Sega Rocked
by Irish

Sega Rocked

You know, in a more fair world, thats all I would have to say in this intro. But I guess things aren't fair, and you being the demanding sort of web browsing people you are, you desire me to elaborate.

Sega Rocked. It just did. The sixteen bit era was the time when everything was in perfect alignment for Sega. It was the era when it shook up and showed the industry who's got the game. Oh sure, Nintendo had Square, and Miyamoto, but Sega just had spirit and the drive to rock things in their own unique way. When Sega wasn't focusing on being all next gen, or hip, or putting out that other portable system with color, they were bloody awesome. Sort of like that super talented classmate you know that really shines when they thing noone else is looking, otherwise they are just trying way too hard at times to be hip and just always end up making the fool of themselves. So this here is a list of the Genesis at it's coolest, of Sega at their best. Of the games that just don't fit anywhere else. This is the list of games you gotta play and get off the virtual console before that ineligible day comes when you either die or must give up gaming.

"Considering there was a thing called gulf war syndrome at the time of this games release, I'm surprised lawsuits wern't filed"
Desert Strike
Developed by Electronic Arts
Released: April/91

Desert strike came out back when Bush Sr. first declared War on the middle east to get his hands on some oil and lay the smackdown on Saddam Hussein. To celebrate the Military superiority of the good ol USofA, Electronic Arts released this ode to modern warfare. Hell, they even made the villain a clone of Saddam, so tell me this game wasn't cashing in on the gulf war BS.

And you just know that this shit would not fly in todays era. I mean, one game a few years tried to repeat Desert Strikes shtick of beating on the dictator of the decade by giving you the chance to lay the smackdown on the on Osma Bin Ladden, Street Fighter II style. It ended up on every "worst game of the year" list and was justly forgotten soon afterwards. Maybe it was the cheesy rap, Osma Bin Laddens uncanny ability to land a bicycle kick, or the fact that the game looked and played like complete dog dookie. The world may never be truly ready for the answer.

But hey, lets look back, WAY back, this Genesis game had you playing a helicopter pilot (a radical thought back then) riding high and unleashing death on the Iraqi swine while rescuing POW's and attacking targets of interest from a top down, overhead, isometric perspective.

Oh sure I can give you a lift to the nearest bar. It's not like I got anything better to do than to SAVE THE WORLD OR ANYTHING!
Part of what made this game so awesome was it's open-ended nature (suck it GTA, your shtick was being done ten years before you made it a cliche). You had a mission structure that was laid out for in the beginning of each level, but being the hotshot macho pilot you are, you could just say nuts to that and stick out on your own. Blowing stuff up at random, searching out your objectives before having them listed on the subscreen's map, or just searching for POW's. Sure, 9/10 you would just fly into an active alert zone, with enemies that had 10x the armor and 20x the firepower which equaled your getting a swarm of hydra missiles shoved up your ass for your trouble, but it was still an awesome innovation at the time. Hell, you could even mess up your missions, and get chewed out either by blowing up the oil tanks you were supposed to liberate (guess papa bush would just have to live without those extra jagillions lining his pockets.) or by gunning down the spy with vital info you were supposed to save. Hey, it was all up to you man. It's your chopper, your guns, your missiles, your call.

But beyond that freedom, Desert Strike was just fun. Managing your health, fuel, and ammo, and finding replacements for each on the battlefield, blowing a helluva lot of stuff up, saving POW's and just being a stellar soldier had a grand GI Joe feel about it. It was a perfect fusion of tactical warfare and action fueled gaming and is still a helluva lot of fun to play today, especially with it's sequels on call to follow up on. Some rightly heckled it's main selling point of cashing in on the Gulf War, which was, and still, a selling point of the poorest tastes, but at least the game was fun and spawned an awesome series. Too bad that same series died somewhere during the 32-bit generation.

Stick this bit of cinematic gaming in your craw and smoke it square
Developed by Delphine Software International
Released: Nov/93

Okay, here's how I see this event going down. It's one of those parties where all the video game characters are invited. So, Cloud shows up to draw in attention towards squares newest FFVII spinoff, and he's there in drag. Why is he in drag you may ask? Why did he dress in drag in the first place when he still had to fight his way past those guards to get to Tifa, and did it easily? Look, some things are best left unquestioned, and hitherto unanswered alright? So yeah, cloud is there, and after a few drinks he gets even more obnoxious then he usually is. He's raving about how his game was the first game to feature awesome FMV, and only could have been done on the Playstation. He's mocking the Nintendo fanboys, giving the middle finger to Segas reps, and just being even more of a jerkoff than he usually is. Then a man in a brown leather duster, a white T-Shirt and jeans pulls out a futuristic looking pistol, and whips cloud into unconsciousness with it. The crowd erupts into applause. The men come to shake his hand and the women come to just get close to this unquestionable hero. But the strangest thing is, noone seems to recognize him. When he's finally asked for his name, he states proudly... "I am Conrad Hart. and MY game was the truly first game to bring cool looking FMV to home consoles, and too make it FUN."

Yeah, that little episode was my thoughts on the pretentiousness of the fanboys who try to tout FFVII as being original. You really want to see the birth of FMV on home consoles, you gotta go back to a product known as Out of This World by Delphine studios. OotW was a interesting little game, about a scientist mucking around a particle accelerator invention, and getting beamed into another world where there are literally a million +1 ways to die. It's not an action game, but the type of game that feels like a text adventure played out through action trappings. It was notable because it used a detailed (by 16-bit standards) polygon engine to present lively and well choreographed FMV sequences to further it's story, which was way more innovative to be seen on a 16-bit engine then it was on a 32-bit CD rom title. Sadly the in game designs were blocky, and the trial and error and die and error and die again and error and fucking die yet again nature of taking a text adventure and making into an action game made the game repetitive, frustrating, and damn near impossible unless you found a walk-through in Gamepro or EGM at the time (this was back in the early nineties, and the internet was not around to have your back at that time). But Delphine learned from this overall average game, and less than eight months later released one of the most legendary 16-bit adventures ever created, "Flashback: The Quest for Identity."

Believe it or not, but THIS used to be cutting edge
Flashback was more than a step forward, it was a quantum leap above OotW in every regard. The FMV sequences were even more detailed, action packed, and astounding. The in game graphics were still polygonal based, but were much more detailed and interesting looking. Backgrounds were all pre-rendered and lushly detailed and drawn. Animation was fluid, and sharp in that Prince of Persia way. The music was... not there most of the time. As Conrad makes his way through the levels, you only got background sound effects to evoke atmosphere, and music only chimes in when something happens, be it meeting someone important, doing something important, or when you engage in a battle. The sound-effects rocked and I don't see why gunfire can't sound as cool in todays super high tech, super computers posing as game consoles, as it did in this game that ran on a technological dinosaur. The trial and error nature of OotW was still around, but there were now less ways to die and the puzzles were simplified. The game obviously took inspiration from Prince of Persia, since Conrad, runs, leaps, climbs and battles in a very similar fashion, but instead of swords and sorcery we got alien invasions, pistols, and science fiction trappings making this game it's own beast. Even the story was head and shoulders above 90% of the crap we got force-fed at the time.

Okay, let me just note that the SNES got it's port of Flashback like two years later, I played it and it just didn't feel right. Maybe it was because I was a Sega fanboy for years, maybe it really was the slower processing speed of the SNES pushing those non-Mode-7 effects. But I still say that for such a prominent title, coming to the SNES party two years late invalidates it somewhat as a multi-platform title.

Sadly, the story of Flashback is not with a happy ending. There eventually was a sequel called Fade to Black that happened on PC's and the PS1, but I don't wanna talk about that. You can read about it on various websites if you want. I'd just as soon cry myself to sleep than think about it. But that debacle aside, Flashback was truly the first game to really push forward the idea that FMV doesn't have to be B-grade actors in cheesy outfits, or a band-aid that hides crap game play. That it can be produced by a computer, and still look awesome. Sure, Delphine more or less dug it's own grave, but the seeds of Cloud Strifes rise to fame can be found in this awesome title. As for the seeds to his cross-dressing, well lets just let sleeping dogs lie.

Developed By Sega
Released: Nov/90

Everyone else on the planet has said it all about this game. Brilliant, yadda yadda yadda, flawless arcade port, yadda yadda yadda, timeless, yadda yadda yadda.

The people on the planet that haven't played this awesome game are Halo fanboys who can't play a game without crap single player campaign and an online mode that lets you play with potty mouthed gradeschoolers all over the planet, graphic whores that are so ingrained into CG that they can't even so much as look at a sketchbook without feeling nauseous, and those too damn young to have enjoyed the 16-bit era. It's brilliant, it's awesome, it's been talked about to death for nearly two decades now. Just go play the damn game already.

Someone needs either a hug, or a laxitive
Developed by Extended Play Productions
Released Feb/92

In a time when Disney platformers and Street Fighter II was king, Chakan came out and should have been a huge hit. It was dark, moody, it had a unique game play and power up system. It had a megaman esque level select stage and the bosses were typically easier if you moved in the right order. And the ending... damn what an ending. There should have been a sequel, there WAS one planned for the Dreamcast, before things imploded with that system.

Anyway, Chakan was easily one of the more story intensive games of it's time. Chakan is a master swordsman who, in his pride and arrogance, challenged death to a duel. If Chakan won, he would gain immortality. If death one, Chakan's soul was his. Chakan won, and then he lost. You see, immortality is really not all that great. Things get kinda monotonous after a couple millennia or so... or so I hear... heh heh... So Chakan looked up death again and asked him what he would have to do to get out of this ill-conceived contract. Deaths answer was simple, just destroy all evil. OH! You mean ONLY that?!?! So Chakan has apparently spent the past few millennia looking up everything evil in the phone book, from pop star and former Black Eyed Pea starlet Fergie and every film studio that ever offered Jack Black a starring role, and taking it out. As it turns out, well he's almost done. Thats where the game starts. You got eight more icons of evil to wipe out, give or take a final boss or two. So what are you waiting for?

The game play works a bit like a morbid Mega Man title. Go left to right, take out mid boss. Go further left to right, take out boss and capture weapon. Chakan is a swordsman so he wields dual blades. You just hold down the attack button and move the control pad in the direction you want chakan to kill something. This may sound kinda rudimentary now, but back then this was a brand new idea and was quite a bit of fun to play around with. Chakan also has magic, mix potions together to get a teleportation spell, a shield, add fire to your blades, shoot fireballs, It was a very interesting concept. And the weapons you got from the bosses all were pretty fun and added to Chakan's abilities.

You know, I'd suggest pastels... but Im afraid he'd kill me for it
Graphics were... blue, purple, and black. These tones dominated everything in Chakan, and while the sprites were detailed and the animation well implemented, someone shoulda told the designers the Genesis has more colors than THAT. The audio on all fronts falls into the category of being functional and unmemorable.

Sadly, the game was hard. VERY hard. Even by Genesis standards. There was no password, no battery backup. Sure Chakan is immortal, but the patience of gamers was not. Few ever saw the ending, and fewer still bothered to subject themselves to the repeated punishments and beating necessary to get there which was a damn shame. The ending counts as one of my favorites EVER and the game itself was a helluva lot of fun once you got the technique down and levels memorized. Chakan was a contender for the list of Sega Genesis games you never played, but ended up here. There was actually a pretty strong print campaign for Chakan, and so the reasons why this game fell by the wayside remains firmly placed on the high challenge of the game, which flat out ticks me off since the game was a standout on all counts and should have gone onto bigger and better things. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Beyond Oasis
Developed by Ancient
Released: Dec/94
If this game had been a little longer and more complex, it may now be known as the Zelda slayer.

It was an ambitious and original angle at the time that still manages to shine with awesome game play to this day. You're a prince who spends his off days treasure hunting in strange, cursed isles instead of doing princely stuff like getting tail from loose princesses named Zelda (oops, note to self. Edit that part out before posting the final draft) and just sitting around all day. His most recent find is a magical sentient armlet that is capable of commanding the four spirits of nature, Water, fire, earth and shadow. All he has to do is take the armlet to the various temples, spelunk them, defeat a boss and whatever random uglies that stand in his way and solve brain dead puzzles in order to get those spirits to help you out.

Oh, and it just so happens that when you get back to your home castle, there is a crisis that has developed that requires you to go on a quest to those aforementioned temples in order to get the help of those spirits. Yah, thats a bit convenient aint it? The Quest also happens to involve an evil bracelet and your long lost sister that you never knew you had.

Okay, so the game has a cliche, contrived, and altogether stupid story. This game kicked Zelda's ass when it came to the combat engine. Instead of just swinging your sword add nauseam, once you swing your dagger you can pull off a tripple kick combo, jump kick enemies into each other, do a sweet multi-hit combo or just execute a bicycle kick and plow through damn near anything. It was a sweet and altogether awesome engine, and when coupled with the fact that the spirits you summon actually follow you around and help out NPC style, well it just got that much more interesting. I got two words for you boys and girls: Ifrit rocks. Ifrit is the fire spirit (duh) that is built like the Genie from Disneys Aladdin flick and fights like Mike Tyson. Seriously, in all of video gaming there has never been an Ifrit that was this damn cool.

Sadly, while the game had sick presentation values, the overall quest, world, and dungeon design were at their best, second rate. Dungeons were very swift affairs, the over world had very few secrets and side quests, bosses while looking awesome were just too simple too defeat save for maybe one or two. And the game is far too short to be ultimately as satisfying as your average Zelda.

But you know what, this game is still damn fun. I've sounded much harsher on the game than I mean to be. That's because I enjoyed the combat system and the skills of the spirits so much, I wanted everything else to shine as brightly. That said It's one of those games that I consistently go back to every now and then and play just for fun. It's got great graphics and a grand overall atmosphere, an awesome combat engine that is really fun and just deep enough to keep things interesting and entertaining no matter what you're doing. With a bit more polish, this game really would have a proper Rival to Zelda: LTTP, but it's still a fun ride that you definitely should try.

I'm all for the buddy system. But thats just creepy
Golden Axe
Developed By Sega
Released: Dec/89

Golden Axe is a bit of oddity. It is technically, in game play form and execution, a beat em up. But instead of fist fighting and using special moves like Streets of Rage, Golden Axe used swords, axes, and magic to kick it's brand of ass. Instead of fighting through mean city streets, you walk through grand castles and on the backs of magical and mythical creatures and ruined landscapes. Instead of fighting street thugs and dominatrixes, you fight mutants and amazons and steel their mythically powered rides. Man, I know which one sounds cooler to me. I mean, Golden Axe even has the better tunes to get you into an ass kicking mood, and the final bosses are far more satisfying to beat on than anything Streets of Rage gave us.

There were three Golden Axe titles, and to be honest, all of them are interchangeable. The third entry tried to mix things up by adding in new characters with unique stats, and multiple pathways, but it was still just as much an expansion pack as Golden Axe II was.

There really isn't that much you can say about the Golden Axe games. Not because they are mediocre, but because they are so simple and fun because their simplicity. If I had to pick a favorite, I would choose the first since thats when it felt like everything just gelled to make a most supreme game, but the other two are great as well. Streets of Rage gets plenty of respect as the Gennys top-most brawler, but I say thats a reputation that Golden Axe deserves more than Streets of Rage II.

Shining Force
Developed By Climax Entertainment
Released: March/92

Shining force was the western worlds first taste of top down, grid based SRPG gaming, and I've always had a soft spot for this particular game.

It has all the elements of a derivative 16-bit storytelling. Lost civilizations, an aggressive kingdom igniting a series of wars, an upstart army being the lands only hope, and ancient evils behind all the bruhaha. Meh, it still works and I have no problems with Shining Forces story. Sure it could be better, but it gets the job done and doesn't make you roll your eyes like current Final Fantasy storylines. And while I'm talking about the story, I still think this game has one of the more unique and endearing endings ever.

As far as game play goes, each of your characters inches across the map as fast as they can go until they encounter an enemy. When they attack the view shifts to a very detailed cinematic of the forces clashing. This was flat out incredible graphical displays back in the day and really made for a unique experience that was not available anywhere else.

Once again, it's the game design that causes this game to stand out. Just about every level has you rushing numerically superior foes, and about once every so often, the game will decide to throw a platoon of stronger enemies at you... causing you to have to rethink your current battle strategies to survive. It's nothing that you will need to break out an untranslated text of Sun Tzu's "Art of War" for, but it does help make for an exciting battle. Also adding to the fantasy/medieval feel is all the cool units you can have. You can have birdmen, an old retired knight with a personal helicopter/jetpack thing strapped on his back, wizards, healers, dwarves, centurion knights, werewolves, archers, and even more unique characters. There's even a ninja and a samurai thrown in there. The downside of all this is that you can only have twelve units on the field, so you gotta pick which guy is gonna kick the most ass in the upcoming battle. These character classes get even cooler once you get them up to level ten and can promote them into an even more awesome class that gains stats quicker with a level up and looks even more intense, and often times gets new abilities too.

Oh, and the soundtrack just begs to be mentioned. It's awesome. It was the one of the first game soundtracks after Phantasy Star II that I wished I could buy. Even today, the tunes still kick up the butch, ass kicking, militaristic vibe up to 11.

The common opinion about the 16-bit battle was that the Genesis got it's ass handed to it by the SNES when it came to RPG's. While I think the SNES had the better overall RPG's (you just can't argue against FFVI and Chrono Trigger) that particular battle wasn't the outright slaughter most seem to look back and view it as. The Genesis got it's licks in when it came to RPG's, and Shining Force was probably one of it's most elite games when it came time for the Genny to represent the RPG market.

Jurassic Park
Developed By Blue Sky Software
Released: Aug/93

Okay, regarding pop-culture, I have a theory that I like to call the Fairy God Mother theory. The theory goes like this; back at the start of the nineties, there was a Fairy God Mother making rounds in various forms of pop culture. She promised those with talent that they would have the opportunity to make it big, but that the spell would end at around the middle of the decade, new years day of 1996 to be precise. After that, they were to be left to their own devices. Now, understand that this may seem very contrived and unlikely. But I would bid those of the 16-bit generation to give pause and thought to this argument and the times of that era. At the end of 1995, Sega, the once prominent video game developer had become an industry joke thanks to the bungled release of the Saturn as well as it's obsession with add-ons for the genesis. Nintendo would release it's first lukewarm console in the N64, and would subsist solely on in-house talent for their home consoles success for more than a decade before releasing the WII. Portable gaming had all but died out due to the Game Boys cinder block with four colors design and the Game Gear and Lynx's effect of sucking more than just battery power at the speed of light. It wasn't until Pokemon revived the portable gaming market in Japan in 1997, and Nintendo would revive the defunct game boy with the Game Boy Color to propel it's newfound gravy train.

It wasn't just video games, Saturday Morning Cartoons began to utterly suck, with literally nothing good on after years of quality shows such as Gargoyles, Darkwing Duck, Exosquad, and other hit programming, usually from Disney, of all studios. Speaking of Disney, you remember when they were cool? Okay so they started to suck out loud with Pocohontis, and never really ever turned back... but at least they still had a hit animated TV series in Gargoyles... until they handed it over to a different director and it too, sucked out loud and died soon after. It's also interesting to note that Pocohontis ALSO hit at that "mid-decade" point. hmmmm

Music changed as well. One of my favorite groups, Bon Jovi, who can often be relied upon for some feel good lyrics and brilliant song writing ability released the morose "These Days" album coming off of their megahit, "Keep the Faith." They would then submerge for five years to make somewhat of a comeback. The mid nineties would herald an era when traditional rock groups would fall by the way side making way for the genre of pimple punk rock that I despise on the basis that I'm no longer 13, nor am I emo and know how to wash my hair. Mariah Carey released her last good album, Fantasy, then would go on to be institutionalized and become the sexed up, shrill ho we know and hate today. Gangsta Rap was beginning it's meticulous rise to prominence in pop-culture media within the next five years. Oh sure, Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre seemed amusing at the time. But little by little the censors were pushed further and further back and people became bored of the Spice Girls (who ALSO made their emergence at the mid-decade point) and pimple-punk-rock as well as Marilyn Manson's campaign to have himself spade and neutered, and thus Gangsta rap came in and gave the music industry that "I hate it but cant stop listening to it" vibe that has made Jerry Springer the plague of daytime channel surfing that he rightly is. Television also films also changed, quality programming like Star Trek would jump the shark, and Arnold Schwarzenegger would star in True Lies and never again put out a good film. It was also at this moment in time that Lucas began production on the Prequal Trilogy, and we all know how healthy that was for the franchise don't we? Effin midichlorians.

Okay okay, I digress again. MOVING ON!

I'm perfectly serious. All of you out there that 25 or over, look back at this period and tell me that at or around 95/96 everything didn't just turn into shit for a while in your favorite mediums. All of these bad occurrences in pop culture media occurred within the same one year time frame, so please don't tell me something wasn't up in the various entertainment industries.

Now, the point of all that is to prove that if you want GOOD vintage gaming you gotta go back. Way back. Back before things went wrong for whatever reason. Back to that idealistic time period before the music died on all fronts. Back to when Sega and Nintendo battled for prominence, and the only thing Sony had anything to do with the game industry was putting out a decent big screen TV to play your games on. And to prove just how terribly things have changed, I'm hitting you up with the awesomest video game based on a hit movie ever. Jurassic Park for the Genesis.

Now, we all know that licenced video games, are typically to be avoided at all costs. But back in 1993, most of them were actually good. And in this golden era, Jurassic Park was the best. What made it the best? Well I'm glad you asked my eager little padawans, I'm here to tell you. It was the raptor. Nope, I don't mean hunting him, nor do I mean running from him, or fighting him in a boss fight, not even fighting an army of raptors (all of which you did have to do at some point in the game) but in the Genesis version of Jurassic Park, you actually PLAYED as the Raptor. How effin awesome is that? Screw climbing from stalactites and navigating a river in a Rubber raft purchased from Canadian Tire. Hit me up with that high leaping, human eating, lighting fast, super strong killing machine, please and thank you. Oh, and Sega, while your at it, please through in some sweet graphics, sound effects, and make the game play varied and challenging. Really? You did that already? I love you 16-bit Sega.

Yeah, sure Grants path through the game was alright. That river level was lame though, and him being a scrawny paleontologist just felt so boring after you get your hands on that Raptor and start tearing people shits up. Yeah, now THAT is how you do a movie based video game. Thank you sir, and may I please have another?

Contra: Hard Corps
Developed By Konami
Released: Sept/94

All over the internet, people like to insult Hard Corps and call it the hardest genesis game in existence. They decry it's high difficulty as the reason that the SNES's Alien Wars is considered the definitive 16-bit contra title. They will tell you that Konami really screwed the game over when they got rid of the Japanese versions Life meter in favor of the traditional, one-hit wonder, system that contra is known by.

I'll tell you that these whiners are a bunch of pussies that couldn't beat a Contra game without a game genie, divine intervention, a life bar, and the difficulty level set on the easiest setting possible.

I beat this game, beat all the endings, all the bosses, without cheats or emulation help. I beat it when it first came out, and beat it in three days. You may think that makes me some sort of gaming prodigy, I'd just say this game just requires the typical contra formula of level memorization and steady nerves. Thats it. You just gotta know when the shit is coming at you, and where it's coming from. They you just point your boom stick at it, and shoot.

And hey, maybe it's just me, but I think this game has it all over Alien Wars. Alien Wars opens up with a ruined city scape that your boys just sorta, dance on into. Nope, Hard Corps sends you into a city in an armored vehicle at first, which promptly crashes and sends you out a windshield. It's then that you just start running and gunning. This title has NO overhead stages, and even mimics the mode 7 (old SNES term) for some boss fights. and lemme just say that the bosses here are about a billion times cooler than most of the idiots in Alien Wars. They are bigger, stranger, have more attacks, and are just more satisfying to blow up.

As for Graphics, this title just dominated the 16-bit era and Alien Wars was it's personal bitch. Whatever Path you pick for level 2, your either fighting in a multi-part boss fight with a huge mech while running down a road TOWARD the screen all mode-7 like, or your flying towards a lab taking all sorts of freaky aircraft along the way. Both stages really smack you in the face with their 16-bit graphical intensity. The soundtrack, well it makes you wanna blow the shit up. What else can you say about a Contra game?

Contra: Hard Corps was all the Contra I wanted to play for over fifteen years, until some genius at Konami went and said "hey, howsabouts we makes a contra game that DOESN'T suck"? Then Shattered Soldier happened, and the rest is history.

Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master
Developed by Sega
Released: July/93

I swear, I just can't figure out how the hell the industry looks back, points at Revenge of Shinobi, and lauds it the title of coolest Shinobi title ever. I mean, joe had what, three moves in that game? Stand and shoot shuriken, duck and shoot shuriken, and rainbow shuriken. Dammit Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden had cooler moves than that, and he hung out on eight bit systems. the genesis had an extra button and 8 extra bits of processing power to muck around with, and they still made a game less fun. And so what if Joe Musashi fought Spider-man and Batman? it still means he killed them with the gajillion+ shuriken he had wedged up his arse.

Now, shinobi 3 on the other hand, puts that Upstart Ninja Gaiden and the prior shinobi games in their place. It is arguably THE BEST ninja action game ever conceived. What makes it so is that precious mixture of slick control and awesome level design. What, you want a story? Enemy ninja organization with giant airship starts fucking with your shit, and you aint gonna take that. GAME ON! There's your story.

Anyway, so yah. The level design and game play in Shinobi III are absolutely awesome. Now Joe has the ability to wall jump, kick downward, dash and slash, and stick to ceilings alongside of all the shuriken tossing and rainbow shuriken tossing moves from Revenge of Shinobi. Now don't get me wrong, shuriken are cool and all... BUT NOT COOL ENOUGH TO MAKE AN ENTIRE GAME ABOUT THROWING THEM! So yah, alongside of all those slick new ninja moves, Joes got some cool levels with hot challenges to use em on. In this game you will fight entire armies, blitz enemy fortresses and bio-weapons laboratories, outsmart your way out of a trap filled lair of enemy ninjas, take out a HUGE flying battleship, and more. The levels are brilliantly arranged to give you a true challenge every time, while flipping the script on you after every level to keep you guessing.

Oh, and you want bosses you sloppy bitch? Shinobi III has got bosses. Mecha Dragons, freaky four armed samurai's, mechanized transforming machines of death, a mecha ninja, bio-weapons galore... it's all here and they are all challenging and intense affairs. Man I love this game.

All this is served up with some slick graphics. Everything in the game animates fluidly and with detail. Explosions and enemy deaths all look great and the graphics have a crisp, colorful feel that was rarely achieved on the ol Genny. Music is typically above average, with some real standouts. The music played for the surfing stages in particular has a very intense, kickass vibe that is begging for a modern remix or two.

Shinobi III is perfect, brilliant, and awesome. It's the product of years of meditations on what it means to concoct the perfect ninja game. It is the fucking Yoda of Ninja titles in the sense that it may be ancient, but it'll still rip all would be pretenders a new poop chute if they step out of line.

I always hated this boss. If his quick attacks don't kill you, his little freaks will
Splatterhouse III
Developed By Namco
Released: March/93

You know, if the Splatterhouse franchise came out today, I doubt it would be all that big a hit. The creators would probably try to make it look as realistic as possible, with buckets of blood, gruesome Resident Evil style mutations with Fatal Frame sound design, coupled with a 3D engine trying (IE failing) to represent 2D beat-em-up goodness (was God Hand a fluke, or a work of supreme beings that clover employed?).
But in 16-bits, the series, and Splatterhouse III in particular, is a lot of fun. It gets to be gruesome without being over the top, amusing, and the sound effects will send only mild shivers and not interfere with your play time. As for the game play, thanks to 2D 16-bit goodness, gets to be finely tuned and very fun. But for something like what Splatterhouse is trying to be, the limitations of the Genesis only work in the games favor. I mean the environments, special effects, and story are far from comforting, but they all function to be as scary as a typical haunted house attraction. You only get mild shivers and usually just end up laughing with the creators once something spooky happens. The whole survival horror genre went and jumped the shark sometime back, and it was because the games were all trying to be too realistic with their blood and gore. I mean creepy mutants and explicit butcherings all only go so far until the shock value wears off and you are bored stiff. Only Fatal Frame has avoided the pitfall of being too graphic by purposely being intellectual with the scares, I'd say more about it... but thats a whole other article.

Jennifers spirit shows up to tell rick how much he sucks in the Game over screen.
With Nintendo's anti-violence policy, and the Turbo-duos failing sales, Splatterhouse could only have worked on the Genesis. And boy howdy did it work. Sure the first two games were fun, but way too similar too each other. Splatterhouse three mixed up the formula with cooler graphics, a more in depth game play option that incorporated minor fighting game style combo's and controller motions, a branching storyline and non linear levels. The level design and sound effects all work to be only as fun as they are creepy (Take notes Resident evil, this is something you've NEVER managed). And the game manages to give a fun type of spook factor with some fugly foes to beat even fuglier, and some of those bosses are far and above anything RE has ever given us.

I love this game, the entire series is cool, but Splatterhouse III in particular is a standout title that just rocks all around.

Mortal Kombat
Developed By Probe Entertainment LTD
Released: Sept/93

Mortal Monday, thats what it was all about baby. There was once a time when Street Fighter II ruled the arcades. In fact, you didn't go to arcades back in 1991, you went to play Street Fighter II. That was how big it was. Any other games there were there just for other gamers to kill time until the hard core crowd left and they could have a shot at the SFII console.

Then Mortal Kombat happened.

Mortal Kombat was a lot like that vapid but incredibly hot and exotic foreign exchange student walking by while you were making time with the attractive yet characteristically mild and common girl next door. I mean oh sure we know she's the better match. We know she's got the substance, the looks, the character and heart... but you just can't stop yourself from making time with that other girl. You carry her books to class, show her around the neighborhood, call her every night. You let her treat you like a pet, you put up with her seeing the entire football, basketball, hockey, and soccer team in a single night. Sometimes she rewards you with a pat on the head, and others with a make out session so intense that it incinerates your briefs. She's flighty, dense, and inconsistent in her affections, but you still can't help yourself. Every kiss on the cheek and condescending giggle has you utterly titillated. And when she really decides to give it to you, you're a fucking lovesick zombie for weeks.

Eventually you understand that your flirtation isn't going to go anywhere substantial, and even if it did... would you really want to spend all your time with this vapid attention whore? No. Soon you get tired of her and go crawling back to your Street fighter II and beg her for forgiveness. Eventually you two kiss and make up and everything is right in mudville, at least until Virtua Fighter comes to town and starts rocking your world.

Yah, that was Mortal Kombat in a nutshell. Now fighting games are probably one of my least favorite genres, but even I could see that Street Fighter II had it all over Mortal Kombat in terms of involving game play and long lasting entertainment value. But Mortal Kombat was different. It was exotic and interesting. It's storyline was miles deeper than the stuff that went down in Street Fighter, the graphics were by far more engrossing. The sounds felt more viscerally impactful instead of cartoony. Oh, and did I mention the fatalities? They were awesome. In Street Fighter, you beat an opponent, they lie down on the ground and you go onto the next match. BORING!!! Knock em into the pit! Rip their heart out! Tear their head off! Oh sure, Mortal Kombats characters were mostly interchangeable with very few combos and moves unique to each character, and scarcely any technique involved in the matchups, both of which limited it's longevity as a game goes, but MK was so different and unique that people didn't care and thus Street Fighter got a lot less love at the arcades. I could also mention that as far as hollywood movies go; Mortal Kombat kicked Street Fighters ass so hard I shouldn't even laugh, but I do.

When the time came for Mortal Kombat to go to the consoles, there was a big hubub. The ESRB was being talked about for a long time before that moment, but the moment MK announced it's imminent invasion of the consoles, the ESRB magically appeared and started rating shit.

And I'm positive you all know the tale of how Nintendo wanted to maintain a family friendly image, so they asked Acclaim to water down the fatalities and turn the blood into sweat. Sega on the other hand, took a more... marketable approach that pleased everybody. Officially, they did the same thing that Nintendo did. But shrewdly there was a "secret" code in the instruction manual that turned on the fatalities that brought home all the blood and gore on your Genesis. This was not the first time Video Games drew headlines due to violent content. Night Trap for the Sega CD did that, but this was the first time the American congress called hearings just to point at Mortal Kombat for the Genesis and say they did not support this game eating away at American family values. This of course just lead to more sales for Sega, so they couldn't have been happier.

Mortal Monday, It was more than the day that Mortal Kombat Kame to Konsoles (...WHAT!? Stop looking at me like that, it's not like you haven't done the same thing when chatting about Mortal Kombat) but it was also the day that the SNES got it's controller wedged up the wrong port. Sideways no less. In all of the battles that took place during the 16-bit era, there was none that went as badly (financially speaking) for Nintendo as Mortal Monday. When MKII hit a year later, Nintendo for the first time let one of it's games depict blood and guts. Seems that getting a financial and commercial beatdown of epic proportions does a lot to erode a strong moral stance. But, frankly, while Mortal Kombat II and III were both better titles, they just didn't hit with the resonance that the first Mortal Kombat did. The first game gave the Genesis its most resonant commercial success, gave birth to the ESRB, and laid the foundations for tools like Jack Thompson to make a living. There is no way you could have a Genesis tribute without remembering that particular moment in time.

For what it did for the genesis:

For the game itself:

Honorable mentions of games that I wanted to include but didn't have the time to write up reviews for...

Comix Zone
Earthworm Jim 1 & 2 (technically multi-platform, but still awesome)
Vectorman 1 & 2
Streets of Rage
Sonic CD
Dune: The Battle for Arrakis

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