Wednesday Oct 06, 2010
The next phase of SEGA Genesis Classics is now available for the PC! Like previous releases, you can buy these alone or in a pack, and like the previous SEGA Genesis Classics, these hook in nicely to the classics menu interface, allowing you to install, play, and load/save games from the same snazzy interface. Here’s what you’re getting this time around:
Bio-Hazard Battle (click to purchase from GamersGate)
In addition to Gamers Gate, look for these games to show up soon on Direct2Drive and Steam!
We are getting nice and deep into the SEGA Genesis catalog here, and I daresay it makes me happy. This gets into some of the great meat & potatoes of what made the Genesis the Genesis — amazing sound and music, lots of clever twists on classic gameplay modes, and an almost sinister sense of fun (see: Columns, Decap Attack, Ecco, Flicky). This set of releases is heavy on the side-scrolling / platform shooter, but there’s a lot of different game types available, and even the platform games all have something unique going on and/or are Sonic the Hedgehog.
E-SWAT is the most straight-up platform shooter, with the hook of starting out as a normal cop and turning gradually into a cybernetic killing machine. Any game where you take on a helicopter is okay in my book. Decap Attack is a bit of typical Genesis weirdness, a side-scrolling action game with a protagonist whose unique ability is, yes, to throw his head at enemies. It spices up the platformula (see what I did there?) a bit too, by adding the ability to buy items. Think Alex Kidd if Alex Kidd could detach his overlarge head from his body. Alien Storm is in the tradition of the Streets of Rage brawler, only with more flamethrowers and gooey aliens disguised as trash cans, some high-powered first-person shooter bits (!) and also a Samurai-looking robot whose special power is to explode (he even runs back onscreen following the explosion in order to retrieve his head and keep fighting). Virtua Fighter 2 is, of course, the Street Fighter-style fighting game Sega made famous in the arcades, and a series actually recognized by the Smithsonian for its general arcade awesomeness. It also has Kage, one of my favorite ninjas ever.
Columns makes a return (the original Columns was part of the previous PC release pack) with Columns III, and while you might think plummeting vertically-stacked jewels can only have so much gaming mileage, this game actually adds quite a bit to the recipe — you are now playing your games as matches versus a mysterious set of creatures protecting the secret of an ancient pyramid, which you work your way through as you win rounds. It’s also worth noting that Columns III is more difficult than the original, requiring more planning & strategy. My tried and true method of dropping gems randomly into place until awesome things happened didn’t work nearly as well in this second sequel. Getting trounced by a sleepy cartoon spider time and again is the closest I’ve come to switching over to “easy” mode.
And yes, Sonic the Hedgehog, which some of you may have heard of or played in the past, is part of this collection. It’s nice to have it available on the PC as part of this increasingly excellent collection, and of course to be able to save your game at any point. What more is there to say? It’s Sonic! The last time I played through the original (and I’ve played through it many, many times) was actually for the Nintendo DS release and even without a spin dash this game has a charm which hasn’t yet diminished with age. If the idea of a blue hedgehog collecting rings and emeralds while pursuing an egg-shaped villain obsessed by the idea of turning animals into robots seems strange, however, it is no stranger than the peculiar oddity that is Flicky.
This game is worth saying a few words over — it looks like the sort of game I might have found while browsing through a stack of old 5 1/4” floppy discs for an Apple IIgs (think of this as the 1988 equivalent of browsing games on Xbox Live Arcade). It looks like it could have been released on the SEGA Master System, or an Atari — and yet, this is a charming and almost surprisingly captivating game, the kind of thing that was nice to have on the Genesis simply because it was, well, fun. Based around a simple “collection” mechanic, you pilot a bird who gradually collects tiny chicks (which trail mesmerizingly behind you as you collect more), and you have to collect all the chicks and save them from the hungry cats who are chasing you. That’s pretty much all there is (along with some bonus stages), but shrewd platform design, infectious music, and bright cartoon graphics make this an oddly compelling entry.
And: Let’s not forget Bio-Hazard Battle, which takes the side-scrolling shooter concept and gives it a unique makeover (think a much darker version of Fantasy Zone). The graphics are quite surreal — piloting art-deco-looking bug/plant hybrids in a pitched battle against hordes of alien bug/plant enemies as you collect power-ups, which is exactly as crazy as it sounds.
There’s more, and I could go on and on about any of these. Sword of Vermillion (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) is a hidden gem of a game, mixing traditional town-to-town based RPG play with first-person dungeon-crawling and third-person hack-and-slash action sequences. It’s an experiment, and is definitely worth playing. Golden Axe II is an awesome arcade sword brawler, and perhaps the best of the series (!?), with awesome magic spell animation & a wide variety of levels and enemies. But my favorite of this group is the inimitable Ecco: The Tides of Time, a direct sequel to the original Ecco the Dolphin.
There’s nothing quite like Ecco, literally: you control a dolphin who must save all the world’s oceans from a nefarious extra-dimensional enemy while traveling through time and fighting sharks, giant squids, and of course, aliens. The game is surprisingly dark in tone and, for a game about a dolphin saving its friends, is incredibly difficult. Tides of Time has more puzzles than the first game, and these clever puzzle bits mix nicely with the action stages. I can’t recommend the Ecco games enough and this might be the best of the bunch.
One thing worth noting for this group of games is the all around amazing music. Columns has always had excellent music — the sort of tunes that play in your head in the middle of the night as your brain twitches with the remnants of obsessive puzzle-based gameplay. Sword of Vermillion has some appropriately haunting RPG themes (check out the way the dire music of the opening town sets the mood for the game beautifully), and of course Sonic the Hedgehog’s original score (by Masato Nakamura) is well-regarded for all the right reasons. Bio-Hazard Battle has a creepy and bass-heavy score that fits a game about space bug/plant/undersea creatures who shoot lasers at each other.
Not surprisingly, though, it’s my favorite game of the bunch, Tides of Time, which also has the best music — a truly haunting score that fits the game’s dark tone perfectly. One subtle but excellent thing the Ecco games have always done well: as you dive deeper into the ocean the game’s pallet gets appropriately darker, and the music as you open levels at the bottom of the ocean or in deep undersea caves is pitch perfect.
These are all available now, and it’s been very nice to have them all gathered into the same interface with it’s save/load feature. Check them out from GamersGate now, or wait til next week when they show up on Steam and Direct2Drive!
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