Friday, June 5, 2009

Avoid these Genesis games

Twin Cobra

The arcade game Twin Cobra is about what you'd expect from the 2D shooter genre. You go through a number of stages of ever increasing difficulty, collect power-ups, and blow up a variety of air and land-based objects. It's even not close to being the deepest game the genre has to offer but it's a solid piece of work and can be pretty entertaining.

The Genesis port is...well...terrible. Any 2D shooter fan worth his or her salt is aware of TATE. This involves shifting the TV you're using to its side to emulate the vertically-oriented nature of the arcade game. If TATE isn't an option(say if your TV can't handle it or you just don't care) then the console port should still make an effort to fit the entire playfield on the screen. Sure everything will have to be shrunk a bit to occupy all of the real-estate but what else can be done. Finally if all else fails just have the screen scroll vertically a bit if the player moves forward.

Twin Cobra does none of this. Imagine if you took a screenshot from the arcade version of Twin Cobra and cut off the top half. That's about as much as you'll see of the game at any time. So no matter what is happening the player will always feel cramped. There's simply not enough room to maneuver and enemies are always right on top of the player before they get a chance to react. If that wasn't enough the game isn't even two-players. Why call it Twin Cobra? This is just a sad port. The worst part is other than those two major issues it seems they did a decent enough job capturing the mechanics and level design of the game.

Heavy Nova

In this game you lead a robot to become the champion. The champion of what isn't exactly clear but if it involves playing this game to completion I'm not interested. Every stage starts out the same. There's a short area where you solve some basic puzzles(hit a switch to open doors) while kicking tiny robots and at the end of the stage you face off against a boss.

The controls are horrendous. It takes a full second to turn around, it takes another second to duck, and Lord help you if you need to fly(just try changing directions). In fact everything you do has a delay tied to it and for these "training areas" you have to plan all of your moves well in advance. The boss-fights are even worse as they're 1 on 1 fights and there's really not much you can do except try to gain the advantage and cheese them to death.

The worst aspect of this game however is the mechanics. They are among the worst I've ever seen. When you're fighting a boss if they start flying in the air you can't hit them. Your punches and kicks could visibly connect with their body but it won't do a thing. Sure you can do the same to them but how exactly is that good? Most of the moves are context-sensitive but half the time they won't do anything if the opponent isn't standing completely still. Granted you can't expect much at all from a fighting game that pre-dates Street Fighter 2 but dang this is just bad news all the way.

On the bright side the Game Over theme is pretty good. 

Doom Troopers

This game reminds me of Virgin Interactive's entire Genesis library. You want to talk about a problem with creating an identity just look at Virgin. Sure they tend to have good graphics and great music but they all play almost exactly the same. You've got a side-view, multi-scrolling levels with a lot of secrets, some kind of gun that shoots in different directions, and so on. Global Gladiators, Cool Spot, The Jungle Book, The Terminator, and so on. It's like they figured they had a good thing going so they just copy-pasted whatever assets they needed to fit their next title. Then again maybe I could understand as I wouldn't put a huge amount of effort into developing a game based on the 7-up mascot but eh oh well.

Anyway you're got your gun and your multi-scrolling stage and what else is there to this game? I honestly wouldn't know because I got sick of it within five minutes due to some utterly stupid usage of mechanics. You come to what looks like a lake and you see foes pop out and start shooting at you. It's pretty clear that they're standing in it so you decide to jump in and take them out. Big mistake. While they can stand in a lake just fine you die. In order to get past this section you have to kill the baddies so that their corpses make platforms in the water. Oh but don't stay on those bodies too long or they'll sink and you'll die. 

I'm sorry but I don't care if your game gets much better immediately afterward but if you put something so nonsensical and stupid as this in a game you've got no business in game design. I don't claim to be an expert on this sort of thing but this is just unforgivable. 

Sports games

I don't play sports games but something tells me that Madden 2010 just might be an improvement over Madden 1993. Just a hunch...


In the future a gang of drug dealers requires maximum force to deal with. Enter the Technocop. This bad dude has a gun that causes "internal explosion of human targets", a car outfitted like it was ready for World War 3, and a hopelessly useless snare gun. Unfortunately our buddy here doesn't have much of a change against the denizens of the criminal underworld.

First off this game is tasteless. Now I'm not one to complain about breasts & guns perversing our usually harmless hobby but when you put a picture of a guy exploding on the back cover you've got issues(I also like how it reads "Not suggested for children under 12" right below). 

The game is broken up into driving and side-scrolling sections. Driving is entirely dull but I guess it isn't that bad. At least the car isn't randomly exploding and it controls decently enough(though annoyingly you have to hold up to accelerate). As you progress you get new abilities and new problems to work with. 

The side-scrolling sections absolutely fall apart though. You're expected to hunt down some criminal using a vague directional indicator and possibly a few elevators. If you allow time to run out or die when you arrive at the boss he'll get away and you get no points. Killing the bad guys is simple enough yet getting killed is even easier because the controls, mechanics, and overall design of this portion of the game are absolutely worthless.

First off when you crouch you don't hold down and then pop back up immediately after letting go. Instead you have to press down and then up if you want to stand again. Your jumps are automated in the sense that you always jump in whatever direction you're facing as well as a certain distance. Jumping is essentially for useless aside from getting over gaps. Controls feel un-responsive and there's even a bit of lag so if jam the fire button while doing something else(like getting killed) you'll fire just as soon as you get up(even if you're no longer actively pressing the fire button). 

The mechanics are worthless because for the most part you can't dodge anything. Even attacks that look like they go right over your head will cause damage. There's almost always an enemy waiting when you get off an elevator ready to score some free hits. So for the most part you don't really have a chance to go a stage or two without dying at least once because it's neigh-impossible to avoid taking damage.

The design decisions made in this game are also terribly handled. I understand that to mix up the gameplay some civilian targets should be placed in the game(if you shoot them you lose points). But who thought putting kids in there was a good idea? It'd be one thing if they were trying to get out of the way but when they see some guy making people explode with a gun they just have to run up and kick him in the shins. Would you rather deal with the lost points or face getting kicked at just the wrong moment and left open to get beaten to death by gang members? It's complete nonsense. The level designs are also extremely simplistic and for the most part look and play out exactly the same. All the game seems to consist of is dilapidated motels. 

In any case if you want to see people explode there's a million better alternatives out there. Sure the only people making any money of this game today are random dudes on ebay but this is better off sitting in a landfill somewhere next to E.T. for the Atari 2600.


During the early 90s when 16-bit console shooters were at their peak this little number was released by Wolf Team(it also saw an appearance as a launch-title with the Sega CD, though for some reason it's called Sol-Feace on that platfrom). The problem with Wolf-Team is that while a lot of their games have a unique style and they're always trying new things a large percentage of the time it just doesn't work out. To add to this though they've been able to pull off some impressive tricks on the Genesis hardware they tend to miss the basics like avoiding slowdown and flicker. 

Sol-Deace's story is the same as any other. Great evil, one lone fighter, huge armada, destroy them all. You go through multiple stages of side-scrolling action culminating with a boss-fight or even a mini-boss or two beforehand. Shooter-fans will note the basics like enemies in a line formation, power-ups, lots of bullets, and so on. The most unique aspect to this game is the weapon system. If you run straight into a power-up your main cannon changes, however if you approach it from the top or bottom you gain a secondary weapon(so one in the front and two on the sides). Also neat is that if you're not firing you can move forward or back to adjust the angle of your two secondary weapons, to spread out your attacks to hit enemies around you or get a concentrative blast to really clean out bosses.

This is all well and good but the stage and enemy design is just very poor. It might seem hard to screw up a shooter. Throw some walls around, create some enemy formations, toss in a power-up every once in awhile, then stick a boss at the end. Obviously you're not going to make a good level with that kind of lazy design but it still works. The levels in Sol-Deace however really don't work. It's like intead of putting in no effort the developers tried their best to make a terribly designed series of levels. They're needlessly cluttered most of the time and due to the rampant slowdown and flicker you tend to miss a lot of important details like large ships and bullets. The enemies add to this frustration by being clumsily put together and arranged. The bosses are no stranger to this as they're lacking in visual cues that produce warnings of their next move. The third boss for example is a giant worm that crawls all over the screen. You never know where it's going to go next as it doesn't slow down, double-back, or do anything that would serve as a suitable warning for the player to get out of the way. Aside from that the bosses just feel disorganized and badly put together. If they don't have a special trick handy most of the time they just spew a constant amount of bullets in random directions. To further drive the frustration home if you're killed you respawn immediately and a weapon power-up floats your way. You really don't get enough time to grab the power-up and re-arrange your ship so it's away from enemy fire so at times you could die a couple more times before you get straightened out and back into the game.

This game is by all accounts a mess and should be avoided entirely.

Cyborg Justice

The beatemup genre tends to get a bad rap. Critics are always saying things such as "All you do is beat up the same people over and over again.", "The levels are repetitive and show a complete lack of effort.", and also "The bosses are extremely unfair and badly designed." Not all of these things are true for the genre as there are many games that avoid these problems. However Cyborg Justice manages to fit all three of those complaints perfectly. It's possible that it just wasn't the time for hand-to-hand fighting robots. With scrap like Heavy Nova, Rise of The Robots, and this game I can't understand why such a great concept could get such awful games.

You're a cyborg working in some mining colony in the year two-billion. Before you know it your programming goes on the fritz and you decide you want something called freedom. Needless to say your superiors don't take kindly to that so they send an army of cyborgs to terminate you.

One of the big selling points of this game was that you could put together your very own cyborg and create a possible 216 combinations. While this is true aside from your arm part(which decides your special weapon) and your leg parts(which determine certain mobility functions) there's really not much at all to the creation aspect. After deciding on what you want you go through 5 levels with 3 stages apiece.

Though you have tons of moves at your disposal you'll find little use for most of them. The AI tends to be too evasive-minded and the actual combat is too stiff and clunky to accomplish anything. You'll soon find that your best option for winning is to do the move that rips off the opponents arm and either throw the part at them(which is an instant-kill) or repeat the grab move to rip off their torso..instantly killing them(plus you can use the torso to gain quite a bit of health back). The jump-kick also happens to be quite handy(and also required for getting over many of the pits in this game) but for the most part you can forget about all of those moves.

The levels are about as bland and repetitive as you could possibly imagine. You walk forward a bit while dodging random missiles before you get jumped by a couple enemy cyborgs. These guys were also built using one of those 216 wacky combinations and for the most part have access to the same moves as you. Thanks to the poor combat however these fights are terribly dull and even frustrating since you spend more time seeking that torso-ripping opening than bothering with the other moves(which for the most part do little damage). Sometimes the levels mix it up by having a couple traps but these just feel lazily slapped on and pointless. At the end of every level you face off against a boss. Aside from the final boss all of these guys are the same. However the second level boss(and beyond) can and will do the torso-ripping move on you. So if you leave yourself open for even a second you'll get killed instantly and like that it'll be Game Over.

How exactly is that good design? In order to beat these particular bosses you have to actually use the rest of the moves in your arsenal. If anything it's like the developers knew everyone would just be ripping off enemy parts to end fights but to force the player to change their tactics just for a boss is terrible. While the game offers different end of level bonuses for playing fair and/or being very brutal they don't really mean much of anything when it's more beneficial to survival just to skip the BS and go straight for the immediate killer-moves. 

Don't waste your money and especially your time on this one. It's absolute junk. While the game looks promising enough it's just not well-designed and even if it was you'd still have to contend with the clunky fighting system.

Shadow of the Beast

I'll go ahead and get this out of the way. This game has some very impressive art direction and the music is quite good. If you're really interested you're probably better off seeking out a good gameplay video and taking in all of the imagery and sounds. This really isn't a good game at all.

You're a beast in a strange world and your main method of attack(for a good chunk of the game at least) is your punch as well as a jump-kick. The problems start here is the lousy mechanics. You can't jump-kick if you're coming down from a jump and you're punch can't hit much of anything unless you're dead-on. Once you figure out when to punch things without taking damage you'll soon discover death is never far behind. You can take an impressive 12 hits before dying but a number of objects can kill you instantly. To add to this while early on there are an over-abundance of healing items later on there's not much of anything. Oh and before I forget there's only one life and no continues. This usually wouldn't be a bad thing but considering how ridiculously rare healing items become after a certain point it just doesn't work right. 

Due to the mechanics and level design this game is also extremely shallow. You run forward, do some light exploring, punch everything that gets close and jump or duck everything that you can't. Little things like being able to turn while crouching can't be done and the controls feel so stiff it makes the action extremely basic. To compare it's like playing Dragon's Lair only with several dozen more button presses. Sure you have the freedom to move in either direction while jumping and attacking at will but for everything that occurs there's only one solution. You either have to jump it, punch it, or run past it. There are no combinations or variations for every encounter. Plus while every regular foe takes a single hit the larger boss creatures can take a huge amount of damage. A lot of these guys aren't even that hard but they're designed so you can't just sit in one spot. These fights are simply boring instead of challenging.

This is a great game to look at and listen to but it's really not worth playing at all. The reason I even bought a copy was for the cool poster.

Mystic Defender

One of the earliest Genesis titles also happens to be filled with design problems and just absolutely pointless. While this game was originally based off of some anime or manga in the West it is known as Mystic Defender. You play as a guy named Joe Yamato(no relation to Joe Musashi) and have to rescue a fair maiden from a great evil. Thus the journey begins over 7 or 8 stages.

While the hero walks well enough his jumps need serious work as there's a slight delay that makes them feel stiff yet at the same time sloppy. Like he needs to tense himself to do something yet still fail at it. At least his weapons are cool. Starting off with a main shot that can be charged up for a powerful blast the player soon acquires other weapons like a flamethrower that can be controlled to pick off annoying enemies or simply to clear a path for progress, and one that fires crystals that bounce off of walls. Both of these weapons require time to charge and charging can only be done when the player is standing still. Knowing when to charge and switch weapons is essential for progress. This part of the game is well-done.

The level designs are quite terrible I'm afraid. The two stages start off decently enough but at the third stage it seems like you're spending more time platforming than blasting away the bad guys. The fourth stage is just horrible as it's the only spot with instant death pits in the game and those bad jumping controls will lead to many losses. The fifth stage isn't much better since while it's more focused on shooting guys it also runs a bit long and gets frustrating when most of the enemies just hang back and pelt the player with bullets. Sixth stage is basically a more difficult third stage and is just dull. The seventh stage is bland and forgettable. Kill the enemies, take the elevators, it's an absolute snore. The final stage is really just the final boss and the only highlight hear is that on early versions of the game the fair maiden can be seen naked. Granted there's really not much at all to look at but eh there you go.

The enemies constantly respawn but I guess it's just as well since there's no score or anything. The only point to killing enemies is to get them out of your face as there's no thrill to defeating them. Aside from the power-ups lying around there's nothing to gain from exploring. There are I believe two 1ups so I guess that's gotta count for something. They'll probably just end up getting wasted on the 4th stage or something though. 

Even with all this it's still an easy game to complete. Sure you could attempt to beat it without losing a life or even taking damage but why bother? This game isn't even worth the effort of taking it out of the box, let alone playing through it. If you somehow get a copy of this game in the mail or via some other means just toss it in the garbage as you walk back to your house. It's probably not completely awful but so little effort was put into it it's hardly worth wasting any time on the game.

Keep watching this space because there will be more Genesis games to avoid.

1 comment:

  1. You need to allow pazting in theze comment boxez :)
    I dizagree about Myztic Defender, the jump iz perfectly rezponzive and you can control the height of the jump and your movement in the air unlike zay, Caztlevania or Ghoulz n Ghoztz. I know there are a few boring levelz but ztill, it'z a pretty fazt paced game with little zlowdown and the zound effectz + explozionz make the enemiez rather zatizfying to beat. I alzo like the dark 80z anime atmozphere. Only thing I really didn't like about it iz how they dumbed it down from the prequel which waz a platform adventure / point & click hybrid for the mazter zyztem (ZpellCazter).