Nintendo and Sega went in opposite directions with their respective micro consoles. Eager to cover as much of the system's history as possible, Sega gave the Genesis Mini a shotgun blast of software, with everything from launch titles to late releases, and from massive hits to head scratching obscurities. Some of the games included weren't expected by fans, but the quality of Alisia Dragoon, Beyond Oasis, and Super Fantasy Zone made these oddball choices hard to dismiss. On the other hand, titles like Sonic Spinball, Space Harrier II, and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle were remembered all too well by Sega Genesis owners in the 1990s... just not very fondly.
|What? No love for Skuljagger: Revolt|
of the Westicans?!
(image from Lukie Games)
Less dedicated fans will probably be satisfied with the twenty one uniformly excellent games offered on the Super NES Classic, but a few of us will want to color outside the lines and squeeze in a handful of carts that only we seem to remember, whether they were dug up at a thrift store or rented on a whim from the nearest Blockbuster. Luckily, the Hakchi exploit makes this possible, giving you a chance to get reacquainted with the titles in the Super NES library that everyone else overlooked. Titles like these...
Almanic- or Givro if you’re nasty- was never in danger of being mistaken for one of the top-shelf game developers of the 16-bit era, but it seemed to do its best work when freed from convention and allowed to tinker with its own nutty ideas. Fighting Masters, yet another versus fighting game? I’ve seen that before, and seen it done a whole lot better. E.V.O., a game where you climb the evolutionary ladder to become the ultimate life form and prove your right to marry planet Earth? That’s a new one on me!
|A stronger bite, the first of your character's |
many, many, many evolutions.
The bosses that separate one era of prehistory from the next are never, ever fun, guaranteed to trap you in a stun lock and stomp you flat even at the peak of your evolution. Spend those hard-fought EVO points early, because if Gaia has to revive you after a boss has its way with you, you’ll lose half of whatever you’re carrying... and you won’t want to spend an hour earning them back. Nevertheless, there’s a peculiar draw to E.V.O.’s originality and entrancing music, even when the game insists on teaching you evolution through a million years of first hand experience. C
Firepower 2000 (aka Super SWIV)
Sunsoft/The Sales Curve
For whatever reason, some games just find more popularity in other regions. Castlevania was a massive success in America and is considered one of the heavy hitters of the NES library, but ask a Japanese gamer about “Akumajou Dracula,” its Eastern counterpart, and you’re likely to get a disinterested shrug of the shoulders. Similarly, Bomb Jack didn’t get much attention from Americans, but the game was huge in Great Britain, ported to no end of home computers.
So it goes with Silkworm. This Tecmo arcade release is ordinary on its face, but comes with a nifty hook... it’s actually two games in one, with one player driving a ground-bound Jeep and the other taking to the skies in a helicopter. Americans dismissed the game as just another military shooter, but the British loved Silkworm and demanded more. Since Tecmo didn’t make an official sequel, The Sales Curve took the initiative and created one of their own, calling it SWIV (Silk Worm in Vertical).
|Strafing gives the Jeep a distinct tactical|
advantage, letting it fire at enemies from
Firepower 2000 isn’t the best shoot ‘em up on the Super NES, but it’s certainly one of the most relentless... and the option to pilot either a Jeep or a chopper lets you get creamed by the CPU in two entirely different ways. C+
Bonk’s Adventure creators Hudson Soft and Red Entertainment join forces once more to give the world another anachronistic action game. This time, instead of a caveman butting heads with dinosaurs that somehow escaped extinction, it’s a steam-powered mech battling ninjas in feudal Japan, armed with swords, throwing knives, grenades, and the dreaded kusarigama. (Well, dreaded by the player, since this overgrown yo-yo is damn near useless in combat.)
|Yeesh. This game was hard enough before the|
Badyear blimp decided to stop by for a visit.
The game’s monstrous difficulty is exacerbated by slightly dodgy control... good luck performing those aerial somersault consistently when you’re running for your life in the rage-inducing autoscrolling scenes! However, you can’t say Hagane doesn’t do its best to lure players into its treacherous web. Red flexes the Super NES’s considerable visual muscles until they pop, making the game’s steampunk weaponry and eastern ambiance blend surprisingly well together, and the tumbling system doubles your steel-plated samurai’s already extensive skills. Nothing comes easily in Hagane, but at least you’ll be rewarded for your investment of blood, sweat, and tears. B-
You see a lot of praise heaped onto this game by other reviewers, which it deserves, but they also levy a criticism against it that I can't fathom. Evidently, Skyblazer is too... easy for them? Sure, it serves up extra lives like Halloween candy, but you’re going to need them all, because this game uses every trick in the book of level design bastardry. Vanishing blocks that are your only path to the top of a tower so high it’s liable to give the player nosebleeds? Check. An ice level that makes the already slippery hero even slipper-ier, complete with ice shelves that send you plunging downward when you step on them? Check. Pillars and spiked idols which you’ll have to leap across while they plunge down the edge of a waterfall? Oh yeah, big check there.
|Nobody's dreaming of this Genie.|
Let me explain. It’s harder because, well... you already read the first paragraph of this review, right? It’s better because Skyblazer offers a more imaginative cast of characters and more abilities for its hero. Sky’s not stuck with a wimpy dagger and some magic pixie dust, but instead has a selection of spells that grows as he defeats bosses. It’s faster, lending a sense of urgency to the action that the frustratingly pokey Hook didn’t have. Finally, Skyblazer is stronger, because it doesn’t need to lean on a movie license to justify its existence, offering its own fully realized world. It’s not a perfect video game, due in part to Sky’s annoying habit of running a step farther than you intended, but at least this time, it’s a genuine one. B
The Violinist of Hamelin
When an army of demons strolls into town to demand a sacrifice, only the belligerant bard Hamel can save the day! But alas, Hamel doesn’t do anything for free. He insists on bringing one of the town’s maidens along with him on his quest to defeat the Demon Lord, and although Flute happily agrees, it’s a decision she’ll soon regret...
Never fear... the eponymous Violinist of Hamelin is too much of a gentlemen for that! However, he will stand on Flute’s shoulders, fling her into harm’s way, and even dress her in the most ridiculous costumes he can find, all in service of his noble quest. Then again, sometimes he does all that stuff just because he’s bored and finds it amusing. Okay, so he’s not that much of a gentleman.
|Doing my best Jack Benny impression while|
astride a young girl in a frog costume is,
alas, only the nineteenth weirdest thing
I've ever done in a video game.
These slapstick antics (and a touch of puzzle solving that strikes a middle ground between Lemmings and The Lost Vikings) are the keys to this game’s success. Sure, the big sprites, colorful artwork, and a fitting selection of classical music add to the experience, but the Violinist of Hamelin probably couldn’t hold the player’s attention for long without Flute to carry it for him. B-