Archive for the ‘Master System’ Category
This week Jam’s pick was Psychic World. An action platformer originally released on the MSX as Psycho World (it was Japan only), this title received wider regard in the West as a Game Gear title and those in Europe may have also played the Sega Master System version. Fred and Jam dissect the development, gameplay, and version differences between this largely forgotten title by an almost unknown developer.
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.
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.
The 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.
DAY 2: Master of Darkness
The Sega Master System how I do love this 8 bit system. You know poor Sega never got Castlevania until the Mega Drive/Genesis so it was up developer SIMS (Soft development Innovation Multi Success) to fill that void. How this developer is still going to this day I don’t know, but I’m going to boldly state that Master of Darkenss is the best game this company developed. Other honourable mentions include the Dreamcast port of House of the Dead 2 and the best fishing game ever, Sega Bass Fishing on the Dreamcast and later the Wii.
Now before you Americans shout at me and say, “its actually called Vampire: Master of Darkness,” I will politely remind you that in Europe the “Vampire” part was removed. Maybe because of censorship, similar to how Ninja Gaiden turned into Shadow Warrior, but this is not always clear. Vampires were scary guys in the 90s (so were ninjas for that matter). In Japan this game was In the Wake of Vampire and it also came out on Game Gear.
Now for a game console that’s relatively rare and worth some money itself in this country. In fact, most of the games on this list are worth less than a complete copy of the console itself. If you don’t have a heavy collection, have a power base converter, or even own a Game Gear, you may want to consider moving this product to collectors for some extra cash. That said, if you live in Europe, there is a massive library of available titles for this great system.
Switching It Up
A 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.
Platform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010
These 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.
I really wanted to write a article on this port but rather than doing an actual review I thought it may be more interesting just to discuss what this game does differently from the arcade version it is based on.
Several ports of Ghouls’N Ghosts came out from the microcomputers like the ZX Spectrum all the way to the consoles like the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). For the time it was practically released on everything except Nintendo consoles – yep, look it up, this particular game has never graced a Nintendo console. One port that certainly deserved recognition is the attempt made on the Sega Master System.