SEGA Console Game Reviews
The 16-bit console era around the year 1993 was the one I grew up with. I had both Nintendo and SEGA consoles. There were good games for the systems of both competitors. For some reason, I found SEGA games and characters more likeable. Many months ago I disconnected my consoles from my TV sets and stored them in the cellar. I didn't have time for playing any more: I had better things to do. But one day I had the desire to play some Game Gear games again, so I took my handheld and put some batteries into it. Bad luck - the gear was not working any more. Fortunately, emulators had already been invented years ago. This was how I got to trying some old SEGA games again, and I've decided to write a few reviews for like-minded people who are interested in learning what might be worth checking out.
The best emulator for 8-bit and 16-bit SEGA video game consoles to date seems to be KEGA Fusion. It emulates quite a lot of systems: Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive (Genesis), Mega CD and 32X. In contrast to other emulators, I didn't have any problems with the sound. I only had problems on one computer, which were solved by reducing the number of colours in the XP Control Panel to 16-bit and setting "ForceCompatibleGFX=1" in the .ini file. Using a joypad, I can now play the SEGA games with the same comfort as with the original console, or in some cases with even more comfort (think of Game Gear!).
Shining Force II for Mega Drive used to be my favourite video game, and it still is. I remember I actually wanted to buy Story of Thor, but it wasn't available, and so I obtained this one. It was great that this happened. When I got Story of Thor some months later, it turned out to be a rather dull game that quickly became boring. By contrast, the Shining Force concept hasn't lost much of its charm throughout all the years.
The game is set in a fantasy environment. It tells the story of a peaceful kingdom that is threatened by evil forces. You are the leader of the party that will defeat the enemies and restore peace in the end. The game consists of an adventure and a tactics part. In the adventure part, you wander through villages and landscapes, talk to people, buy equipment, search the area for special items, and so on. The more important part is the tactical one. You fight battles against the enemies' armies. The battle engine is round-based. The agility of the individual characters determines when it's their turn. You can move each character by a number of fields determined by his or her mobility. Then you can attack, use an item, cast a spell or just rest. For a successful attack or for healing somebody, the character gets experience points. Once he has got a hundred experience points, his level will rise, resulting in higher attack and defense points, etc.
What clearly makes Shining Force better than any traditional role-playing game is the fact that your success is not only determined by the training of your characters, but most of all by your tactics. Your active party consists of up to 12 characters of various classes, such as swordsman, knight, mage, priest (healer), monk, birdman, wolfman, archer, warrior, dragon, tortoise, hamster, robot, magic creature, thief, ninja, phoenix, ranger, pegasus knight, sorcerer, samurai, brass gunner, and more. If your force consists of more than 12 characters, the inactive ones will rest while the others are fighting. You can regroup your party before any fight. The charm of Shining Force is how to use the characters best for making the attack as fast and effective as possible.
Once your characters have reached a certain level, they can be promoted to a new class. This may increase their mobility or allow them to equip better weapons. What's especially interesting is that Shining Force II allows you to choose between different "career tracks" if you have special items. There's no definitely better track: Each has its particular advantages. Thus the game gets a strategical component. In addition, there are special items that will affect your characters' values - either positively or negatively, so be cautious.
Two games of the Shining Force series were released for the Mega Drive, three for the Game Gear and one for Mega CD. The Mega CD game (Shining Force CD) consists of two out of the Game Gear games plus two bonus games which are only accessible after completing the first two ones.
Shining Force for Mega Drive (subtitle: The Legacy of Great Intention) has a pretty average soundtrack, although there are some good tunes. The soundtrack of its sequel is a bit better. As for the Game Gear games, the music sounds plain bad. By contrast, the Mega CD version features the same march melodies, but they are far better performed. Shining Force CD is the best Shining Force music-wise. Regarding the game-play, I consider Shining Force II for Mega Drive the best, partly for the features I've already mentioned. What's also nice is that the level of the artificial intelligence of the non-playable characters can be modified in Shining Force II, thus making the game a bit more challenging for experienced players.
Shining Force actually is the sequel to the very old 3D RPG Shining in the Darkness, which was released for Mega Drive in the year 1990. What has remained from Shining in the Darkness is the main menu, the style of the graphics, the text boxes and the selection boxes. The game play is different.
Shining Force III was released for the Sega Saturn in the mid-90s. Recently some new games in the Shining series have been released, including a re-release of Shining Force - The Legacy of Great Intention for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. Not all of the new games, such as Shining Force, have the Shining Force game play. Some of them were not even developed by the original team.
Note: To play the second game of Shining Force CD, you must switch on "Perfect Sync" in the emulator.
This action adventure for Mega Drive was developed by Climax Entertainment, which also created Shining in the Darkness. You are Nigel, a gold hunter who is keen on getting King Nolo's treasure. Similar to Zelda, there are neither experience points nor character levels, but you can get more hitpoints by finding or buying extra hearts. In the course of the game, you'll also get several new swords and armors.
What makes this game special is its isometric 3D perspective, which reminds of the old NES game Solstice. You cannot only run and fight, but also jump. There are some scenes in the game which strongly remind of platform games, only that they're in 3D. It may be pretty difficult to get used to the control and to the perspective. Sometimes it's not clear where exactly a certain platform is located.
Landstalker mostly consists of dungeons and puzzles. The music is very good, and the graphics are so, too, but I sometimes feel that they lack colours. It is technology that is to blame: The Mega Drive could only display 64 colours at once. Anyway, it's a good game, not too easy and not too hard.
In the late 1980's, before Sonic the Hedgehog was born, Alex Kidd and the ninja Shinobi used to be the two flagships of SEGA. The two Shinobi games for Game Gear remind of Capcom's (in)famous jump'n'run series Mega Man in two aspects: First, you can freely choose in what order you want to play the first four levels. Second, the end bosses are your companions who have been enchanted by some evil persons. Once you have defeated a boss, he will join you. Then you will be able to switch between the characters at any time by pausing the game.
Each character has his own weapon, magic spell and special talents. The green ninja throws spiky stars and can jump higher than anybody else due to his ability to make saltos. The blue ninja has a grappling iron and using magic, he can even fly. The pink ninja is able to climb the ceiling, the yellow one uses some kind of laser and can stand on water, and the red one (the one who's a member of the party right from the beginning) has a powerful earthquake spell.
Interestingly, for each level in GG Shinobi there seems to be a level with a similar graphical design in GG Shinobi 2. But otherwise, the levels are quite different. What makes GG Shinobi 2 cooler than the first game in the series is that you do not only have to liberate your companion but also find a crystal in each level. Sometimes it may be possible to solve both tasks in just one round, but usually you'll have to re-enter one of the old levels at a later stage as soon as the ninja whose special abilities are needed has joined the party. This reminds me of the NES/SNES game series Metroid. I like this idea of parts of previous levels being accessible only in a later stage of the game.
The fifth and last level is big. It consists of several rooms connected with each other. It's a labyrinth quite similar to the boss levels in Super Mario Bros. You have to find out where the bosses from previous level are located and defeat them. Once you've been victorious over the last of these bosses, you'll enter the final part of the game.
In both of the two games, the first four levels have medium difficulty, while the last one is pretty hard.
Sunsoft created games based on the first Batman movie for various platforms, including the Mega Drive. This implementation is worth mentioning primarily for its awesome soundtrack, certainly the best I've ever heard on Mega Drive. This alone makes it worth checking out. The game itself is a genre-mix, a kind of jump'n'fight with two shoot'em'up levels. It's pretty difficult due to strong enemy characters and somewhat clumsy movements of Batman. Interestingly, the levels are almost the same as in the Game Boy game - Gotham City Street, Axis Chemical Factory, Flugelheim Museum, Sky over Gotham City, Cathedral -, but the game play is totally different. The Game Boy game is probably more enjoyable... but the music is slightly better in the Mega Drive version. The same also goes for the graphics, of course.
This is an action adventure for Mega Drive that was inspired by Nintendo's Zelda series. Although its look'n'feel is not excellent, it isn't a bad game at all. In the course of the story, you will "collect" several animals with special abilities. These will help you solve the puzzles.
This Mega Drive game by Electronic Arts is a funny sports simulation based on the characters from James Pond. Among other disciplines, you can test your skills at kipper watching, hop-skip-jump, bouncy castle, fish-feeding, shell shooting, and tour-de-grass. Some of this is quite fun. My favourites are shell shooting and tour-de-grass. However, it's more a game to be played once in a while for having some fun than anything you could play for a longer time.
While the first Wonderboy games were kind of primitive jump'n'runs, some of the late sequels could be called action adventures. In contrast to most games of that genre, they are in side perspective like jump'n'runs. For Game Gear and the Master System, there is Wonderboy - The Dragon's Trap. In the course of the game, the hero will be transformed into several animals with special strengths and weaknesses until he will finally become human again. For the Mega Drive, Wonderboy in Monster World and one more (Japanese-only) sequel were released. They are a bit harder than the Game Gear game. All of these games are worth playing, even though they are not top-class.
Rocket Knight Adventures
Konami's first game for the Mega Drive is an action-loaded jump'n'run involving a likeable "humanized" rodent named Sparkster. Sparkster cannot only shoot using his high-tech sword, but he can also kind of fly using his engine. Depending on the mode of flying, he can bump off from walls in such a way that he will either overcome obstacles or, on the contrary, have a not-too-soft landing. It's an entertaining "fast-food" game with pretty good music.
Maybe my reviews have awakened the desire to play some games. If so, have fun! But don't forget to be creative and productive as well. :)
The reason why I haven't reviewed any Sonic game is that everybody already knows it anyway.