I'm absolutely certain that if you grew up in the years 1989-1996, you probably had a champion in terms of video gaming. It was the time of 16-bit, with Sega and their Genesis, released in 1989, versus Nintendo with their Super Nintendo, released in 1991. While my allegience always belonged to Nintendo, I won't deny there were some video games that Sega actually did better. In this three part series, I'll look at which games Nintendo and Sega seemed to do better, and one were it seems they both slipped up. Keep in mind I won't introduce any one company exclusive series (Mario, Zelda, Sonic, Ecco). So, here we go with...
Video games better on...
...the Sega Genesis.
(The pic from the Genesis game is on the left, the one from the SNES game is on the right)
The video game adaptation of the 1992 Disney film, Aladdin was two very different games; the Sega game was made by Virgin Interactive and the SNES game was made by Capcom. It's a game that follows the plot of the movie; as Aladdin, you must fight your way to the end of the game ultimately having to defeat the Sultan's evil advisor Jafar in order to save Princess Jasmine. While the SNES game is fun, this is one game that I always thought was better on the Genesis; the breathtaking Disney animation is incredible in the Genesis game, as opposed to the sprite-based SNES game. The little things throughout the game (humorous or otherwise) make it a lot of fun. Another large factor is the fact it's not just a run-and-jump platformer but it has some complexity to the level design--it's not a straightforward, linear affair. Instead of jumping on palace guards' heads in the SNES game, you must use Aladdin's scimitar or apples to attack--it's a lot more fun than just another Mario-styled romp. In addition, there are more levels and the difficulty and the boss fights require some thought, but it's not a frustrating game in the least. The bonus levels have you taking control of Aladdin's monkey pal Abu in an action level, as opposed to the SNES game which uses a roulette wheel. Another thing I liked was the Genesis game made better use of the film's soundtrack, while the SNES game basically gave a more rewarding ending. EGM even awared the Genesis game the nod as the Genesis game of 1993. If you're looking for Aladdin, my advice is go Sega.
A Neo-Geo game ported over to the 16-bit systems, Samurai Shodown had the same game but with some differences in many places. The plot of the game involves twelve angry samurais including self-taught samurai Haohmaru, Ainu nature girl Nakoruru, American hero Galford, Chinese silver spoon Wan-Fu, South American warrior Tam Tam, French female fencer Charlotte, Haohmaru's eternal rival Ukyo, Kabuki actor Kyoshiro, ronin Jubei, ninja warrior Hanzo, ninja-turned-bandit Earthquake and oni demon Gen-An, fighting to combat a man named Amakusa, who is possessed by a demon who wishes to destroy the Earth. Even though the Genesis game cut the Haohmaru tree-chopping intro, all the cutscene animations and the character Earthquake (well, he's pretty damn big--I imagine his sprite took up a lot of RAM space), I thought the Genesis game was overall the superior version. While neither system is capable of scrolling (a 24-bit thing), the Genesis game has larger character sprites with most of the animation versus the SNES's Mario-sized sprites with all the animation. Another thing is the more appropriate soundtrack and the more controversial content--Tam Tam is from "Green Hell" as opposed to "Green Vale", the characters have the blood color you'd expect (who do you know bleeds orange blood?) and the fatalities are intact as well. Basically, the Genesis game offers more of the spirit of the arcade game. In addition, the boss character Amakusa is selectable in the two-player game. While neither game can stand next to the higher-bit games, the Genesis game is the stronger game.
Earthworm Jim/Earthworm Jim 2
Everyone who grew up in the 16-bit era remembers Earthworm Jim. A colorful platformer game about an earthworm who ends up meeting a spacesuit and becomes a superhero must try to rescue Princess What's-Her-Name from Psycrow and Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed Slug-for-a-Butt (whew). I have played through both games and I think I'll go with the Genesis game here; the controls seem to be easier and the original game had 10 levels as opposed to the SNES game's nine.
The Jungle Book
While I am not a fan of the 1967 Disney animated movie (in truth, I only think this very fragmented movie is so highly regarded is probably because it's the last film Walt Disney himself officially worked on...and this is also one of the final NES games), Virgin made a game out of this particular movie. You guide Mowgli through the Indian jungle to eventually reach civilization. Again, the Genesis game is better. The Genesis game seemed more like an action game as opposed to the SNES game's heavy emphasis on gem collecting, parrot flying and vine swinging. In addition, it's hit detection seems better and there are fewer cheap hits/deaths. It's not the best Genesis game, but if you're a fan of the film, the Genesis game is the better deal.
Admittedly, the original Mortal Kombat game hasn't aged too nicely, but there's no denying the impact this game had on the industry. Taking control of one of seven different martial arts maniacs who include Shaolin monk Liu Kang, army lieutenant Sonya Blade, movie star Johnny Cage, thunder god Raiden, icy ninja Sub-Zero, ninja spectre Scorpion or the slimy criminal Kano, you fight your way up the shaolin tournament ladder to face the human/dragon Goro and the villainous sorcerer Shang Tsung. It came in at a time when parental groups and the US Congress were getting concerned about the violent content in video games. Bowing down to severe pressure, Nintendo forced Acclaim to make a nonviolent version with no blood and downgrade the more severe fatality moves and Sega did the same, but with the blood's default option being 'off' (Kano, Raiden, Johnny Cage and Sub-Zero all have different fatalities in this game). Even though the SNES game had much sharper graphics and sound, the Genesis game, though an 'Easter egg', had the game's main draw--the blood and gore. As a result, Nintendo was left in the dust while Sega's version sold a lot more copies. This was also the game that introduced the VRC ratings for Genesis games (GA, MA-13 and MA-17). Sega is to thank for paving the way for more violent video games at home (and evenutally, the start of the ESRB).
Beavis and Butt-head
While many companies struggle to make a halfway-decent video game about adult animation series like The Simpsons and South Park, other series like Beavis and Butt-head and Family Guy seem to have an easier time getting a good game. Both games involve Beavis and Butt-head and an upcoming Gwar concert. While Viacom New Media went out of their way to make two different Beavis and Butt-head games, the Genesis one is the one to get. The reasons are plentiful: for one thing, with larger character sprites and various little references to the series' oldest episodes, it's much better at capturing the spirit of the show. This game does an incredible job bringing Beavis and Butt-head's world to a 16-bit video game. The humor characteristic of Mike Judge's brainchildren lasts longer on the Genesis, as opposed to the SNES game where the jokes get old fast. The action/strategy/puzzle gameplay is much more interesting and appealing than the bland scrolling/attacking of the SNES game. Another thing is for the Genesis game, at some point you must use Beavis and Butt-head (only Beavis can use Mr. Anderson's chainsaw, only Butt-head can use the boxing glove bat), while for the SNES game, you can basically use one or the other for the whole game. Oddly enough, the Genesis game even seems to have better sound! I'm serious, on both games, Beavis can say "This sucks!" On the Genesis you hear "This sucks!", whereas on the SNES he seems to say "Thith thuckth!" There's no option here. Go Sega for Beavis and Butt-head. If you got the SNES game...I would think you'd feel ripped off.
I'm sure there are some other game(s) that you would have thought were better as well, but these are some titles that come to my mind. Ultimately, I know the Genesis offered players better sports titles, but in my next article, I'll discuss some titles I thought were better on the SNES. So stay tuned for Round 2!
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