Thursday Jul 18, 2013
SEGA is proud to announce the SEGA 3D Classics Series coming soon to the Nintendo 3DS eShop in North America and Europe. — classic SEGA games enhanced with 3D for the Nintendo 3DS! Here’s the full list of games that will be coming out:
- 3D Altered Beast
You can watch the whole Nintendo Direct Mini Presentation here, including video of the titles in action — the SEGA stuff starts at 5:13 into the video.
Thursday Jul 04, 2013
It’s Thursday, and in addition to wishing you a Happy 4th of July in the U.S., I’m happy to present for you another batch of Game Gear classics available at the Nintendo 3DS eShop!
Here’s what’s up to bat today:
Vampire: Master of Darkness
Vampire: Master of Darkness
Let me take you back to the year 1992. Are you a SEGA fan? Great! Me too. I was like 12 then, and those of you just being born at the time are now graduating college, which is crazy, but look: what’s important is that if you had a SEGA system, you could play a lot of great stuff, but, and this is important, you could not play Castlevania. Castlevania was a very excellent game where a man very much wanted to kill Dracula, and eventually he did, hooray! But not on SEGA systems – on the Master System and the Genesis/Mega Drive and the Game Gear, Dracula remained painfully not-dead, or if you will, un-dead*.
To fix this problem, SEGA crafted a game called “Vampire: Master of Darkness”, because killing big-name monsters who are also public domain is just something that happens in video games and movies. Of course, none of this would matter too much now, except that Vampire: Master of Darkness has some great things going for it: Some really exquisitely crafted graphics (seriously, these are like 8-bit graphics reading at a 16-bit level) with very tight controls and a high degree of difficulty to give you something to do with those tight controls.
If you want a creative, challenging, and fun-to-control game where you also happen to kill Dracula, then I very much recommend this game.
*I apologize for NOTHING
Sonic Drift 2
Speaking of things that have been en vogue, such as the “drift racing” those crazy kids get up to these days with their racing karts and whatnot: here’s Sonic Drift 2! Sonic Drift 1 is a thing that existed only in Japan, and then it was conjectured that it was not only Tokyo who loved to race tiny little cars piloted by Sonic and Sonic’s many friends, and so Sonic Drift 2 was sent racing around the world.
Sonic Drift 2 includes the ability to race as Sonic, Amy, Knuckles, Tails, Fang the Sniper (!), and Metal Sonic – there is also a neat structure to the races, as you race to collect Chaos Emeralds. Depending on who you race as and who collects the Emeralds, you can challenge Sonic or Eggman in the final race around the Death Egg!
G-LOC: Air Battle
Based on the air combat arcade game developed by legendary developer SEGA AM2, G-LOC: Air Battle showed up on nearly every system SEGA was making at the time. But – and again, this is the charm of many of the games that showed up in different iterations at the Arcade or at Home – each version had its own unique take on the fly jet planes / shoot jet planes / no points for second best model of aircraft awesomeness.
The Game Gear version, it so happens, features my favourite variety of game mode: the ability to spend points to upgrade your fighter jet! My memory of the 90s is pretty fuzzy but I think this was the actual model used by the U.S. military at the time, with pilots regularly upgrading for things like unlimited missiles or extra lives.
Thanks for checking out all our recent Game Gear classics on the 3DS eShop!
Thursday Jun 27, 2013
We’re happy to present another three Game Gear titles available for the Nintendo 3DS eShop: Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Crystal Warriors!
And just so it doesn’t get buried in these write-ups, I want to point out that Crystal Warriors features a bonus feature for the 3DS of local multiplayer! Now, on to the pondering.
Writing these posts for the recent influx of Game Gear titles into the 3DS shop has been an unexpected lesson in the uniqueness of portable systems: because they could never sell themselves as being technically superior to their console counterparts, they have often — from the Game Boy and Game Gear to the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS in all its incarnations — been homes for unique games and unique takes on genres and franchises.
It makes it easy to relive these titles, both as little lessons in the experimental history of gaming, and as delightful games to be explored in their own right.
Oh right! The games. Here’s a look at what’s available now — stay tuned, because we have still more on the way!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
As with the other Sonic games that appeared on both 16-bit and 8-bit systems, Sonic 2 was a unique take on the game instead of just a half-the-bits adaptation. There were unique levels, different music, and a challenge suited for a portable system. Notably, Sonic 2 also had unique boss enemies — instead of fighting incarnations of Robotnik, Sonic did battle with unique robot enemies, before facing down the bad doctor in a climactic battle worthy of the epic end-encounter of the Genesis version.
If there’s one thing I hate — just one thing — it’s when an ambiguously named evil mastermind replaces my favorite shoes with a pair of cursed sneakers. Next thing you know all your friends are robots of some kind and you’re rolling around trying to free them from eternal metal servitude while collecting rings and power-ups. With all our social progression and whatnot that may seem pretty outlandish these days, but back in the 90s that kind of situation was called a “weekday”.
It is also totally what happens in Sonic Labyrinth, where Dr. Eggman (née Robotnik) has taken Sonic’s shoes, but look, Sonic can tuck-and-roll faster than most Olympians can sprint, and that’s what you’ll be doing, while collecting chaos emeralds and navigating your way to glory. This game falls into the category — like Sonic Spinball or Mean Bean Machine — of applying the Sonic characters to a different sort of game idea, experimenting with the maze-and-puzzle format which was a natural for the portable console.
Crystal Warriors finds Sonic and his friends trapped in — no! Wait! There is no Sonic in this game. Crystal Warriors is in fact a marvelous little turn-based fantasy strategy game, something that strips the tactical elements of games such as Shining Force or the Fire Emblem series down to their basic combat elements and lets you play through those, kind of like chess if your pieces leveled up between matches and were trying to take over an enemy castle.
Additional features include the ability to do reconnaissance and arm your warriors in town. Fight and tame beasts to use against your enemies, and take advantage of six unique classes to train and deploy.
Bonus feature! You can now play this game over local multiplayer on your 3Ds (both players need to have a copy of the game).
Stay tuned, we have yet another batch of Game Gear classics on the way soon …
Thursday Jun 20, 2013
Another three Game Gear titles are now live in the Nintendo 3DS eShop!
After last week’s selection, we move further into the mighty 90s handheld catalog — featured this week are:
Read on for more info on these games, or follow the above links directly to the eShop. Stay tuned for more titles on the way SOON!
Blast off with Sonic and Knuckles!
In this fully rendered Game Gear classic, Dr. Eggman (AKA Dr. Robotnik) has stolen the Chaos Emeralds and it’s up to Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna to stop him. Guide Sonic and Knuckles through mazelike Zones and defeat Dr. Eggman’s mechanical menaces to show him that there’s nothing a determined Hedgehog or Echidna can’t overcome. Play as Sonic or Knuckles as you race through 14 levels in search of hidden Power-ups. Use Sonic’s new Double Jump to access hard-to-reach areas. Take advantage of Knuckles’ climbing skills to gain extra points. Look out for Big Rings to enter Bonus Stages where there are extra lives and Chaos Emeralds to be found.
Defenders of Oasis
Save your kingdom from destruction!
Once captured by heroes of a bygone era, the foul wizard Ahriman has been summoned by dark forces and his armies now threaten to ravage the peaceful land of Shanadar. As the prince of the kingdom, rally powerful allies to your side and lead them onward to repel Ahriman’s forces throughout the kingdom in this classic Japanese role playing adventure. Recruit unique allies such as a princess, genie, and thief! Fight enemies to gain strength and upgrade your heroes’ weapons and armor in order to fight Ahriman.
Fly solo in Tails Adventure!
Sonic’s trusty sidekick flies solo in his very own adventure! When Tails stumbles upon a small part of what looks to be a very large machine, he decides to embark on a journey to find its source! As Tails, fly through 12 action packed stages on a quest to gather all the mechanical parts and discover the secret of their origin. Gather items to augment Tails’ various abilities! Use your wits to defeat enemies across 12 stages in order to discover the origin of the mysterious machines!
Thursday Jun 13, 2013
SEGA is proud to announce four new classic Game Gear titles are now available in the Nintendo 3DS eShop!
The color (!!!) portable system from SEGA’s 90s past – the one that ate batteries like tater tots and had a TV Tuner, which was pretty awesome even if it ate even more batteries – has previously joined forces with the finely-crafted Nintendo portable system. We’re back with more, adding four of the games that helped define the Game Gear:
Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and Shining Force: Sword of Hajya!
If you’re a fan of Game Gear’s unique portable offerings, then we have more on the way in the near future — for now though, let’s plug in the car adapter and buckle in to the backseat for a trip down memory lane to look at these titles:
Sonic the Hedgehog
Ah yes, Sonic. We know about this game, right? Blue Hedgehog runs fast, collects rings, thwarts plans, frees animals encased in unfeeling metal, is charged with the mystical energies of special emeralds. Classic!
Actually the Game Gear version is a slightly different spin on the original – it’s the same version as appeared on the SEGA Master System: half of the zones feature a different design than the 16-bit counterpart, and it has different level design and story elements.
Notably, the game also featured original music from chiptune wizard Yuzo Koshiro – the same musician who created the amazing tracks for the Streets of Rage series and contributed fifteen original tracks to Shenmue.
Seriously though, Columns. Yes, there is a fine tradition of games where the player arranges falling things in a desperate bid to make them disappear. It’s as apt a metaphor for life itself as video games have devised. The twist in columns – have you guessed it? – is the frenetic arrangements are all vertical, a metaphor for the chaos of our waking lives, and/or a metaphor for spinning falling gems stuck to one another that vanish if you line them up just so.
As is becoming a recurring theme here, Columns also had some fantastic music.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Look, it was the 90s, and matching contortionist strings of goo-beans was just something that we did back then. It’s hard to explain if you weren’t there, but this game is a window into the culture of my people.
Oh! Also it is basically a Puyo Puyo game, which is to say exactly a Puyo Puyo game, but remade with a Sonic theme, because again, it was the 90s, and that’s how we rolled.
One neat thing about the Game Gear versions of Genesis titles is they often had something unique going for them – in this case, a “Puzzle Mode” that didn’t appear in its 16-bit cousin. Nineties! Yeah!
Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya
A rare gem from one of my personal favorite series – the original Shining Force games rank highly on my list of all-time favorites for their blend of tactical strategy and story-driven RPG.
Sword of Hajya takes place some 20 years after the original Shining Force, give or take, and continues the story of Guardiana. A handful of characters from the original – including Luke, Ken, Lowe, and the magical egg-shaped squid-creature (???) Domingo – return in this Gamer Gear exclusive.
To be honest, RPGs don’t always age well – they can be grindy and they can belong very much to their eras. Sometimes you take what you can get. But tactical RPGs and in particular the Shining Force series have always felt very much alive, and the blend of character progression, story, and tactical strategy still hold a primal appeal. I mean, I’m biased! But I like to think I’m biased for a reason, and those reasons say I am very excited to see this game (and all these games) show up for download on the 3DS.
Stay tuned … there’s more on the way for the Nintendo 3DS!
Thursday Mar 15, 2012
This marks the return of portable SEGA classics into the present day: the Game Gear, introduced in 1990, was yet another salvo in the ever-raging console wars. These days, plumbers and Erinaceidae play nicely together on the same systems, even participating in various bi-annual sporting events … Yet it’s still a bit of a trip to see games from this very SEGA of systems appear on the Nintendo 3DS: and yet, considering the unique and clever titles that cropped up on the Game Gear, it’s certainly a very welcomed development, and a terrific fit for this unique marvel of a handheld system.
First out of the gate are these three titles, featuring a whole suite of ninjas, an old school RPG crawl & brawl, and also some classic Sonic action. Read on!
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
First off, the ‘hog and his fox-friend: Showing up between Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3, Triple Trouble is also somewhere between those games in style and level-design: there’s a good deal level interaction, meaning more traps and gizmos, as well as some sly level-based storytelling (not to mention Knuckles and his favorite hobby of throwing a lever to send Sonic tumbling into the next level). It’s a fast & furious entry in the Sonic canon you may have missed, and you can now take this game with you, playing as Sonic or Tails on the road.
The Shinobi entry features a team of color-coded ninjas and music by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro. Smooth layout and clever level design mask an awesomely difficult game: rather than getting it’s difficulty from constantly bombarding you with enemies and traps (which would certainly have fluttered the Game Gear’s framerate), Game Gear Shinobi features lots of carefully laid out areas that require precision timing and quick thinking. Easy to throw yourself into, and difficult to master.
And despite my ardent fandom of all things Shinobi, Dragon Crystal is in many ways my favorite entry here. Following in the footsteps of Fatal Labyrinth and based on the sprawling roguelike games of yore, Dragon Crystal is a top-down RPG featuring a huge number of weapons and endless exploration. The game sees you awake in the middle of a dangerous forest — the only way out is through, and also, you begin your journey followed by a large, unhatched egg. If that doesn’t say adventure, I don’t know what does.
Dragon Crystal also features an element of old school RPGness that illuminates exactly what is meant by old school: namely, you will find rings and potions that do something, you know not what — the only way, as in real life, is to don or quaff these items, and see what happens. They may help, heal, or hinder, but regardless of the outcome, the game is both surprisingly deep and addictive.
All three games are available now in the Nintendo eShop – check them out and stay tuned for more, including the worldwide release of these titles.
Friday Nov 11, 2011
Ninjas, Jet Skis, Saturns, Scarfs
In which ninjas ride jet skis, dubious patent claims are made, and a scarf is worn.
Following some clever Game Gear entries, the next major Shinobi to emerge swiftly from the shadows was Shinobi III, on the Mega Drive/Genesis. I’ll skim over this one, as I’ve written about it before, possibly several times – but the ninja-gist of this ninja title is the ninja-expansion on the core Shinobi (ninja) concepts: refining the difficult combat and platforming til it felt like an art; a painting of ninjas, made by ninjas, in the dark, because that’s how they ninja-roll.
Apologies for the cheap ninja jokes. There are more to come, though.
Also apologies for glossing over the Game Gear entries — I had a Game Gear, it was amazing, it ate batteries like a champ, I played a ton of Sonic and Chessmaster on it, and for some reason never had the Shinobi games. Here — to make up for it, a video of a Game Gear entry — Shinobi II: The Silent Fury.
Now that I’ve watched that I’m kind of mad I didn’t have this game on Game Gear. I’m going to go ahead and say that it looks like a brilliant platformer. Yuzo Koshiro also did the music for this one — his style is really distinctive enough that you can tell just by listening, but I looked it up to make sure — and having his awesome tunes on a portable system means in a way Sega actually invented the iPod. Let’s move on, now.
Good Things Start With “S”¹
So once upon a time there was the SEGA Saturn, which was actually a pretty marvelous little system. It kind of slipped between major generations of game consoles, and it kind of bridged the gap between graphical worlds, as well. This is the system that gave us Shinobi Legions, a platformer with live-action cut-scenes.
Graphically and stylistically the half video/half animated look has a kind of dated feel. That’s the worst you can say of it though, I think — the Saturn may have arrived at a transitional period in gaming, but it was still a marvelous system (with a really awesome controller, I would like to add). Shinobi Legions was likewise a tremendously solid platforming game; in a way one of the last of its kind as games turned to the Grand 3D and FPS Experiments. Also: Yes … this game had cut-scenes. With actors.
Let us move on from here – departing swiftly like some sort of martial-arts expert — leaving only the smoke bomb of this statement: The acting in this game was almost definitely as good as that of the Sega CD classic Night Trap. Look behind you! A ninja!
Wait I Forgot Something From Shadow Dancer
I forgot to mention: The criminal organization in Shadow Dancer is called “Union Lizard”. That feels like a happy accident of translation. Aside from a criminal organization, it is also the name of an industrial dance-core band I’m going to go start. And a skateboard/shoe company, and an alcoholic beverage (absinthe and cherry coke). Lastly: a derogatory term for a Teamsters thug.
Shadow Dancer might be my personal favorite of the bunch, or maybe I’m just partial to ninja dogs and decaying urban landscapes. Something about that deliberate setting – a post-invasion New York City – resonates with me. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled ninja-timeline.
A Magnificent Scarf
There are some interesting things about Shinobi on the Playstation 2. Wait, hold on – first, I did not ever play this game, either. I would like to play it, too, but my Playstation 3 at home is the new kind that only plays PS1 discs, Blue Ray, and PS3 discs – it only does almost everything except play the PS2 games I would like to play. I’ll definitely get to this one at some point but for now, here’s some video:
There’s a lot that is amazing about this game, particularly his long, flowing red scarf, the gorgeous way it translates Shinobi to 3D, his scarf, the insanely difficult combat, the fact that you get to be a ninja with a sword, and the red scarf worn by the ninja. From what I’ve read this is something of a flawed gem – worth playing, totally interesting at an interesting point in gaming history, great scarf; doesn’t totally come together the way something like God of War would in 2005, but absolutely has its fans. To be honest I would love to hear anyone’s take on it — did you like it, hate it, have mixed feelings .. Ninja-share those feelings!
Next was the 2004 game Nightshade, wherein you play a female Shinobi who takes the
Remember how there’s a scarf? Did I mention a scarf? That will become important later.
Follow the Flowing Scarf
Right now is when the scarf becomes important.
More than just a great visual trick in the second game, and aside from just being part of the past two games, it has become a franchise icon; a poetic representation of a sword slashing through the air as the ninja wielding it disappears — the scarf’s trail a tracer marking only their disappearance.
Wait, I was going somewhere with all this scarf nonsense: the new game! Coming out on the Nintendo 3DS. I am proud of this game and excited for it – it adheres most closely to the platform games from the console days, both in terms of pure elegant design and ninja-quick difficulty (and of course, the scarf is there, too). This is what I’m saying — game history means something to me, it’s what I grew up with, and now I work for that company I grew up with. Getting to see this game come out is a huge kick, and in my opinion, the new game does exactly what an update of a franchise like this should do — it speaks to the previous games & eras, while working hard at being its own game with its own style.
In truth, Joe Musashi – the patron sword-saint of the original – appears in only some of the franchise games; his son appears in other Genesis/Mega Drive entries, a whole slew of ninjas show up on the Game Gear versions, while still more from Musashi’s clan appear on the PS2 version and the Sega Saturn game. In a nice bit of retcon, it is Joe Musashi’s father who appears in the forthcoming 3DS title. But it isn’t about the individual ninja by name, even if Joe Musashi is the prototype. Shinobi, translated, means Ninja – whoever is worthy to hold the blade, wear the scarf, throw the shuriken, and platform out of the shadows, is worthy of the name.
One parting note: Both I and SEGA wish to thank Phil Theobald for his work on both the summaries and factoids which appear in Shinobi 3DS (and which I drew from for facts in this blog series, especially the bullet points in part one). Shinobi 3DS speaks to its past with a great selection of information on previous games for you to study & learn from in the game itself; thank you Mr. Theobald for your contributions!
1. Sega, Sonic, Space Harrier, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, Space Channel 5, Seaman, Segagaga, Shining Force, Skies of Arcadia, Phantasy Star, and of course, that one game people really like … what’s it called … right! Sports Talk Football. Oh! And Sewer Shark.
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