Thursday Jan 27, 2011
In case you missed it, a new selection of classic Genesis titles is now available. This is the final currently planned release pack of Genesis Classic titles for the PC, and you might say that we saved the best for last. Well — I certainly might say that, considering both Shining Force I and II are in the pack, and I’m record as saying these games are among my favorite of all time.
First, the full list of what’s available with this offering. As with the previous packs, all these games fit into the snazzy “Genesis Classics” loader that runs all the games, and allows you to save each of the games at any point, as well as using the games original save features (if they had one).
Is this not an excellent list? Aside from all the praises I’m happy to heap onto the Shining Force series this collection also includes Streets of Rage 1 and 2. The first game is lots of fine fun, and by the second had evolved into probably the best beat-em-up of the 90s — with easily some of the best music of any game in the 90s. As a bonus here’s some video of series composer Yuzo Koshiro DJing in Tokyo, working some of the tracks from the game. Follow the video to YouTube to see more from this performance.
Even aside from Streets of Rage and Shining Force there’s a lot to recommend this batch of games. Possibly you are aware of the Sonic the Hedgehog series? Well guess what! We have the Sonic. On the PC! Several, in fact: Classics Collection IV features both Sonic the Hedgehog II and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the glorious lock-on combination of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles is also probably the most difficult of the original series (especially the later half, Sonic and Knuckles) and takes all the mechanics the series was known for and refines them to their most skill-intensive. I played Sonic 2 enough that I can blow through that game pretty easily now — but lots of Sonic 3 & Knuckles remains a challenge, and grabbing all the Chaos Emeralds in either of its games is no mean feat. Of course, the ability to save your game before any special stage and play it over and over til you get it right is a nice way around that. Go ahead! I won’t tell anyone.
And: Let’s not let all these other excellent titles dwarf the release of the original ToeJam & Earl, a game that’s been a lot harder than most of these to get a hold of. There was never another game quite like it; something like a psychedelic dungeon crawler with a goofy sense of humor and one of the most awesome soundtracks in any game ever. Really, this Classic Collection as a whole is just loaded with great Genesis tunes–here’s some of ToeJam and Earl’s music:
Lest we forget — there’s some other terrific & unique games in this collection, including the isometric action-adventure Landstalker and the Shining Force “prequel”, “Shining in the Darkness” (definitely hard to find in other places).
Between the Sonic games, the Shining Force series, and ToeJam & Earl, a pretty high percentage of my teenage years is represented by this package of games. In my humble opinion, these are not to be missed!
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!
Thursday Jul 22, 2010
Available now on the PC — a new batch of SEGA Genesis Classics! I’m always in favor of finding new ways to release Genesis stalwarts, and this is a particularly compelling pack since these games have not all seen wide release (especially on the PC). The following are now available through GamersGate:
You can purchase them all individually, or snag all of them in one seductively old-school package:
A single snazzy interface combines all the Genesis Classics games together for easy accessibility. The games work nicely with most controllers as well (including the Genesis-esque Play SEGA controller!), meaning you don’t have to fumble with the keyboard for fighting games like Eternal Champions. Also present: the ability to save your game at any time, which is, of course, exceedingly welcome.
Here’s some highlights from the releases, as chosen by, well, me:
Carving out its niche in the category of ‘insanely addictive puzzle games’, Columns aligns itself with your heart vertically: arrange falling columns of 3 gems to line up colors; matching colors cause the matched gems to disappear from the screen. Horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines of 3 or more matching colors qualify, so this puzzle game differentiates itself from Tetris by inducing something like precognitive powers in the user. Thinking you’ve doomed yourself to a full screen of gems only to see a series of blocks fall that you must have planned without realizing it is the kind of visceral pleasure that anyone who’s ever delayed homework with “just one more game” knows only too well. Also, the music for Columns is terrific.
Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine‘
Of course, to mention Columns without mentioning Mean Bean Machine is to speak of the Beatles but never the Rolling Stones … or something like that. Mean Bean Machine is an exceedingly odd game, very much in the same puzzle category as Columns, but with little google-eyed globules (the beans) that gum together and fall all over the puzzle space. You also play “against” Dr. Robotnik, who periodically drops rock-hard beans into your puzzles space, halting your careful progress and causing you to go insane and break your controller. Highly recommended.
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
While Alex Kidd is very much a proto-Sonic the Hedgehog, his games very much deserve mention as what they were: insanely enjoyable hallmarks of the Master System / Genesis era of platforming, whose hyper cartoon-style belied insidiously difficult gameplay. While you can kick and punch pretty much anything in the game, you can’t touch it (or jump on it), which gives the game an odd edge. You can also play roshambo in the game, where losing means you die. The game features powerups like motorcycles and pogo sticks — to be honest, understanding the unique charm & appeal of the Alex Kidd games is central to understanding what ‘old school’ meant, and its the same sort of thinking which lead to one of the strangest games ever.
Super Thunder Blade
…is really difficult. Don’t mistake this game for being of After Burner’s lineage (though of course After Burner is difficult in its own right); Super Thunder Blade is closer in pedigree to the bullet curtain style of shooters, where placement is everything and learning a precise pattern of movement makes you a champion — think an evolved version of Space Harrier, with combat helicopters.
Kid Chameleon and Ristar
I’m doing these together — they’re very different games but they’re both experimental platformers and very much proto-Sonic action games. Kid Chameleon oozes ’90s cool (dig the leather jacket and sunglasses) and has the hook of taking place in a virtual reality arcade where you get to take on all kinds of different guises, each with their own unique power. Ristar, meanwhile, is simply an incredibly charming platformer that happened to have some of the best & most colorful graphics to show up on the Genesis, as well as excellent sound. An excellent platform experience, it is completed by the title character’s “grabbing” mechanism for swinging around and disposing of enemies, which works something like the arm from Bionic Commando.
An odd & unique game, Bonanza Bros. is an action/shooter where you infiltrate a variety of buildings to sneak and shoot your way past cops in order to recover loot. A fun note about this game: in the original Japanese release, you play thieves working to steal the loot from these buildings (although the shots fired are always non-lethal); in the Western release you are “security experts” helping various buildings to test their security by coming after their loot . . . although if you loose, the “game over” screen still shows the player being sent to prison. The games compelling sense of strategy comes from the fact that you don’t “destroy” your enemies, you just temporarily disable them, meaning you have to plan carefully to sneak & shoot your way around the building, as guards will invariably alert other guards to your presence.
I’ve saved my favorite game of this collection for last. Fatal Labyrinth appeals to something primal in me — it recalls my geek ancestry, gaming nerds from prehistoric times (namely, the 1970s) playing invented Dungeons & Dragons games in garages and rec room basements. Fatal Labyrinth has a strong connection to the early, early days of computer dungeon crawlers, rife with mystery and possibility: the game features randomized dungeons, items, and monsters, and of course gold — but the only value gold has in the game is to buy you a better funeral when you die (and like all hardcore dungeon crawlers of yore, when you die in Fatal Labyrinth, you stay dead). It also pulls the wicked old-school trick of making the effects of the various scrolls, rings, and potions you pick up “unknown” — they may help or hinder, but the only way to find out is to use them. I realize this game may not be for everyone — it’s difficult and has none of the trappings of more mass-market RPGs of the modern era, but it also has an indelible charm: the elemental appeal of crawling through dungeons, equipping weapons & armor, slaying monsters, and trying to stay alive.
SEARCH BY GAME
|No public Twitter messages.|
VIEW THE GALLERIES