Review by fekkot

"WHAT?!?!? I've only got 20 KB to highlight this system's greatness?!?"

Ahhh. 1989. That year sure brings back memories.....Though none of them are from the Genesis since I only had a Commodore64 back then.

Anyway, late in the mid-80's, despite the Master System's (MS) outselling the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in Europe, overall (and in all other countries that had it) the Master System was being far too recumbent. The MS also lacked support from major and/or emerging companies that were behind Nintendo like Capcom and Tecmo. Their arcade games were doing very well but it just wasn't enough for Sega to make their mark in the game industry. So in 1988, Sega decided to try something completely new and break new boundaries in gaming. What did they do? Did they finally release ''Alex Kidd Gets Wasted''? No, but they did the next best thing: they created the Sega Genesis.

Released in Japan late in 1988 and here in the summer of 1989, the Genesis set a whole new standard for power in video game consoles. Not only was it a 16-bit system, but it had a 68,000 processor, a processor speed of 7.6 megahertz (as opposed to the NES' 1.79 speed)- which is faster than that of 1991's Super NES, 512 colors (with a 64 on-screen maximum), resolution of 320 x 224, 32 x 32 sprite size and an 80 sprite maximum. In layman's terms, it clowned the NES in every technical category possible- with more than twice its power in many cases. However, with power comes a great price. I'm not one of your grandparents, so I obviously meant that in literal terms; the Genesis started out with an unbelievably and record-setting high retail price (in 1989, at least) of $249.99!

Of course, the Genesis system wasn't quite ALL the buyers would get. Sega gave the system a very special pack-in game: a translation of the 1987 ''classic'' arcade game Altered Beast. The translation was perfect, sporting the exact same levels, graphics and sounds as the arcade hit. People were baffled when they witnessed the debut of 16-bit console graphics with Altered Beast, and it helped inspire even more purchases of the Genesis and helped Sega wise fwom twere gwaves. However, there wasn't much gameplay to back up those graphics, and ironically, there were few games that used the power of the Genesis lessthan Altered Beast did. Most didn't find out how weak Altered Beast was until later.

The first batch of games didn't come until a couple of months after Altered Beast. The Genesiseseses' second game was a translation of a far superior arcade game: the innovator of the hack-and-slash sub-genre of the beat-em-up, Golden Axe. It was fun, but much like Altered Beast, it was too short and had cardboard cut-out style graphics, and flaky animation. As did the games after that- Space Harrier 2 and Super Thunder Blade (which were essentially the same game, as was 1991's Galaxy Force 2), then Last Battle and Arnold Palmer Golf. Ergo, throughout the first few months of the Genesis it had proven to be nothing more than a very expensive bauble.

However, in the winter of 1989/1990, companies began to prove what the Genesis could REALLY do! First off they did something that couldn't go wrong: they finally released a Shinobi game- the Revenge of Shinobi- one of the few first-generation Genesis games that was never an arcade game. Then came Capcom's brilliant Ghouls N' Ghosts and Sega's equally brilliant RPG, Phantasy Star 2 (the first 6-megabit game). Things got even BETTER in 1990 when the innovation truly started, but I'll get to the specifics later.

The appeal (and sales) began to slip a bit in 1990 after Nintendo announced the release date for the Super NES with new Mario, Zelda and Castlevania games. Worse yet, for once in a lifetime, Nintendo actually KEPTtheir promises concerning release dates! Just while it seemed like Nintendo would be and stay on top again, Sega inadvertently made an amazing panacea: Sonic the Hedgehog. It was what truly set up the neck-to-neck battle the Genesis and SNES had for nearly ten years. It went back and forth for a number of reasons ranging from the release of Donkey Kong Country and its silicon graphics to Ninteno being too ***** to release an accurate translation of Mortal Kombat unlike Sega. It was the closest and in my opinion most entertaining system war of all time (despite both companies keeping their 8-bit systems in the mix for waaaaay longer than they should've been).

My two oldest brothers started renting the Genesis in the middle of 1991 with a few select games- Castle of Illusion and Sonic the Hedgehog and Revenge of Shinobi being all I can remember. A particularbrother would make his younger siblings pay him $3 to play the Genesis during his rentals of it- even when he was gone, in which he would hide it if we didn't pay. He'd do the same with the SNES, but we'd always either pay or find it after he left. After all of the rentals of both systems and samples of VERY cool games like Super Mario World, Streets of Rage and each system's equally good Ghouls N' Ghosts' game.

The two youngest of us even decided to get a small ''system funds'' box, which kept changing from SNES to Genesis funds. Either way, the funds would always just disappear from the box and end up in a half dozen Ninja Turtle toys or those last 10 attempts to beat our older brother on Street Fighter 2 at the arcade. Shortly before the holiday season of 1992, we decided that we could simply let our grandparents do the dirty work. Even so, we would constantly argue over which to get. It was an especially hard decision to decide which would do better for us both overall since I was an action/beat-em-up person and he was a strategy/RPG person (although we liked each other's favorite genres to an extent). It really looked like we'd end up with the SNES seeing how hooked I was on Castlevania 4 and how hooked my brother was on Final Fantasy 2 (4). However, another turning point and the thing that finally caused a unanimous vote was the annoucement of SF2 Champion Edition being released on the Genesis. All bets were off, and it was time for us to truly explore the wondrous world of the Genesis..........

OVERVIEW I

GRAPHICS: 8+

While they certainly aren't as colorful as the Super NES' graphics (it was 64 colors against 256- DUH), it has a MUCH darker look (or ''more mature, as Sega used to phrase it). As I've said before, the early Genesis games often had cheap ''cardboard'' graphics and two-frame walk/attack animations. When handled correctly, however, the animation can be top-notch with animation as smooth as silk on games like Aladdin and Earthworm Jim. The Genny has better ''motion capture'' capabilities than all other non-CD systems. It's also capable of some Beeea-utiful backgrounds with things moving all over like on Strider.

The biggest graphical advantage this has over the SNES is in sprites- due to the Genny's surperior processor speed, Genesis games had faster moving sprites and little to no slowdown (as opposed to the SNES' breaking the physical boundaries of slowdown). Play Genesis Thunder Force 3, then SNES Thunder Spirits, or TMNT in the same way for the best evidence. However, as far as sprite size, colorfulness, and special effects (like mode-7/3D and silicon graphics), the SNES has the edge. Overall, the graphics are on par with the Playstation, but just slightly below SNES standards.

Cream of the crop:

1. Lightning Force-
the graphics of this game are absolutely breathtaking. From the vivid masses of mountains and clouds to the space armada that words can't express the beauty of.

Honorable mention:

2. Sonic the Hedgehog 3-
the speed of Sonic running and the parallax of the of the loops/ground when he runs makes this game quite a sight (but not much else).
3. Aladdin- this game has quite possibly the most life-like animation you'll ever see on a 16-bit game.

SOUND: 7

It could certainly use improvment here. 2 out of 3 times, the sounds don't sound like they're supposed to. Some, such as Striders ''shing'' slicing sound you'll hear about 1,500 times per game and Sonic's horrible ''wroooup'' sound tend to be tedious and extremely irritating. Others like the gun-firing sound on ESWAT sound more like walking up stairs than shooting. That can also (but seldom) be used as an advantage with very creative sounds like the lasers on Gunstar Heroes. The voices are usually very scratcy and the characters often sound like they have laryngitis. Sometimes hearing the voices can be amusingly bad.

Cream of the crop:

1. Gunstar Heroes-
explosions! Explosions! EXPLOSIONS!!!
2. Streets of Rage 2- great voices and ROARING punches is just one reason to keep the volume up on this game.
3. Contra: Hard Corps- moreexplosions! Moreexplosions! MOREEXPLOSIONS!!!11!1!

MUSIC: 8+

Much like the sound effects, the keys used aren't the most (for lack of a more elaborate term) rockin' out there, and they don't sound to realistic, so once again, it's up to creativity. Only in this case (unlike in sound), the developers use creativity more often. There's some amazing composition with unorthodox keys. Examples of great composition is Revenge of Shinobi, which has an intriguing hybrid of ''ninja'' music with techno, and Thunder Force 3, which has extremely dramatic ''cosmic'' tunes.

Cream of the crop:

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters-
BRILLIANT techno/hip-hop/jungle style music with uncannily realistic-sounding drums and cleaver tempo changes- especially on the Ice Planet. Simply the best soundtrack on ANY system's game short of Castlevania 4.
2. Streets of Rage 2- what is perhaps Yuzo Koshiro's greatest work, the excellent soundtrack featuring Yuzo's trademark techno might even compliment the game more than the gameplay!
3. Sonic the Hedgehog- another mark of Yuzo's brilliance- this game's delightfully cute soundtrack is a guilty pleasure.

OVERVIEW II

PLATFORM: 8

For flash, you have Sonic, with the first two of the series edging out 3 and Sonic & Knuckles in actual gameplay, design, and musical content. The only ticket you'll get on the caliber of Sonic 1 & 2 in this category is Rocket Knight Adventures (it took me forever to decide which category I wanted to count this under), although its sequel, Sparkster can hold its own too. Other fine Genesis platform games include Aero the Acro-bat- the most innovative of them all (although it's inferior to the SNES version), the interesting Dynamite Headdy and the amusing two Taz-mania games. The rest are just moderately fun two-hour diversions like Buster's Hidden Treasure and the Chiki Chiki Boys.

Cream of the crop:

1. Rocket Knight Adventures (9)-
an extremely unique platform game from Konami with more technique than you'll ever see from another video game mascot! Too bad the dialogue isn't quite as good as that of the sequel.

2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (9)- the most intricately designed of the Sonic games and the least tedious of them (since it has more zones than the rest). It's also the only Sonic game with a *GOOD* vs. mode.

3.RISTAR (8)- Nash would kill me if I forgot this one. It's a weird-ass game, but it has lots of substance and originality.

ACTION: 10!

In the winter of 1990, Sega released Strider, which relegated the preceeding apex of optimum visuals with 8 megabits- that was larger than ANY other cart at the time! The gameplay isn't too shabby either- just raw, slicin' fun! For slicin' fun with a lot more technique, you can take a trip with Revenge of Shinobi, Shadow Dancer or Shinobi 3 (which NO 2D action game beats in technique). If you want to get down with some wild shooting with a touch of puzzle and logic, you can load up Earthworm Jim, Mega Turrican or Flashback (but Vectorman doesn't make the cut with me). For rather tame, but more mellowed-out shooting action (oxymoronic as it is), give Rolling Thunder 2 and ESWAT a try. Last but not least, who can forget the classics, Castlevania Bloodlines and Ghouls N' Ghosts?

Cream of the crop:

1. Revenge of Shinobi (10)-
a marvelous game loaded with technique and cleaver level design that has so many ways to play it that it can be a perfect challenge for anyone (even an undisputed master like moi!)
2. Gunstar Heroes (10)- the ultimate ticket for wantonous gunslinging with a chum that edges out Contra: Hard Corps (especially since the health bar was removed in the US version- GRRRRRR!).
3. Target Earth (9)- while not the fastestaction game out there, the amount of strategy and cooperation with your CPU partners this game demands is redoubtable.

FIGHTING: 7

First and foremost, the Street Fighter games have their advantages (faster speed, group battle mode...) and disadvantages (lame sounds, weaker music...) as opposed to the SNES versions, but the SNES versions have the slight edge. Mortal Kombat and Samurai Showdown have similar differences on each console. If you want very unique fighting games with very unique engines, try Weaponlord (a VERY deep fighting game), TMNT Tournament Fighters, and Eternal Champions (which is a bit overly-complex).

Cream of the crop:

1. Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition (9+)-
this game doesn't needan explanation!
2. TMNT: Tournament Fighters (8)- the decent gameplay seems a lot better than it is when paired with the cool beatz, vivid graphics and clear sounds/voices.
3. Mortal Kombat (7)- the game that brought the entire gaming industry into jepordy stands out fairly well today even though the senator found other things to whine about.

BEAT-EM-UPS: 10!

When Sega first set a new standard for fighting games with Golden Axe, it was soon outdone by Final Fight. Then Sega set a new standard againwith Streets of Rage (SOR 2 more specifically), and in my opinion the standard was never set again to this day as far as console beat-em-ups go. There's a TMNT beat-em-up, but it's rather lacking compared to the NES and SNES versions. Also released was the classic Double Dragon trilogy (which was pretty much a sham since the Genesis could've easilyheld all three games on one cart). One case where I'm not sure if it counts is that of the wild-west beat/shoot-em-up Sunset Riders.

Cream of the Crop:

1. Streets of Rage 2 (10)-
the zenith of console beat-em-ups that sports amazing sounds, a near-perfect soundtrack and a dumbfounding amount of goons to beat on.
2. Comix Zone (9+)- an underrated gem of a game with a novel concept, fun, mindless brawling, puzzle-solving and dialogue as good as any RPG. Too bad it's 1-player.
3. Cyborg Justice (8)- an equally underrated gem where you construct your own robots the pit them against each other or the computer in beat-em-up or one-on-one action.

RPGS/ADVENTURE: 7

There are only certain Genesis RPGs that are worth a look. I still have a search warratnt for your houses. The Phantasy Star series is probably your best bet, but you can always go with Landstalker, Light Crusader and Beyond Oasis. For originality, play Sword of Vermillion and Traysia.

Cream of the crop:

1. Phantasy Star 4 (9)-
a true pioneer in RPGs that likely introduced the unique spell-mixing ''Chrono Trigger'' engine.
2. Beyond Oasis (7+)-an extremely fast-paced adventure game that requires more logic than most others...
3. Exile (7)- an interesting action/side scrolling hybrid that doesn't have much room left.

SPORTS: 10+!

I'm not a big fan of sports games, but the Genesis is the undisputed king of sports to me. The titles often got monotonous and asked that you'd rent/buy what was essentially the same game quite a few times (like with Madde, 91, 92, 93...all the way up to 98' and similar runs with the Joe Montana and NHL series). You have a few entertaining (but impossible) racing games like Super Monaco GP and Super Hang-on. More importantly, there's the Road Rash series. There are only a few that stand out beyond those, including the first Montana.

Cream of the crop:

1. Road Rash 2 (9)-
the best game of the brilliant motorcycle series where you clock enemies off of their bikes while on your way to victory.
2. Joe Montana Football (8+)- despite the horrible graphics and weird physics, this game's raw, simplistic gameplay stands out.
3. NBA Jam (7)- nowhere near as good as the Super NES version, but still the best basketball game out there with over-the-top moves.

SHOOTERS: 10+!

There's no system out there with more shooters than the Genesis (although the Turbografix/Duo comes close). You've got top-quality shooters like the Thunder Force games, good, solid shooters like Arrow Flash and Sol-deace, decent shooters like Gaiares, Whip Rush and Truxton and even a few average like Atomic Robo Kid. Most importantly of all, you need to try out Zero Wing..... FOR GREAT JUSTICE!

Cream of the crop:

1. Thunder Force 3 (10)-
simply the best shooter out there, with very fast gameplay, excellent weapons, and near-perfect graphics. Could be just a bit longer thoug
2. Wings of Wor (8+)- a cool but weird shooter with gameplay somewhat similar to 1945 games (with the myraids of shots and all) that requires a LOT of dodging.
3. Phelios (8+) an overhead shooter with a cool mythical setting to it and excellent level design.

STRATEGY: 10!

You've got every kind of strategy you need with this system. You can slow paced like Herzog Zwie (where you build your own army) or fast-paced like the mindless yet strategic General Chaos. It has got it all!

Cream of the Crop:

1. Romance of the Three Kingdoms 3 (10)-
for Machiavellian and/or devious tactics (or just farming your land).....
2. Shining Force (9)- for very strategic battling (with RPG elements).....
3. Rampart (8+)- to take it straight to em'!

CRAP: 8

While it can't compete with the NES or the PSX here, the Genesis has the most eclectic collection of total crap of any system. In action, you've got No Escape and Strider Returns, in sports you have Mike Ditka's Power Football, in fighting you have Fighting Masters, etcetera.

Cream of the crap

1. Sword of Sodan (3)-
a laughably pathetic game that has to be seen to be believed!
2. Time Killers (2)- without a doubt, the worst fighting game of all time!
3. Insector-X (2)-
an extremely cheesy and goofy shooter that I'll pay anyone for finishing!

PERIPHERALS: 10+!

Lets see..... You've got the Power Base Converter to play Master system games, the Sega CD... Game Genie... bla bla bla. Most importantly, get a Nomad so you can play all of this system's cool games on the road. Nothing beats Streets of Rage 2 on a trip!

HISTORICAL VALUE: 10+!

I don't even have room to list all of the pioneering games for this system (and gaming in general) from Strider to Shining Force and Virtua Racing. I'll just say that it has... quite a list of firsts.

OVERALL: 10+!

The best system out there- PERIOD! Even if you don't like the games, it's the cause of a lot of the games you're playing today! THE KING OF SYSTEMS!!!!111!1! u


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/10/00, Updated 04/16/01


Would you recommend this Review? Yes No You must register to leave a comment. Submit

Got Your Own Opinion?

You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.