How's that for a category name? Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Over the course of the last few weeks I've written about my favorite Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo exclusive games, so I figured the best way to round out this 16-bit series of blogs is with my favorite multi-platform games from the era. Some of the games on the list differ on their respective platforms, but for the most part, they're the same game. As with the previous couple of blogs, there were a ton of games to choose from, so here's a few honorable mentions:
I didn't even know that the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine existed until about ten years ago, so it's understandable why I didn't include any games from those consoles. I included Rondo of Blood on my top Castlevania games list, and even though it was exclusive to Japan, it's now playable in several forms in America and elsewhere. If you're a fan of the series or retro 2D games in general, Rondo is a must-play.
And now, the offical 5.
This may seem like a very weird choice, but I had so much fun playing Clue on the Genesis back in the day. Whether I was playing with friends or by myself, I never had a bad time with it. I've never been the type to play board games in their videogame iteration, but Clue was different somehow. Maybe it's because I've never played Clue in it's intended board game form. I had the Sega Channel as a youngster, and every time a new month started and they doled out the new games, I would always check to see if Clue was still there (or making a comeback). The months where it wasn't included were always a drag.
When it comes to nostalgia for the game, I've always remembered a time where I woke up early on a Saturday and couldn't fall back to sleep. It was probably around 6 a.m., and instead of trying to go back to sleep, I played two games of Clue, and wound up winning both because Professor Plum is unstoppable.
Plum was always my character of choice, and I never understood why until I saw the movie. It's because Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, plays the professor. It's also one of Tim Curry's best performances. What I'm saying is you should go watch Clue if you've never seen it before.
If there were one genre that I found to be synonymous with the early 90s, it's the beat 'em up. Of course we think of titles like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and Turtles in Time, but one of my favorites was Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage. I've never been a comic book guy, but I know who Spider-Man and Venom are, and that was enough for me to want to play the game. It also didn't hurt that the cartridge was a different color than most on the SNES, making it stand out from the pack like a big, red penguin.
In terms of the actual gameplay, you won't find anything special. It's your standard punch, kick, and jump fare, but the thing that really stood out was just how deliciously 90s the game was, even more so than Comix Zone. Everything about it just screams "alt rock." So much, in fact, that the 90s rock band Green Jelly aren't just featured, but they actually wrote and produced the soundtrack. I remember their logo being prominently featured on the games start up screen. Who was Green Jelly, you might ask? I'm not surprised you don't remember. Well, I wasn't too familiar with them, but if there was one song you may know, it's "Three Little Pigs." Fun fact: when doing research, I discovered that Tool drummer, Danny Carey, was the drummer for Green Jelly for a five year span, and that Tool's singer, Maynard James Keenan, does backing vocals on "Three Little Pigs." That was fun to discover, because even though I don't listen to them much anymore, I still consider Tool to be one of my all-time favorite bands.
Anyway, the game looks great, as it's done in its native comic book style, and it controls really well. The only drawbacks are that the game is pretty difficult, and you don't actually get to do a whole lot of Spider-Manny stuff. You climb up a building at one point, and you can use the web-sling, but it only transports you as far as the edge of the screen, so it's pretty pointless. Nevertheless, a solid game on either platform you choose to play it on.
I played a lot of sports games as a kid, but I was always partial to the ones that were over-the-top, like Base Wars, NFL Blitz, and Mutant League Hockey . But the one I spent the most time with was NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. I played it on the Super Nintendo, and for the most part, it was a pretty good arcade port. NBA Jam was well known for its plethora of secrets, like "Big Head Mode," being able to add Hot Spots, which increased the amount of points you'd receive if you made a shot standing on that spot, full-court dunks, and of course, tons of secret characters like Will Smith, Hillary Clinton, and George Clinton (no relation...that I'm aware of).
Unfortunately, the game didn't have my two favorite basketball players, which were Michael Jordan and Shaq. I assume the reason is because they both had their own games, but let's not talk about those. Since I couldn't play as them, my team of choice was actually the "Rookies" team, which featured 20 different combinations of NBA rookies from that year. I usually went with Grant Hill and Jason Kidd, which makes me feel really old because I remember when Grant Hill and Jason Kidd were rookies.
But I can't talk about NBA Jam without mentioning the announcer. It's one of the most recognizable voices in videogame history, and few things hit all my nostalgia buttons than hearing "He's on fire" or "Boomshakalaka."
The original Mortal Kombat, while not technically on the same level as Street Fighter II from a fighting game perspective, changed my life in ways that Street Fighter II didn't. I had played the arcade version at a local Putt-Putt several times, and got the Genesis version for Christmas the year it was available. The blood code, to me, is on the same level of importance as the Konami Code, and it's been etched in my memory since the day I learned it.
Mortal Kombat was one of the few games that brought my brother and I closer as children (at least momentarily). We would play for hours on our weekend evenings, usually with one of his friends, fighting match after match. I was never the type to compare games to their predecessors as a kid, but when Mortal Kombat II came to our Genesis, I could tell immediately that it was an improvement over the original in every conceivable way. The characters were better, there were twice as many, everyone now had two fatalities, there were more arenas, they included special stage fatalities like the Acid Bath, and they included the ridiculous "friendship" and "babality" finishers. I always thought the babalities were kind of stupid, but I did get a kick out of the friendships.
I lost the luster for fighting games when I played the original version of Street Fighter IV and realized that I didn't enjoy it at all, though I still tried to get into the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat, but it was all for naught. I have no intention of playing Mortal Kombat X later this year, and honestly I probably won't go back and play any old Mortal Kombat games, either. But the memories I have of staying up late and fighting an absent player two just so I could try all of the fatalities is one that I hold very dear to my heart.
If any game from the 16-bit era emerged as a cult classic, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is it. And it's only fitting, considering that the game itself is inspired by cult classic films like Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. It's also one of the best co-op games you can find, and I'm not just referring to it's generation. ZAMN is one of those games that my wife and I could pop in, play for a couple hours and have an absolute blast.
At the risk of sounding like an old man complaining that "they just don't make 'em like they used to," whoever they are, it just bums me out that there aren't games like Zombies Ate My Neighbors anymore, at least not in the console space. I would love to see an HD upgrade of ZAMN and put out on the various downloadable services. Unfortunately, when LucasArts was acquired by Disney and later shut down, most of that hope went out the window. While LucasArts did release a sequel called Ghoul Patrol, and other games done in the same style like Herc's Adventures, it's just a shame that no one has come along to play mad scientist and try to concoct the perfect mix of great gameplay, humor, horror, and all things camp like Zombies did.
ZAMN is the perfect Halloween game, but regardless of what time of the year you play it, it'll always be fun. It's one of my favorite games of all-time, and you owe it to yourself to track down a copy if you've never given it a shot.
Thus concludes 16-bit month for my weekly top 5s, I hope you guys enjoyed them.