Genesis Does. . .EFFING RULE!
Part 6 of a *MASSIVE* 10-part countdown of the console's most memorable titles!
NOTE: JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED THE LAST FIVE INSTALLMENTS, YOU MIGHT WANT TO, I DON'T KNOW, READ THE FIRST FIVE INSTALLMENTS BEFORE YOU READ THIS LATEST ONE. YES, IT'S A CRAZY CONCEPT, BUT I STILL ADVISE IT. WEIRD, I KNOW. 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/Part Five: (#060 - #051)retrojunk.com/details_articles/6244/
- - THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION, H
THE POWERS THAT BE
uh, so a mega-epic James Cameron movie is doing gang busters at the box office, Bret Hart is headlining Monday Night Raw, and Brett Favre is making another run at the Super Bowl . . .did we actually time warp to 1997 or something?
Regardless of the deja vu we are all feeling at the present, it is ALWAYS open season for widespread, mass Sega loving, and what do you know? We are officially PAST the halfway marker of my gargantuan, super-colossal countdown of the 100 most memorable Genesis offerings. That means that if this long-in-the-tooth project were a Sonic the Hedgehog stage, we would have just hit one of those funky looking checkpoint things: I assure you, the rest of the countdown is NOT to disappoint, and the final Throwdown with Dr. Robotnik? It is going to be SUH-WEET.
As always, before we jump back into the countdown, a few rules and regulations and technical sounding words must be expressed. Hit my freaking music!
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. If you are wondering as to why Kid Chameleon did not make the list. . .well, eff it, let's just quantify that one as an unofficial #101 selection. How it pains me that I somehow managed to forget that one.
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. I STILL say that the original Genesis model is the best of the bunch. Nothing says "I am an elitist gamer" quite like having the grapefruits to BOAST about your graphical processing power RIGHT there on the god damned console, does it?
End of unfurling of caveats and the like
All right, enough gum flapping and whatnot. Shall we hop back into the Jacuzzi? OF COURSE WE SHOULD! Back to the OFFICIAL COUNTING OF DOWNESS. . .
#050 Alien 3
All right, so this game takes EXCESSIVE liberties with the source material. But hey, would you really want to play a game as a bald headed Sigourney Weaver, dodging British rapists in an outer space junkyard? Yeah, and that is why, sometimes, deviating from the norm is a GOOD thing for licensed products.
This is a game that also came out on the SNES, but they are actually two different games; the Super Nintendo version is more of a straight-up action title, while the Genesis version is actually a pretty unique mishmash between a side scrolling shooter and a puzzle game. Since you spend the game navigating labyrinthine quarters, it is sort of like Pac-Man. . . Pac-Man with flame throwers and alien spit, but Pac-Man all the same.
As Ripley, you waltz around a space terminal, freeing space marines from alien cocoons while packing four different kinds of heat, from the standard pulse rifle to the handy, dandy grenade launcher (which is an absolute MUST for navigating the air duct segments of the game). The title really does a tremendous job of replicating the atmosphere from the movies; those spindly alien bastards pop up from the floor grating, and on more than one occasion, the foreground itself obfuscates your vision, which of course, denotes an impending ambush by acid-blooded mantis-monsters.
The level design in this game is truly astounding; the developers managed to pack in over 30 levels in the title, and each stage seems different from the last. The technological masterminds behind Alien 3 certainly knew how to fine tune game mechanics, and the end result is a game that is instantly enjoyable, and damned addictive to boot. And hey, how catchy is that music, eh?
#049 Predator 2
Growing up, I was CERTAIN that I was the only person on Earth that had ever heard of this game.
Of course, Predator 2 was not the cinematic classic that the first film was; that being said, the NES iteration of Predator was about as horrid as movie-to-game-translations often get. Therefore, one cannot help but go into the video game version of a less-than-stimulating sequel expecting abject marginality, no?
Well, color me the hue Wrong, because this game flat out ruled it. For starters, the opening screen is just terrific, as the Los Angeles skyline drifts by in infra-red Predator vision, accompanied by some of the eeriest music to ever bellow fro the heart of a midi processor. Once the game actually boots up, it kicks even more ass, as you take on the role of Danny Glover in all his Voodoo-drug lord slaying majesty. Now, since the game is a top-down shooter, that means that at times, he actually more closely resembles Gary Coleman, but that is clearly but a point of digression.
No doubt about it, this was a HARD game. Never mind the midget Predator that periodically pops up to shoot nets (?) and pencil thin spears at you, the toughest enemy in the game is a semi-truck that shows up as a barricade in the title not once, but TWICE. A dreadlocked crab alien that bleeds neon green Jell-O is one thing, but forty gang members shooting you while stationed in an Invinc-a-truck? The TRUE stuff of nightmares.
All in all, the little things are what sell this game, and make it such a memorable part of my Genesis gaming years: The meat packing plant, the drone of YEAH! From recently rescued hostages, and of course, the trepidation of seeing those three little red dots show up on the screen at random intervals. . .
#048 Sonic and Knuckles
Say it with me, kids: LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY.
Back in the glory days of gaming, Sega and Nintendo were locked in a heated battle for market place dominance, and in their respective endeavoring, a lot of kooky, high-concept peripherals ended up flooding the market. Now, more often than not, these things were bigger disasters than letting Louie Anderson and John Goodman into an all you can eat buffet at the same time (remember the Super Game Boy or the Activator?)
That being said, Sonic and Knuckles was a bizarre concept, even a time frame that encouraged such outside-the-box thinking. In reality, Sonic and Knuckles was the second half of Sonic 3, a game that was chopped in half in order to make it on store shelves by the 1993 holiday season (which it still missed by about two months).
So yeah, this was, for all intents and purposes, Sonic the Hedgehog 4. But wait, there is that highfalutin LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY to consider!
Not only is Sonic and Knuckles a from-the-ground-up platform title, it can also be used in tandem with Sonic 2 and 3, which means you can go back and play through those games as the claret toned echidna Knuckles. That's right: you can jam your old Genesis games in the oddly shaped Sonic and Knuckles cart and experience totally new ways to play your favorite old games!
Admittedly, this concept did not exactly set the world in fire; that being said, it was still a phenomenal platform game, and you have to love the novelty behind the concept, if nothing else. Oh, and just for kicks and giggles, try wedging the first Sonic game in the cartridge encasing and hold down the A, B and C button. Why? Oh, no reason. No reason at all . . .
#047 Shining in the Darkness
This just in: The Shining Force games rule.
Odds are, you probably already now that (and if you do not, for shame!) That being stated, how many of you knew that Shining Force was actually the SECOND title in the series and not the franchise progenitor?
All right, I will give you considerable time to scoop your exploded brain fragments from the linoleum. Indeed, Shining in the Darkness is the true origin point of the Shining Force series, but it is not exactly molded in the same shape of its brethren. In fact, this game has more in common with the first Phantasy Star title than it does the strategy RPG series we have all come to love and cherish.
Shining in the Darkness is a first person RPG (like I said, the comparison betwixt this game and Phantasy Star are unavoidable). Although devoid of the depth or character that later epitomized the series, the title was still an immensely enjoyable dungeon crawler, an afternoon-after-afternoon consuming labyrinthine crawler that served as the first RPG I managed to play all the way through (and in case you are wondering, it only took three years of on and off playing to achieve such a feat).
Yeah, the hardened RPG fan may find little of sustenance in this quaint, simplistic offering from the pre-Square Soft boom period. Yeah, it is easy to criticize its faults, and its repetitive enemies and level designs (what, I have to fight another purple blob in another dungeon with green bricks?), but to heck with the naysayers; this was the first truly enjoyable RPG experience of my life, and for that, I shall always look back on it with favorable sentiments.
#046 Out of this World
Remember how I was talking about Flashback earlier in the countdown, and I mentioned there was a game that predated it that proved a more enjoyable experience? Well, Out of this World is that game.
Even now, I cannot help but look at the game and feel a sort of subdued awe; yes, the pseudo 3D graphics are blocky to the point of being laughable, but at the time, this game was so ahead of the curve that it was like playing a Playstation6 game this afternoon. The animation in the game was just about the best imaginable considering the hardware limitations of the timeframe; to this day, I do not think I have yet to be as impressed by the fluidity of movement in a video game.
Well, you should know what to expect by now; you get polygonal cut scenes, and a slightly more sophisticated storyline than the norm. Of course, there is next to zero dialogue in the game, so the narrative the developers were able to weave, based on graphical presentation alone, is truly astounding.
Ultimately, this is a game about teamwork; you play a puny human trapped in an alien world, armed with only a piss ant laser gun to defend you against ten foot tall purple weightlifter monsters that take a good dozen or so hits to die. You soon befriend one of the lumbering giants, and from there on out, the game becomes something of a hybrid puzzle / action / platform title. This was a highly influential game (in fact, I will go as far as to say that the Oddworld developers ripped the idea from here), and serves as one of the first games to truly create an intellectual experience from a 16 bit console.
#045 Bulls Vs. Lakers and the NBA Playoffs
You know, sports games are both easy to capsulate while simultaneously being incredibly frustrating. For one thing, pretty much everyone already knows the mechanics of the game play, so my job is pretty much crossed off the list there. That being said, such simplicity also lends itself to some very abridged statements about the game itself. I mean, really, how much can I say about a basketball game?
Well, this was the first sports game I ever truly feel in love with on the Genesis; sure, I may have suckled at the teat of Joe Montana Football, but I never had that much experience with the title. Now, Bulls vs. Lakers, on the other hand, was a game that I played for a solid year; and the funny thing is, I was not even a fan of basketball at the time!
I really do not know what it is that made the title so enjoyable or enthralling. I suppose my enjoyment of the title had a lot to do with the fact that it was a basketball game that was actually playable, as opposed to the myriad disasters that lined the library of the NES side of the court. Going from Magic Johnsons Fast Break to this game is like crawling out of the Dark Ages and finding yourself in the world of Back to the Future 2.
It was a simple game, with solid controls, and game mechanics that were actually conducive for prolonged bouts of play (meaning, fundamentally, that game was more than just a quick, arcade styled gimmick like pretty much every basketball game before it). This, in a way, was the Madden of basketball, a game that transitioned the sports genre from goofy arcade styling to simulation play. That, and the game has the bonus drawing trait of being one of the few video games to star Michael Jordan himself in the title; all I can say about his appearance in the title is that Stevie Wonder has a better chance of beating the hyper bike level in Battletoads than you have of beating the Bulls on hard mode.
#044 Virtua Racing
I may get a lot of flack for the inclusion of this title on the list, but as stated numerous times, these are my memories, and much like my word or cojones, I shall not break them for anybody.
Sure, sure, looking at the game now may be an eyesore that provokes bleeding of the iris, but at the time, this actually was quite cutting edge. Granted, Donkey Kong Country it is not, but I dare anybody to besmirch this title while still vaunting the namesake of Star Fox, for I shall call that soul an indelible liar.
So, yeah, the faux 3D graphics do not hold up today, but we do not play games for their aesthetics, but rather, their game play, and boy, does the arcade port of Virtua Racing bring it by the barrels. I have always been a fan of racing games, and this was one of the few games I can think of that serve as a proverbial bridge from the first wave of respectable, simulation 2D racers (like Super Monaco GP) and the first wave of respectable, simulation 3D racers like Gran Turismo and the early Colin McRae titles. Yeah, the translation is far from perfect, but considering the number of rentals I gave this one, I think me circa 1994 gives less than a halfhearted hoot about what you may think.
Long story short; Virtua Racing is like that really fat girl you kind of dated in the eighth grade. Sure, she was not anything pleasant to look at, and you were embarrassed to show her to your friends, but amidst all of her blocky, fugly flaws, there was a deep, nuanced core, and as unsightly as it may have been, wow, did she ever give you a good time in her presence.
#043 Batman: Revenge of the Joker
To this day, my favorite Batman title. Arkham what?
This game is peculiar in the notion that it is not based on the Tim Burton movies, nor is it based on the great, 90s animated series. Instead, it seems to be based on the actual comic series, but as many an astute gamer has noticed, this title seems to share an uncanny resemblance to a certain 60s television program (that is right, the Man from UNCLE).
OK, so Bats here may be a dead ringer for Adam West, but this game is far from serving as a halfhearted cash-in. Long story short: this game will kick your ass, and HARD. I mean, you would think that a game centered around the most kid-friendly license in existence would, I do not know, NOT BE ONE OF THE MOST BRUTALLY DIFFICULT GAMES EVER DESIGNED. But alas it is, and for that, I find it an immensely enjoyable (albeit frustrating as all hell) title to return to time and time again. Essentially, this is Mega Man X with Batman filling in for the blue bomber.
Those of you expecting appearances by other comic stalwarts, however, will be greatly disappointed, as Mr. Freeze and Two-Face have been usurped by generic robotic enemies that have HP meters in the six figures. Sheesh, talk about a hard-on for robots: even the final (and impossible, by the way) battle against the Joker is against his mechanized form!
Anyway, the graphics here are great, and the music of the title is just excellent; I really commend the game designers for eschewing the Gotham trappings most developers would have painted themselves into, as instead we play a globe hopping Batman that fights evil abroad in such esoteric avenues as Antarctica and Las Vegas. No, seriously...Vegas. Really.
#042 Sonic the Hedgehog 2
If you do not love this game, kill yourself.
OK, so maybe that is a little harsh; that being stated, finding a negative opinion about the second Sonic title is like unearthing a Healthy Choice frozen dinner from George Wendts icebox. It simply is not happening.
Where to begin on this indisputable classic? Should we begin with the revolutionary split-screen mode, which single handily changed the way in which we cooperatively played games (even if it did lead to some EXTREME graphical slowdown when you were hit?) Should we begin with the debut of Tails, a character that is WAYYY too beloved by certain segments of the population that screened Avatar for its bi-special titillation? Or how about that penultimate confrontation against Mecha-Sonic? Or the sheer thrill of watching the titular hedgehog turn a bright canary yellow as you went SUPERSONIC for the first time? How about the chemical plant level, and that frustrating loop de loop that always sent you sailing into the purple goop below? Or lighting up Robotniks ass with a buzzsaw leap off a freshly launched arrow in the forest level? How about the level with the PLANE, or the oil liner level? Hell, you never saw Mario stomping goombas on the deck of the Exxon Valdez, did you?
The music, the graphics, the game play, the power ups, the boss battles, the bonus stages. . .every single thing about this game is stored in the part of my brain that controls unbridled blitheness. There are very few things in existence I can profess an unremitting, uncompromised adulation for: Sonic 2 is one of the rare, unblemished recollections of my youth that I shall forever gaze back upon with joviality.
#041 Dynamite Headdy
Very few game developers have had a name as fitting as Treasure Games. As the masterminds behind titles both universally adored (Gunstar Heroes) and criminally underappreciated (would you believe Global Gladiators?), the maestros at Treasure Ltd. Certainly have a knack for crafting inventive, extremely engaging action-platform titles.
Assuredly, Dynamite Headdy is no exception.
Never ones to produce predictable results, Dynamite Headdy is a game that plays out as something of a mishmash between a Turbo-Grafix shooter, an SNK action game and even a little Earthworm Jim-esque satire. The gimmick of Headdy is that he can utilize power ups to up grade his noggin (his standard attack, by the way) with all sorts of abstruse and awesome combinations: at a certain interval, I found myself switching between a hammer head (get it?) and a pig head to bust inventory blocks while simultaneously blasting enemies with three directions worth of laser pain before tapping the C button to unleash a mega-kill bomb that wiped out an entire screen worth of baddies. If that does not scream AWESOME! At the highest of decibel levels, I dare aver what may.
The game has sort of a meta-feel to it; the boss battles take place in what is, quite literally, a theatrical background, and the keen eyed gamer may even spot a stage-hand pulling a lever or two in your epileptic seizure inducing throw downs. It really is the attention to detail that makes this game rule so hard; you can never accuse Treasure of taking the typical route, but by that same token, you can never accuse them of producing boring products, either.
Ultimately, Dynamite Headdy is one hell of a game, a whip smart title that tickles your funny bone while simultaneously fulfilling your need for action, Action, and oh yeah, MORE ACTION. There's no doubt about it: exceptional exclusive titles like this one make me feel incontestable sorrow for those of you that grew up with only a Super Nintendo to satiate your 16 bit desires.[/align] W[/size]ow, only four more installments to go. It seems like just yesterday we were beginning this little squandering of time, doesn't it? It hey, wasn't it just yesterday that we were playing these games for the first time? Man, does time fly or what?
As always, the next installment will be arriving. . .eventually-ish. In the interim, how about stopping by your local mom and pop video game store and scooping up some of the games we talked about today? Supporting Sega, supporting small business, and supporting the proliferation of GREAT games. . .seriously, how can you go wrong there?
James Swift 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 https://www.iuniverse.com/en/search?query=James+Swift