Saturday, July 14, 2012
10 Overlooked and Underrated Gems Part 2: The Sega Genesis
Ah yes, we’re getting into the 16-bit spirit of things now. When Sega released the Genesis in America in 1989, it gave the NES a run for its money in terms of games, graphics, and just about everything else. Though Nintendo would wind up pulling ahead when they released the Super NES later on, the Genesis has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. It was the first 16-bit console I ever owned, and though it didn’t have the numerous first-party classics that the Super NES had, the Genesis had the best versions of fighting and sports games that were also released on Nintendo’s 16-bit juggernaut at the time. The classic Genesis games that we all know and love, like the “Sonic the Hedgehog” series, “Alex Kidd”, the “Phantasy Star” series, “Gunstar Heroes”, and more besides are classics of the library, but there’s a bunch of other great Genesis games that for one reason or another just fell through the cracks. So, without further adieu, here are my top 10 underrated and overlooked gems for the Sega Genesis:
10. ZERO TOLERANCE (1994)
One of the few (and honestly I think the only to make it stateside) first-person shooters to ever be released for the Genesis, “Zero Tolerance” appears to be a typical “Doom” clone, and make no mistake it is, but it’s also one of the most surprisingly well-done ones from the era you’re likely to ever play. Due to the graphical limitations of the Genesis, the scaling and 3-D effects couldn’t be done particularly well; meaning the action taking place on the screen is small and only takes up a fraction of what appears on your TV. That aside though, the rest of the game is a blast. The frame rate is surprisingly silky smooth, and the run and gun gameplay is even smoother. Add to that the fact that you can link up two Genesis consoles for multiplayer slaughtering, and you’ve got a criminally overlooked game. Regarded as a cult classic (and spawning an unreleased sequel as well), “Zero Tolerance” is wholeheartedly worth tracking down.
9. THE OOZE (1995)
One of the wonderful games developed by the Sega Technical Institute (more on them later), “The Ooze” is a diabolical adventure/puzzle game that boasts some impressive and colorful graphics to go along with some innovative gameplay elements. You play a scientist who has been transformed into a blob of green ooze, and you’re out for revenge and to make things right against the scumbags that did this to you. It can be obnoxiously hard and frustrating as hell, but man oh man does it leave a lasting impression. I reviewed it for Sega-16 not too long ago, and it was one of the few (damn few) games I reviewed for them that wasn’t a total piece of shit. Check it out, you’ll dig it.
8. GENERAL CHAOS (1994)
Back in the day, before EA became more concerned with milking money from gamers with the same Madden game released year after year, they made some pretty damn awesome PC games and some pretty awesome Genesis games as well. “General Chaos” was one of these games, an arcade/strategy game with a twisted sense of humor. You choose your team of commandos to duke it out on a small battlefield environment. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and features a pseudo-psychotic art style, and is one of the best games of its type you’re ever likely to play.
7. DRAGON’S FURY (1991)
Known as “Devil’s Crush” just about everywhere else it was released, “Dragon’s Fury” on the Genesis is a pinball game unlike many other pinball games you’re likely to play. The play field of the game is a multi-screen pinball table that features a shit-ton of enemies and items to smash and grab along the way. Oh yeah, there’s fucking pentagrams and demons and monsters and all kinds of other crazy shit along the way too. Making a good pinball game is a difficult thing indeed, but holy shit these guys did, and it’s probably the best pinball game you’ll ever play that isn’t a real pinball table.
6. WHIP RUSH (1990)
One of the best vertical shooters on the Genesis that no one played (we’ll be getting to the absolute best one on the Genesis no one played soon), “Whip Rush” is an “R-Type”-like affair where you blast your way across the galaxy. And like “R-Type”, it can be punishingly difficult to boot. It was released at a time when this genre of video game was becoming more and more popular, so it’s easy to see how it got lost in the cracks. There isn’t that much about it that sets it apart from other games of its type, other than being able to rotate your direction of fire, which made things a little easier, but man oh man was this one hard son of a bitch. It still looks and plays great to this very day, so if you have the balls give “Whip Rush” a try.
5. COMIX ZONE (1995)
Another gem from Sega Technical Institute, “Comix Zone” was released late in the life of the Genesis’ life cycle, but it found a small audience regardless. You play a comic book artist trapped in his own comic book, beating the shit out of baddies that keep getting drawn inside the screen. Add to the fact that you literally move from panel to panel and rip and tear through backgrounds and other areas, and you’ve got one of the absolute most well-designed games to ever grace the Genesis. It’s hard as nails, but in terms of the numerous beat ‘em up’s that were so prevalent in the Genesis’ library, “Comix Zone” is one of the best. That, along with what’s coming up next…
4. THE PUNISHER (1994)
Based on Capcom’s smash hit arcade game, “The Punisher” featured Marvel’s titular vigilante teaming up with Nick Fury to take on The Kingpin and wave after wave of criminal baddies as you punch, kick, and shoot your way through level after level. It’s repetitive and mindless sure, but satisfying as all hell. While it took a step back graphically compared to the arcade version, the Genesis version of “The Punisher” took the “Final Fight” engine and worked magic with it. It’s got some punishing (no pun intended, seriously) difficulty to be sure, but it’s a blast to play regardless, especially with a friend. It also features some of the best music to ever be heard in a Genesis game (which is saying something, considering the fact that the Genesis’ soundchip was ungodly bad). It fetches a surprisingly high price on eBay and other vintage game stores, but it’s worth every penny, so pick it the fuck up!
3. THUNDER FORCE III (1990)
The best scrolling shooter on the Genesis in the history of fucking ever, “Thunder Force III” and the “Thunder Force” games as a whole are the Genesis’ answer to Konami’s “Gradius” games which at the time were Nintendo exclusive. You shoot down wave after wave after wave of enemy starships and bear witness to massive amounts of destruction, and it’s such a glorious sight that you won’t be able to put the controller down. It’s a wonderfully difficult game as well, but it’s so wonderfully designed and features some of the best graphics, sound effects, and animation that were around at the time, truly showing off what the Genesis could do way back when. It’s a shame that not many people played it back then, because scrolling shooters don’t often get much better than this.
2. ROBOCOP VS THE TERMINATOR (1993)
Also released on the Super NES, “Robocop VS The Terminator” is based on a comic book mini-series which starred the two cyborg characters going to war with each other, and war is just what this game feels like when you play it. You play as Robocop as you traverse present Detroit taking on baddies and Terminator assassins, making your way into the future where Skynet has taken over. It’s fast paced and unrelenting, and one of the absolute best licensed action side-scrollers to ever see the light of day. Now when the game was released for both the Super NES and Genesis, each version was somewhat different. The Super NES featured a slightly different storyline and better graphics and sound effects, but the Genesis version was way more violent and was also a hell of a lot more challenging to boot. In fact the last couple levels of the game are downright near-impossible to complete, but everything else about this game is just simply wonderful. Pick it up for fuck’s sake; you’ll be glad that you did.
1. ETERNAL CHAMPIONS (1993)
Released at a time when fighting games were really starting to crowd the market and eat up quarters in arcades with all the “Street Fighter II” revisions and “Mortal Kombat”, Sega decided to throw their hat into the ring with “Eternal Champions”. Featuring a roster of interesting fighters, large character sprites, and intriguing fatalities, stages, and a fighting engine that was way ahead of its time, “Eternal Champions” sparked varying degrees of critical and commercial acclaim, and even spawned an awesome (and underrated) sequel on the Sega CD a few years later. Sadly though, “Eternal Champions” seems to have been sadly forgotten. For all the various Sega compilation collections that get released every so often, we’ve never seen “Eternal Champions” get the re-release treatment, which is a crying shame. This is an awesome fighting game that deserves your time and attention, and for every new “Street Fighter” or “Mortal Kombat” game that would hit the system, the more and more people would forget about this game. You need to give it a look if you can. It may seem dated at first when compared to some other games to come out afterwards, but despite that, there’s just something about “Eternal Champions” that just feels kind of timeless. That and its fun as hell too.
Well, that’s all for now folks. Tune in next time as I’ll go over the Top 10 underrated and overlooked gems for the Super Nintendo. Until next time, see y’all later…