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…

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…

Wiz ‘n’ Liz

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)
By: Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis  Genre: Platform  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 922,300
Also Available For: Amiga

Released mid-way through the MegaDrive’s life, this quirky platformer for some reason seemed to slip under the radar for most gamers at the time. Is that because it sucks? Actually, no, and it was released on the most popular console and computer of the time, and came during a period when the genre was at its peak too, so it’s a mystery to me why more people haven’t played it! I actually first encountered it in a very favourable review in an Amiga magazine but it was the MegaDrive version I would ultimately purchase, purely because the MD is better than the Amiga as everyone knows (hee hee!), but the MD is also far better catered for as far as this kind of game is concerned too. So how did Wiz ‘n’ Liz fare against the likes of Sonic? Not too well, one might think, but could Psygnosis have a surprise in store?

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

One of the first things you might notice when playing this game is that it’s nearly as fast as Sonic! It’s set on the amusingly-named planet of ‘Pum’ where Wiz the wizard and Liz the witch reside. Their pastime of creating new magic spells is second only to taking care of their many beloved pet rabbits. Unfortunately, however, their latest spell has gone wrong and whisked all their rabbits off to who knows where! Under your (and a friend’s) control, Wiz ‘n’ Liz immediately set out to rescue them all and restore Pum to its former glory. Finding all of their rabbits isn’t particularly hard as they’ve been liberally sprinkled across the many charming and not so charming lands that comprise Pum. They’re not just normal rabbits though, but magic rabbits, and every last one of them must be rescued.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
The game begins in Home Land where Wiz ‘n’ Liz’s house and magic cauldron are located. There are also some trees here in which magic fruit grow. Mixing any two of these fruits in the cauldron creates a spell whose effect depends on which combination of fruits are mixed, but the first spell creates a door which provides access to the level select area. From here you can enter the various levels (or ‘lands’) and you can tackle them in any order you want. Each land is made up of two or three rounds, and on each of these there is a set quota of rabbits to rescue. This is done by touching them and to start with they will each release letters which slowly float up the screen. Collecting these letters spells out the magic word at the top of the screen. Once it’s complete, rescued rabbits will instead release magic fruits, stars, and clocks.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot


Collecting these items isn’t mandatory but it can be very useful. Gathering magic fruits will fill the magic-meter which, when full, makes that fruit available to mix magic spells with in Home Land. Each clock collected will add five seconds to you timer for the next stage / land, and stars can be spent on fruits, more clocks, and even extra lives in the shop, but only once you’ve worked out the magic spell to summon it! There are eight standard lands to play through (as well as one secret final land which you must earn the right to play) and they are all multi-tiered and based on some pretty standard themes such as Grass Land, Snow Land, Desert Land, Dead Land, etc. Each is also looped and the stages contained therein are timed, with the amount of time you start with being determined by which of the three skill settings you choose before play.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
One of the most notable things about Wiz ‘n’ Liz is that it’s nearly bereft of enemies, with only a few bosses making up their ranks. As well as the skill settings, there are also three ‘levels’ to choose between – Apprentice, Wizard, or Sorcerer – and each time you finish one of them you’ll face a boss, such as a giant malevolent tree or sunflower, before progressing to the next level. The boss you face will be determined not only by the level but also the skill setting, so there’s a good few of them, and that’s one of my favourite things about this game – the range of difficulty settings mean it’s possible to just mess around having fun and trying out new magic spells, or to really test yourself and try to finish the game properly too! There is also a superbly frantic two-player mode in with the players race each other to see who can collect their rabbit-quota first.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
Despite taking this long to explain, Wiz ‘n’ Liz really is a fairly simple, albeit slightly strange game! Aesthetically, things are certainly superb. The opening title sequence features some lovely wibbly reflective water effects, for example, and the in-game graphics are nicely detailed, superbly animated, amusing, and full of character. The audio on offer here is of a similarly high standard. The sound effects are superb and there are lots of tunes, including one for each land. They are still among the best I’ve heard on the MegaDrive and must surely rank highly on the list of the composer, the great Matt Furniss’ achievements, perfectly suiting the fast, frantic, arcade-style gameplay. In fact, on a good few occasions I’ve decided to play this game just to give my ears a treat before zooming through the delightful lands, getting caught up in the addictive rabbit-rescuing antics once again!

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

That’s the best thing about Wiz ‘n’ Liz – you can play it for five minutes, you can play if for two hours, it’s great fun either way. The magic spell tomfoolery complicates the otherwise simple gameplay a little but, whilst good fun, most of the fruit combinations produce little of substance, instead mostly comprising amusing mini-games, bonus time/points, or changing some minor aspect of the game (rabbit colour, for example). That’s one of the things that most puzzles me about this game – being a platform game, it’s not completely original, but it has so many unique features and charming touches, even if many of them are superficial – it’s still a fantastic game, so its lack of success is bewildering. Not only that but it was released at a time when 2D platform games were king and originality was scarce which only confuses matters further. It’s hard to believe that it’s only the second game from the developer that would go on to become the revered Bizarre Creations (responsible for Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars amongst others). Wiz ‘n’ Liz is a game I would urge any platform fan to try. Besides, how could you not like a game featuring rotating fruits with faces?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px-WdFMeYy8[/youtube]

RKS Score: 9/10