Hidden Gems: Sega Megadrive.
As part of our ongoing quest here at Peoww to bring you, our beloved readers, the very best of retro videogame action we’ve turned our attention to Sega’s 16-bit Megadrive console or Sega Genesis to our non-European readers. Despite being in direct competition with Nintendo’s SNES in later years it still held its own despite the lack of a fancy ‘Super FX’ chip and an almost 8-bit sound setup it still managed to rack up over a thousand releases, some of which were hidden gemsâ€¦
A stupidly rare title that never made it to Europe, Master of Monsters is a turn-based warfare game like Civilisation or Advanced Wars but this time your using monsters and magic. Not only can you summon up a whole bunch of monsters but they also obtain experience and you are even allowed to carry over some of your chosen monsters in to your next battle. You can also mix monsters together to form more powerful monsters but there is a risk of losing them during that process.
The graphics are pretty good by Megadrive standards but the presentation is lacking somewhat, I can’t put my finger to it. This does not stop this game being one of the more fun games I’ve played on the system. While the Megadrive version may be stupidly rare the PSX version is quite easy to find in comparison (and it was even released in the UK). Definately one to check out if you like the genre.
First off I’m going to start with this gem from SSI who spent most of the 80’s and early 90’s making shoddy D&D videogames but also found time to make this sci-fi epic based on TSR’s version of the Buck Rodgers franchise called ‘Buck Rodgers XXVC’ Despite the space based setting it is strongly based on the then standard D&D 2nd edition rules with Fighters, Thief’s and Wizards replaced with sci-fi classes like Rocketjocks, Medics and Engineers and Desert Runners and the like replacing the different D&D races such as Elves and Halflings.
Combat is viewed from a 3D isometric view and runs in turns with each character moving, firing a set amount before the next character has its turn and so on until the conflict is resolved. In addition to this is the ship-to-ship all seen on a single screen and plays not unlike a limited version of the old Star Command games. The plot is no great shakes with you racing to find a destroy the enemies mega weapon before it’s unleashed on earth but stands apart as being one of the few good RPGs on the Megadrive that’s not part of the Phantasy Star or Shining Force series and as such stands apart from those formulaic J-RPGs. It’s just a shame the sequel Buck Rodgers: Matrix Cubed was never converted but on the up side it does teach you a little French as you play, really.
Avenging angels, you gotta love ’em! This particular avenging angel likes whizzing around in a horizontal scrolling style shoot-em-up filled to the brim with some really quite gross looking enemies. There really is not much I can say about this game other than this is a pretty solid shooter which gets overlooked by the most people in favour of Zero Wing (because of the â€œall your baseâ€œ thing) or the Thunder Force series.
This game is heavily themed around horror (just check out the bosses!) and is really fast-paced and has some very nice graphics and sound in places. The game allows you to power up your angel using a traditional three power up system (spread, concentrated and a middling one). Gynoug is not a hard game to find and goes quite cheap on eBay normally these days so check it out if you like shooters and want something a little different.
Now I’ve never made a secret of my love of retro gore and I’ve got to tell you they don’t come much gorier than Splatterhouse 2. Following on from the original arcade and Turbografx game, you play Rick who with the aid of the mysterious ‘Terror Mask’ that makes him look like a steroid pumped Jason Voorhees alike when worn. Using the mask Rick must rescue his lost girlfriend Jennifer from the land of the dead by beating the hell out of anything in his path with his bare hands or any number of handy weapons like bats, poles and even chainsaws all of which will reduce monsters to bloody messes or wall splatters in no time at all.
At its core it’s a simple platforming 2D beat ’em up with Rick able to throw high punches and low kicks along with a jump kick for when he’s airborne like when jumping pits or nasty spike traps. Enemies range from simple zombie type creatures that can be despatched with a simple punch to the huge bosses that require some nifty joypad work to kill and some good old fashioned attack pattern memorisation. It can be very frustrating at time but the atmosphere and shear bloody madness will keep you going all the way to the end and on to the sequel Splatterhouse 3 which doesn’t get my vote for inclusion as it’s a different beast to SH2 that includes room exploration and more 3D movement which for me spoils the purity of the game but should not be overlooked if you get the chance to play it, especially in Europe where it was never released.
This is the definitive Gauntlet for any system ever. A four player port of the original Gauntlet II awaits you here but what’s this? Deathmatch, Record Mode and RPG mode?!? Yep Tengen actually put some effort into this port and instead of just throwing any old crap at us like a lot of companies seem to do these days when it comes to ports of old games we are treated to two really cool new gameplay modes which extend the game’s lifespan a lot.
The music was done by Masaharu Iwata of Final Fantasy Tactics fame and is arguably one of the best bits about the game itself. The RPG mode was actually really good with simple character development, non-randomised levels and some really cool dungeons. The multiplayer deathmatch mode was also a lot of fun especially with three other friends and can contain anything from the original Gauntlet 2 game Record mode is basically high score mode where you can’t die but you lose points for every 500 hp lost. You gain points by collecting treasure and killing monsters, there was even a password continue system. I highly recommend checking this game out right now!
Castlevania is very much a Nintendo franchise today with annual release for the DS and future Wii releases to look forward to but occasionally Konami slip the odd non-Nintendo game like the superb Symphony of the Night for the PS1 and this for the Megadrive. It looks and plays just like the classic Castlevania games before the switch to Metroid-Vania style of play with SotN with no RPG stats or different weapons and equipment to mess with just the Vampire Killer whip if you play as John Morris, heir to the Belmont legacy or the Alucarde spear if you chose Eric Lecarde.
All the usual Castlevania trappings are here with powerups and hearts (well gems in this entry) collected from destroying candles and tricky left to right platforming action set across different stages in Europe rather than just one location in Transylvania as in many previous entries. The choice of the two different characters opens up different paths during the game with Eric able to jump higher using the spear while John can cross pits by swing across with his whip meaning you can replay as the other character and take a different route to the final showdown with Bartley and ultimately the resurrected Dracula. If possible get hold of the NSTC or Australian PAL versions as it has all the blood intact and keeps the original enemy placement making for a far more fairer and balanced game that the EU-PAL rehash.
Not so â€œhiddenâ€ this one but very overlooked by a lot of people at the time (can you explain why this never got a sequel?). Mutant League Football used the Madden ’93 engine and wellâ€¦ let’s just say Electronic Arts modified the concept of American Football somewhat and for most people outside of the US, probably for the better.
Explosive landmines, zombies, fire pits, exploding balls, invisible players, killing refs, this is not typical â€œfootballâ€ as the Americans might call it. It’s possible to kill your opponents in this game while bribing the ref so he looks the other way and it’s stuff like that that really sets the game apart because it’s actually very tactical sports title. Each team is a spoof of an actual American Football team and they all have there own â€œspecial playsâ€ which are normally very devastating and violent. If you have not picked up and played this game yet then shame on you, you deserve a slap for missing out on one of the best sports games ever created.
One of the biggest advantages of the Megadrive was the fact it shared the same Motorola CPU as the Commodore Amiga range and as such made converting games between the two formats a doddle so for anyone who didn’t own an Amiga could play near perfect conversions of games like Shadow of the Beast, Turrican or even Kings Bounty. One of the best conversions was The Misadventures of Flink, an action platformer by the same guys who made the amazing Lionheart and later went on to make the Lemmings spin-off The Adventures of Lomax.
The game looks gorgeous, even better than Lionheart which is about as good as 2D graphics got and plays as a hybrid of several platformer classics with the magic system similar to the gold rings in Sonic the Hedgehog and a world map straight out of Super Mario World. But don’t think Flink is lacking in originality as he has his own spell ingredient system that will have you hunting down spell lists in hidden chests or just combining ingredients yourself to try and find useful combinations to help you as Flink can move at a good pace when you give him a run up but don’t expect any twenty foot standing jumps or gravity defying moves. The best way to play it is to find a copy of the Mega-CD version as it has all the levels compared to the cartridge which is missing some due to the storage limitations of the format but either way just play it as it deserves your time.
An Amiga classic that’s often overlooked by the younger generation and our cousins from the states. Super Skidmarks is a fantastic conversion of the original Amiga game which is generally overlooked on this console by other racing games like Micro Machines, Super Hang-on, Outrun etc.
Super Skidmarks was just plain whacky and had some really great car and track design. Name me another game where you could drive as a cow on some big arse skates? The courses and gameplay in general remind me of Super Off Road which is never a bad thing. The best bit was that the game had controller ports attached to the top of the cart so you could play the game four player with having to buy any addenda hardware, awesome no? Defiantly one of the best multiplayer games on the system!
It wasn’t just Castlevania that jumped formats; Capcom also broke ranks and released this for the Megadrive in ’94. Thankfully it’s not a dreadful spin-off like Mega Man Network but rather an update come conversion of the Mega Man 1, 2 and 3 games with all of them given a 16-bit makeover and annoying bugs like the notorious pause bug and flickering sprites removed.
The graphics can be a little rough in places with some sprites just ported over directly and given a paint job rather than a full reanimation and the tunes although good are still mostly bleeps and bloops but for my money this is the best way to get into the Blue Bombers early adventures as the original NES games are an acquired taste for those not around for its debut and the handy inclusion of a battery backup save makes finishing the game easier as many bosses weapons have a rock-scissors-paper relation to other the bosses and defeating them in the correct order is key to beating the three games here.