Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Sega Genesis Games

I just recently began reading Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, which chronicles the 16-bit videogame war between Sega and Nintendo. I can't put it down, and I highly suggest it for anyone interested in videogame history. As I'm reading, memories are flooding back to me about this particular time in my life. Even though I'm a self-admitted Nintendo fanboy, I was actually more of a Genesis kid than I was a Super Nintendo kid. A lot of that was due to the fact that my parents were awesome enough to subscribe to the Sega Channel, which enabled me to play 50 Sega games every month, and was a brilliant idea that was way ahead of its time. Because this era was so influential on me, the next few weeks my top 5 lists are going to pertain to this time in my life. The list this week counts down my favorite Sega Genesis games.

Games on this list were only playable on the Genesis, so games like Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Earthworm Jim, which in my mind are synonymous with the Genesis, are disqualified because they also appeared on the SNES. They will qualify for a list in the future, however. Now let's get started.

(Dis)honorable Mention: Ecco the Dolphin

Ecco the Dolphin is scarier than any survival horror game I've ever played. I'd rather play P.T. for days on end than play Ecco the Dolphin. I have this irrational and serious phobia of water levels in videogames, they completely stress me out. I've never made it past the first few screens in an Ecco game because I get to that first shark and immediately turn the system off. No, thank you. So, Kudos to Sega for making the scariest videogame series of all-time, completely inadvertently.

5. Road Rash II

Road Rash II gets the nod over the other entries in the series for one reason: I didn't play them, although I imagine they weren't much different, and RRII is usually considered to be the best. Road Rash is a series I wouldn't mind seeing make a return, as they don't make games like it anymore. Sure, it's very similar in gameplay to Mario Kart or various other kart racers, but Road Rash felt edgy, and therefore, more adult. It was almost a game that I felt I shouldn't have been playing at the time.

There need to be more car combat games (or cycle combat in this case), and not the Twisted Metal kind where you get a small sandbox to putz around in or the Mario Kart-esque games where you're on a defined track. Road Rash was the perfect amalgamation of the two; an extreme racing game where combat was essential to victory.

This game barely beat out Skitchin', which is basically Road Rash except you're racing on rollerblades, which were all the rage in the 90s.

4. General Chaos

General Chaos is one of the most overlooked games not only on the Genesis, but probably ever. There's nothing else like it, and it really is, as the name implies, chaotic. It's a single-screen combat game where you control your choice of four different squads to take on your opposition. Each squad is made up of a combination of the games five different classes of soldiers, so you can pick a squad more fitting to how you prefer to play the game. If you prefer long-range, go with the squad with the Launcher and the Chucker. Or maybe you're a risk taker and want to play with a squad that has the Blaster. It's all up to you.

You control your characters by use of a cursor assigned to the D-pad, and that's really the only flaw to the game. It gets much better (and easier) if you're playing with a friend, or three friends if you happen to have the adapter, at which point you only need to control one or two characters at the absolute most. My personal favorite part of the game is getting your character really close to an enemy soldier, at which point everything else stops and you engage in mano a mano combat. It's a far cry from Metal Gear Solid's CQC encounters, but it's still a ton a fun.

Sadly, the artist of the game tried to fund a sequel through Kickstarter back in 2013, and it came up about $100,000 short of its goal, which really bums me out considering what stuff does get funded. General Chaos is definitely worth playing if you ever get the opportunity.

3. Comix Zone

I've never been into comic books, but I remember seeing Comix Zone in an issue of GamePro and thinking it was the coolest idea for a videogame that I had ever seen, and it probably still is. It's an action platformer where the main character, Sketch Turner (who looks like Dee Snider), gets sucked into his own comic book and forced to do battle with his creations. After clearing rooms, Sketch jumps from panel to panel to advance the story.

Comix Zone wasn't released until late in the Genesis' life. So late, in fact, that Sega's next major console, the Saturn, was already on store shelves, as was its major competition, the Playstation. Due to this, the game didn't sell very well, but has gone on to be a bit of a cult classic.

My only complaint was that the game was incredibly hard. I was never able to get past the third level, but luckily I had friends who were much better than me and were able to beat the game, so I still got to see it in its entirety.

2. X-Men 2: Clone Wars

Remember a little bit ago when I said I've never been into comic books? While that was technically true, the part that isn't is that there are some superheroes that I really like. One is Batman, because its Batman, and the other is the X-Men. Now, I'm not the type that goes into back stories and knows the ins-and-outs of characters, but I was a huge fan of the X-Men cartoon in the 90s, as well as the action figure line that spawned from it, and then we got two great Genesis games.

Well, one good game and one great game is probably more fair to say. The first game is fine, but the sequel, Clone Wars, is outstanding. It replicates the look and feel of the show and comic to a t. You have your choice of eight X-Men characters (after you unlock Magneto), including all the fan favorites like Wolverine and Gambit. It's a straightforward action game where you punch, kick, and special attack through hordes of the Phalanx in order to (duh) save the world. Each character had unique abilities, like Beast's ability to cling to walls and Cyclops' ability to suck. But it was obvious that everyone was probably going to want to play as Wolverine, which is why he got preferential treatment and got a sweet lunge attack, the ability to climb walls, and can slowly regenerate health to a certain degree (and yes, I know health regeneration is one of his abilities in the comic). Wolverine's brooding abilities are off the chart as well.

Much like General Chaos, this game is a lot more fun when played co-op with a friend, and any time my childhood friend David and I would fire this game up, we were unstoppable with the team of Nightcrawler and Gambit.

1. Streets of Rage 2

A long dead genre, Streets of Rage 2 is the best of the best in the beat 'em up category. I love the Final Fights and Golden Axes of the world, but for me, none of them hold a candle to Streets of Rage 2. It was one of the few games that united my brother and I. Normally we were competing with each other, and more times than not, my brother would win as he had three extra years on me, but Streets of Rage 2 gave us a reason to work together.

And the game is still just as great today, my wife and I have played it within the last year and had an absolute blast. The original was great, but the sequel was much more refined and did away with the generic special attack of calling in a police car to launch missles and gives every character a unique special move. And say what you want about the music on the Genesis, but Streets of Rage 2 has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. It sounds like it should be in a Blade movie.

The characters that were added--Skate and Max Thunder--are way better than the returning Axel and Blaze. Why do I say that? Skate wears roller blades and Max Thunder is a professional wrestler, what else do you need to know? Although you can unlock a playable Kangaroo in Streets of Rage 3, which is admittedly pretty rad.

The 16-bit era was truly a revolutionary time. Even though companies today are technically competing with each other, you'll never see companies trying to put each other out of business again the way Nintendo and Sega were in the 90s. Hope you guys enjoyed this ride through my nostalgia. Next week's top 5: Super Nintendo Games

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas and listen and/or subscribe to my podcast.

-Dustin

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