Archive for the ‘Sega CD/Mega CD’ Category
This week Chip Cella (@CaptinChaos) and Andy Urquhart (@damien14273) from the Agents of Shieldcast join Fred to discuss retro titles featuring Marvel Characters. They learn that the distinction of titles early in gaming were almost nonexistent and perhaps Marvel having Disney behind it may actually be a good thing. Listen on true believers!
This year we celebrate more releases of Christmas time with special guests Rob “Trees” (@TreesLounge00), Shawn Freeman (@Freemandaddy5), and special guest Yomar “Yogi” (@Yogizilla). With a goal of 1991-1996, we only make it through the first half of 1994 but it’s a fun ride through the biggest titles of the 16-bit era. Merry Christmas everyone!
And as a bonus we have a special Christmas card from Jam:
This week we are joined by Chip Cella (@CaptinChaos) to discuss listener William’s topic: What makes a successful console launch? It all ends up being more stories of console launches and discussions on killer apps, but we do manage to cover most mainstream consoles.
This week Fred is joined by Chip Cella of the B-Team and Derrick H of All Games and Dead Pixel Live fame to discuss how games used to come packaged. This includes the box, instructions, and a bunch of freebies we pay good money for today.
Opening Song – Joe Esposito You’re The Best
Closing Song – Iron Maiden Run to the Hills
This week Fred is joined by Ali (@thealmiesta) and Andy (@damien14273) from the 42 Level One podcast to discuss Sonic the Hedgehog. With a heavily documented history, Sega’s official mascot to combat Mario had quite the history. In part 1 we discuss the origins of Sonic and all of his 16-bit era outings (which include his 8-bit Master System/Game Gear titles, spin-offs, and his CD outing), complete with the games themselves and the stories of development. While long, there’s no lack of content or stories tethered with the beloved hedgehog.
Opening Song – Sonic Theme (from Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis/Mega Drive)
Closing Song – Sonic Boom (from Sonic CD on Sega CD/Mega CD)
I can’t explain my love for the light gun. It’s one of the oldest forms of interactive entertainment, dating back to the carnival days where you would fire air rifles at a metal bullseye to make an old man’s hat pop up or a dog bark. Once the gun made the transition to video games it honestly became one of the most lifelike and violent gaming tropes throughout history. Not to get deep with it, but you are pointing a gun at a target, usually alive, and shooting it. There is not other gesture like it, you are shooting a modern device to kill something, virtual or not. At the same time it also doubles as the most simple form of proficiency. I don’t think anyone will claim that being good at Duck Hunt or Lethal Enforcers relates to being a good shot in a shooting range, but it’s got a much higher chance of significance than being able to get a headshot in Call of Duty. Whereas the FPS emulates the concept of aiming and firing a gun with 1:1 responses from a controller, a light gun truly simulates the experience.
Light gun games have been a niche genre, but that doesn’t prevent them from withstanding the test of time and being available on most home consoles and one of the most popular games, even today, in arcades. I guess it’s because despite the maturity implied behind firing a gun, it’s one of the easiest concepts for us to pick up. I’ve been on many adventures thanks to light gun games – whether it’s cleaning up the future in T2: The Arcade Game, battling zombies in a haunted house through House of the Dead, or enjoying some of the worst acting of all time in Mad Dog McCree.
It’s also significant because the light gun is a genre nearly impossible to emulate and doesn’t translate well in today’s technology. While there are exceptions, you will have a hard time playing Crypt Killer properly on a PC running MAME and most HDTV technologies don’t support light guns from the past. Authenticity is as important as the genre itself. This month I’ve decided to dedicate to a timeless style of video game that I always make first priority when buying a new (or old) system: the light gun shooter. Come join me to learn about some of the best, worst, funniest, and definitely weirdest titles to ever grace the hobby of video games. Thanks to my huge CRT television and original hardware, I can even show you videos.
Developer: Sonic Team
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $11.99 (used), $23.50 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Other Releases: Yes – PC, PS2/Gamecube (Sonic Gems Collection)
Digital Release? Yes – Steam, Xbox 360, PS3, Android, iOS ($5 on all platforms)
Sonic CD is one of those games that it’s just popular to like. I don’t want to start on a negative note, the game does have some merit, but it’s not a particularly good Sonic game and doesn’t quite change the universe like many will claim. Before Sega decided to blitz every console on the market with the digital version, Sonic fans were gnawing at the bit for a decent port (sadly the Sonic Gems Collection ports had emulation issues). Now that it’s everywhere the gaming community seems to have adjusted to a more realistic view of the CD adventure that throws a few imaginative ideas at relatively lackluster level design.
For those that aren’t up on their Sonic history, the hedgehog was co-created by Naoto Oshima and his more known partner Yuji Naka. After the release of the first game, Naka and several members of that team moved to the United States and joined with STI (Sega Technical Institute) to create Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Meanwhile the remaining developers, including Oshima, took the concepts that were in early development for Sonic 2 and expanded upon them into what eventually became Sonic CD. This is why despite coming out around the same time as Sonic 2, Sonic CD looks graphically more like the original and doesn’t seem to adapt some of the great ideas of the sequel. Still, it does feature some interesting gameplay mechanics, like the ability to move into the past and future with two full versions of the many levels. This dual expansion of the campaign does have a casualty: level design. Many of the levels in Sonic CD feature plenty of wasted real estate in the interest of moving quickly to the right, odd gimmicks that net death if you don’t tolerate the so-so platforming, and several instances where Sonic’s momentum is completely spoiled by a random ramp or springboard. Despite these layout flaws I still contest that the boss designs are superior over Sonic 2 and prove that not all of the talent in Sega’s Japanese team migrated to America.
If Sonic CD were to release on a different platform, especially the Genesis, it would not have held up well and definitely couldn’t hold up against Nintendo’s famous plumber but with the weak selection on the Sega CD, it’s one of the few action titles worth playing. As with most CD titles, the biggest highlight of the game are the cutscenes and audio. An opening animated scene that tells the basic story and blows away the bare-bones plot of the Genesis sequel. I think it’s a shame that of all the games that held back when it came to pointless movies on the Sega CD, this is the one game I would prefer to have more, especially to better flesh out new characters Amy Rose (Sonic’s girlfriend) and Metal Sonic (his nemesis). It’s possible that these scenes were planned and even produced (at least partially) but had to be cut to get the game out in time (it released just before the Black Friday rush on November 19, 1993). On the other hand, the soundtrack is supposedly spectacular, although if you’ve played it (or if you check out the video that I will be posting shortly) I don’t think it’s any amazing feat. Hardcore fans and import elitists will tell you that the culprit is the different soundtrack over the European and Japanese version. The Japanese version featured upbeat pop tunes by Keiko Utoku, a famous singer in Japan, for the opening and closing songs and boss battles sampled the song “Work that Sucker to Death” by George Clinton and others. In the US, Spencer Nilson replaced almost all of the music (who has a justifiable reputation from his many works on Sega CD first party titles), and the fan favorite song Sonic Boom (performed by Pastiche) were integrated and updated the game to a more contemporary sound. I still feel there’s something cheerful and dated about the graphics and gameplay of Sonic CD that benefits from the more playful Japanese soundtrack, but neither version specifically blows me away and I personally own the US version. In all other releases, both soundtracks were made available although Sega made the US soundtrack the default music for all versions worldwide.
Sonic CD exists in a world where major overhauls were ignored in the interest of preserving what made the original title great. While I appreciate the plot and the fact that levels can change drastically in both pace and difficulty depending on whether you complete them in the future or the past, the only thing that remained unchanged was its weak level design. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a good reason to play or even enjoy the game, it’s more fun than most of the other platformers on Sega CD, but it’s not the amazing Sonic title that justifies buying a Sega CD (or the Sonic Gems Collection for that matter) like fans would have you believe. I must admit that I wouldn’t consider a Sega CD collection complete unless it had Sonic CD and its usually one of the first purchases I recommend for new collectors. As a part of the history of Sonic titles it’s worth checking out at the cheap $5 price tag for digital versions, but curb your expectations appropriately.
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4.45 (used), $9.35 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Other Releases: No
Digital Release? No
Racing Aces is another in a long line of games that came out before their time. It’s not that the concept is particularly unique – a bunch of different planes involved in a race with occasional weapon combat – but rather that it’s a fully polygonal game trying to operate on a system that just doesn’t have the power. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sega CD, but I acknowledge that it did nothing more than add some graphical maps and sound channels to the Sega Genesis. This isn’t very conducive to a fully rendered 3D environment for racing. As a result it looks and acts much like the Genesis ports of games like Virtua Racing or Hard Drivin’, with large bare environments that are boring to look at and staggered, slow vehicles that don’t make for an exciting battle. Racing Aces moves sluggishly, the enemies have an unfair advantage, bare bones world, and is a racing game – all negative things in my book – so why do I like it so much?
The game starts off with a training arena that gets you used to using the easiest of the four classes of airplanes, the basic bi-plane. It allows you to learn navigation, pointing the plane where you want it, and how to navigate the air before throwing competition your way. It’s during this tutorial level that I learned I had a long way to go and for some reason remained a blocked part of my fond memory of this game. Racing Aces controls like a computer that has too many processes (which may very well be what’s happening) because all of your inputs have drastic changes to the movement of your plane and come a few seconds after you press them, so it’s difficult to re-adjust yourself after an overshoot. You eventually get the hang of it but that really means you get used to tapping directions to slowly adjust your direction to just the right spot. Well until you hit a turn, that is, when everything gets thrown drastically off course and you’re again fighting to fly in a straight line. Since I’ve never flown a plane before, I guess it’s possible that this is a normal experience for pilots but for those of us just trying to play a game it was a bit specific. This speaks nothing for the other planes in each class, there are usually 2-4 different ones, which will force you to readjust to even more picky controls. It’s all worth it once you grind through the hour or so of practice to get your skills up because then you feel like this laughably sluggish race moving at stuttering speeds is actually intense. By the end of it onlookers couldn’t help but crack up as I inched my way toward a finish line.
Contextually you have to understand that this was the only option in town if you liked Super Mario Kart and titles like it but only had a Sega console. Granted, it would be cheaper to purchase an SNES and the game rather than chance it on Sega CD, but we didn’t have that kind of hindsight and we were fanboys to the bone. Racing Aces provided similar racing, especially with the intelligently integrated weapon balloons, that seemed to fuse the graphics of Starfox with the racing of a kart racer. Unfortunately the barrier to entry is so large, even back then and these days for sure, that I have to determine this game is more work than its worth to get started. On that same token, though, Racing Aces can be a fun and rewarding plane racer if you put the time and patience into it and you happen to be burned out on the competition. I just dig it because it has everything against it from programming to framerate to aesthetics, and yet it overcomes that obstacle with gameplay and makes for an intriguing experience and addition to the Sega CD library. On a final note, I’m quite surprised that Sega, the king of re-releasing titles at any opportunity, didn’t attempt to update this title for future consoles (although the poor handling of 3D on the Saturn may be resonsible).