Friday, November 18, 2016

Genesis Did

I've been feeling nostalgic for the Sega Genesis, so I thought I'd drop a few of its earlier games (and one of its later ones) into an emulator and share my experiences. Hey, it gives me something to do.


See? I wasn't kidding about the Cruz thing!
America deserved a really good Ghostbusters game after suffering through the overly complicated and underly fun home computer title by Activision... you know, the one that later migrated to every 8-bit game console under the sun and was somehow even worse on them. Fortunately, Ghostbusters for the Genesis is a step in the right direction, starting from scratch with platforming action that's like a more passive Mega Man. As Ray, Egon, or Peter (but no Winston? Tsk tsk, Sega!), you blast wayward spirits in a series of massive New York homes. The stage designs lean toward the confusing and you'll take cheap hits more than occasionally, but the control is very solid, with the trio making precise jumps with ease and locking themselves in place while firing diagonally... a handy skill when battling bosses three times their size. The graphics are also a highlight, with recognizable caricatures of the Ghostbusters cast. Bill Murray looks disturbingly like senator Ted Cruz, which is not the kind of scare you want from a Ghostbusters game, but that's still a big step up from the faintly detailed stick figures from the 8-bit titles... B



Death comes from all directions
in Dick Tracy.
Sega put its Shinobi team to work on this one, and the influence in its design is obvious. It feels a lot like the original Shinobi arcade game, with Tracy pushing his way deep into mob territory, using boxes for cover and picking off gangsters with a modest but effective pistol. It all seems pretty cut and dry... but then enemies appear on the other side of the street, and that's when things get interesting. The saffron-colored shamus is also armed with a tommy gun, letting him blast foes in the distance before they can catch him in their sights. You'll frequently have to juggle between the two styles of play to survive, keeping the action lively and strengthening the game's ties to the big-budget Disney film of the same name. The gameplay gets a little too overwhelming during boss fights, but the stylish presentation (including large, well animated sprites and a fitting jazz soundtrack) helps soothe the sting of being blown to bits by The Brow for the sixth or seventh time. B


Being pelted with Winnie the Pooh toys is
actually one of the least weird things
that happens in this game.
The gorgeous anime intermissions... the ludicrous level designs... the nagging sense that another developer could have done this better... yep, it's a Wolf Team game, all right! El Viento continues the Wolf Team tradition of quirky-but-not-always-in-the-best-ways gameplay with a fast-paced platformer set in the 1920s. Sometimes you'll be impressed with the way lanky magician Annet gracefully sprints through each stage, clearing her path with handfuls of boomerangs. Sometimes you'll get frustrated by the way she's shoved around by her enemies, without a brief window of mercy invincibility or any indication that she's been injured aside from a quickly draining life bar. And sometimes you'll just stare at the screen in bewilderment as Annet clashes with hovertanks, sewer mutants, and swirling lines of airborne cacti. Does El Viento ever make sense? Not really. Is it entertaining? Sure, if you can get used to the slightly off design. It's a Wolf Team game, after all. That comes with the territory. C+



Released late in the life of the Sega Genesis, Aero the Acro-Bat 2 was the last burning ember of the furry mascot era of gaming. Players were weary of the avalanche of Sonic clones that dominated the Super NES and Genesis, and were eager for fresh experiences on the coming generation of consoles. This made Aero 2, with its squeaky-voiced hero and cartoony animation, feel like a relic in the far-flung year of 1994. Twenty years later, with the resentment for video game mascots softened into quaint nostalgia, it's easier to judge Aero the Acro-Bat 2 on its own merits. By those standards, it holds up surprisingly well. The drill attack is more useful than it was in the original, there are hidden paths tucked everywhere, and set pieces like spinning gears and bells keep the player surprised and engaged. Aero's still not much of a character, awkwardly straddling the fence between cuddly and edgy, but the gameplay is just good enough to make it worth putting up with the contrived star's constant guano. B



The G.I. Joe Armored Battle Tank.
Get yours today for $29.99 at Toys 'R Us!
(Figures sold separately.)
If Dick Tracy is just too darned subtle for you, give Dynamite Duke a spin. It serves up all the big, loud, dumb action you could ask for, with the brawny title character gunning down soldiers, tanks, choppers, cannons... really, there's no soldier too small and no boss too big for Duke to blow to bits. He'll even roll up his sleeves and throw a few punches if anyone is stupid enough to challenge him to a fight.

Like the games in the Neo-Geo launch library, Dynamite Duke makes a strong first impression with its big, bright artwork and surprisingly smooth 3D effects. However, the thrills don't last because the game is neither long enough nor deep enough to hold the player's attention. You shoot everything in sight, you engage in CQC with brain-dead cyborgs who can't touch you when you duck out of the way of their attacks... the process repeats until you reach an infuriating final boss and the end of the game. The muffled sound doesn't do much for Dynamite Duke's long-term appeal either, taking the teeth out of the constant gunfire and explosions. C-



One nice touch: Cows peacefully graze
below you, unaware of the carnage overhead.
Raiden Trad suffers from being a perfectly competent game in a genre that's over-represented on the Sega Genesis. Shooters are a dime a dozen on this system, and this one in particular is so much like Truxton and Fire Shark that it's even harder to justify its existence. Having said that, if you absolutely must play a Raiden game, this is one of the better ports on an early 1990s game console. Compared to the Turbografx-16 version that came later, the colors are a little dull and you don't get that cool burst of shrapnel when your ship explodes, but at the same time, it's head, shoulders, torso, knees, and ankles above the embarrassing Super NES port. It's also worth noting that Raiden Trad is one of the few shooters of its time that shows you a little mercy after you die, summoning a fairy which showers your next life with power-ups. The game is hard enough in the later stages that you'll be grateful for the helping hand. C+


  1. I love that you mentioned/discussed a whole slew of Genesis games that intrigued me back in the day. Namely: Dick Tracy, Ghostbusters and El Viento. Speaking of Ghostbusters and Activision's terrible computer/console game based on the first film: I owned the Apple IIe version (I think) as a kid and so desperately tried to like it. Like you said here, though, the damn thing was a tragic failure, no matter how you sliced it. Ugh!

    1. Heh, even the Ghostbusters themselves had nothing kind to say about the Ghostbusters game by Activision. Here's a quote I found from Ernie Hudson, aka Winston:

      "My kids really hated [the Commodore 64 game]. They thought it sucked."

      Your kids have good taste, Ernie.

      Evidently the game started out unrelated to Ghostbusters, and David Crane finished most of it before even seeing the movie. That explains so much...