Uniquely Sega
by Irish

Hey how you doing? Welcome back to day........... what day of (Too Cool For) Sega Genesis Week is this again? Does it even matter? It's the day when we are taking a look at the games that only Sega could have brought to you. Thats what day it is alright!

Anyhoo, Sega had kind of a brilliant, gaming artistic thing going on back in the nineties. They worked and encouraged developers to think different, be different. Follow the gaming road less traveled. Damn, Sega used to be brilliant didn't they? And these five games are games that the infamous Sega scream was made for. Yeah, thats what day it is. It's Sega day kids. Hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.

Hey sonic, you think we'll still be this cool fourteen years from now?
Sonic and Knuckles
Developed By Sonic Team
Released: Oct/94

You know you can't have a Sega genesis week without this guy, you just can't. He represents everything that is Sega. Unique, swift, charming, intelligent, and utterly fucking played out. I mean, when was the last time sonic actually make a decent console title? I think it was right here. This game. Sonic & Knuckles was the last, really good Sonic title EVER! Man, when your game is so good that you can carry a franchise for over a decade on just the reverence of your memory, you know you were fucking awesome once. OH NO! Sonics morphed into the fucking Mick Jagger of the video game industry!!! And that would make Sega the Rolling Stones? I'm sorry, I gotta sit down. Wait a minute, I'm already sitting down... dammit this article has messed me up.

Okay, It's cool. I'm gonna get through this, I'm just gonna suck it up and remember the past. Damn this game was awesome. It had everything you want in a sonic game. Unique game play that caters to quick reflexes and tricky platforming, unique and fun pathways for you to play as the other characters, that were actually pretty damn fun themselves. The graphics were yummy, the stages were awesome, the boss fights were cool, this game just really ended Sonics 16-bit tenure with class.

This is still more fun than anything sonic has done in years
But WAIT! There's more. In what was the most brilliant and inspired idea in the entire history of 16-bit gaming, Sega designed Sonic 3 to be linked up to Sonic & Knuckles, and to be played as knuckles. Thereby further establishing Sonics rival as a credible character and expanding an already cool game even further. It was a helluva idea and the fact that they purposely designed certain bosses and areas to only be accessible when playing as Knuckles through this lock-on technology was sheer class. Oh hell, they even coded the game to let you play Sonic 2 as Knuckles, which made most of the bosses even easier.

The lock-on technology should have shook up the 16-bit era, instead it was merely an awesome denouncement. It came at the last big Christmas for 16-bit and never really got to be worked into any other titles. Sonic or otherwise. Sega COULD have expanded this idea with the final sonic title released a year later, but nope. They just had to try to compete with the Square/Nintendo alliances star product Super Mario RPG, by putting Sonic into an isometric adventure. Sadly, I didn't really go nuts for Super Mario RPG, and I liked Sonic 3D even less. They didn't even put in any bonuses using that lock on gimmick, and let one of their most awesome ideas fade away.


and a shot of hard liquor to choke down the tears at how redundant this franchise has become.

16-bit graphics and gameplay at their finest hour
Ecco: The Tides of Time
Developed By Novotrade International
Released: Aug/94

You know sometimes, I really hate 3D game play engines.

Okay, I know that they've been around for over fifteen years and grand stuff has been done with them, incredible and awesome experiences that are pulled off by the awesomest game designers in the biz. But for every five of those, there is a series that didn't make it to these days of refined lock on targeting and properly positioned camera angles. A series that while ruled in 2-D, did not survive it's first painful and awkward steps into the realm of 3D. Ecco the Dolphin is such a franchise.

Now, I'm not even gonna go on about what a piece of shite the Dreamcast game was. But instead, I'm gonna tell you what a grand game the genesis titles were. Especially the second title.

The first Ecco game was an atmospheric smash. It had depth, soul, heart, challenge, and was so unique and interesting. But it was also pretty damn boring at times. I mean there just weren't many bosses, or any real action bits worth speaking about. But the slick control scheme and incredible atmosphere of the game just rocked.

I still get shivers when I run into this guy. Absolutely stunning prsentation values and atmosphere
Ecco two came out, and really made the definitive Ecco game. It had even more atmospheric graphics that was very unique. It captured the mystery, beauty, serenity and menace that many associate with the unexplored ocean. The graphics and animation were absolutely incredible, and there was outstanding graphic design all over the place. The game play was tuned up and had many more unique and awesome challenges for Ecco to undertake. Just describing it doesn't do justice, in this game you will explore vast and beautiful seascapes and engage in ecco's own unique blend of intense platforming as you swim through them and fend of deadly challenges and race from and through dangerous obstacles.

Ecco: Tides of Time is a game that is not only fun to play in terms of the game play, but the design and atmosphere of the game makes it an experience. There has never been games that made undersea exploration this much fun and interesting, and it's a shame that the sequel just HAD to try to get it's 3D on and utterly deep-six the franchise.

Lastly, let me say every generation from the dawn of time likes to make like their childhood was some sort of golden age of gamer-kind that the later generations missed out on. Ecco: ToT lends credence to my gaming generations claims to that principle. It really is something that is so great, and could only have worked in 2D, which is so rare to find these days. And with (Too Cool For) Sega Genesis week, we can show the wannabe hardcore gamer punks of today that our generation really had the coolest games, and that only SEGA (say it with the scream now) could have brought em to us. And not the Sega of today, but the Sega that made the 16-bit era so damn interesting.

Mutant League Football
Developed By Electronic Arts
Released: 1993

Now, I don't usually play sports games. If I wanna get my competitive, two player thang going, I'll boot up Burnout: Revenge or Virtua Fighter: Evolutions. Sports games just require too much time, time that I don't have to contribute to this hobby anymore. Hell, I recently had to vow to quit Nippon Ichi titles and handed over all of their games that I had (which was all of them) to one of my younger friends just to hold true to that vow. But despite my natural aversion to most sports titles, I've always had a soft spot for Mutant League Football.

The hook of this game is that it's football, but played by rowdy, murderous mutants. The rule book is often thrown out the window as a team can bribe the referee or kill the referee if they feel they've been bought, or just don't like a call the ref has made. Incidently, bribing the ref leads to some hilarious fouls. "Ten yards for flickin boogers" still cracks me up to this day.

This leads to a different kind of football. You can rig the ball to have a bomb, then "fumble" just to take out a member of the opposing team. You can tackle enemies off the field into lava pits or land mines, or stronger characters can throw a tackle so hard that it leaves the victim little more than a stain on the field. This coupled with the old 16-bit "madden" style of typical football game play leaves a very unique and odd game that won't appeal to everyone, but has seemingly always had a niche audience.

Graphics and audio... well, they are just average. Thats not why you would want to play this game. You would want to play this game cuz you want a unique spin on football that doesn't involve giving all your players pink socks. If you wish football could be more intense, and often wish you could murder a player on the opposing team... well this is your game. Give it a whirl and see if the gimmick is enough to hook you over a functional and fundamentally sound and proven game play engine, alongside mediocre presentation values.

Ranger X
Developed By Gau Entertainment
Released: Aug/93

This is the game that performed a fatality on Gunstar Heroes back in the 16-bit days, and about 9 people played it. I was one of them, and I can tell you that had this game had an advertising campaign, better box art, and more hype, we would still be seeing Ranger-X titles to this day. It really is possibly the most awesomest 2-D shooter on the Genesis. Better than even the mighty Contra: Hard Corps.

Now, don't ask me what the X is supposed to stand for, or what kind of ranger the main character is. And as for the story, well its roughly similar to the same story contras been recycling for twenty years. Aliens are invading, you have big guns, go blow em up. GAME ON!

It's just how you blow up the evil alien dudes in this game that makes things so interesting. Your not some testosterone poisoned steroid case, you're a dude piloting a mecha, that alternates between piloting a cool motorcycle and a jet every level. hows that for firepower? It's really hard to just explain how unique the controls are for this game without sounding mundane. Basically, there's the mech you pilot. You can fly in short bursts using the solar powered rocket pack, shoot a automatic laser cannon, and kick enemies by walking into them (sweet). You also got secondary weapons, and if your good you can find one new secondary weapon for every level, like grenades, a flame thrower, a lock on dual laser cannon, or my favorite; the laser cannon that eats up all your energy, but will fill up the entire screen with it's blast and erase from existence everything that is in front of it. I swear the game would have been so amusing if you could have done a game plus and used this weapon on some of the early bosses. But hey, moving on.

WOW! This game still looks awesome
Now, the original and really cool part is you switch your secondary weapons by docking with a vehicle that follows you around. You land on it, press down, and now your laser gun has a homing ability, and your life bar switches with the vehicles life bar. You can also stand on top of the car for more firepower (it shoots when you shoot) or using the six button controller, order the car to ram an enemy (It's invincible when your not riding in it) and keep him off balance while you shoot him. This adds an unbelievable amount of technique to the proceedings and immediately makes Ranger X the type of game experience that has never been repeated. Ever.

Oh, and as far as graphics go, they offing rock. Word is the development team happened onto some sort of programming code that would let the game exceed the 64 colours onscreen limitation of the genesis system. I believe it cuz there is no other game out there that is this colourful or vibrant for the genny. Sound is a take it or leave it deal, but with graphics and game play this awesome. There was never before, and there has never been, a shooter as unique as Ranger X. It was awesome, unique, well thought out and implemented and flat out fun. If Sega had sprung for better advertising of this franchise, then maybe things may have gone a bit different for them. Nevertheless, Ranger X is definitely one 16-bit title you absolutely must play at some point in your life.

Toejam and Earl
Developed By Toejam and Earl Productions
Released: March/92

If I had to pick one game on here that sums up why the Sega Genesis is a superior system over the SNES, It would be this one. It is an icon of what made Sega so great back in their heyday. A quintessential piece of gaming history that should be in a museum on a podium bathed in an ethereal light and protected by a state of the art security system of lasers, security cameras, and ninjas. A gaming legend that has a "feel" that has not ever been repeated in all of gaming.

If video games had a family lineage, in much the same way that musical pretty boy Julio Iglesias spawned Enrique Iglesias, games such as PaRapper the Rapper and UmJammer Lammy for the PS1 would be the illegitimate children of T&E and Elite Beat Agents for the DS would be it's grandchild. And much like the Iglesias line, though there are fundamental similarities, there are also fundamental differences as well. While these games are mainly tests of rhythm, Toejam and Earl was a game that followed a more free styled rhythm embodied in a overhead adventure title. It was rhythm, it had the rhythm, and no blues at all.

I think we all know the story by now, its pretty much Gilligans Island with two funkadelic aliens as Gilligan and the Skipper. They leave their planet of Funkatron for a three hour joyride in their super-cool spaceship, but end up crashing on the uncoolest place in the galaxy, Earth. But hey, don't stress white sugar, it's all good. They got the supercool powers of funk on their side, as they search for their ten spaceship parts.

Now, before I get to the really cool stuff, lemme just mention that if you're used to split second control times and super fast action, you will likely hate this game. The controls and a bit stiff and slow, but maybe I'm just blinded by the rosey tint of nostalgia, but I think Toejam and Earl is better off with this control scheme. It just emphasize the sit down and chill style the game has got going on.

Okay, like I think you're supposed to pick up that thing that the arrows are pointing too. Oh, and bonus cool points for the oral flatualance
And while most games of this fetch-this-then-find-that sort tend to end up bland and monotonous affairs, Toejam and Earl keep things laid back and chill. In the first level there is a secret area that will lead you to power ups and a Jacuzzi where affectionate bikini babes are waiting to refill your health. In this game you can keep the uncool earthlings distracted with a boom box that will make them all dance in place, Sneak up and roll Santa Claus for a sack full of power ups, Swim, fly, throw tomatoes, and run real fast with your cool Nike sneakers or super rocket powered roller skates, and this is all done with a hip soundtrack that just enforces the feeling of chillin on a summer afternoon with cool tunes and a cool game. It's even fun to watch Toejam and Earl as they don't so much walk across the screen, as they strut like they are about to break into a funky dance any moment.

And THAT true believers is what makes T&E so novel, most developers are trying to make video games more epic, more graphically appealing, with more easter eggs, more nudity, more violence, etc. T&E just focuses on being laid back and fun. It's a game that really doesn't care if you finish it, the random levels constantly increasing enemy count and decreasing power up count mean that you could play for an hour and finish it in one session, and play for four hours another session and still not have finished the game. But T&E guarantees that you will have enjoyed yourself for the time you did play, and that is what really makes this game so unique. You don't so much play this game as you chill with it, and this unique, original, and brilliantly executed concept is why Sega Genesis week is here, to salute games like this, and the only person who could have brought them to you is the Sega of old.

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