Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Sonic Spinball

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Sonic 2

Take a look at that picture. It’s Sonic the Hedgehog doing a pretty mundane jump. But, he kind of looks like a ball, right? And what else looks like a ball? Besides that. Right, a pinball. So how about taking Sonic in his Adorable Ball Form (or A.B.F.) and chucking him on a pinball table? Sounds… uh… well it sounds like a game, I guess.

So you take mostly indirect control of Sonic as you try to navigate around a series of tables by thwacking him with the flippers and making him roll around and hit things. Your goal is to hit the targets, collect the Chaos Emeralds, and… um… something. I never actually got very far into the first table.

I should like this game, since it’s kind of similar to RPG mode in Pinball Quest, but while that game was charming and unique, this game is unique but dull. The tables are kind of small and connected by tunnels, and what that meant, at least in my case, was that when I slightly mis-hit Sonic he’d go off into some other part of the table where I wasn’t working on trying to hit some targets in some really restrictive time-limit. That meant that I’d have to try and work my way back to the prior table somehow, and what that meant is that I gave up real quick.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Friday, April 18th, 2008

When I got my Genesis, it came with a special deal. It came with the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, and I could send off and get one of several games. I chose Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Six weeks later and my padded envelope arrived in the mail.

The game is a whole lot like the first one, but more refined, slightly better looking, and slightly more complicated. One of the biggest additions was a secondary character, Tails. He pretty much just follows you around, but if you have a second player throw a controller in, then he can be controlled.

The other big difference is in the bonus stages. In the old game you just had to navigate a ridiculous maze. In this one, you run down a danger-filled tube and have to collect rings while avoiding dangers. This part was actually pretty good.

That’s not to say that the rest of the game wasn’t good, it was. It was just kind of like a more refined version of the first one, which was pretty good in its own right. But I spent six weeks playing the first one to death while I waited for the second one to arrive, and didn’t get any other games for my Genesis in the meantime. So by the time I finally got my hands on this game, I was kind of burned out on the series for a while. So I found out what the ‘debug mode’ code was, used it to cheat my way through this game, too.

One of these days I should probably go back and test my skills again.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

A lot of hubbub was made in the 90s about the 16-bit ‘console wars’. Super Nintendo or Genesis? Well, which one? You gotta choose. One’s better, right? I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t take Nintendo’s side for most of the time, but that was for two reasons: 1. I had to buy a lot of my own stuff and could only buy one system and 2. some of my friends has access to Sega hardware, so I could play games on both sides of the fence.

Sonic the Hedgehog became kind of the unofficial mascot for the Genesis. He was a blue hedgehog who ran to the right real fast. Something that, if the advertising was to be believed, the Nintendo console just couldn’t do. Of course that’s false, but Sonic is real fast, so that’s something, I guess.

The game’s plot is pretty much immaterial. All you need to know is that some evil scientist is turning animals into robots and using the robots for nefarious purposes. Sonic has to defeat the scientist and rescue the woodland creatures.

Now, there are sections of certain stages where Sonic is able to do that thing he does (running real fast), but they’re kind of spread out over the various stages. Unless you know precisely the path you want to take, you’re going to be going a lot slower than his maximum speed. In fact, when you’re going at those crazy-fast speeds you’re basically just holding ‘right’ on the d-pad while you watch Sonic run real fast, up and down hills, through loop the loops, and that kind of thing. Noninteractive speed is probably the best compromise, though. If you actually had to do stuff at that speed, I’m not sure that any normal human would have the reflexes to do so.

I, after getting a job delivering newspapers, finally picked up a Genesis when I could get a complimentary copy of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with it. So I ended up playing this game a whole lot. Mostly because it was 50% of my game library. And as much as I played it, I don’t remember ever completing it. Mostly because the game was really long, even if you knew what you were doing and where you were going, and I certainly didn’t. Combine that with the fact that, at the time, I had an attention span roughly equivalent to that of a chihuahua that’s eaten twice its body weight in coffee-flavor ice cream. So I found out what the ‘debug mode’ code was to see all the levels, cheated my way through them, and then moved on to Sonic 2.

XBand Video Game Modem

Friday, August 10th, 2007

While not technically a game, the XBand modem was certainly a unique piece of hardware that deserves recognition.

The XBand itself was a large purple cartridge that stuck out of your Super NES by about twice the amount that a regular cartridge did, and you put a game on the top of it, creating an impressive tower of plastic. Once you turned on the system, you had several options at your disposal: a buddy list, newsletters, email, and a matchup service, plus several more sundry activities that I’m not going to go into here.

Buddy List

The feature that I used most frequently was the game matchup feature. You could choose to search for an opponent either in your local calling area or nationwide. If there was an opponent waiting to play someone in the same game you were seeking with, then your SNES would dial up their SNES, you would connect, and play would begin. Sure, that doesn’t sound too impressive now, but this was before most people had even heard of the Internet, much less had access to it outside of their local library. The system, it should be noted, did not use the Internet at all, but rather directly dialed your opponent. This was fairly important as it helped reduce latency (the time between when you press the buttons and when it appears on the screen), but caused two big problems in my house:

  1. When I was in the queue, folks would dial my number to play. If I didn’t tell everyone in the house what I was doing, there was a near 100% chance that someone would answer the phone, completely screwing up the connection.
  2. While dialing out, I could disable call waiting by prepending a sequence of numbers to my dial-out number. This was fine unless I had to wait on a call. When someone called me, I had no way to disable call-waiting. This meant that inevitably someone would call, there would be beeps on the line, and I would get disconnected

Each match you won gave you a certain amount of points, these points weren’t really for anything except for giving you some meaningless ranking on your profile screen that only you could see. Unless, that is, you had access to the Internet. The site, which is now long-defunct, allowed you to look up players by name and see their stats. It was pretty bare-bones, but pretty useful for seeing if the person that trounced you in Game X was a veteran or just getting started.

Super Mario Kart Record

There was a fair selection of games supported by the service, though the only ones I ever played were Super Mario Kart, Kirby’s Avalanche, Killer Instinct, and Super Street Fighter II. There were also several sports games like Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball and NBA Jam, but I couldn’t imagine tying up the phone line for the length of time it would take to complete just one matchup in those games. Late in the life of the service, support for Super Mario World and Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past was added, though neither allowed you to play the games. Mario let you dial up a random user and chat with them with the built in chat interface (think Instant Messenger with only one person available at a time), and Zelda allowed you to compete with someone else in a silly maze game. These late additions, in hindsight, were probably meant to bolster the use of the system.

Even at its peak, which is right about when I joined, I had trouble finding people to play with. There were virtually no other players in my local area, there were two other then the three I made buy one, and searching nationwide took upwards of 10 minutes to find an opponent, if I could find one at all. After a couple years, the service tanked and the company was absorbed by MPlayer, who was, in turn absorbed by GameSpy. The system was immediately shut down, and now exists only in the memories of those that played it. If you look hard enough, though, you’ll find the occasional player whose eyes will light up at the mention of the ground-breaking service.

Cool Spot

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

The Cool Spot was the crazy-cool animated mascot character of 7-Up in the 90’s. It was the little red dot on the 7-Up logo, but with arms, legs, sunglasses, and attitude! It was inevitable, then, that the Cool Spot would wind up following in the footsteps of other odd mascot characters like the Noid and star in his very own video game.

I only played Cool Spot once and even though I’ve managed to block most of the game from my mind, I do remember a thing or two about it.

Thing 1: The game looked good. For a Super NES game, the game looked pretty good. Giant soda bottles looked like giant soda bottles, sand looked like sand, and the two-dimensional animated disc looked like a two-dimensional animated disc.

Thing 2: The game sounded good. Apparently scored in part by one of the least entertaining folks I’ve seen on television, Tommy Tallarico. I don’t find the guy particularly entertaining or insightful, but he’s fairly talented, so there is that.

Other than those two things, I just remember running around and killing things by shooting soda bubbles at them on my quest to rescue other two-dimensional discs from cages. Why couldn’t they just slip through the bars? Then we wouldn’t have much of a game, duh.

Altered Beast

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

I’m not going to try to disguise it in the least, Altered Beast is a terrible game. It was terrible when it was new and now, over a dozen years later, it’s still terrible.

In Altered Beast you play a warrior. A dead warrior. A dead warrior who is temporarily revived by Zeus to save Athena from the forces of the underworld. So, you begin to walk to the right (you actually have no choice in this, the screen scrolls perpetually to the right, independent of your actions). Along the way you will fight throngs of evil… things, almost all of which can be dispatched by a punch or a kick. You may be an ancient Grecian warrior, but you don’t get any fancy swords, shields, or armor. You get to fight demons with naught but your bare hands and feet. Occasionally one of the thousands and thousands of identical enemies will drop some kind of power orb that allows you to power up. Powering up makes your guy stop, say, “Power UP!”, and get a sudden increase in muscle mass. Get 3 orbs and you will change into some kind of fearsome beast, suitable to take out the boss of the stage. This is convenient, since the boss will not appear until you are in crazy bloodthirsty beast form. After you beat the boss, the main bad guy, Hades, I guess, Neff (who?) steals your precious power orbs, leaving you as a weakling again. So you go to the next level and repeat the process over again, this time turning into a different animal once you grab the 3 power orbs.

That is, of course, if you can stand to play for that long. Two levels was certainly my limit.

Beast Wrestler

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Oh sure, you could play a normal wrestling game, with normal people putting other normal people in various Death Grips(tm), but why would you want to do that when you could play a game that replaces your normal people with Giant Monsters!?

Oh, sure it sounds great. Fighting giant monsters to a state of near death should just about be the most fun that you can have playing a video game. Unfortunately, this game just can’t deliver. You start by picking your monster, picking its few moves, and heading to the fights. Then you… well you fight. In. The. Slowest. Fight. Imaginable. Giant monsters just don’t move real fast.

If you win certain fights, you get to recruit the monster to your team, giving you a little more variety. However, after taking a monster through a few fights, it will get too damaged to continue, and you’ll have to merge two of your monsters into some kind of crazy Super Giant Monster. The game prominently asks you to:


And no, that’s not a typo. You pick two monsters from you team and combine them into one creature with abilities of the two originals. Then it’s back to the fights.

I wasn’t ever able to figure out if there was any kind of long term goal beyond just making random monsters slowly bore each other to death, and occasionally smooshing them together. To date I’ve only played this game once, which is plenty.

Kid Chameleon

Friday, March 16th, 2007

The premise to Kid Chameleon sounds like it should be a pretty good game: You play the part of some kid that’s really good at video games, natch. There’s some new Virtual Reality game on the block that happens to be kidnapping kids, so you go in to beat the game, and maybe get the kids back. Nothing too out of the ordinary there. The hook is that you, Kid Chameleon, can use the different helmets scattered throughout the levels to get mysterious powers.

So, the basic flow of the game goes something like this: Enter level → find helmet(s) → collect diamonds → use power(s) granted by the helmet(s) to find the exit → repeat. The levels don’t really have a flow to them, they’re all pretty generically interchangeable. The do seem to get more difficult the further you progress in the game, however.

The main problem I had with this game was not the disappointing powers granted by the helmets or the derivative platforming/collecting action, but it was the unforgiving nature of the game itself. Extra lives in the game are nigh nonexistent, and continues are incredibly precious. You spent three hours getting to level 40? Out of continues? Too bad, you get to start over. Each time you play, odds are you’re going to get just a little bit further, which is normally a good thing. When each trip through the game can take easily two or more hours, then it starts to become tedious.

And then there’s the ending… or lack of. For a game as long and difficult as this one is, it’s slightly disappointing.


Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

For one Summer I actually owned a Game Gear. I ended up selling it pretty quickly after I bought it, partly because I couldn’t afford to keep replacing the 6 AA batteries with a lifespan of about two hours if you were lucky (no exaggeration), and I thought that being tethered to a wall by using the AC adapter completely defeated the purpose of owning a hand held system in the first place. Mostly, it was because I became absolutely sick with the pack-in game, Columns.

Columns was the game that would spend the most time with, mostly because I couldn’t afford to buy any other games after blowing all of my funds on a system, an AC adapter, and a backpack full of batteries. I’m not going to lie, spending the amount of time I did playing Columns might have influenced my decision to get rid of it.

Columns is a typical puzzle game. You’re given pieces that consist of three panels stacked up to form a vertical bar. You must, for reasons unexplained, sort the bars in such a way that three or more of the same color line up in any direction so they can disappear. You can change what ‘column’ the piece will land in, as well as the order of the colors in the piece. You play until you can’t fit any more pieces in the playfield.

I logged a couple dozen hours in the game within a few weeks, and then hit on a strategy that, in retrospect, should never have worked. Heck, even then I thought that it shouldn’t work. I decided to just play the game by randomly filling up the field on both sides, leaving a one-column wide hole in the middle. I would then fill up this hole and attempt to make matches. I wasn’t trying to win, I was just goofing around with the game. I ended up playing this strategy for over two hours. I played so long that we had to switch to AC power just before the batteries died. I played so long that my hands went numb. I played so long that I decided that I never needed to play Columns again in any incarnation.

Haunting Starring Polterguy

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

I don’t really remember much of the story behind Haunting Starring Polterguy. What I do remember is that you play the ghost of someone that died through the actions, or inactions, of some family (it was a rental and didn’t have the manual). You decide to get revenge by doing what all ghosts do: you haunt things.

You start with the ability to haunt small stuff: knickknacks, kitsch, and the like. Once you jump into something you gain the ability to make it do something scary. Your immediate goal is to scare the people as they meander around the house. The more scared they are, the more power you get. The more power you get, the bigger things you can haunt. Haunt the big things like the furniture and the floor, and you might scare them out of the house. Scare them all out of the house, and you win! Well, you win that house. The family apparently then moves to a new house where you get to start all over again.

Possessing mundane objects and making them do clichéd horror movie things is kind of neat at first, but for some reason, it gets old fast. I made it through the first house before I gave up. A friend I was with at the time managed to get to the third house before he succumbed to the Undying Mediocrity. I understand now that he was close to the end of the game. I wouldn’t mind seeing the end of the game, it’s easy enough that I could probably blow through it in a couple of hours, but once you’ve seen what each of the possessed items do, the novelty wears off fast, and then you’re just button mashing for the win (BMFTW) instead of genuinely having fun.

Or, at least I was.