Is it the evil opposite of "Pressed for Time"? It's not THAT evil, really. Join time killer Adam Gallant as he guides you toward the great epics and steers you away from the tedium. It's all about time well spent with games that take, well, time.

The Genesis: Purveyor
of fine Epic Games

I hit my gaming pride around the age of 11, right when the Sega/Nintendo 16-bit wars really kicked in hard. It was a dark age when fanboyism was at it's height, and schoolyard brawls could occur between two fellow geeks based on their company allegiance. I felt this harder than most, when everybody and their brother (literally) had a Super Nintendo. They'd make fun of my Genesis for it's lack of color pallette (true), slower hardware (somewhat true as well), but mainly for it's lack of cool RPGs. This last point couldn't be farther from the truth, however when all you saw was advertising for Square or Enix's newest effort, it was hard to argue against. Admittedly I didn't even play a Genesis RPG until very late into it's run, when I got the game Shining in the Darkness. I had never even heard of it, but became irrevokably hooked upon the little dungeon crawler with anime-style characters.

However, even today in hindsight, most people remember the Genesis as the “Sports” system, or the best way to play Sonic games. Without a doubt, when one thinks of 16-bit RPGs, you quickly think of the Super Nintendo. It's hard to argue the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and others. But, the fact remains that many RPG/Epic style games graced the Genesis. Today I'm going to go in-depth on four titles, showing the range of games you could get on the Genesis, as well as list off similar titles for each genre. They may not have gotten the respect or prestige of their SNES counterparts, but in every way they're just as good, or if you're a Sega fanboy, better.

Turn Based RPG: Phantasy Star IV

Phantasy Star is a venerable series that lives on through today with it's online iterations, but one of the best entries from the line is Phantasy Star IV, a classic turn based RPG. Set in a futuristic setting, the player follows the adventures of Alys and Chaz who seek out the source of a sudden outburst of monster activity on their home planet. Comperable to the Squaresoft classic Final Fantasy III, this game features an innovative battle system (using the Macro style, described later), a solid plot with a huge twist halfway through the game (sound familiar?), and a good cast of playable characters that help round out the storyline and occasionally inject much needed comic relief.

However, it's the battle system featuring Macroing that really sets this game apart. You can set up macros, basically mapping out your battle plan for an entire round against an enemy. This may not sound all that interesting but the trick is placing certain characters with certain spells/attacks together at the right time. If you make the correct combinations, you create super attacks much more powerful than what each separate attack would do on it's own. For example, a character with the spell “Zan” and another with the character “Wat” can combine in a macro to create “Blizzard”. There are many, many combinations which help ease the grind of levelling by exploring different macros at the same time.

TIME TO KILL: This game can easily sink 40 hours of your life, and is one of those rare titles that is good at pulling at the ol' heartstrings as well. If you're a series purist however, play through Phantasy Star one through three first. Four makes references to the previous three but by no means is that knowledge required.

Other titles that fall in this category:

  • Shining in the Darkness

  • Phantasy Star II

  • Phantasy Star III

  • Traysia

Strategy-RPG: Shining Force

When I heard that there was a sequel (sort of) to Shining in the Darkness, I sought it out immediately to absorb and destroy. Unfortunatly my fourteen year old mind couldn't quite comprehend this odd fighting system, moving people around like board game pieces and then being able to choose their attack, while having to face hordes of monsters. It didn't quite click with me back then, which is sad because Shining Force (and it's sequel) are two of the best examples of the Strategy-RPG genre. Only later on in my life did I come around to realize just how good these games are.

As the beautifully drawn introduction tells, a thousand years previous an evil entity called the Dark Dragon laid waste to the world of Rune. Using the Power of Light, the Ancients sealed the Dark Dragon to another dimension but not before he swore to return and bring destruction anew. In present day the Hero finds himself thrust into battle to defend his town as the newly rising country of Runefaust tries to conquer the world.

TIME TO KILL: While most consider the sequel to this game to be superior (myself included), it still takes nothing away from what is one of the earliest examples of a great Strategy-RPG.  Also, I get a bit of a nostalgic rise out of the game's main villian, who was also well known from Shining in the Darkness. There isn't as much play in the class system in this game, and it does suffer from a pretty linear storyline but somehow it still shines (heh) on as a classic game for the Genesis. Get ready to lose around 40-60 hours on this title, but with a bit of rush you can get prepped for Shining Force II in around 30.

Other games in this genre:

  •           Shining Force II

  •             Master of Monsters

  •             Warsong

Action-RPG: Landstalker

Oh brother, I am going to get SO much anger for this statement:

“And now, the best action RPG I've ever played, which I consider even better than any Legend of Zelda title.”

You can direct all hate mail to manaapproved@yahoo.com

Landstalker, made by Climax studios (who also made the Shining games as well), is the prime example of an action RPG. While some people take a little while getting used to the -down view, think Solistice on the NES, this game is full of replayability. This game boasts an excellent plot that keeps you moving at just the right pace, great character development, difficult puzzles and great enemy AI. If only it got the same legacy that Zelda did, sadly Landstalker got one mostly-forgotten sequel on the Saturn, and a vague side-title on the Dreamcast which was horrific.

You control Nigel, a bounty hunter who is after the legendary treasures of King Noll. During one adventure you end up conspicuously running into a nymph named Friday who is being chased by less-than-honorable bounty hunters who are on the same path. After giving them the slip, you and Friday set out to figure out the huge land-wide mystery regarding King Noll's treausure, while helping people and villages from certain doom along the way.

It's hard to describe the gameplay, mainly because it all works so smoothly. Landstalker uses what's called the view, where the illusion of three dimensions is given by having the viewpoint point downwards and at an angle. Therefore when you want to move west in the game, you have to move down-left, not left. Once you get used to that (which doesn't take long), everything become second nature. The controls are basic: you have a slash button, magic button, and a jump button. The enemies can be hard to deal with and predict but not to the level of frustration. Puzzles take full advantage of the viewpoint without confusing the player, and the interface is the height of simplicity. The game does very well in not tripping over itself with having to go to your inventory in the middle of a screen full of monsters, something that always bothered me with Legend of Zelda.

TIME TO KILL: Even if you don't have a Genesis but you're a fan of Action-RPGs, get a cheap genny and this game. You can thank me later. I generally get about 30 hours out of this game, but I have played through it a great deal and know the solution to most puzzles. First timers who stumble on the mind-benders may need upwards of 50.

Other games in this genre:

  •           Crusader of Centy

  •           Sword of Vermillion

  •           Beyond Oasis

Not an RPG but... : Starflight

It's not really an RPG, I guess I would call it a Space Colonization simulator. But like RPGs, this game will take up many many MANY hours of your life and you'll enjoy every second.

The storyline comes at you in combination of a short story included at the beginning of the (very thick) manual and a series of memos you receive at your home spaceport. The crux of the story involves both finding planets for the human race to colonize so that they might survive, and figure out how exactly a copy of the prototype ship that you're about to pilot for the first time was found in a wreck with black box recordings... made by you. There's no time travel in the game, so this is a highly confusing point early on in the game.

You start off by hiring staff to take the reigns over navigation, science officer, engineer, doctor, and communications. Also, equipping your ship with basic items and fuel is required before leaving the starport on your first flight. Many things can be done and there's no linear path to take, start out by flying about and finding suitable colony planets, or look for other races to talk to for information. Even better if you're a capitalist (like me), find a mineral rich planet and mine it to hell so that you can sell your loot back at starport for more cash.

TIME TO KILL: The game, while not linear, definitly has an end point as time goes by and you get more information regarding the other version of your ship. Starflight is full of unique gameplay, intriguing mysteries, and an array of interesting alien races to speak with. Pieceing together the mystery can take a very long time, especially when you're mining your brains out to pimp your ride. However, with skill you can technically beat the game in under an hour. Realistically? You're looking at about 25-40 depending on how fast you catch on.

Other games like Starflight:

  •           Star Control

Thanks for coming along on another ride down the time wasting tunnel. Next time be on the lookout for more gaming gems that will suck your life away. Yes, this is my way of saying that I don't have next issue planned out. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to a certain Greenmaze to make my personal slave.


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Last updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 08:05 AM