Genesis Does. . .EFFING RULE!
Part 5 of a *MASSIVE* 10-part countdown of the console's most memorable titles!
ATTN: BEFORE YOU READ THIS ARTICLE, IT IS PROBABLY A GOOD IDEA IF YOU READ THE LAST FOUR INSTALLMENTS FIRST. THAT BEING SAID, IT IS STILL A FREE COUNTRY AND I BELIEVE IN THE WHOLE WILL TO POWER CONCEPT AND WHATNOT, SO USE YOUR OWN MORALISTIC SCRUPLES TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD READ THE FOLLOWING PRECURSORY ARTICLES (HINT: YOU SHOULD.) Part One: (#100 - #091)retrojunk.com/details_articles/5774/Part Two: (#090 - #081)retrojunk.com/details_articles/5882/Part Three: (#080 - #071)retrojunk.com/details_articles/6065/Part Four: (#070 - #061)retrojunk.com/details_articles/6162/
- - MUCH APPRECIATED, M
VARIOUS MEMBERS OF STAFF AND FACULTY
erry 2010, faithful Retro Junkers (or as you are sometimes referenced, Retro-les, which is a portmanteau of the terms retro and as. . .well, a certain part of the lower anatomy). Needless to say, it should be a pretty intriguing little decade ahead of us, which is why I spend a majority of my time reflecting on the world of fifteen years prior. Yeah, that should tell you just how optimistic we are as a collective in regards to our mass future.
Anyway, can you believe it! We are almost HALFWAY through this mega-huge list of my most cherished Genesis cartridges, and it is around this point that things start getting VERY heated in the countdown. You people have been clamoring for the A-list titles: well, they will be shooting down the turnpike very, VERY soon. As always, before we hop back into the whirlpool, it is best if we go over the criteria for this ongoing listing. Prepare to be bored for a good four or so minutes!
Beginning of unfurling of caveats and the like
1. Note that I call this a list of 100 of the Greatest Sega Genesis games of all time and not the list of THE 100 Greatest Sega Genesis games of all time. This is not a list that reflects an unbiased standing of the technically important or mechanically significant. It is simply a listing of the 100 Genesis games from my youth that provided me with the most entertainment. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A LISTING OF THE 100 BEST GENESIS GAMES OF ALL TIME. If that were the case, the totality of the order would be way off and assuredly, half of my ballot would be excised. In fact, in hindsight, a lot of games on this list, incontrovertibly, suck and a lot of really kick-ass games did not make the list. I am, simply, measuring the games by their sentimental, nostalgic worth to MY being. Your list is sure to differ.
2. As something of an addendum to the above, I only listed Genesis games that I played PRIOR to my middle school sojourns, which was circa 1997. By then, the machine was basically dead in the water anyway, so that means that I am NOT counting games that I discovered post the release of the movie Titanic. So anyway, before you start sending me hate mail about Chocodiles and Fruit Pies not making the list, that is because those items are actually delicious Hostess products and not actually Genesis titles. Just had to clarify.
3. Hey, 8 Year Old Me had some fickle tastes. If you think there are too many sports games on the list or not enough role playing games, I say build a time machine in your garage and take it up with my 1994 being when you get there. I am not revising history, no way, no how.
4. This list is only counting North American SEGA GENESIS titles and NOT the MEGA DRIVE releases in PAL regions. There is ONE exception on this list, so if you played a really kick ass game and you live in Stratford-Upon-Avon and you are wondering as to why it did not make the list, that is why.
5. What, do you expect some sort of offbeat non-sequitir here? Well too bad. I am not in a giving mood this evening, so please seek surreptitious chuckles elsewhere.
End of unfurling of caveats and the like
Well, as Adam Sandler so proudly spouted in Punch-Drunk Love, "that is that, mattress man". Seeing as how I am kind of running low on the transitional material, how about we just skip over the clever segues and barrel headlong into the countdown with about as much restraint as a brain-damaged oxen? Yeah, I did not think there would be much dissent on THAT decision. All right, back to the listing with. . . #060 Beavis and Butt-Head
It is the crosspollination of Mike Judge and the Sega Genesis. . .seriously, how could that ever possibly be construed as a negative?
This game differs GREATLY from the Super Nintendo iteration of the title. Whereas that game was a fairly straightforward (and let us face it, ho-hum) platform game, the Genesis version was actually something of a Maniac Mansion-like adventure title. That is right; the holders of quite possibly the dumbest license in existence elected to make a THINKING MANS title from the property.
I really like all of the nods to older episodes of the show in the game; per, at certain junctures in the game, you are allotted the resources to recreate such comedic spots of yesteryear as serving rat burgers at a McDonalds facsimile and taking photos of fat women in mid coitus to ensure the snaring of a chewed up GWAR ticket.
Overall, this was just an incredibly memorable title, from the couch fishing mini-game that produced many a hand cramp at the Swift compound to the fact that your main attack in the game consists of farting and belching on your adversaries. Sigh, now if only they would've made a King of the Hill game for the Saturn. . .#059 The Adventures of Batman and Robin
Chalk up another title for the this-game-kicked-way-more-ass-on-the-Genesis list.
Sure, the box art may say Batman, and yes, your sprite may resemble old pointy ears, but make no bones of this sort: this is an out-and-out kick ass 2D side scrolling shooter and one of the last truly great games of the genre within the 16-bit era. In reality, this may very well be the best Contra game ever made that did not have the word Contra in the title.
The game was SUPER difficult from what I remember; it was basically impossible to beat the game as a single player, and even with a buddy, getting past the first stage on co-op was a challenge in and of itself. Each time I played this game, I just seemed to get further and further, seeing one stretch of scenery that I did not see in my last playing. Still, I was never able to get passed Two-Faces stage alone, and the thought of even SEEING Mr. Freezes level was a veritable third grade pipe dream.
This was a hardcore treat not only for hardcore Batman fans, but hardcore gamers in general; whereas the SNES version was content with saccharine level designs and B-rate villains (really, Poison Ivy?), the Genesis version brought the mother loving ruckus with legit badasses like Freeze and Harvey Dent, and much like their cartoon counterparts, they had no qualms in kicking your ass all over Gotham. For my money, this might just be the second best 2 player shoot-a-thon on the Genny behind Gunstar Heroes; if that is not a ringing endorsement for the games inherent awesomeness, I simply do not know what would suffice. #058 Streets of Rage 3
God, I miss the side scrolling beat em up genre. . .
What began with Final Fight was virtually perfected with the Streets of Rage series; sure, Final Fight may have been prettier, but the Streets was where it was at if you needed instantly satiating ass stomping in a 16 bit encasement. If Capcoms venerable fighting progenitor was Bruce Lee, than Sega's homegrown brawler was Sonny Chiba.
To this day, there is ferocious debate about which title in the series was the best. Although the group consensus leans towards the second installment, I would have to cast my ballot for the third (and final?) installment in the series, if not for the technically outstanding fighting mechanics, than just for the sheer weirdness of the package. The music was terrific, and the little details (like weapons breaking and the fact that you could no longer Judo toss those 400 pound fire breathing fat asses), actually added a deep layer of strategy to the title; also there are very few moments of 16-bit joy on par with getting a full power meter and breaking out thirty non-stop seconds of SPECIAL MOVE-age.
Anyway, the character design in the game is, uh, interesting, to say the least. Skate, Blaze and Axel all return for this installment, alongside a new character that is, apparently, a doctor of some kind. I guess he has a PHD and KICKING ASS, am I right? That being said, he is far from being the strangest playable character in the title; one of the unlocklable skins is, of all things, a kangaroo, and the mid-boss of the first stage is the single most offensive gay stereotype in the history of gaming (whom can also be unlocked via the Game Genie). Needless to say, you really have not lived until you and a tag team partner have cleaned up the streets of Tokyo as a marsupial and a drag queen, and that is MORE than enough reason to love this title. #057 Columns
Never underestimate the simple pull of an addictive puzzle game. Is that not correct, Game Boy?
I am both ashamed and enthused to state that I have logged on more hours of Columns playing than just about anybody else in North America. Sure, it was but a shameful attempt at mimicking the success of Tetris, but you know what? Columns was, and still is, a decisively underrated game, and one of the ten best puzzlers ever crafted in an interactive format.
We all cheated at this game. Come on, do not pretend that you did not pause the game while the initial blocks were falling in order to put yourself in a better standing later on. For what it is worth, the game really does not begin stomping your balls until about level 10: from that point onward, that cheap little strategy is pretty much a necessity for survival.
I always liked the music in this game. In my humble opinion, the Egyptian sounding soundtrack to this title is way more memorable than the Tetris score, and kind of haunting, in a way as well. I am, however, a little less than enervated to claim that this game used to make me sick; apparently, gawping at hard purple and red hues for three hours straight does peculiar things to ones stomach. Delicious, that irony: of all of the games to give me motion sickness, the game that perhaps utilized Blast Processing THE LEAST is what caused me to heave my cookies. #056 Comix Zone
This was the game that was supposed to save the dying Genesis. This was the Sega response to the Nintendo 64 and Playstation, the innovative, inventive little 16 bit wonder that was to keep the anachronistic console afloat in its twilight years.
Well, that was not exactly the case, but Comix Zone is still an immensely enjoyable little title, and one that has been more than just a little ripped off as of late (COUGH-Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Paper Mario-COUGH). The basic gimmick behind the game is that you play a comic book artist that has been sucked into his own creation. The designers behind this game certainly had a field day with the whole literal 2D-gimmick, as your character traverses the paper landscape one panel at a time; at certain junctures, he can even rip out pieces of the backdrop and use it to his advantage!
I think Comix Zone was really crippled by the fact that it was such a damned hard game. I mean, I prided myself on being one of the more capable Genesis players out there, but this game STILL routinely kicked my balls and HARD.
It was difficult to get past the first stage, but if you did, you would encounter a wholly unique game that deserved way more attention than it originally mustered. Hey, any game in which you can use a hamster as an inventory item AND fold the scenery into a paper airplane is OK in my books. . . #055 Vector-Man
This. . .game. . .RULED.
Seriously, it saddens me so to know that Vector Man never went on to become an iconic video game legend, for his initial foray on the Genesis was hands-down one of the bossest action-adventure experiences of the mid-decade.
For starters, this game had perhaps the smoothest controls of just about any 2D action shooter from the timeframe. Yeah, the mechanics behind Earthworm Jim and Gunstar Heroes were fluid as all hell, but this game felt positively PERFECT. It was as if the controller melded with your flesh and you could move the character by simply thinking it. The game was THAT finely tuned.
I think a lot of people were kind of turned off by the character design. Begrudgingly, they kind of have a point: the first time I saw the box art for this title, I though the protagonist was a string of green and yellow boogers. Also, the graphics had the whole 2.5D thing going on, so things were coated in that icky Donkey Kong Country over-sheen. That being said, if you could get away from those annoyances, one would find a superb little shooter, and a game that is just RIPE for a modern day revival.
Oh, and when the game boots up, stand on the A on the Sega logo, point your cannon arm at a 45 degree angle and start blasting at the right top most corner of your TV screen. Why, you may ask? Oh, you will see. . .#054 Phantasy Star II
You never forget your firsts.
PS II was the first real RPG I ever played, and upon my initial play through, I was more than just a tad confused by what was going on in the game. Now, I am very much what you would call a fan of twitch game play, sporting a particular fondness for the variety of games that require keen eye-hand coordination and expeditious reflexes.
Obviously, PS II was not a game alike the ones I was conditioned to. Sure, I had played a number of Action-RPG hybrids on the NES (like Crystalis and the incredibly underrated Magic of Scheherazade), but this was a game that was, quite literally, the equivalent of virtual checkers!
Basically, all of the staples that have become cliches of the Japanese RPG form were introduced to me, in all of their inert splendor, through this game. As a super-nationalistic American at the time, I wondered why all of the characters in the game had such huge eyeballs, and the turn-based game play positively bamboozled me. I did, however, think that it was really cool that I could actually name the characters in the game; at the epoch, such specifications were virtually alien concepts to me.
Admittedly, my experience with the game was rather limited; I only played it a few times, but even in such minute exposure, I simply knew that I had stumbled upon something out-of-the-ordinary, and something that would soon unfurl a new world of gaming to me. And to think, getting my ass kicked by literally the FIRST enemy in the game spawned my love affair with the role playing game! #053 Revenge of Shinobi
This was one of two games that PROVED to me the positive sublimity of 16-bit gaming.
It was 1990, and I had played a number of early Genesis titles. While considerably impressed, nothing I had yet played totally made me LUST after the console. I was still satisfied with my NES, and although that new black console was pretty, it's offerings had not yet wowed me with its extra processing power and megabits.
Then, I played Revenge of Shinobi.
This game positively BLEW my mind back in the early 90s. This was a game that made full utilization of those three buttons (which, in fact, led to much cursing when you accidentally triggered a ninjitsu special that you DID NOT want to use) that many Nintendo-heads claimed was merely superfluous, and the music was just stellar. However, it was in the games gorgeous graphics (dear lord, seeing the underground waterfall level for the first time. . .) and killer game play that converted me to the new religion of Sega. That, and it actually proved a challenge, too, as in, the part where you had to use the double jump to switch between the foreground and background. Looking back on it, it is somewhat bizarre that the guy can go toe to toe with giant fire breathing monsters, but cannot take a light tap from a Buick. Weird.
This is a title that has been in licensing hell for WELL over two decades now, thanks in no small part to the litany of, ahem, unscheduled cameo appearances by guys like Spider-Man, The Terminator, Batman and Godzilla. Although trampling upon intellectual property rights, Revenge of Shinobi was the first game I played on the machine that absolutely STUNNED me; although I was intrigued by this newfangled Japanese play thing, it was not until I played THIS classic that I knew I was soon to be besotted by Sweet Lady Sega. #052 Strider
And this was the OTHER game that made me realize that 16-bit gaming was my one true god and that the NES was but a false idol.
The weird thing is, I played Strider on the NES like a weekend before I played the Genesis version. In that, I had the fundamental idea of the title wedged firmly in my memory banks, and when booting up the Sega copy, I expected, well, nothing but a mildly fancier version of the 8 bit offering.
Instead, I was absolutely aghast at how beautiful the game appeared; seriously, this might as well have been the arcade version I was playing! Everything about this title just took my breath away, as for the first time in a video game, I had a genuine sense of scale; climbing up the face of a gargantuan building, I actually SHUDDERED as I gazed down at the abyss below me. With all of the subterranean areas within the game, I actually felt as if I was in a real, breathing world, immersed in a level of nuance and detail that I thought was physically impossible to achieve in gaming.
The only thing that impressed me more than the first stage was the second one; pretty much every video game, by dictum, is required to include an Arctic level of some kind. Go ahead, trudge up your favorite 8-bit ice-world real quick. Now, compare the rinky-dink, watered-down level 2 from the NES version with the Sega iteration, and it was like a spiritual reawakening. Not only could you tell what the mid-boss was supposed to be (a cyborg gorilla!), it actually appeared vicious, and you could SEE its facial expressions change!
Of course, it certainly helped that the game was an out and out action masterpiece, filled with incredibly detailed levels and a scope that was totally unparalleled by modern offerings. Strider, for all intents and purposes, may not be the best Genesis game ever made, but it is perhaps THE game that made people take note of the upstart console, and the first truly transcendent experience I had with the machine. #051 Mortal Kombat II
Every afternoon during second grade, our lunch table camaraderie was essentially anchored by MK II discussion. Seriously, it was as if all we ever did was eat, sleep and breathe this game, and looking back on it, this has to be the zenith of puerile interests in gaming.
Nobody is ever going to accuse MK II of being the most nuanced game; in fact, compared to Street Fighter II and Samurai Shodown, this was essentially a retarded fighting game, devoid of depth or complexities. That being said, it DID have something that neither of those games had, and that was sensationalism.
Even if you did not own a modern gaming console, you were expected to know the button combinations for all of the game's fatalities. In fact, it was Nintendo's reluctance to include the crimson in the SNES version of the original MK that led MANY gamers to flock to the Genesis SOLELY for that reason. Of course, the arcade version of the game became a major facet of the mid 90s pop-cultural landscape, and when the home versions finally landed, it was a cause for much rejoicing amongst the nation's degenerates.
Even if the game was not all that great on a technical level, the sheer nostalgia emanating from this cartridge is just off the charts. Every time I uppercut a hapless victim into the acid pit, I cannot help but wallow in a perverse sort of innocence; there is just something about this title that instantly sends the scent of cafeteria fishsticks wafting through my nose and the idle chatter of purported nude codes coursing through my brain. To this day, the game has something of an unconscious gravity on my thought processes; all you have to do is look up my collegiate article detailing the election of President Baraka Obama to validate THAT notion.[/align]W
ell, that is all that I can muster for this installment. As always, I'll return in about a month or so to continue the COUNTING OF DOWN, so in the interim, how about ringing in the new decade with a game or two of some of the titles mentioned above? Hey, it may be twenty years later, but these cartridges are still timeless; hey, why else do you think that Sega spelled backwards is "ages"?
- - -
is a 23 year old author from the metro Atlanta area. His first book How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College
, is currently available from I-Universe Publishing.
E-book copies are priced at just $6 USD, and can be ordered at iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookSearchResults.aspx?Search=James%20Swift