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Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Podcast: Old Console, New Hardware (Part 1)

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We all love old video games, but the frank reality is that as they age our consoles run solely on obsolete technology.  As the basic capabilities of modern hardware increases, so does the ability to mod classic consoles to keep up.  In addition, new accessories also come on the scene to serve needs that were either impossible or too expensive in the past.  This episode covers the earliest cartridge-based consoles and the many modifications and accessories you can get for them.  In part 1 of this two-part series we get a bit technical, but also present the many options you can potentially research.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

Altered Beast Review

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Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots.  Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising.  I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home.  I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game.  When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly.  In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past.  This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.

altered_beast_arcade_beast_modeThe premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped.  Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level.  Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time.  Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less.  Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span.  When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.”  Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first.  Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme.  While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much.  That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series).  Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

Celebrate Halloween with Splatterhouse 2 and Typing of the Dead

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Happy Halloween from Gaming History 101!  To celebrate we had Fred tackle Splatterhouse 2, a game he tragically had not played until today.  Can he overcome the house of horrors and save Jennifer?
Warning: Both videos contain adult language and gameplay violence.

Then to lighten things up Fred moves over to the Dreamcast to play through Typing of the Dead.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Shadow of the Beast II Review

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Writers Notes: In an attempt to make my comeback in game reviewing I wanted to get nostalgic again and revisit the first video game review I ever wrote. But since film and game developers seem to love to remaster everything, I thought I would jump on that bandwagon and re work my old review. Enjoy and hopefully you will see more content from me soon. Today I am going to revisit the 16-bit hit Shadows of the Beast II on the Sega Mega Drive developed by Reflections Interactive and published by the late Psygnosis. I decided to return once again to this brutally challenging game and see if I still remember how to play through what is a relatively short experience (if you know what you are doing).

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I still have my copy of the game exactly how I purchased it back in the nineties. I was originally attracted to the game by name alone though I always wished I could find the original boxed version but alas I still have never found one at least for a reasonable price, and with the way retro prices are going now I probably never well. The game to this day is kept in a rather shoddy EB games box that does not leave much to the imagination, but it is my only memento from the store which is now extinct in the UK and I kinda like hanging on to it even if it is a pain to store away since the box is a couple of centimetres taller than a standard Mega Drive box (yes, we use the metric system here).  When I popped this game in for the first time I was totally blown away by the sound track which is composed by David Whittaker and Tim Wright. Even listening to it today, it still holds up and sounds incredible. Before you even start the game itself you take a moment just to take in the truly gorgeous title music. If you never play this game I highly recommend you check the soundtrack out online it is beautiful.

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Written by jamalais

August 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Podcast: Rocket Knight Adventures Game Club

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Rocket Knight Adventures came out during the apex of Genesis/Mega Drive game design. Developed by Konami with roots in the Contra franchise, this cute possum with armor and a jet pack was a charming action platformer. Unfortunately given main character Sparkster’s mascot status and the trends on consoles at the time, this is probably one of the best games you’ve never played. Join Fred and Jam on a journey through a true Sega classic.


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Written by Fred Rojas

April 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

Rocket Knight Adventures Review

rka_gen_boxrka_md_boxPlatform: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
Released: 1993
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? No
Other Games in the Series: Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 (Genesis/Mega Drive), Sparkster (SNES – yes, it’s a different game), Rocket Knight Adventures (2010 – technically a sequel to Rocket Knight Adventures 2)
Value: $13.51 (cart only), $29.99 (complete), $78.00 (sealed) – per Price Charting

Jam’s Take

Rocket Knight Adventures is one of those games that you’ve probably heard of but never played. Those that did play it generally spoke very highly of the experience and I found most other people say, “yeah, I really need to get round to trying that.” Now I personally have a lot of nostalgia for this game. This was one of the very few games I received for my birthday that was to my knowledge brand new. But more importantly a game for me and not my brothers. I had no idea what to expect when I unwrapped this game. But I immediately popped the game into my Mega Drive, heard that sweet Konami tune and lets just say things just got better and better from there. Now this is our game club for April and its time to revisit and see if it’s just as great as I remember or if it was one of those titles that looked better through my younger gamer eyes.

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Written by jamalais

April 28, 2015 at 11:33 am

Rocket Knight Adventures Initial Run/Quick Look

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Rocket Knight Adventures is this month’s game club and a highly regarded part of the Genesis/Mega Drive library.  Not only does it show off the hardware tricks that Konami was famous for but it’s also tough as nails.  Having never played it, Fred jumps onto his console (and with a web cam so you can see all his goofy faces while playing) to make a first attempt at conquering it.  Does he succeed?

Written by Fred Rojas

April 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Genesis, Videos

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Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Monster World IV Review (English Translation)

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mw4_boxPlatform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Publisher: Sega
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)

The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here.  [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here.  Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]

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Written by jamalais

April 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Smash TV Review

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smashtv_boxPlatform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams
Publisher: Williams/Midway
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010

Smashtv01These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right.  Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen.  The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx.  It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth.  Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?).  It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth.  I loved it then and I love it now.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2015 at 11:34 am