If you’ve been collecting for any length of time, then you’ve probably accumulated a lot of cool stuff. Stuff you love. Stuff you treasure. Stuff you never touch. You know how it is: you acquire something, you’re excited about it at first, but eventually you put the item away and promptly forget about it. In other words, what once was “found” has now become “lost” (get it?). ”Found & Lost” is all about delving into your collection, dusting off your favorites, finally firing up those untried games you’ve had for years, admiring the gaming memorabilia you’ve acquired, remembering why you wanted all this stuff in the first place.
Redemption of a Fanboy
Hi, my name is William and I was a Nintendo fanboy.
See, once the NES came out, I has hopelessly entangled in its seductive 8-bit embrace. And for that, I’m not ashamed – it was, and is, a great machine. But it wasn’t the only one out there. Sega had the audacity to challenge the NES with their Master System, and it bugged me. Where did they get off, insulting my beloved gray box? I remember watching a Sega TV commercial where a smarmy voiceover disdained Nintendo’s “toy robot” while an equally smarmy kid looked askance at R.O.B., his expression dripping scorn. Now, I didn’t own R.O.B. and I had never played any of his games, but right then and there I decided that I hated Sega and their Nintendo-bashing ways. Hey, I was only 13.
So I shunned the Master System. My attitude mellowed a bit by the time the Genesis hit the market, but I still couldn’t work up much interest in it. Once I started collecting games in earnest in the mid-‘90s, however, my fanboy tendencies were fading. I gradually stopped caring what system a game was for or who published it – as long as it was worth playing. I even bought a Master System while out thrifting But I was still slow in warming to the Genesis – I didn’t even buy one until 1999. Maybe it’s a vestige of fanboy prejudice, maybe it’s the fact that I have no nostalgia for the machine – either way, while I’ve found a few Genny games I quite enjoy (Thunderforce III, Castlevania Bloodlines), most of my Genesis collection sits unknown and unplayed.
Until now. This weekend I have some time to myself, and I’ve decided to get to know Sega’s 16-bitter by playing every Genesis game in my collection that I haven’t yet tried. I don’t have unlimited time here, so I’m limiting my sample to the kinds of games you can get a reasonable impression of in 15 minutes or less. So no RPGs or hefty strategy games, unfortunately. But that still leaves me with 30-odd games to try.
Inside me, that 13-year-old fanboy is screaming. But it’s for his own good.
30 Games in 2 Days
Sword of Sodan – I begin my Genesis indoctrination with this Electronic Arts offering that immediately impresses me with its detailed graphics. This looks like it’ll be a rousing melee adventure! What’s this? My swordfighter moves like he’s stuck in molasses? Oh, I see, it’s a “realistic” swordfight. Trouble with reality is, it’s less fun than video games. This game surely wouldn’t have won me over at age 13. Let’s move on.
Spider-Man / X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge – A platformer that promises superheroic action and immediately disappoints by forcing Spidey to go on a scavenger hunt. Once I take control of the other heroes things start to improve. Bonus points to the Storm level for making me think of Jungle Hunt.
Roar of the Beast – This game is pretty, but also pretty annoying. It’s hard to be an effective fighter when your enemies have to be a half-inch away from you before you can hit them. Nice visuals though.
Championship Pool –Billiards is a fun game you play with your buddies in pool halls and bars, right? So why does playing this game feel like doing homework? I guess if you’re looking for a realistic pool sim this would be up your alley. Or you could play actual pool.
Belle’s Quest – Aha, a 16-bit version of Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle. Actually this is a pretty good use of a movie license that would mostly appeal to younger girls. On a side note: what is it with birds in platform-style games? Even in magical storybook land, they’re right bastards.
Battletoads – I’ve played this game before, but I didn’t really give it the time its reputation warranted – and now I’m doing it again! Yet even in just a few minutes, I can feel the quality. I can also feel the difficulty. I’ll be coming back to this one.
Fatal Fury 2 – With the exception of the first Mortal Kombat, I really don’t like fighting games. This one simply reminds me of that. Is FF2 a good fighting game? I guess I’ll never really know.
Double Dragon 3: In Search of a Subtitle – What subtitle to use? The label says The Arcade Game, the title screen says The Rosetta Stone. Either way, this game just doesn’t live up to the first two Dragons, which are still my favorite beat’em-ups of all time. For guys who are supposed to be concluding their martial arts training, the brothers Lee seem to have forgotten a lot of their earlier moves. Punch. Kick. Yawn.
Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco 2 –It’s a testament to my Genesis aversion that I’d never played these games before. What watery, gentle elegance. In today’s world of 1080p and HDTV, the beauty of these games is somewhat diminished, but it’s not difficult to see why people were so captivated by our bottle-nosed friend back in the 16-bit days.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers – Go Go Power Rangers… right back onto the shelf, thank you. Actually my expectations for this 1-on-1 fighting game were so low that it exceeded them, but that still doesn’t mean I like it.
Dynamite Headdy – Wow! Definitely the most impressive game I’ve played so far. Those Treasure guys were Genesis masters. They cram so much goodness into a platform game it makes me weep with joy. You can bet I’ll be playing more of this.
Championship Pro-Am – Why did I wait so long to try this? I’m a huge fan of R.C. Pro-Am and its sequel on the NES. The Genesis version is exactly the same as the first NES installment, only with better graphics, slightly tighter controls and less grating sound effects. I just found a new favorite racer!
Wiz ‘N’ Liz – Lordy, I can’t remember the last time I played a game that felt this fast! This one has a great sense of style, and that music has no business coming out of the Genny’s weak sound chip. I’m just not sure I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to – where’s a manual when you need one?
Wardner – I’m familiar with this game from MAME, and at first glance this looks like a faithful port. But was the arcade game this bloody hard? I really wanted to like this one, but after dying TWENTY times on the first level trying to negotiate the damn vines over the first long pit, I gave up. You have bested me, Mentrix Software Inc.
Side Pocket – A more “arcadey” approach to billiards than Championship Pool, which in my mind makes it more fun. You don’t have to fill out a questionnaire to take a shot. Still, I can’t help but think that if you want to play pool, you might have more fun playing pool, but maybe that’s just me.
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master – Nothing could be as good as Revenge of Shinobi, could it? Could it?!? This one sure comes close, and even if Revenge is a shade better, part III earns bonus points just for the horse riding level.
Aero The Acro-Bat – This takes me right back to the cute platform mascot craze of the early ‘90s. Turns out this is more of a “puzzleformer” than the straight-out platformer I was expecting, which brightens my day. A cute game and pretty fun too!
Blockout – Aha! So this is the same Blockout I used to play on Windows 3.11! An awesome 3-D Tetris that practically causes my brain to explode from the stress of thinking in too many dimensions at once. How could geometry be so darn fun? For that matter, how could exploding brains?
Earthworm Jim – Here’s the real penalty for being a fanboy – you miss out on great games like this. I remember the fuss over EWJ when it first came out, but I never really understood it. It’s 12 years later and I finally do.
Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude – Will remain that way.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – I didn’t even need to play this game to know I’d like it… after all, it’s really Puyo Puyo in disguise. Nice graphics.
Golden Axe II – A classic. I confess I’ve never been a huge fan of this series, but this feels like a solid port. I found myself playing this one much longer than I meant to. Bizarrians, ho!
Ms. Pac-Man – Hmm, now where have I seen this game before? The classic is here all right, but brilliantly redone with new mazes and game options! For me, Ms. Pac is largely about the audio, and I can’t believe how authentic the Genesis sounds are – they’re better than some ports I’ve played on later machines.
Rock ‘n Roll Racing – Here’s another I had high hopes for, and even though the Genesis version is impressive, I have to wonder if the Super NES would be better able to handle this game. That’s not the fanboy rearing his ugly head – this game relies a lot on audio, and the SNES simply has a more powerful sound system than the Genesis. Also, the framerate seems kinda choppy. A noble effort though!
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker – There’s something amusing, yet tragic, about playing a game where Michael Jackson rescues kidnapped kids while in real life he’s on trial for child molestation. But leaving the irony aside, this isn’t a bad little platformer. Even without the molestation charge, the idea of MJ as a videogame hero is fairly ridiculous, but this game has enough style that you can almost accept that his dance moves are really devastating magical attacks. In any event, the soundtrack leaves me longing for the days when Michael was God’s gift to pop music rather than tabloid headlines.
Jungle Strike – After playing this for five minutes, I can tell that really learning it will take much more time. It looks a little high on thinking, low on action for my taste. But at least I got to blow up the Jefferson Memorial while playing it. (Who’s holding truths to be self-evident now, beeyotch?)
Maximum Carnage – I was a comic book geek when the Maximum Carnage mini-series was first published, so I was optimistic about this game. And at first, my optimism seemed to be rewarded with a fairly solid beat’em-up. Then I reached the “Climb” level, which was just irritating. Bonus points for making me think of Crazy Climber though.
ToeJam & Earl – I’m in dangerous territory here. TJ&E is sacred, and if I don’t like it I could be considered foolish, or even worse, unfunky. Yet the DP online guide says you either “get” this game or you don’t, and at first bite it seems I don’t. But I’m playing without a manual and I’m obviously missing something. A quick hop online reveals my mistake: this isn’t an action game; it’s a randomly-generated scavenger hunt! Now I’m intrigued. My jury’s still out on this one… further “research” will be needed.
ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron – Now this is easier to pick up! It’s a platformer, which makes it less original overall, but it’s so – dare I say it? – funky. I’m a sucker for an involved platform game, and this one mixes in enough gameplay elements to give Dynamite Headdy a run for its money.
So, my fingers bruised, my eyes bleeding, I turned off the Genesis, my head spinning with afterimages of all these “new” games. Quite an eye-opening experience.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say that I was a fool for being a fanboy, that the Genesis rules and I should be ashamed of myself for ever liking Nintendo better, right? But I won’t. Being a fanboy WAS a mistake I’ll admit, but there’s nothing wrong with having preferences. Despite the flood of great titles on Sega systems (which I now happily acknowledge), I think I’ll always prefer Nintendo games over Sega games on the whole – they’re what I grew up with, after all. But that doesn’t mean all Nintendo games are good or that I can’t enjoy games on the Genesis or the Master System… or wherever. The fanboy inside me may be dead, but the fan will live forever. And I’m OK with that.
Now, I’m off to play some more Dynamite Headdy…
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