Genesis Does...FN Rule! Part 4
#070 - #061 of the console's most memorable titles
STOP WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE CURRENTLY DOING! BEFORE READING THIS INSTALLMENT, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE FIRST THREE ENTRIES IN THE SERIES HERE:
Part One: (#100 - #091)
Part Two: (#090 - #081)
Part Three: (#080 - #071)
AHEM! NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!
- THNX, THE MGMT.
- THNX, THE MGMT.
Huh, Christmas time already. Time flies when you are, uh, not observant of the passing of time, I suppose.
Anyway, I always considered Christmas as nothing more than New Console Day. Seriously, the 25th of December was basically nothing but a yearlong wait to annex an additional piece of hardware to my growing video game army. Sure, some folks have memories of warm fireplaces and gingerbread men, but me? My yuletide reminiscences are focalized on jamming six AA batteries into the plastic guts of a Game Gear and watching the bastard fade to black after twenty minutes of usage. No wonder I have such a detesting of the holidays, eh?
Anyway, it has been quite some time since we discussed the greatness that is Sega, and what do you know? I believe it is nigh time we unfurl the fourth entry in my mega-massive, mega-consuming, Mega-Driving (get it?) list of the 100 most memorable Genesis titles of them all. As always, the required niceties are to be barked first. Roll that beautiful bean footage!
***Beginning of promulgated niceties***
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 Aero the Acrobat and FIFA 95 not making the list, that is why.
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. Does anybody else wonder why you could use the Sonic & Knuckles add-on cart to re-play Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but not the original Sonic title? I mean, if you are going to make the last two games in a series backwards compatible, would it not be less than a challenging effort to just make the series originator likewise re-playable as a pissed claret echidna? Knuckles would have kicked so much ass on that pinball level, and you know it.
***End of promulgated niceties***
All right, good to have all of that out of the way. Now, where were we, about the mid 70s range, correct? Eh, sounds close enough to me. Time to fire up the old Genny once more as we continue the countdown!
#070 World of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
So, yeah, just how many great Disney games were there on the Genesis?
The correct answer is, a whole lot of them, and World of Illusion is certainly one of the top-tier offerings from the sweet, blissful marriage that was Sega and the Walt Disney Co.
This game is actually somewhat different from the earlier platform games offered in the franchise (and by franchise, I mean basically all Disney-owned licenses bundled together in a gargantuan, overstretching oeuvre.) The big draw of the title was the inclusion of co-op play, which in actuality, led to more in-house fisticuffs than anything else. Yes, this is a game that teaches children the importance and significance of teamwork; ironically, this same dedication to the altruistic resulted in more displaced hatred than twenty years of therapy. Sure, sure, the cooperative element of the game was limited to SLOWLY reeling your tag team partner up mountainous cliffs and using one anothers heads as stepping stones, but the overall good of the title outweighed those negatives listed earlier. All of the tried and true early 90s platform staples are here (per, the water level, the cavernous stage, the haunted house area, so on and so forth), but are spiced up considerably by the usage of Disney themed scenery that apes such animation standards as Snow White and Pinocchio. Without question, the animation in this game is beautiful, and the rotoscoping techniques used in the title result in some damned impressive 2.5D game play at certain junctures.
Granted, this is a pretty hard title to track down, but assuredly, such mom and pop video game store scouring is worth it, as there are very few moments of Genesis-fueled splendor as enjoyable as teaming up with a pal to slap woodland creatures with magical coat sleeves.
Huh. . . and they say Walt Disney teaches kids traditional American virtue. . .
#069 Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!
Every time I think of this game, it makes me want to grab a bowl of Pop Quiz blue and green popcorn and scribble caricatures in my Five Star Trapper Keeper with some Yikes! Branded pencils. Nick Arcade taught me how to be a consumer, and it taught me well.
Pretty much every body remembers this game from its sporadic appearances on the afore-mentioned afternoon Nickelodeon stalwart. The thing is, very few people actually played the game, which is quite a shame, because the title is one of the more underappreciated platform opuses of the decade.
Greendog has a lot of good things going for it, beginning with a story that is actually a lot smarter than it has any right to be. You know how in every platform game ever made, it seems as if every four-legged beast in existence is out to chew through your vital organs? Well, Greendog is a game that has the gumption to actually explicate that in its opening cinematic. You see, the titular character has an amulet fused to his neck that causes all elements of nature to want him dead. Hey, I never said it was on par with Dostoevsky, but for 1993 platforming, that's pretty damned intuitive scripting.
That doesn't mean that there are not some oddities afoot, however. For one thing, Greendog actually utilizes an inverted health bar system: Instead of your health bar depleting from green to red, you actually begin the title at black, and every time you get hit, demonstrative hues are tacked on to your life meter. So in Greendog, if your health bar is full, it actually means you are close to virtual expiration. That's pretty weird, but still not as weird as the fact that tacos, pizza, and corndogs fly out of enemies after you whack them with (what I believe are) pink boomerangs. Two decades later, and I STILL have no clue as to what your main characters primary weapon is supposed to be.
All in all, this is a very inventive little platform title, with particularly outstanding music. You'll have to overlook the games clocking issues and formulaic stage layout (God, are all game designers wannabe spelunkers or something?), but it's definitely a tasty little morsel from yesterday, regardless of its inert faults.
#068 Quackshot! Starring Donald Duck
Hey, another Disney game on the list. Imagine that.
Anyway, this is simply a tremendous action-adventure title crafted by the same wonderful folks that made Castle of Illusion, which is likewise an awesome cart. Whereas its predecessor was, fundamentally, a platform title through and through, this game is actually a mixing pot of a couple of different genres, as it features map-traversing and inventory building ala a strategy title, gun play ala a Treasure offering like Gunstar Heroes and yes, head bopping and cliff scaling that is fairly reminiscent of a certain iconic, azure porcupine. When playing Quackshot!, one is getting the best of a whole lot of worlds.
I suppose the best way to describe Quackshot! to an audience that is unaware of its innate greatness is to equate it as a 16 bit successor to the legendary Duck Tales series on the NES. In fact, you even traverse similar terrain (anybody up for trips to Transylvania or Antarctica?) in the title, albeit with much cooler weaponry and rest stops in between. Seriously, who would have thought that shooting plungers at anthropomorphic cacti in a pastel hued Mexican backdrop could be this much fun?
Make no bones of the sort: if given the opportunity to stop by Ducksburg vis-Ã -vis this early 90s classic, I strongly advise the individual in question to punch his or her ticket, and expeditiously.
#067 Decap Attack
There were some flat out WEIRD titles on the Genesis during its early years, and even by those peculiar standards, Decap Attack is an out and out anomaly of 16-bit gaming.
In Decap Attack, you play a character known as Chuck D. Head (insert groan here), a faceless mummy that, for some reason, still has pupils despite being decapitated. For what it is worth, this is a fairly routine platform game that took full advantage of the consoles 16 bit power to concoct fairly large levels that consisted of upwards of four or five screens per stage. Sure, the animation may appear a little choppy now, but at the time, this game was cutting edge, bro.
Decap Attack was one of those games that actually required a little bit of know-how and memorization; you see, as a character, you really only have two attacks (the ass bop and the skull attack, which acts as a boomerang of sorts), which is fine and dandy, up until you do battle with the games sundry bosses. The twist in the game play comes via potions littered about the playing field; you have to collect the components necessary to concoct the elixirs, which in turn, give the player the ability to wage war with the games towering end adversaries sans immediate pants-wetting. This device pretty much lent itself to the lazy game designers trapping of trial-and-error game play, but, hey, it was 1991: these things can be forgiven in hindsight. Alike a multitude of cheesy 80s horror movies, Decap Attack may not be among the elite in terms of technical or contextual merit, but man, is it ever the delectable dish to return to time and time again.
#066 Joe Montana Football
Of course, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for this game, as I believe it was the very first Genny title I ever played. Although the obfuscation of nostalgia is quite an empowering agent, I went back and played the title recently and, surprisingly, it holds up a lot better than I expected.
Well, there really is not much to say about this title, other than the fact that Joe Montana is in it. Remember the whole Sega vs. Nintendo war, with everybody going out of their respective ways to secure as many endorsees as humanly possible? Yeah, basic cause and effect here. As with a multitude of early 90s sports games, this title suffers from the dreaded fictitious athlete scourge, which means that outside of Joe Cool, there are no official team nicknames, logos or contemporary athletes to be found inside the title. In a very weird twist of fate, the title was also outsourced to the same team responsible for crafting the first John Madden title on the Genesis, resulting in sort of a concurrent effort for the design squad. Rumor has it, EA wanted them to make the Sega-exclusive title as crappy as possible in order to make Madden look better by comparison, and as fate would have it, Joe Montana ended up the more memorable of the two offerings. Coincidence?
I always played as the LA Raiders facsimile in the game, although not surprisingly, it is practically impossible to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the title. Seriously, people talk about Bo Jackson being overpowered in Tecmo Bowl, but the God-like performances of Montana in this title is positively ridiculous: one time, I had THREE defenders rushing him in the end zone, and the sonofabitch tossed a coast-to-coast TD while faced backwards. 600 yard rushing games, I can believe, but 131 yard touchdown passes? Come on, some things are too asinine, even for video games. . .
#065 Blaster Master 2
Hey, how many of you knew that Sun Soft actually crafted a sequel to the NES classic Blaster Master?
Yeah, Sun Soft really did a horrendous job of marketing this title, with virtually no TV spots in the games promotional package. Even the print ads were horrible, as they were nothing more than lime green space plastered with the Blaster Master 2 logo. No screen shots, no box art, nothing. Geez, what a bunch of slack asses, no?
Regardless, Blaster Master 2 was a very fun little title that was, ostensibly, more of a remake than a sequel to its iconic 8-bit forerunner. The music was, of course, tremendous, and the controls were spot on. The 16 bit graphics really made the transitions in game play scoping all the more impressive; as the player hops out of SOPHIA and maneuvers about the subterranean locales populating the games biosphere, one really captures a sense of scale and grandeur. When the game zooms in for hot and heavy shooting sections, you can actually see an impressive amount of detail in the games design, specifically, the notches and modules on the players space suit. Although an obvious statement, to be sure, this game is a whole lot more impressive in terms of aesthetics than the NES title: not to slight the hydrocephalic-headed hero of the original game by any measure, of course.
If I were to have a negative charge to lob at the title, it would be the fact that it is simply too easy; after all of the exploring and backtracking the game issues, one kind of hopes for a payoff a little more fulfilling than what the game ultimately provides. Still, it's an obscure title that probably fetches a pretty penny these days; indelibly, Blaster Master 2 is a game worth tracking down for serious Genesis connoisseurs.
#064 Golden Axe
Surely, this game requires no explication, does it?
We've all played Golden Axe, in some incarnation or another. Of course, the huge draw with this title was the notion that it was, at its release, about as close to being an arcade-perfect port as a console game had been (sound discrepancies aside, obviously). Even now, Golden Axe is a simple, simple game that just sucks you in, and the two-player mode remains among gamings most vaunted watershed moments.
So what is it that sells this title? Is it the fact that it allows players to hop on dragons and uh, whatever the hell those purple beaked things were and layeth some medieval smack down on Death Adders henchmen? Is it the fact that it allows for some sweet dwarf punting mini-game action in betwixt the kicking of sundry asses? Hell, could it even be the fact that everything in the game is but the back of some animal? That plot revelation was weak when I was a kindergartner, so looking back on it as a 23 year old, it makes me want to lobotomize myself with a makeshift coat hanger and ink pen brain scrambler.
The solution, I surmise, is self-evident: Golden Axe is just a game that is sheer fun, with no efforts to be anything more than what it simply is. There's no pretentious pretext or meandering preambles, just solid, instant gratification, giving gamers EXACTLY what they want. Some may say that Golden Axe III was the zenith of the series, but I believe that the originator is the one with the greatest staying power, the ultimate testament to its super-addictive straightforwardness. Man, does anybody else suddenly have the urge to collect blue jugs and call up lightning storms on Viking gnomes?
#063 Global Gladiators
OK, there are a LOT of things about this game that are dated. I mean PAINFULLY outdated, from the humdrum pre-title screen that has some MTV-wannabes droning Virgin (the publisher name, by the way, that I assure you resulted in plenty of third grade-era chuckles) to the brain-destroyingly awful opening cinematics that features two kids talking jive whilst embarrassing mock hip-hop plays in the background. Yeah, that part of the game does not hold up well AT ALL.
That being said, we can forgive the games inert asininity because despite the corporate trappings the game wallows in like a piglet, there is actually a halfway decent action shooter to be found within the glop. Obviously, a McDonalds themed platform game with an overt environmentalist message is basically a kick to the balls for most developers, but considering the credentials of Global Gladiators developers Treasure, mayhap it is fitting that the masterminds behind Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy were able to transform literal rubbish into miraculous riches.
This a great platform game, somewhat comparable to Earthworm Jim in terms of pacing and frenetic gun play. Of course, this is marketed towards a younger crowd, so the gun fights are not all that challenging. . . and oh yeah, instead of shooting bullets, your firearm blasts mustard. Yeah.
Those unfortunate blemishes aside, this is a very enjoyable title in one of my favorite genres ever. This is the kind of game to kick back and play on a boring Saturday afternoon with a 2 liter of Cherry Pepsi nearby, the sort of tacky treat you just vegetate with all evening. Such satisfying 2D game play ALMOST allows me to forgive the developers for the final boss fight and appearances by a rapping Ronald McDonald. Like I Said, ALMOST.
#062 Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
If memory serves correct, this game actually came out before Sonic the Hedgehog in the North American market, making it the first 16 bit platform title that most people played on the console.
Of course, like many folks, I was jaded. I played one too many crappy Disney themed games on the NES, and by now, I was sick of all of those 8 bit platform titles, anyway. Come on, I want something new, something refreshing, something different!
Well, I had to kick my own ass after playing Castle of Illusion, because although it did very few new things with the formula, it simply elevated it from its prior trappings into something altogether more advanced. The graphics, of course, were a huge part of my liking of the title, but it was the solid, incredibly satisfying game play that made this game standout. It is hard to explain to a youngster in this day and age just how, well, magical it was to pick up the lima bean shaped controller and give this game a run-through at the local Macys. This is a game that just wowed me, and was one of the first major tell-tale signs that this new-fangled Genesis machine was something that NEEDED to become an integral part of my grade school being.
Alike the first Sonic game, this title, for whatever reason, still rings fresh every time I boot it up, a sort of wondrous glimpse at just how massive a leap it was between 8 bit and 16 bit gaming. To me, this title is more indicative of that transition than a game like Super Mario World, and for those of you that had never had the privilege to play it, I highly advise you find the resources to do so PRONTO.
#061 Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition
Call it the last hurrah of a great, anachronistic sports series.
By this point in the gaming epoch, arcade sports titles were pretty much out of vogue, as the EA effect had taken over the genre. Sure, some of these simulation titles were fantastic, but for the most part, they lacked the instantaneous vim and pick-up-and-play fun that was exuded by earlier decade offerings in the genre.
Tecmo Super Bowl III is important for a lot of reasons, namely, the fact that it was the last true installment of the series. Also, it contained all 30 NFL teams and a considerable number of real players, which was quite uncommon for titles in the era. The game itself was something of a hybrid between arcade and simulation, with a number of realistic tweaks to the game play, such as the addendum of free agents and audible callings. However, the game still retained a decisively old school flavoring, as even with these annexations, it was not uncommon to run up scores to triple digit shutouts. Hey, this is still a Tecmo Bowl game after all.
The graphics in this title were phenomenal, and it is a hoot to go back and see all the stars of yesteryear portrayed in all of their digitized greatness. Sure, there may be some oddities with the fake punt set-up, but really, who can resist the opportunity to go back in time and stuff the Buffalo Bills asses in the Super Bowl for just one more fleeting match-up?
Well, that's all I can muster for this installment. As always, keep an eye and ear out for the next episode in our ongoing series, which should be hitting around New Year's. Hey, did you know that 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Sega Genesis in the US of A? Well, I think you best celebrate by hunting down some of the titles discussed today. Hey, what better way to end the decade than by burning through some Sega circuitry?
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James Swift is a 23 year old AUTHOR from the metro Atlanta era. That is right, no more of this fledgling business: his first novel, How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College, is currently available from I-Universe Publishing. You can order a copy or two from here:
It would make a most excellent stocking stuffer, you know. . .