SEGA Genesis Did It Better Part V
by Polly

The Super Nintendo was a juggernaut. This I will not deny. When I hear people talk about Nintendo's 16-bit follow-up to the ol grey shoebox, they almost universally have nothing but positive things to say about it and the library of games it amassed over the years it was active. What I've noticed though, is that when they talk about the games they loved, it's typically the same list of about fifteen to twenty-something games. Those games you're probably thinking of right now too are more than likely worth the praise they get. Hell, I enjoy them too!

What I've noticed about the Genesis however, is that its library is a bit more unique. Genesis games were a bit edgier, a tad more rough around the edges, and a little more off the wall than what you'd typically find on the SNES. There are games you'll find on Genesis, where you'll be hard-pressed to find an equivalent on its rival console. This is a list of fun odds and ends that didn't make it to the Nintendo side of the world. Now, obviously this doesn't count later sequels that may have, or future releases on XBORX Live Arcade or the Wii Virtual Console. This is my short, and in no way definitive, list of games for the Genesis that made it worth playing over the SNES all those years ago.

Alisia Dragoon
We start with Alisia Dragoon an oddball title that was developed by Game Arts and GAINAX. You may recognize that second one if you're into the whole anime thing as the Gunbuster, Evangelion, Gurren Lagann anime guys.

Alisia Dragoon is a hard as FUCK action-platformer where your main mode of attack is auto-targetting lightning attacks. Fully charged, your lightning can clear a screen, but as the gauge goes down so does the destructive power and range and you'll soon have to take a few brief moments of rest to recharge. That's the central gameplay mechanic that keeps Alisia from ever becoming boring. How COULD you be bored when the game spits hundreds upon hundreds of enemies at you per stage. There's hardly ever a second of rest for this poor dragoon girl as enemies are constantly flooding in from all sides of the screen. It all comes down to figuring out the stages and when to use your lightning all out and when to conserve and eek your way by the current set of enemies so that you're fully charged for the next onslaught.

I've never had much luck getting anyone into this game as the sheer difficulty of even the first stage can prove to be too much for those who aren't used to strategizing and moving quickly. I think you'll find if you spend some time with Alisia, you'll find she's quite a fun girl with a lot to offer the hardcore gamer.

Castlevania: Bloodlines/Contra: Hard Corps

Big ol' fuckin' "WELL, DUUUUUUHHHHH" here. Come on, play 'em, pussy!

Comix Zone
What a great fucking game. Being trapped inside a comic book has never been so much fun AND convincing.

You play the role of starving artist and part-time rock musician, Sketch Turner in this hybrid platformer/brawler/puzzler. Poor guy got sucked inside of a comic of his own creation and it's up to him to save the world inside of it AND deal with the comic's villian who is now in the real world.

Sketch must fight his way through six stages, dealing with the various creepy crawlies residing within the comic as well as new threats being drawn in by the villian (I mean literally, a hand actually draws them in) all the time. Combat is straight forward and fairly easy to come to grips with and puzzles are fairly simple. Each panel of every page provides a new challenge to overcome. If something proves too difficult, the game often offers you two or more choices of which panel you wish to jump to next which adds a decent bit of replay value and exploration.

Comix Zone is really a comic that you play. As you leap from panel to panel of a page and you're able to get a small glimpse of the panels surrounding it and sometimes you can knock enemies straight THROUGH the panel dividers, just tearing the shit out of the page as you make your way toward the end. The presentation is simply amazing and the graphics are some of the most colorful and detailed you'll see on the Genesis. Little details like Sketch ripping into the background of a page and enemies "bleeding" paper scraps really help bring that whole "comic" feeling home. Sprites also feature probably some of the cleanest animation to come out of the 16-bit era.

If there's any real drawback to the game, it's that it's criminally short. If you know the game in and out, you can easily finish it in roughly 20 minutes. The difficulty may prove a bit much for some as well, but sticking with it and seeing this one to the end is definitely worth it.

Crusader of Centy
A magnificent and woefully overlooked page in the tomes of Genesis History.

This game is (fairly) considered by most to be the Zelda game for the Genesis. It features many of the same elements from that series, but the story and themes it brings to the table seem to go much deeper than Zelda ever dared to tread.

I originally wrote some stuff here about it, but I feel my brief write-up paled in comparison to Good Ol' Kazlo's nicely written article about the game. So, go read that for a much more expanded view on what this great game has to offer.

Definitely not one to be missed.

Dynamite Headdy
Pure. Treasure. Bliss.

If there's anything more pronounced than the game's inherent cuteness, it's got to be the inventive gameplay and the great challenge that you're in for should you give Dynamite Headdy a go.

Headdy, the Magical Puppet of Fun and Awesome, is on a mission to save his friends from the evil Dark Demon by literally using his noodle. Headdy's main mode of attack is detatching his head from his body and thrusting it in all directions to dispatch foes. With the help of HeadCase, Headdy is also given access to fifteen other heads, not including three bonus heads available only in specific portions of the game. I hear you guys like head, so that's probably a good reason to check this game out right there.

Dynamite Headdy may seem only a platformer at first, but it always seems to spiral off into some other type of insanity just as you get used to doing what you've been doing for a few minutes. Every head you collect has a specific purpose and you have to USE YOUR HEAD HAHAHAHAHAHA in order to figure out how you'll need to utilize each one to get through the task at hand.

There are plenty of bosses to keep you busy, as they seem to be just around every corner. They all require specific tactics to handle and sometimes you'll have to use more than one head to get the job done, turning each new boss encounter into a bit of a puzzler at first.

With enough cuteness and charm to gag a person and enough challenge to drive you mad, Dynamite Headdy is a treat for all the gaming senses.

Ecco The Dolphin
If ever a case for "games as art" could have been made back in 1992, this game could have made one hell of an exhibition. Or, if you just plain like the color blue, then maybe this game is for you.

Ecco is one of those games that you just HAVE to look at. In still shots and motion it's quite striking. The behavior of the other dolphins and sea life was quite a lot to take in and very astonishing back in the day. I typically don't gush this much over graphics, but the game is just damn gorgeous.

BUUUUUT, just like Pat said of the game in his Top 25 games article, don't let looks deceive you. This game is fucking MURDEROUS. It's one of the toughest games I've ever played and I've still never finished it. I guess that's a bit of a disappointment, because the game could have really had a bit more of an ambience if it started off a bit more tranquil and less intent on kicking your ass in the game's actual first stage.

Mileage with this one may vary, but it's defintely a great piece of work that spawned a couple of fairly good sequels as well. Give seafood a chance, people!

Gunstar Heroes
The original title for this game was Lunatic Gunstar, which was actually pretty damn appropriate. This game is absolute chaos at times and can easily leave one feeling overwhelmed if they're not prepared.

Gunstar Heroes has a lot in common with games like Contra and Metal Slug in that it's a side-scrolling shooter, but it takes those original ideas and shakes it up in ways that only Treasure (I love these guys) could do.

Its strengths lie in its unique weapon combination system that allows you to hold two different weapons independantly or switch to a combination of the two and the chaotic melee combat elements. There's a great sense of "fuck, I'm awesome" when you bowl over a fucking horde of oncoming enemies by hucking one of their own straight into them. Another big part of the game is (oh, imagine that) boss fights. There's tons of em. All unique, all challenging. They're made even cooler thanks to the graphical effects used to bring them to life. These effects would be seen later in games like Contra: Hard Corps and Castlevania: Bloodlines.

You're sad that you only had an SNES when this game came out. No Mario or Zelda could possibly give you as much satisfaction as this game does when you finally see it to the end.

Mutant League Football and Hockey

Mortal Kombat + Sports = The Mutant League series. Can you really call two games a series? I dunno.

From the soulless rehash masters over at Electronic Arts came two great sports games that didn't bear the Madden name (the NHL games from '95-'97 were fucking awesome, though!).

What a fantastic idea, though not completey original. Sports games where you're rewarded for dirty play calling, killing the opposition (in the literal sense and in as brutal fashion as possible), and the actual playing fields becoming death traps themselves. These games are hysterical and a blast to play with friends.

Find yourself down by a touchdown in the last minute of the game? Bribe the ref to help rack up those penalties against the opposing team! That's how you'll get into the red zone! Full of shit penalty calling got you down? Kill the fuckin' ref! Or why not just load the football or puck with a bomb and hand it over to the other team like the nice guy you are. They're guaranteed to have a blast!

THIS is what we need more of, but not from those lifeless drones at Electronic Arts. They're all too content to phone it in these days and little instances of brilliance like this are only but a memory.

Road Rash
You weren't getting anything like this on the SNES, folks. Electronics Arts brought home yet another delightfully brutal and fun concept. Motorcycle street racing where the objective is to make it to the finish line while assaulting your fellow riders with puches, kicks, chains, and other various weapons. So brainless, yet so damn enjoyable.

Races are long and you must fight through 19 other opponents to make it to the front of the pack to claim the highest reward and buy yourself a new ride. And traffic! Motherfuckin traffic is always in the way and forcing you to slow it the fuck down or strategically get around it. Another great obstacle in your way of claiming that sweet new hog are the pigs....hogs...pigs....oh god that's fucking great! You can duke it out with the police who play even more aggressively than other riders. The penalty for losing to and subsequently being busted by a police officer depends on whether you have the cash to cover the fine or not.

These three games were just too damn much fun. Each game introduced a bit of something new to the series and was better than the last. They're more than worth checking out. Just watch out flying through those interesections... and for the cows...

Rocket Knight Adventures
Another one of those nutso, weird, as hell and ridiculously difficult action-platformers, though this one seems to have only maintained a bit of a cult following over the years.

Take one opossum, a suit of armor, and rockets slapped on his back and you get Sparkster, firey rocket knight ready to kick some ass and fry up some pork. Piggies riding in big robots most of the time. Who cares if it doesn't make sense. Matter of fact, it makes perfect sense, you're just a closed-minded bigot. Faggot.

Rocket Knight Adventures comes from the same mind that helped create Contra: Hard Corps and follows the same trends that most Konami games seemed to at the time. Being fast-paced, beautiful, and as mentioned earlier, freakishly difficult. Sparkster can shoot fireballs from his sword and zip through the air with his rocket pack to physically slam into enemies and make it over various obstacles. Stages take you through different areas each having their own unique obstacles to overcome, some not even involving platforming at all.

Oh, and it's REALLY fucking hard. There's a "One-hit, game over" mode for crying out loud. This game is LONG, so go ahead, be my guest and try that shit. These guys are insane.

Shinobi Series

Joe Musashi... The only ninja master you should give a shit about, other than Ryu Hayabusa. And he's SEGA exclusive! BONUS POINTS! I think...

The Revenge of Shinobi, Shadow Dancer, and Shinobi III are three of the best ninja'ing games ever. Rather than being all-out action fests like Ninja Gaiden, the Shinobi games always had more of a slow and methodical feel to them. Ya know, kinda like how you'd expect a ninja to do things.

Typically, Shinobi games all have intricately planned stages where it's your job to find a correct way to finish the mission alive, and in the case of Shadow Dancer, rescuing all of the hostages as well. Often you're required to stop and think things out before rushing in and performing your ninja-ly duties and when you do perform them, you'd better do it with perfection or it's back to the start of the stage. This formula would persist throughout all three games and can become a bit of a nuisence when confronted with some of the series' tougher bosses, but if you're patient, you're more than likely to see it through.

Though Shadow Dancer is my favorite, the other two are most definitely worth checking out.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure
ANOTHER God damn Konami platformer...SHIT!

This one is based on the 90's hit cartoon and bearing more than just a passing resemblance to both Super Mario World and Sonic The Hedgehog. It pretty much makes its living by taking the overworld map progression of Mario and including many of the speed and platforming elements that make up Sonic and rolling them into one game. The results are pretty good, and not "pretty good for a licensed game," but honestly just pretty good.

Rather than being content to rip-off its main influences, phoning the gameplay in and calling it a day, the platforming and level design are tight and thought out very well. Everything about the game should be recognizable to fans of the show with many characters making appearances as boss characters and what have you. Instead of dropping Bowser into lava or sending Robotnik running his fat ass off to find another crazy robot to fight you with, it'll just be wacky little characters from the TV show.

A simple platformer that looks great, plays great, and stays fairly true to its license. Guess you can't ask for much more than that. You don't really even need to be a fan of the show to enjoy it. So long as you enjoy good platforming, I don't see why you couldn't have a bit of fun in Acme Acres.

Zero Tolerance
And finally we have this little oddity. A first-person shooter for the Genny. Not here because it's great, but because I personally found it to be quite indicative of the Genny's power.

When I first played Zero Tolerance it seemed to me no more than a fancy tech demo that was made for the purpose of simply saying "it CAN be done." In most ways, I guess the game indeed DOES end up being that way, but if you can adapt to the strange bits, what we have here is a fairly decent 16-bit Doom clone.

As you can tell from the screenshot, the action takes place in a window that doesn't even cover half of the screen. It seems a bit too cramped and most Doom snobs of the day understandably, and rightfully so, probably stopped there. While the visual field is quite limited, there's decent amount of special effects that get displayed and unlike the SNES release of Doom, walls actually have textures and various other little details that help make things seem a bit more lively. You're given five random mercenary dudes (and a chick) to select from the start to clear out each stage's alottment of baddies. Each character varies slightly regarding their basic abilities and equipment. Level design is fairly simple and made easier to navigate thanks to the on-screen map. There's a decent selection of weapons to play around with and about 40 stages to clear out should you decide to spend more than 20 minutes with this one.

The biggest kiss-off might be the difficulty, which at times can be absolutely frustrating as the game seems to send huge swarms of guys for you to kill when there's really no chance for you to possibly deal as much damage back as they're doing to you.

Zero Tolerance is easily skippable and in no way essentail, I just thought it deserved a mention due to its technical merits.

And there you have it. A decently sizable (though definitely not all-inclusive) list of games that were fun, sometimes overlooked, and only available on the Genesis. So, why not go Virtual Console/XBLA/ROM it up and enjoy some of those lost gems of a bygone era that the good ol' Genesis had to offer!

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