the game to be famed for it’s amusing opening voice though, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be remembered at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Basically a very straightforward side scrolling game where you punch and kick various nasties, the one thing the game has on its side is its almost incredible simplicity.

Altered Beast really has little in terms of depth – its just the same thing, for every level, with added difficulty the further you progress.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Move right, punch baddies, collect the orb from the special wolves, power up, find the boss, defeat the boss, end. Rinse and repeat.

The main variation comes from the bosses, but there’s little attempt to make the different settings (cave, gwaveyard (sic), etc) affect the gameplay in any way at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The game is still tough to grasp at first though, feeling clumsy and a little unfair. If you give it a chance however, you soon adapt to the attack patterns that are the most effective, and start making slow progress. It’s still a pain at times of course, but that’s probably to be expected.

There’s no real getting away from the clumsiness of the game in the end though, in both its controls and presentation.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The controls feel unbelievably wooden, mainly because the characters are all so stiffly animated. The whole things feel like a puppet show at times.

Graphics wise, the game looks good in stills, but in movement doesn’t appear so impressive. There are lots of things that look out of place, like the mist which bosses dissolve into when you defeat them, that just don’t fit into the aesthetic of the game. This results in giving the game a weirdly low budget veneer, even when you take into consideration its age.

All in all, the game’s a bit of a clunker that you’ll either despise or embrace for its dated look and feel. I personally have nothing against Altered Beast, but wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Killzone was supposed to “kill” Halo. Despite Sony playing avoidance with regards to sparkly magazine hype, covers began to explicitly plant Killzone as Sony’s hyper contender against an unexpected Xbox juggernaut starring armor-clad Master Chief. Killzone, as many would realize upon its PlayStation 2 release with a system-taxing engine, was not even set to punch Halo, let alone kill it.

Oddly, we didn’t learn from history. As Street Fighter II perched up arcades and sanctioned head-to-head competition with Midway’s ferocious Mortal Kombat, it was Sega who would potentially “kill” Street Fighter II.

Eternal Champions was their weapon.

Eternal Champions

Video game magazines, never one to shift shelf space to blitz sensationalist, exclamation point-filled text (GamePro’s embarrassing run of multi-issue Bubsy exclusives never matched), primed Genesis owners who were long deprived of Capcom’s Street Fighter IIEternal Champions would tilt the console war, or rather, we were told it would. EGM’s December, 1993 issue came complete with dual covers, declaring the title, “Truly amazing!” before a four person review team scored it 8,7, 5, and 5 in the next monthly installment. EGM would reset the cycle a few months later, declaring dinosaur rumbler Primal Rage better than Mortal Kombat 2.

Eternal Champions

In many ways, Sega and Sony both charted analogous pathways: Each first party were stout believers they had something. Sony continues to stress Killzone as a tentpole PlayStation franchise, and its improvements with each subsequent entry show growth amidst dominating first-person competition.

Sega drifted Eternal Champions from its Genesis origins onto a glossy Sega CD update, complete with grisly fatalities sprawled onto the disc with eerily smooth animation. Gangster era enforcer Larcen would be shrunk to clumsily occupy space on Sega’s handheld, the Game Gear, via Chicago Syndicate. A final gasp, an unplayable multi-verse in X-Perts, signaled a franchise collapsing in on itself. Sega’s dreams of elaborate spin-offs and knock-out financial competition with Capcom and Midway (and indirectly Nintendo) would die there.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions would plunder its time faring gimmick from 1992′s Time Killers, a sickly exploitative brawler that pitted past & future in blood splattering conflict, enough to make Mortal Kombat whimper. Sega’s headstrong fighter would eschew colorful, explicit ferociousness, partly due to subdued hardware capabilities. Locked to 64 colors (the Sega CD port finding itself a rare 256-color mode user), Eternal Champions ran with enlarged sprites to make Super Nintendo Street Fighter characters appear trifling in comparison, yet meek with dried up purples and browns. With system exclusivity allowing for peak fidelity, Champions would still fall prey to lackluster splash in an era where saturation was an attention hook.

Eternal Champions

Sega tried, creating a strategic fighting landscape with limitations on spammy projectiles, and in turn, forced spacing. Sega instead locked themselves out, explicit in their trendiness as they grabbed for something other than Street Fighter’s blast of uppercuts and fireballs. Unfortunately, without familiarity, Champions was instantaneously off-putting and uncomfortable (literally when conjoined with Sega’s Activator peripheral), while publicized violence – especially on Sega CD – was something executed on random timing or luck.

Eternal Champions

For its inarguable clumsiness, Champions is locked to Sega hardware, exhibiting design ideals which aimed older in order to pick away at an aging Nintendo audience, game playing landscapes maturing as they entered ’90s. Nintendo would learn their lesson. Fixating on a grungy campaign of illicit fonts, technological gains, and wonky TV ads, Nintendo’s spirited attitude would splice itself into Sega’s methodology.Champions, while a lesser influence in that drastic marketing modification than censored Mortal Kombatports, remains a historical relic. Released as the two console companies became embroiled in heated competitiveness, Nintendo was still playing nice as Sega reached for a teenage jugular.

Amazingly, it’s still happening. Microsoft’s glowing pink cavalcade of Covenant weaponry in Halo trots out playfulness against Sony’s bleakly visual saga of inter-species warfare in Killzone. Indirectly, the war begun by Eternal Champions still plays out, only with different combatants.

Streets of Rage 2

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I actually played Streets of Rage 1, 2 and 3 back then – but 2 for some reason was always my favorite of the trilogy. ~Nick Herber

Streets of Rage 2

This could fall under a Retro Reflection or a PlayStation Network Review, but I really did not want to break this down into a series of score points.  One of the titles I got to play while using PlayStation Plus was Streets of Rage 2 on the PSN.

streets-of-rage-2

This was a classic beat ’em up game from Sega that I played over and over again on my Sega Genesis.  I actually played Streets of Rage 1, 2 and 3 back then – but 2 for some reason was always my favorite of the trilogy.  By today’s standards, it can be a bit slow and sometimes the fighting is a bit ‘cheap’ – but it is still a good throwback to the older days of gaming for those of us who recall Final Fight, Golden Axe, Double Dragon and Streets of Rage so fondly.
  streets-of-rage-2
The premise is pretty simple – you walk from one side of the screen to the other, causing it to scroll in your direction as you take on wave after wave of street thugs.  Each level culminates in some sort of a boss battle that is equal parts amusing and frustratingly cheap.  Along the way you will pick up a variety of items like food, money and weapons stored in random barrels, benches and more from the environment around you.
streets-of-rage-2
You can play the game with a friend, which I recall doing repeatedly when I was younger and it is still fun today.  There is an online versus mode as well that does not hold up nearly as well, for a variety of reasons.  One, the fighting mechanics are really shallow – Street Fighter IV this is not.  Additionally, it seemed like the connections were flaky at best a lot of times.  If I can run around environments like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 and suffer no lag, then it seems baffling to me that a game like this would consistently have trouble keeping up during a single isolated fight.
Beyond that, it seemed like every time I was about to win, my opponent would disconnect with no fear of tangible penalty that I could detect.  Anyway, not a big deal as the majority of my time spent playing was just trucking through the actual story mode on my own.  I beat it two or three times over the span of a few days, and it definitely provided me with a nice dose of nostalgia along the way.

Battle Mania

Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
So we are back with another entry of the week! This time around we have the awesome game Battle Mania for the Sega Genesis. This is an awesome shoot ’em up game for the classic console. It’s totally recommended! And here is why!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The music and sound effects are spot on! You will definitely feel upbeat and ready for battle with the music score of this gem of a game. Totally overjoyed with power!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
 The game looks wonderful and there is always a lot of action going through each of the stages. The stages also have awesome backgrounds and the enemies are very detailed. You definitely will get a joy from looking at this game.
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The gameplay is genius! You can guide your two gals through the stages and detach them as you go in order to plan an strategy for victory! You’re going to need all your cunning to get through the stages but it’ll be an enjoyable experience overall. If you are a fan of shoot ’em ups and cute girls, then check this baby out!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The game is always a fun journey from beginning to end so you’ll definitely find it enjoyable and challenging. Why not try to beat the game without dying once? That will make your entire afternoon a blast!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
To conclude, the game is just awesome! With great graphics, awesome gameplay, and a high rate of replay value Battle Mania will be one of your favorite Genesis games ever! The game is a little pricey but I’m sure you can find other alternatives or just use a damn emulator!

Toy Story

toy-story-sega-genesis

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

This is an interesting one, in a few ways you might not expect.

First off, the game followed several months after the film, which was, as everyone knows, a huge success.

toy-story-sega-genesis

Perhaps the delay was to to make the game better – after all, no-one knew if the film was going to be a hit, and this could have therefore made the developer re-think producing a cash-in rather than a product that was a worthy accompaniment to the film (not that is something that happens often).

Although this is not a crushingly soulless exercise in licensed based tedium, the game is still nowhere near the classic the film is.

toy-story-sega-genesis

The first thing that you notice is that the game is by Travellers Tales, now of Lego-based fame. Toy Story shares hardly any of the traits of its present series of titles however.

Plumping for pre-rendered style graphics, the game doesn’t appeal that much in the cold light of 2011. It doesn’t help that the general feel of the game isn’t quite solid or tactile enough, making you not feel completely comfortable with the controls.

toy-story-sega-genesis

You play as Woody, with the opening stages offering up a pleasing amount of variation. There’s a typical side scrolling level, a open rescue mission and a racing section in the first three stages alone.

I managed to get to the nightmare based boss level, and I have stepped no further. I imagine the game continues in the same vein as its opening though, as long as it follows the plot of the film.

toy-story-sega-genesis

You can certainly tell it’s from a talented developer, but the game is still no classic and looks fairly dated by today’s standards. If you’re an Toy Story obsessive though, this is worth hunting down.

Oh and one last thing – the guy who is supposed to be impersonating Tim Allen did a terrible job – he sounds nothing like him. The Tom Hanks voice though, is passable.

Cool Spot

Cool-Spot

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

You probably know that Cool Spot was 7 up’s mascot during the 80’s and 90’s, but only really in the US. Therefore the UK got Spot surfing on a generic non-branded bottle in the games opening screen rather than one with a 7up label…but this is all rather beside the point. What’s important is how the game itself holds up.

Personally, I found this a tough game to like. Spot himself is a well animated character, but to the point where his slow ‘i’m so cool’ walk makes the game more annoying rather than fun. The same can be said for the game overall.

Cool-Spot

Plus, the opening level alone is tough enough to make you spit your lemonade out in sheer frustration. Set on a beach (see picture above), the stage is swarming with crabs that for reasons unknown want Spot dead. Difficult to simply jump over (you usually just end up landing on another one and hurting yourself), to make decent progress you have to slowly work your way to the right and picking off the crustacean cronies one by one with your soda spray attack. This is not fun.

Cool-Spot

The next level on a port is teeming with even more foes, and it’s here where I usually struggle to progress any further. I’m not helped by the fact I find Spot a fairly annoying character. He’s not as detestable as say, Gex, but I find his laid back attitude makes him look more a tool than actually seem cool.

Even the rather good music can’t save this game from being merely a forgotten relic of the over-populated 16-bit platformer crowd. Cool Spot might be worth a punt at a low price to see one of the better games based on a drink, but it’s in a very small playing field in that respect – and there are certainly a lot better platformers out there.

The Game Genie

gamegenie

Long before there was an Internet to search for clues and codes to hack your way through a stubbornly difficult game, Codemasters brought a product into the game market which permitted access to your video game’s code, thereby letting you add unearned lives, power-ups, and so forth. The Game Genie was an accessory that you could insert into your game console, and then the game would attach to the Game Genie, allowing the Game Genie to act as an intermediary between the console and the game.

gamegenie

Many gamers found this helpful, and different Game Genies were produced for a variety of game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Game Gear. Two different companies distributed the Game Genie over the years it was being manufactured: Galoob and Camerica, one of which (Galoob) was actually sued by Nintendo in an effort to prevent the Game Genie from being sold. Fortunately for many gamers, Nintendo lost their legal battle and had to pay Galoob for damages.

Time marches steadily on, however, and the Game Genie is now in the dustbin of gaming history, while Nintendo continues to be a gaming powerhouse.  All we have left of the Game Genie are the few units that can be found here and there in the retrogaming marketplace, and our memories. Speaking of which, see if the following ad brings back memories of how you salivated over the thought of finally mastering that one irksome game, if only you got a Game Genie.

Contra: Hard Corps

 

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot

Contra: Hard Corps

Let me start by saying that while this is a true, crazy Contra game, Hard Corps was a bit of a disappointment.
The good parts: You can play as 4 different characters, which would be great for the replay value….if it were possible to actually finish the game the first time.

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
The graphics are absolutely beautiful (as expected); there are some cool cut-scenes; heat-seeking-missile guns are always a good thing; there’s enough variation in bad-guys to make it interesting; the bosses are many and very well designed……

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Here’s the problem: Where the earlier Contra games (arcade and console) are notorious for their difficulty and 1-hit kills, at least there is a high fun-factor in overcoming the challenges and looking for the patterns…. Hard Corps does not have this. Here’s why:

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Whenever you shoot something, which is constantly, your enemy explodes in a beautiful shower of fireballs. The problem……..it’s so huge and bright, you’re constantly being cheap-killed by a stray bullet!!! The normal dexterity needed to play these games are normally reserved for AD&D 2nd Edition Thieves (Yep, I’m old). I get that. But, when you can’t see what you’re trying to dodge, it just takes all the fun out it. I’m not freaking Daredevil! (2nd nerd drop..I’m done)

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
If you’re a fan of this genre, or a Contra completist…go for it. It has all the juicy goodness of awesome weapons, cool music, huge bosses, robots, and great controls. But for me, I’m going back to Contra III, for the SNES….and that’s saying something, because I’ve always been a ‘Sega over Nintendo’ guy.

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Overall: 6/10 solo 7/10 co-op

My Favorite Games: Part 10

And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)

Wiz n Liz - MegaDrive

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!

Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Goldeneye 007 - Nintendo 64

Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!

Soul Calibur
– Dreamcast (1999)

Soul Calibur - Dreamcast

Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.

Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)

Operation Wolf - Arcade

Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.

Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)

Sonic 2 - MegaDrive

Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!

The End…

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

xbox 360, playstation 3, nintendo wii

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

The Nintendo Entertainment System defied the odds as the 1980s came to a close.  Released in a video game market that American retailers had written off as a fad, the NES not only revived the gaming entertainment industry but set sales figures that blew away the earlier console generation and the previous king, the Atari 2600.

The NES lifetime sales figure of  61.91 million consoles became the biggest prize for anything released after it.  Going into the current crop of gaming consoles, only two consoles ever topped the lofty mark set by the NES:  the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2.

Now, according to sales-tracking website VGChartz.com the PlayStation 3 has now also topped the lofty NES numbers.  Not only does this put all three PlayStation consoles into the top five best-selling consoles of all-time, but it also means the PS3 joins the Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 in that short list.  All three modern consoles have now topped the NES lifetime sales figures, a first for any console generation in history. (Author’s note: All three consoles have also topped the NES software sales figures, according to the same website.)

“It was just a matter of time before gaming became so popular that the modern big three topped the original console that revitalized the gaming industry,” said Eric Cummings, founder of the group Gaming World Wide.  “I’m happy about it.  It means that the industry has really arrived.”

Another gamer who remains an NES player to this day provided similar thoughts.

“I feel this is proof that gaming is more than just people who play games,” said Eric Perez, host of The 8-Bit Eric Show.  “It is part of a worldwide culture.  The fact that three separate consoles have outsold what I feel was the pioneer of revitalizing gaming shows that the industry is in great shape.  The Nintendo Entertainment System will forever hold it’s place in history, but this is also history in the making.  The next generation of consoles will be something to watch.”

The Top Ten Selling Game Consoles of All-Time (source: combined data from VGChartz.com and Wikipedia listings.  Excludes handheld gaming devices.  All stats are as of date of this article’s publishing.)

1.  PlayStation 2 (Sony, 2000) – 153.68 million units

2.  PlayStation (Sony, 1994) – 104.25 million units

3.  Wii (Nintendo, 2006) – 95.25 million units

4.  XBox 360 (Microsoft, 2005) – 65.80 million units

5.  PlayStation 3 (Sony, 2006) – 62.11 million units

6.  Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1983, 1985) – 61.91 million units

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1990) – 49.10 million units

8.  Mega Drive / Genesis (Sega, 1988, 1989) – 39 million units

9.  Nintendo 64 (Nintendo, 1996) – 32.93 million units

10. Atari 2600 / VCS (Atari, 1977, 1985) – 30 million units

 

Ads of the Past: Funco Land

Oh Funco Land you evil child pawnshop. You took advantage of me by surrounding me with games I could not afford and made my adolescent brain made deals like trading Megaman 2, which my mother paid over $40 for, and selling it for less than $10.

Funco Land

Funco Land

Most of the time your demo stations did not work and sometimes you only showed the opening video of a game (dick). The man behind the counter was mean and creepy and smell of failure. Oh Funco Land, I got you back one day when I sold my copy of Double Dragon to a lady about to buy it from you for half price of what you were selling it for and triple what you would have paid me for it. Alas, it was my only victory against you as most battles and the war belonged to you. Rest in peace my old nemesis I have a new abusive soul in my life named Gamestop.

Thanks to FamicomFreak from Retro Gaming Life for the scans!

The Lost Vikings

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay  Genre: Platform / Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC

Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Starring as the multiple characters in this game are the Vikings of the title who are indeed lost. Actually, ‘captives’ might be a more appropriate word as our three Nordic friends have apparently been abducted by the curiously-named Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian Empire, who has been collecting unique and interesting specimens for his intergalactic zoo. They obviously weren’t confined very effectively though as they immediately set out to escape their shackles. To do this you must guide them to the exit on each of the 41 levels (or 37 in the other versions) which are set over various themed worlds (through time, of course!). The first is apparently set within the Croutonian spaceship but others include an Egyptian one (obviously), Pre-Historic, and even toy/food-related ones (not sure what time-period it’s supposed to be though!).

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Before I get carried away though, I’ve just realised how rude I’ve been by failing to introduce the stars of the show – the Vikings themselves! So, say hello to Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout! As you may have guessed, they each have unique abilities so you must use them all as a team to successfully finish each level. Erik can run and jump around the platforms and can also smash down certain walls by headbutting them, Baleog is equipped with a sword and bow (with infinite arrows) with which to battle the various enemies, and Olaf has a large shield which protects him (and indeed the others if they’re behind him) from enemies and hazards, and he can also raise it above his head and glide down from high places.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

To complete a level you must succeed in guiding all three Vikings to its exit. On the first level this takes about one minute but as you go through the game the levels get larger and more complicated as you might expect. They are multi-tiered and most feature ladders, colour-coded keys/locks, switches, and various monstrous and not-so-monstrous enemies. As you progress you’ll encounter more and more obstacles and features such as spring-pads, moving platforms, and even a device that inflates our heroes allowing them to float! The enemies take many forms usually related to the environment you’re in. The pre-historic world, for example, features vicious cavemen, small dragons, and… umm… snails. There’s also numerous guns and other projectile-firing devices around, and a touch from any of these things, or indeed falling too far, will cost the unfortunate Viking one of his three health points.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Contact with some of the hazards found in the levels, such as spikes or electric forcefields, can cause instant death too, so careful planning is required for the most part, rather than charging around recklessly. Fortunately, hit points are replenished each stage and there are also a few items that can help you such as various foods to replenish your energy and smart bombs to clear the screen of enemies. These items can be transferred from one Viking to another too, depending on who’s most in need, which further emphasises the teamwork aspect of the game which is so prevalent. In fact, in some versions of the game (including this one) it’s possible for you and a friend to control more than one Viking at once.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
As I mentioned earlier, after the success of Lemmings there was a good few games released that tried their own take on the ‘multiple characters with differing abilities’ formula, but in most cases it either seemed unnecessarily tacked-on or that the developers put too much emphasis on it, forgetting to create decent stages for them to explore in the process! Luckily, Silicon & Synapse (who would later become Blizzard Entertainment of Warcraft fame) got the balance just right with this amusing adventure. The levels are well designed for the most part and before each one there’s some humorous banter between the three Vikings (via speech bubbles). They all have unique abilities but they are simple too, and all vital for successful progress through the game’s ever-tougher levels.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Aesthetically, The Lost Vikings is pretty average. It doesn’t really need flashy graphics and, whilst there is a lot of colour and some nice backgrounds and foregrounds, it’s certainly not ground-breaking either. It’s the same with the sound – effects are kept to a minimum and the music suits the game well enough but isn’t particularly memorable. As with all games of this type though, it’s other aspects of the game’s design that counts, such as level and character design. Happily, near enough every aspect of the gameplay is spot-on. The Vikings themselves are appealing (helped by their entertaining chatter) and are easy to control, and the difficulty curve is reasonably well-balanced too. The only problem is that there’s something of a ‘trial and error’ aspect to some sections of the game, and if you make a mistake and kill a Viking it’s all the way back to the start of the level, and they can get pretty big and complicated later on! Still, each level has a password and it is addictive, with the unique abilities of each Viking making for an interesting and fairly originally-designed game that’s well worth a look.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-1wmfle9-8[/youtube]

Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.

RKS Score: 8/10

Road Rash 3

Roadrash 3- Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

This is definitely one of the funnest games on the Genesis. How can you say no to beating up the competition? It’s just that fun and you have to do it while you are driving like a maniac against traffic at some points. Road Rash 3 showed us that motorcycle type games can really be fun unlike that other title that came out for the SNES hmmm can’t quite get the name of it but all I remember is that your driver flew out like a plastic toy which was fun at first but annoying later on.

Roadrash 3- Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Road Rash 3 is very simple. You just start the race and try to make it to the finish line by beating up the competition. It can get a little tough because you might focus on one of the drivers you want to beat up and forget to look at the road. It’s a multitasking game! Stay sharp and keep your balls in your place, you’ll do fine. The previous games of the series are really good and fun as well, I do suggest to play this one first because in my opinion, it’s the most complete one but I could be wrong, it’s all about personal taste.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCZE9J78h3U[/youtube]

 

So that should do it, not much to say and I don’t really want to spoil peoples fun so pick this one up and why not, pick the other ones up as well. A nice motorcycle beat em up is waiting for you.

Famicomfreak is a classic gaming writer and collector you can view his main blog here – Retro Gaming Life

Sonic 4: Episode 2 Announcement and Trailer

[youtube id=”Lf5QdWjXQ2c” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Sonic 4: Episode 2 Announcement and Trailer

Sonic_4_Logo

Coming next year is the follow-up to the downloadable Sega game, Sonic 4. This all new version will feature brand new graphics and a new physics engine as well. The idea behind the new physics engine is to get you back to the feeling of playing Sonic on your Genesis console.

However, the biggest newest is the return of Sonic’s longtime side kick Tails. We still await word to see if you will be able to play fully as Tails either in the full game or special side stages. For now check out this very small teaser.

Top Ten: TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games

TurboGrafx-16

When gamers look back at the heyday of the Genesis/NES wars, NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 is often overlooked.  That’s a darn shame – as big a shame today as it was back in the 1990s, as the TurboGrafx video game system had some quality games that are still fun to play today.  Just for kicks and giggles, here are what I consider the Top 10 huCard (in no particular order) games for this forgotten system.  One more caveat: the CD games aren’t on this list – they’re for another day!

Bonk’s Adventure / Bonk’s Revenge / Bonk 3

bonks adventure
What can you say about this classic game of caveman versus his world.  How can you not like a character that gains enormous health and power from eating giant, meaty bones or who dispatches his enemies by smacking them with his granite-like head?  I’ll always like the first game the best simply due to its original charm, but the others in the series were gold, too, so they’ve been bunched together as some of the best games ever for the T-16 system!

 

Blazing Lazers

blazing lazers
How about a game that filled the screen with non-stop arcade action – alien ships coming in wave after wave of attack runs, but dropping just the right kind of power-ups to keep your thumbs mashing the pad until defeating each level boss and getting a breather?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  Blazing Lazers was AWESOME.

 

Neutopia / Neutopia II

neutopia
Wait a minute – is this game a Zelda game or not?  Well, it sure played like Zelda, even if it just “borrowed” elements of the classic NES series.  Jazeta strapped on his sword and shield and searched for the eight Medallions that would spell defeat for Dirth, the wizard with a bad attitude.  Charge up the Fire Wand and help Link Jazeta burn his way to success!

 

Military Madness

military madness
Tell me again why we’re fighting the Axis-Xenon scum for the right to control the Moon?  Who cares – this was a turn-based strategy wargame for a console system…and it didn’t suck!  The game’s victory music still pops unbidden into my thoughts (atmostly appropriate times).

 

Alien Crush / Devil’s Crush

alien crush
I never thought I’d sit in front of my television and play a pinball game for hours, but that was before Alien Crush showed me what a good pinball game looked like.  And Devil’s Crush upped the ante even more.  Great graphics, speed, table feel…these were some great pinball games.

 

Bomberman

bomberman
Who wants to play a five-player TurboGrafx-16 game and blow up all your friends?  If you had a TurboTap and enough TurboPads, this game was the ultimate multi-player game for the T-16 system.  Of course, if you had NO friends, the game had a decent single-player mode, too, which, considering many gamers in the 90s didn’t see the sun until the Millennium Bug scared them into going outside to forage for supplies, was a good thing.  By the way, if you had two TurboExpress handheld systems you could link them and play head-to-head.

 

Splatterhouse

splatterhouse
Did you ever want to put on a hockey mask, pick up a weapon, and lay a beating down on the hapless evil denizens of a haunted house?  Don’t worry about your psyche, so did everyone else.  Lots of gore (not as much as the Japanese version, though) made this a controversial game and gave it a cult following even before its release.

 

Cadash

cadash
Another super RPG for the TurboGrafx-16, Cadash gave the player the opportunity to play a fighter (heavily armoured and packing a mean damage rating), a mage (with magical firepower), a priestess (a decent fighter who can heal herself), or a ninja (a FAST little guy with the ability to reign death by shuriken from afar or use a spread fire ability to burn enemies to ash).  The game had plenty of Zelda II elements (shades of Neutopia!), and remains a T16 collector favorite to this day.

 

Dungeon Explorer

dungeon explorer
Long before there were MORPGs letting gamers explore virtual fantasy worlds together, your choices for multiplayer RPG action were slim. Until Dungeon Explorer arrived, that is, with the ability to play with up to four more of your friends (using the TurboTap).  You could even save your progress with a password save game feature!

 

The Legendary Axe

legendary axe
This game was hard.  And I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this when it came out.  It was also a visual/audio masterpiece that garnered a Video Game of the Year honor from VideoGames & Computer Entertainment.  A game that redefines an entire genre (the platform sidescroller) deserves to be on any TurboGrafx-16 Top Ten list!

 

Honorable mentionJ.J. & Jeff

jj-jeff
OK, I played Leisure Suit Larry when it came out, and loved the infantile humor, but up to J.J. & Jeff, I never saw a steaming pile of defecation in a video game before.  Although the North American version of this game was much tamer than the Japanese version (no public urination, for example), it still had some punch to shock and titillate the North American puritan audience.

 

Have a different Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 list?  Leave a comment with your favorites – and don’t forget to say why!

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

megadrive2

Though popular since the 70’s, it was the late 80’s and early 90’s when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot ’em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time.

I’ve owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD’s fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run ‘n’ gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren’t included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)

 

5 - Wiz n Liz

I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only fan this poor old game has! I’m not usually a fan of fast ‘n’ frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz ‘n’ Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can’t help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough – one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a ‘hidden gem’ in the MD’s back catalogue but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game – nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

4. Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure (1990)

4 - Robocod

I’ve mentioned this great game before, and I’ll do a full review at some point, but for now be assured that it’s awesome! Most Western gamers will know it by the new name and identity given to it for its European and US release (Decapattack) but I much prefer this Japanese original which is perhaps more famous for its amusing name than anything else! It will be instantly familiar to fans of Psycho Fox on the Master System as they share many qualities, but this is no sequel or tarted-up port. It’s a pretty large game with some stages featuring multiple routes through them and there are many quirky features present in its stages. Magical Hat is a real charmer which constantly entices you to explore its strange world. If you’ve never played it, or even if you’re veteran of Decapattack, do yourself a favour and give it a try.

3. James Pond 2 Codename: Robocod (1991)

3 - Magical Hat

Games don’t come much more nonsensical than this one! The original James Pond was an original and entertaining romp but this sequel cranked everything up a notch and is now a full platform game too, thanks to the special suit that allows James to remain on land. The game takes place across many themed stages populated by some very strange enemies and seemingly random collectible items but, perhaps aside from its strangeness, it doesn’t really do anything that countless other games haven’t done before – it just does it better than most games! The graphics and sound are among the MegaDrive’s best and the many stages are packed with features and secrets. This is probably the most slick and polished of all MD platformers, and certainly the craziest non-Japanese one!

2. Ristar (1995)

2 - Ristar

Good old Sonic Team. Not only did they regale us with the wonders of their Sonic games, but they also found time to sneak in this gem late in the MD’s life. It actually started out as the game that would become Sonic before being resurrected with Ristar in command, and the first stage does feature similar graphics, but the gameplay differs quite a bit. The pace is a lot slower for one thing. Ristar clambers around the gorgeous stages using his arms as much as his legs. He can climb up walls, across ceilings, and around trees and logs, and it is by experimenting with these abilities that you’ll be able to fully explore his world. The more sedate pace really suits the game and the character, as does the laid back soundtrack, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate the lush graphics! Many gamers missed this, what with the Saturn and PlayStation being unveiled, but if you were one of the ones who did notice it, you’ll not need me to tell you how good it is!

1. Sonic 2 (1992)

 

1 - Sonic 2

Sorry but it had to be really, didn’t it? No other game got MegaDrive gamers whipped up into a frenzy like this one, nevermind any other platform games. Sega’s motives for creating Sonic may not have been the best but at least they made a great game for him, so the sequel had a lot to live up to. To say it did would be one of gaming’s biggest ever understatements! Sonic 2 features bigger stages and more of them, a tougher challenge, and perhaps the nicest graphics and sound the console has ever produced. I’m sure everyone who owned an MD had this game so I don’t even need to extol its virtues really. Suffice to say, everything here is so much flashier than the first game it’s almost as if they’re running on different consoles, and the gameplay so finely-honed that, sadly, no further games in the Sonic series would ever better it.

As mentioned, the MegaDrive was swamped in platform games, so picking the best five was tough, mainly because I had to leave out some other great games. So, honourable mentions also go to: Castle of Illusion, Rolo to the Rescue, Kid Chameleon, Flicky, Quackshot, Aladdin, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, goodness knows how many others…

Origin PC: New Overclocked i7 2700K

origin-pc

People are always asking for bigger, faster and better and if you cannot provide that people will move on lighting fast. Origin PC, being on the cutting edge of custom gaming system announced their overclocking of the Intel Core i7 2700k-based systems with speeds going beyond 5GHz.

What does this mean for gamers? Everyone is looking toward the future for the next games and many of those games are developed to handle the most power components available. You have benchmark junkies looking to push that score and frame-rate freaks looking for ungodly numbers, and it takes powerful hardware to accomplish that goal.

“As an Intel launch partner, ORIGIN PC guarantees the latest technology is available to our customers the day of launch,” said Kevin Wasielewski ORIGIN PC CEO and cofounder. “ORIGIN PC offers the most options on the market. We will build your Intel 2700K powered PC in any case and any configuration.”

intel-2700k

Let’s be clear, you can build your own rig and overclock it, but first you need to know what to buy and then you’ll need the skill and knowhow to do it and that is not as easy as some makes it out to be. Also consider that if something goes wrong dealing with manufacture’s warranties can be a pain and leave you without a system for quite some time. An alternative is a system builder who has the knowhow and skill and will provide a kick ass warranty to boot.

So if you are looking to purchase this beast you can find the configuration on the Genesis model on Origin PC’s website. The Genesis system starts around $1337, but keep in mind that price will get higher when adding the i7 and other upgrades. Origin PC will overclock the 2700K as high as 5.2GHz and no lower than 4.7Ghz and that’s from the stock processor speed of 3.5GHz, not bad.

Console Wars: SNES vs Genesis

snes-sega

Ah, the console wars of the 1990’s it was a time when most people only had one and whichever side you were on you believed it was the best. Either you were a Super NES fan or Sega Genesis fan and both companies took advantage of this, but Sega really played to their fanboi audience.

Remember this commercial:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlulSyBI2aY[/youtube]

Blast processing, it was a marketing term to make you believe the Genesis was completely superior to the SNES, but what SNES fans noticed was graphics. Often Genesis fans talked about how fast games seemed and said Sonic could not run on and SNES. However, we know that the Genesis only had a palette of 512 colors while the SNES had over 32 thousand. Not only that, but the SNES could show you 256 different colors on one screen while the Genesis could only show you 62. The result was the sprites and backgrounds did run faster on the Genesis because they were less detailed, but were much clearer and detailed on the SNES.

Mortal Kombat

As far as sound the SNES won again and again we can use Mortal Kombat as an example. The sounds in the SNES port were much better than the Genesis and the reason is simple. The Genesis had a Yamaha sound chip and a Texas Instruments PSG, with 8K of sound memory between them. The SNES had a custom designed Sony sound chip and Sony DSP, with 64K of sound memory giving it the clear advantage. The result was clearer sounds with more audible tones available to be heard.

Now when it comes to controllers that is more players choice, many Genesis fanbois said the size of the controller were made for men and the SNES for little boys and girls, but most gamers will tell you the SNES was a better pad and Sega original game pad was a ripoff of the Nintendo design.

SEGA_vs_NINTENDO_STREET_FIGHTER_2

The most important contest was in the games department. Now don’t get me wrong, Sega had a ton of great games and even ports like Mortal Kombat that looked better on the SNES were more fun on the Genesis. However, talking classics SNES wins hands down which is why they seem to keep remaking those classics over and over.

Oh and BTW there was a bootleg port of all the Sonic games for the SNES and they ran just fine, so much for blast processing.

Ok maybe this isn’t the best example.

So which side were you on?

Streets of Rage 3

Streets of Rage 3 - Sega Genesis - Gameplay

This game is not my favorite but still good. It contains a lot of upgrades from the second one that will appeal to some and disgust others. it’s your choice if you want to pick this game up and play, but if you chose yes, it’ll cost ya quite a bit.

The game is part of the trend of beat em up games during the early 90s. This genre was very popular and both Sega and Nintendo wanted in on the money making beat em up master gaming goodness! In my personal opinion, the streets of rage games beat Final Fight by a long shot. By the time Final Fight 3 came out, it was just the same thing as the first one, except with different characters. Streets of Rage 3 introduced different characters as well as new aspects to make the game play different and better to some.

Streets of Rage 3 - Sega Genesis - Gameplay

Overall, I say it’s worth a pick up if you can find it for a reasonable price. The game usually goes for 30 dollars loose and at crazy prices boxed. I suggest you hit the thrift stores and keeps your eyes opened for this gem for the Genesis. If you are not into hunting, just pick up the Genesis Collection games for the new consoles which has all three Streets of Rage games. Pick it up, play all three of them, and pick your favorite, if you can that is.

J.A. P.S.

The music was pretty awesome in a drug induced way as well, check out this boss music!

[mp3player width=300 height=100 config=fmp_jw_osg_config-xml.xml playlist=streets-of-rage-3.xml]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igDpLXSNS6E&feature=related[/youtube]

The Super Fighter Team Interview

Super Fighter Team 1
Super Fighter Team has an absolutely brilliant name. And it possibly is the only indie developer for retro platforms that has managed to impress the mainstream gaming media; after all, shiny new cartridges for the Sega MegaDrive / Genesis and the Atari Lynx aren’t a common sight. Here are Brandon Cobb (president, Super Fighter Team; Zaku producer) and Osman Celimli (president, PenguiNet; Zaku designer / developer) to discuss both SFT and its latest release: Zaku. Mind you, this is only part of a rather extensive interview filled with exclusive bits of info. The rest of it (including more of said juicy exclusive bits) will be published in issue 4 of the excellent (and very free) Retroaction retro-loving magazine.

 

Care to introduce us to Super Fighter Team and its members? 

Brandon: Super Fighter Team is the future of classic gaming. We partner with top game companies across the world as well as gifted independent developers, and in between it all we also find time to churn out our own original titles. Our goal is to always deliver the highest quality product at the most convenient price – or, in some cases, as freeware.

I founded the company in May of 2004. I wear a plethora of hats, ranging from directing and delegating to designing and lead testing, in addition to countless others. I’m also the company’s official snack eater, which as you can imagine is a highly sou ght after position.

Though we employ a different sized team for each individual game project, some of our core members include: Derrick Sobodash, Yu-Chen Shih, Kim Biu Wong and Guoqing Xie.

Beggar Prince and Legend of Wukong were two absolutely excellent Sega 16-bit games. Are you proud of them?

Brandon: Beggar Prince was our first commercial project, and a huge undertaking, considering. The original Chinese version of the game was rife with bugs and we had no contact with its programmer. Just when our guys had finished with all the reprogramming, we split from our publisher and went it alone. Every hurdle you can think of was thrown in front of us, but we vaulted over them all to land squarely on the finish line. The sleepless nights, the aggravation, the wondering when and if we’d ever finish… I could write a book about it all. But the game shipped. It shipped, and it shipped on time – just like all of our games have. And the world reacted in a way never before seen from the release of a new game for a classic machine.

Legend of Wukong gave me an exciting opportunity to dig into the framework of a role playing game and build it up into something stronger. Instead of spending time directing programmers to bugs and suggesting ways to fix them, I was able to spend more time designing neat little features and enhancements. I got in there pretty deep, building up my drive as we built up the game. It may never enjoy the amount of success that Beggar Prince has, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Super Fighter Team 1

What are you looking for when releasing a new game or updating / translating / finishing an unknown classic?

Brandon: One word: perfection.

By the way, I do think it’s wise to focus on the games’ packaging. Would you mind telling us how you make it? Oh, and why would be nice too.

Osman: Heh, that was Brandon’s domain. I actually got to sit back and watch, for once.

Brandon: It’s not overly complicated: you’ve just got to be able to find a print house that’s crazy enough to churn out custom cardstock boxes for you, in miniscule numbers, for a low price. You find one of those, you’re set. *smirk*

We take the packaging design as seriously as we take the development of the game. They’re all equally important parts of the same whole. You can’t just take a brilliant Lynx game and stuff it uncomfortably in an odd-shaped, orange case made of dull plastic. You’ve got to add some panache while keeping the original spirit alive. Hold a copy of Zaku up next to any game that Atari produced for the Lynx, and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, some of our customers have even commented that they feel our packaging is superior to Atari’s.

Could you name some of your collective favourite game systems?

Brandon: The Genesis and Lynx are both high on the chart, but that goes without saying. Aside from those two, I’ve had a deep love for the original black and white Gameboy for longer than I can remember. The newer incarnations of the machine were never able to deliver the same kind of magic, where software was concerned. I’m interested in the 32X, at least from a hardware perspective. Oh yes – and the Super A’can makes for a nifty doorstop.

Super Fighter Team 1

So, why chose the Atari Lynx as a platform to develop for?

Osman: I originally was interested in developing something for the GameBoy, since it was, and still is my favorite console. But I couldn’t find any simple tutorials to get acquainted with how the machine works. Later on, I came into possession of a Lynx after discovering that “Chip’s Challenge” was originally developed for the machine, a game I had very fond memories of on the PC. For whatever reason, I decided to try working with the Lynx hardware, and picked it up very quickly with help from Björn Spruck and Karri Kaksonen. So there really wasn’t any incentive in terms of Lynx nostalgia on my part, I just grew to enjoy working with the machine.

Brandon: I’ve always wanted to have some hand in the creation and release of a new game for the Lynx, ever since I first set eyes on the machine.


How would you describe Zaku? What would you say are its most important features?

Brandon: Zaku is a 4-megabit game card packed to the brim with challenges, humor and best of all, fun. It complements every strength of the Lynx hardware, running smoothly the entire time. You’ll quickly and easily become charmed by and helplessly addicted to this game.

Osman: A game that just tries to be a game, I think that is what’s most important.

Super Fighter Team 1

Care to tell us the story behind the development of the game?

Osman: I started Zaku when I was 14, and the game shipped when I was 20. That’s six years of development when you’re going to be changing as a person. In reality, Zaku started out as “Let’s just try and replicate Air Zonk on the Lynx,” then “Well this is kind of working out, so let’s put some placeholder characters in there,” and eventually “We have something here, let’s try to finish it and add as much originality as we can to the concept.” By far, the most difficult thing for me was to continue working on the game while I was coming up with ideas which, frankly, I felt were far superior to and much more original than Zaku. But I said the game would get finished, and it did, so that’s satisfying in itself. I enjoy the process of designing and developing games, and continue to do so because of that.

On a more technical note, we used a combination of Epyx’s original development kit on the Amiga, Bastian Schick’s BLL, and some of our own tools. Pixels were laid out in Microsoft Paint, and the code was written in Microsoft Notepad. The notable thing is that while nearly all of the engine and libraries were new, and written by us, we decided to use Epyx’s HSPL sound engine. This is the same audio system used in the Lynx’s early titles such as Chip’s Challenge or California Games, which I think is something. I spent many hours hand-converting the MIDI’s my brother sent me into Epyx’s SPL scripting language, since their conversion program wasn’t very effective. There was a constant effort to give good results for the player, even if it meant more work for us.

The overall development process wasn’t particularly special. I tried to keep things organized, particularly when we brought on additional background artists. We’d set deadlines and work towards them effectively. It’s a project you do in your spare time, and life has to come first, so organizing things is particularly important. But Zaku shipped, and things worked out in the end.

What were the goals you set to achieve?

Osman: I think it’s important to focus on simple fun as a first project. Zaku was by no means a small undertaking, but I’m glad we focused on making the game enjoyable rather than exclusively focusing on a technical achievement or story. So for me, the real drive was not only what Brandon mentioned, but to try and make the game simple and not come off as overly prestigious to players. Something it seems many small team games seem to have issues with. I think we succeeded in that regard. If you want to get into game development in the long run, which I’d like to do, the best way is to make games. That’s why Zaku exists, to make sure I can control this stuff, since that isn’t easy. Now that the game is out, I can look over what people enjoy and get bothered by, and use that to improve what I work on next.

Super Fighter Team 1
We must admit it is a technical masterpiece with excellent graphics. Any idea as to how this was possible on the now-humble Atari handheld?

Brandon: The Lynx is capable of stunning results. A developer just needs to have and exhibit some drive in order to showcase them. We’re not wizards; we simply love the machine and we weren’t about to settle for an amateur result when we knew we could make the system truly shine. Had Atari followed the same approach, perhaps their machine would have enjoyed more commercial success.

Osman: You have to put in the effort, since players will notice it if you don’t. I’m not an amazing programmer, and Zaku isn’t a perfect game, but there was a constant attempt to add “one more layer” of polish or creative use of the hardware if we could make the game play better by doing so. Things like the gradient background and camera panning during Emp’s battle. They may have added a week or two to development, but it’s worth it to learn how to do the effects, and let the player enjoy them. But I have to credit the Lynx designers here too, it really was a great machine to work with.
And -really- how did you manage to come up with an authentic Lynx cartridge?

Osman: Hah, that was another one of those things I just got to watch.

Brandon: Had ’em made up from scratch, of course. No one’s going to have the plastic mold for a Lynx game card lying around, not even Atari. Those molds are expensive, but hey, you only live twice! Gotta go for the gusto, otherwise there’s no point in even considering it at all. I mean what’s the alternative — shipping the game as a naked PCB? That would just be silly.
Are there any plans for a sequel? For another Lynx game perhaps?

Brandon: I’d love to have another go at the Lynx. We’ve been kicking some ideas around, but there’s no definite plans as of yet.

Osman: I really enjoyed working on Zaku, and with the Lynx platform. It’s great fun to design things for Zaku’s world, since you really can do whatever you want. But at this point, I’d like to try something more original. Although if we did go through with a sequel to Zaku, Lynx or not, I think there’s lots to tweak to make the mechanics more fun. Right now though, I’d like to take a break. After all, it’s been six years.

Retro Love: Buy a Dreamcast

Sega Dreamcast Logo

It’s been quite some time since I’ve got my brand new, but also (and that’s quite an oxymoron) second hand, SEGA Dreamcast, and let me tell you, I am as happy a punter as one can be. I’m a 100% converted and a newborn SEGA fanboy (well, not a boy in the full sense, but you get the idea… at least I’m not in my thirties just yet). I’m also rather thankful to the Dreamcast Junkyard for fuelling my DC obsession.

All things considered I’m thankful to dear Mr. Elderly too, for providing this blog’s comments space with a healthy dose of Irish surrealism, but that’s definitely none of your business. All you should focus on is buying a Dreamcast (unless of course you already got one, in which case you should consider buying a second). Why? Well, because…

1) It’s a matter of price.

The Dreamcast is dead cheap. You should be able to buy a brand new one for less than 80$ (that’s 60 euros) over at Lik-Sang (try clicking on the banner at the end of the article to see for yourself), or follow my example and buy a second hand one, either at e-bay or at your local second-hand-store-bazaar-whatever for quite a bit less than 50$. And this is paying for a 100% current-gen console.
Sega Dreamcast Console
the Dreamcast (via)

2) It’s the bleeding hardware

It doesn’t only look smart, it is smart. SEGA’s Dreamcast is miles ahead from both the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation, even though it’s not as powerful as the PS2 or the GameCube. It sports a RISC 128bit CPU capable of 360 MIPS (N64 ~120 MIPS, PS1 ~30 MIPS), a special edition PowerVR2 graphics processor, that can cope with 10 times PS1’s polygons, 16MB of RAM, a 1 Giga “GD-ROM” (aka fancy, fast and easily pirated CD-ROM) drive, brilliant 64 channel audio and a modem. Yes. The first console modem ever. Oh, and European players will apparently enjoy full 60Hz PAL support.

Sega Dreamcast Motherboard

the insides of the beast (via)

3) It’s the brilliant (and admittedly very cheap) games

With more than 300 games, the Dreamcast has something for everyone, except perhaps for us poor football minded maniacs. Most used (and abused) games should be picked up at ridiculous prices of 5-10$ (less in euros, even less in pounds), while published titles include such brilliant gems as Soul Calibur, Rez, Sonic Adventure 2, Rayman 2, Phantasy Star Online, Quake 3 (you might even be able to track down Half-Life), Metropolis Street Racer, Shenmue, Ikaruga, Crazy Taxi 2, Jet Grind Radio and the quite legendary Samba de Amigo.

Soul Calibur - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Soul Calibur

 

I could actually go on and mention at least a dozen more distinctive and defining games, but I’d rather mention something else. Dreamcast games are still being produced! Have a look at the 2006 released Under Defeat or the forthcoming Last Hope shooter.

Under Defeat - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Under Defeat

4) It’s the innovation and the quirkyness

And I’m talking innovation, beside the Internet connection or the PAL ting. The Dreamcast controller featured a brilliant analog stick, the now-standard shaped triggers and interestingly the Virtual Memory Unit, or VMU. This VMU thingy was far more than a memory stick. It plugged into the controller and used its little LCD screen to display relevant game information or graphics and even was a wee version of Gameboy, as it also functioned as a completely separate portable handheld gaming device (from hell). VMU games can be found right here, but searching and googling around will lead you to quite a few more cyber-stashes.

Sega Dreamcast VMU

the VMU (exposed)

 

As for quirkyness, one could mention the DC Keyboard, the Fishing Rod, the quite new-at-the-time Vibration Pack and above all Dreamcast’s Wii capabilities.

5) It’s the scene

By saying the scene I’m talking of the vibrant DC emulation, demo, homebrew and even amateur journalism community. On the Dreamcast you see, one can play anything from old arcade, to MegaDrive, Amiga, Atari, Gameboy, Playstation or NES games. There’s even a ScummVM port that makes those old Lucasarts adventures of yore DC compatible. Then again one can listen to MP3s, watch DivX videos, see the Dreamcast get pushed to its limits and play zillions of Tetris versions. All of these courtesy of the scene.

To start tasting sweet freeware offerings (you will need DiscJuggler to burn things on CD) try the following links: DCEvolution.net, Dreamcast Homebrew, IGN Dreamcast, Dreamcast @ pout.net.

6) There is no 6

Go on. Buy one! It’s cheap and powerful, but also quite the retro machine. Oh, and the Wii isn’t out yet.

Battletoads

Battletoads Title Screen

If you want to play an updated NES version of Battletoads, then the Genesis version is the one for you. I feel that this version is a lot easier especially in the second level where you can rack up all the extra lives a lot easier and at a quicker rate. As many of you know, the NES version is brutal and will take you countless of tries to get pass the later levels. It gets to a point of frustration but not in the Genesis version, at least this one takes a lot less tries to get passed such levels. This game really feels a lot more polished and more fair in gameplay than the NES version. Of course, you will still have a tough time in the two player mode and you will probably be better off playing one player unless you have a buddy that’ll do the job just as good as you can.

Battletoads Box Genesis

So lets move on, the game is as fun as the other counterparts. You’ll enjoy the graphics and sounds of this one as the Genesis takes advantage of them. The gameplay will be challenging but it will keep you coming for more.

Battletoads Gameplay Screenshot Genesis

 

Well I highly recommend this title especially if you won’t give the NES version a chance. This one is the game not to miss and it’s mighty cheap on Ebay. Go Toads!

The Music Hall: Instant Remedy

Instant Remedy Logo

Instant Remedy

As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of videogame music, particularly of the retro variety. It was around… hmm, I guess 10 years ago now, that I started my collection, initially by recording MegaDrive tunes using the splendid Gens emulator, but I didn’t discover the remix community until a bit later. It was while searching for the original OutRun music that I first encountered Instant Remedy, and it opened the door to an unimaginable number of songs.

Instant Remedy is Martin Noriander (formerly Martin Andersson), a Swedish guy born in 1976, and a Commodore 64 fanatic who has spent a good deal of his time and effort remixing some of his favourte SID tunes. Now, one of my biggest embarrassments as a gamer is that I’ve never played, or indeed even used a Commodore 64 – I was always a Speccy fanboy until I moved onto consoles – so I’ve never even heard any of these famous SID creations everyone keeps raving about, but that didn’t stop my elation at hearing Magical Sound Shower, one of my all-time favourite game tunes, in an exciting new way! And so began my collection of remixed game tunes. Instant Remedy was the first and I soon discovered just how many more talented enthusiasts were up to the same sort of thing!

I’m now proud/embarrassed to admit that I have somewhere in the region of 120Gb of game music, and much of it is awesome remixes (or ‘arrangements’) of all manner of classic game soundtracks. A vast majority of them, including Instant Remedy, are done in a dance/trance style, as you might expect, and I hope to cover some of the other awesome musicians here at some point, but for now, wrap you ears around the one that started it all for me…. Instant Remedy OutRun!

Instant Remedy – Outrun Instant OC ReMix .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

And if you like this track even nearly as much as I did, it might be worth you investing in some of Martin’s other Instant Remedy tracks, available here. Apparently, Martin also has a CD available featuring the same tracks (listed below with original composers in brackets), so grab a copy of that if you get the chance too!

1. Last Ninja – The Palace (by Antony Lees) 1987
2. Flimbo’s Quest (by Reyn Ouwehand) 1990
3. Comic Bakery (Extended Version) (by Martin Galway) 1986
4. International Karate (by Rob Hubbard) 1986
5. Game On (Issue 09 to 89) (by Markus Schneider) 1989
6. Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Trance Version) (by Mark Cooksey) 1986
7. IK+ (by Rob Hubbard) 1987
8. Last Ninja – The Wastelands (Club Version) (by Ben Daglish) 1987
9. Trolls (by Adam Gilmore) 1993
10. Warriors (Club Version) (by Thomas Mogensen) 1989
11. Commando (V2) (by Rob Hubbard) 1985
12. West Bank (V2) (by Fred Gray) 1986
13. Last Ninja – Wastelands (Extended Version) (by Ben Daglish) 1987
14. Comic Bakery (by Martin Galway) 1986
15. Commando (by Rob Hubbard) 1985

Sonic 2

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Sonic 2 is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. ~Luis Zena

Sonic 2

Sonic 2 defined the way we looked at sonic games. This is probably the best sonic for the Genesis (Sonic 3 comes real close) because of how many memories we had with it. For me, it was the first Genesis game I ever played, in fact, it was the first time I ever saw the Genesis and it was all thanks to the popularity of this franchise. The game is breath taking from beginning to end with some of the best level design in any Sonic game.

Sonic 2 - Gameplay Screeenshot 1

The game consists of three levels per world and a boss fight. If I remember correctly, there are eight worlds with three levels each. I myself haven’t reached the end but one of these days I will try to accomplish it. Either way, anyone can pick it up especially since the game is so common to find and usually has a collector value of .50 cents so there really shouldn’t be any problem picking it up. The reason this game was so common was because Sega packaged it with the Genesis console to help pump up sales which worked for a while and gave Sega the lead over Nintendo during the early 90’s console wars. Furthermore, the game has excellent sound and peculiar bad guys that turn into animals when you kill them.

Sonic 2 - Genesis Box

To conclude, this is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. I also suggest if you don’t want to buy a genesis get the recently released Genesis Collection disc for the next gen consoles. It brings tons of games and will definitely satisfy your Sonic needs. Until the next retro game of the week.

Jay Boor: Konami

Konami logo

Name: Jay Boor

Company: KONAMI

Profession: Head of Public Relations

Favorite Classic Game: HERZOG ZWEI

Quote: Herzog-Zwei is one of my all-time favorite titles for a number of reasons. It was the first-true real-time strategy game, and it debuted on the SEGA Genesis – it wasn’t even a PC title! At the time, Technosoft probably thought they had just developed a really fun two-player war-action game. Little did they know that they were the first to lay the foundation for all future RTS games to come.


Sonic Crackers

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Sonic Crackers

Was this to be Sonic 4, an extension of Sonic 3 or a mash up of various Sonic games into one? There are still some who debate what this game was to be but the common wisdom is that Sonic Crackers was an early prototype for the game that would come to be known as Knuckles Chaotix for the Sega 32x system.

Sonic Crackers

This uncompleted game features Sonic and Tails who are tethered together by rings, which also appears in Knuckles Chaotix. Sonic can pick up tales and throw him to higher areas and use “bungie-like” physics to pull him up to platforms.

There were two main uncompleted levels in Sonic Crackers that had music, but no sound effect as well as bonus areas (which you entered when you died or completed the first level). There are no enemies anywhere within the zones and you cannot collect any rings but lose a large amount when you die. Also when paused you can float around the world and un-pause to get to new areas.

Who am I?

One of the first things you will notice if you get your hands on a copy of the ROM is that Sonic Crackers is named Sonic Studium. This alone has caused some to believe it was to be a completely new chapter for the series. What we have learned about ROM’s is that they don’t always contain the correct or real name of a game.

Sonic Crackers

Also the name “Studium” is not a misspelling (at least not by us) it is how it is spelled on the code. As we all know “Studium” is not a real word. Now they could have meant Stadium, but even so it is not the name of the game.

4/1/94

Another theory about Sonic Crackers is that it was a hoax by Sega.  The reasoning behind this is the date of release was April 1st 1994. While in the planning stages for Sonic 4 a new technology was announced called Lock-On, no one knew what Lock-On technology was.

Sonic Crackers

In the Sonic Crackers game Sonic and Tales are linked together by rings and a tether and the idea was that people would believe (mistakenly) that this was the Lock-On technology.

The Sound of Music

One of the reasons it was believed Sonic Crackers was its own game at one time was the music. In the end, when Chaotix was released you could hear some similar sounds between its music and the one from Sonic Crackers. However, some believe the music sounds as if beats and tones where taken away.

Sonic Crackers field zone

The idea is if Sonic Crackers was either a fake or a very early build the music would sound less complex on Crackers and more complex on Chaotix.

Industrial Zone

The first level has an industrial theme which looks a lot like the Techno Tower level from Chaotix that fuels the fire that this was just an early prototype of that game. In the ROM you can move freely through the level and as stated before you can pause the game and “float” to wherever you want.When you reach the top of the level the “Game Over” music activates and that leads you into the first “Field” or bonus level.

Sonic Crackers

The music and palettes within the game changes each time you enter which shows that a time of day features was already being tested. While you cannot conventionally die on this or any of the other levels once the times reaches three minutes you get the “Game Over” music.

Field Level A

This bonus level has a pink and yellow tile on the floor as well as rainbows and waterfalls. It appears to be in the sky as there looks to be clouds in the open areas of the level. However, despite the different sections you cannot interact or fall through anywhere within this zone.

Sonic Crackers

You can exit this stage by hitting any button.

Circus Zone

The second level in the game has a carnival/circus theme which resembles the Speed Slider Zone from Knuckles Chaotix. You cannot beat this level as it just loops around, but after one minute of play time the game over music activates.

Sonic Crackers

The overall level design looks fun with tons of loops and spins however the prototype was buggy making it had to walk on the “floor”

Field Level B

The second field is much darker and has more of a technical feel to it. It appears you are high above a futuristic city, but once again you cannot interact or fall through the level.

Sonic Crackers

In this video, made by PaxPredicate, you can see all the zones and bonus levels for Sonic Crackers. In addition, he points out many of the bugs in the game including the physics issues with the connecting rings, the lack of rings even though when you hit spikes you lose a ton of them and the level instability.

Field Testing

Now you can get your hand on this game. Pretty much it is a simple Google search and you can find a ROM for it. I used the GENS win-32 emulator to try the game out, but I have confirmed it works with many of the other popular Sega Genesis emulators. Keep in mind the game will be buggy and there are no bad guys or sound effects and you cant really finish the final level. However, it was still fun to try if nothing else than for research purposes. There are two flavors of Sonic Crackers. They are the 1MB dump and the 2MB over-dump. The 2MB over-dump contains about half of a prototype Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. The precise game that the prototype is for has not been determined.

CSI Sonic Crackers

During my research I found a few emulation sites that have people decompiling Sonic Crackers in order to learn more about the game and try to either complete it, fix the current prototype to become stable or incorporate it with an existing Sonic game. Now, I don’t know if these guys want the press so I won’t mention who they are, but the good news is many of them plan to release a copy you can play on an emulator pretty soon. If this happens and it’s safe and stable and they allow it I will follow-up and bring it to you.

Gamer Profile: Chris Tremmel

Chris_Tremmel

Name: Chris Tremmel

Title: Video Game Designer and owner of Gamer Cultoure

Gamer Cultoure logo

Company: Gamer Cultoure

Boogerman - sega genesis

Favorite classic game: BoogerMan 

Quote: It’s the first game I ever made, back in the day at Interplay Productions. It was one of the most exciting rewarding times of my life as I was just starting out in the biz!


Blackthorne (a.k.a. Blackhawk)

Have you ever dreamed of being a lone marauder/renegade whose only true friend was his faithful gun and whose purpose in life was to kill everything that moved within the shooting range? I bet you did… And I know that I haven’t, you psychopath! ^__^ But I don’t mind acting as one in a video game, especially in one as awesome as…

Blackthorne title screen

It was developed by Blizzard Entertainment (currently of Diablo, Starcraft & WOW fame) and released on multiple platforms by Interplay Productions in 1994. And 1994 was a GOOD year! Not only for me finally realizing the obvious difference between men and women but also for games and gamers alike. There were more active gaming platforms than ever before or after, and the sheer amount of games released at and around the year of 1994 left players witch many gems to pick from which was good but also caused Blackthorne to go by largely unnoticed…

And I have been preparing to write this review all my life… Or last five minutes… Whatever.

I’ve decided to try a bit different approach and instead of telling you what is the game’s current state of affairs genesis, I’ll include a video intro, so you can see it for yourself and then proceed with reading…

Now, since you’ve went through this quite decent intro, we can continue… ^__^

Blackthorne (a.k.a. Blackhawk – European title) is like Flashback on steroids. On some levels it’s a better game as it’s more action oriented and easier to follow in terms of both plot and puzzles, on others it lacks depth and genuine „WOW” factor of earlier mentioned production.

Blackthorne screenshot

I went through Blackthorne like a hawk goes through freshly caught rabbit – with blood on my claws and madness in my eyes. I didn’t follow the back story much though but I had fun regardless, which would not be possible in Flashback that was heavily story driven. Anyway, a character that player controls has a wide palette of on-screen actions with which he has to go through each level killing good and bad alike. He can run, roll, jump whilst standing or running, shoot in various directions, throw grenades, use objects or hide in the comforting darkness of shadows. When hidden he cannot be targeted or seen, so it’s a good idea to use this to your advantage.

Blackthorne screenshot

The game’s filled with little puzzles but they are really nothing that would either catch your attention or cause you to stop to think things through. They’re more like common sense – you have to remember not to use all the grenades at once because three or four screens from where you are there may be a door that needs removing with carefully placed explosives and such. Simple stuff! That’s good though cause Blackthorne does not claim to be a thinking man’s game – it’s a simple arcade/action platformer with loads of shooting and on-screen blood. Really, what’s best in video games!

Blackthorne screenshot

The game looks slightly different on each of the platforms it was released on due to specific limitations & capabilities of those gaming architectures. Gameboy Advance being the most stripped down and Sega 32X the most feature rich versions. Fortunately they all play exactly the same. And that’s good because there’s not many things that say “Relaxing Sunday Afternoon” like putting a bullet through a head of an unknown defenseless guy chained to the wall… Or so I heard.

Blackthorne screenshot

All in all, Blackthorne is not a game you’ll remember for being the most innovative or having immerse story behind it. No, it won’t happen! You will remember it as a game that provided you with tons of fun and mindless slaughter in the name of whatever… Cause it’s not the reason that counts here, it’s the act of doing it… And body count. ^__^

Blackthorne screenshot

…and one last thing to remember: in the beautifully red color stained World of Blackthorne we NEVER give up!

Ode to the Evil Twin

In almost every hero’s journey they come to question their actions and the possible outcome of their quest had they taken a step to the left rather than to the right. Could the world have been saved in a different method? Could the fallen comrade have survived? Could all this mayhem have ended swiftly if they only took the opportunity to finish off the antagonist when the moment presented itself? The darkest parallel thought a hero could imagine is “What if I had fallen to darkness instead of striding upon the path of the righteous?” For some few unfortunate heroes, this “what if” can present itself in a physical manifestation and even become one of the biggest road blocks in their journey.

Kill yourself or die trying
Kill yourself or die trying

Today, we take a look into some of the most iconic evil counterparts in video game history, what they represented to the hero, and the epic battles that proved as pivotal moments in the game’s timeline.

**SPOILERS BY THE WAY**

Dark Samus (Metroid Prime):  Poison has always been a substance that plagued any living organism but it remained passive and indifferent. It was only used for killing in the hands of its user. In Metroid Prime, the poison Phazon is not only deadly but also sentient.  Responsible for the death of two planets, this entity looked to spread its plague further and melded the DNA of Samus Aran and her foe, Metroid Prime to create Dark Samus.  To see your greatest foes taking your form as their avatar would fill any hero with rage. Our heroine managed to disintegrate Dark Samus into particles in the Agon Wastes and then once again by breaching the monstrosity’s Phazon Shield with a charge beam. Though defeated, Dark Samus has the potential to return in the future through the game’s savior by a Mark of Corruption left upon her. Only time will tell if we will ever see this enemy rise again.

Wolf O’Donnell AKA Star Wolf (Star Fox 64): Rival companies are always taking blows at each other. Look at Microsoft VS Macintosh, IPhones VS Droid, PS3 VS Xbox 360 for examples. While they normally dish out retorts via commercials or improving their own technology to eclipse the other, mercenary groups don’t normally play the same game. Star Wolf is the rival mercenary group led by Wolf O’Donnell. Their number one priority is to become the top dog group in the Lylat System. The only foreseeable way to achieve this is simple; recruit old Star Fox members, work for your rival’s mark, and hunt them down till they are left in a smoldering wreckage. While Wolf has been unsuccessful in defeating Fox McCloud he still remains a huge pillar for the team to overcome in every instance he has led an assault. He will be most remembered for telling Star Fox  he can’t do that.

Omega Zero (Megaman Zero series): Zero has always been a hero who walked that fine line between right and wrong but can you blame him? He was Dr.Wily’s greatest creation, he is supposedly responsible for the death of the original Megaman, and is rumored to be the bringer of the end of days. Like a rebellious child, though, Zero forged his own path and strayed away from the road Dr.Wily left for him and became a hero. However, the idea of bringing about total chaos and destruction never left Zero’s mind and weighed heavily upon him. Luckily for him, he isn’t the real Zero but only a copy. What a weight off his shoulders! Turns out Omega Zero is the true body of Zero and guess what? He wants to tear his copy a new asshole and end life as we know it. Finally seeing that dark “What if” version of himself, our hero vowed never to travel down that path and defeated his original body dying along with it.

Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda): Link has defeated zombies, ghosts, witches, blobby things, grand sorcerers, and anything else you can think of in all his journeys. The one enemy though who manages to stop Link in his tracks is his own shadow. Normally appearing in a large desolate and eerie hallway, this abomination knows everything about Link. He even knows what you’re going to do before you do it. Going to spin that sword around? He’s going to evade. Going to charge up a heavy sword slash? He’s going to poke you in the face quickly. Thinking a bomb might work? He will just throw it back at you. The best way for Link to defeat himself is to flail erratically and hope something lands while slowly dwindling away his hit points. To this day, Dark Link remains an iconic foe to add to the Legend of Zelda’s rogue gallery.

Metal Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog): Thought I’d put Shadow the Hedgehog down? Nope, I don’t consider characters introduced when a series goes to garbage as cannon. Besides, Shadow never fought Sonic like his roboticized counterpart did. He has been used in many iterations in the franchise and has taken many different forms. He is superior to Sonic in every way. His spikes are sharper, his plated skin is more durable, and he is even faster than the series’ hero. His first appearance was in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 where the two would clash in a small enclosed area. He mimicked everything the hero could do and could even shoot projectile spikes to harm the hedgehog. This battle’s level of greatness is paltry compared to his battle against Sonic in Sonic CD. In Stardust Speedway, the only thing keeping Sonic from saving Amy and defeating Eggman is to defeat Metal Sonic in a race. Not only is he faster than our hero, he can destroy obstacles and is invulnerable to damage. The only way to defeat him is to haul ass through loops and leap over spikes while he eats shit behind you. It is like a Tortoise and Hare battle except there isn’t a tortoise and there are two hares. The difference between the two is that the other hare has a jetpack and dies when it barrages itself into a wall. I hope to see Metal Sonic return in some more worthy Sonic adventures in the future and to bring the level of intensity he normally delivers to a new generation of gamers.

There are many more video games out there with evil counterparts but this was just to name a few that I can still remember to this day. Are there any other instances where the hero fought their doppelganger that you remember? Post a comment if you recall any!

Turbo-Grafx 16

TurboGrafx 16
TurboGrafx 16

Turbo-Grafx 16

If you owned a Turbo0Grafx 16 you were either loved because you had one or hated because you had one. During the early console wars of the late 80’s the TG16 came on the scene. Released in 1989 by NEC the Turbo-Grafx 16 featured an 8-bit CPU and a dual 16-bit CPU. What this mean was it could display more colors than the NES however, the TG16 definitely had its problems.

First off was the cost, at a whopping $399 (CD version) the price was out of the range of those looking for a console system. In addition the TG16 launched with limited titles and only offered one controller. (You had to pay for a Turbo Tap to add more controllers) In Japan sales went well, but in the U.S. and Europe the TG 16 lagged greatly behind the NES and Sega Genesis.

To be fair one of the reasons there were a lack of third party software releases for the Turbo-Grafx 16 was due to Nintendo anti-competitive practices which pulled tricks like requiring exclusive contracts and other tactics making it hard for third party software developers to release titles for both or all three systems.

With that said if you asked anyone who owned a TG16 what they thought of it they would tell you it was the best system out there. With games such as Bonks Adventure, Chase H.Q., R-Type and my personal favorite, Ninja Spirit those willing to spend the cash did have some pretty awesome titles to show off.

Genesis Does

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Genesis Does

Who can forget the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo? Long before people posted fan-boi comments on messages boards there was a real divide between some Nintendo fans and Sega Genesis fans. Funny thing was many people had both consoles and would still claim they were a specific fan of one over the other.

Genesis Does Michael Jackson Moonwalker

It is believed Sega fired to first shot attacking Nintendo for being too slow and later on the Genesis was looked at to be the more adult system because the games were harder and more bloody, take for instance Mortal Kombat. When MK was first released both version were edited to remove the blood and some of the fatalities, but the Genesis offered a code to add in the blood. Many fans considered the lack of blood in the SNES version to be “kiddy” and so the divide was also split by age.

Some believe today that because of that early move Nintendo decided to market to a younger audience, however, some claim that was always Nintendo’s goal. Another issue was speed, obviously the Genesis was faster than the NES, but when the Super Nintendo was released there were claims that games such as Sonic would not run at full capacity on the SNES.

Sometime late an article was released stating that Sonic could indeed run at full power on a SNES. That did not stop the wars, it made them worse. Many Nintendo fans claimed the graphics looked better on the SNES and in some cases they were correct, but what it came down to in the end was licensing with Nintendo gaining ground with titles such as Final Fantasy.

The Genesis does commercial was a hit with Sega fans and gave Nintendo fans a phrase that drove them crazy; “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” it could be heard across the school yard, the park and the dinner table and there was really never a comeback for the commercial or the phrase.

In the end it was all fun and games and in the end Sega and Nintendo began working together. Even today some find the fact that you can play a game with Sonic and Mario together sickening, but money makes strange bed fellows.

Want to see more classic commercials? Check out the Obsolete Gamer YouTube Channel.