Tag: Mega Drive

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #3: Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!

My first memory of Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! was seeing it at the house of one of my friends when we were young. He was an amazing guy who would pretty much perfect anything he put his mind to.

The first thing I really saw him perfect was Greendog, then later it was Ridge Racer and finally it was the electric guitar. He made the game look like a work of art. He hadn’t owned it long but he seemed to totally understand everything about how it worked and he made it look darn easy to play.

I didn’t actually own it till years and years later. I think I got a boxed copy complete for £5 from an indy game shop and in all honesty the second I saw the game it made me think of my friend. Simply put, for me that game will forever be linked to him because not only is it the first time I saw it being played, I have also never seen it being played so well anywhere else.

OK so lets start with the story. Well, the main character is called Greendog which you could probably guess from the game’s name, and he has an issue. This issue is the fact that he was surfing and then he wiped out finding himself on a beach with no surfboard in site and a strange necklace around his neck. He soon finds out that the necklace can not be removed when a ‘beach babe’ appears before his eyes and informs him that the necklace is cursed and that he will be stuck wearing it until he finds the lost parts of an ancient Aztec treasure. Without the treasure he will be stuck with the necklace unable to remove it, unable to surf and – worse than that – every single living thing in the world will attack him. OK, so in a world where so many games involve random creatures trying to kill you for no apparent reason its actually pretty interesting to have a reason given here for why your character is homicidally pursued by birds, crabs, starfish and all manner of other creatures.

OK so I want to start by talking about the game play. Greendog is a platform game. You go from left to right jumping, swinging and traversing the levels, you have a Frisbee that you can throw at enemies. The real issue with this though is not in what Greendog can do, it’s in the way Greendog controls which can best be described as sluggish. Your button presses never quiet seem to work quite how you want, or quite as fast as you want. At its worst this game can be extremely frustrating. The Greendog sprite feels like a pretty large one really and the hit detection box around him feels like it is even bigger. Add to this his bad slow-motion feeling jumps which often end in either you taking damage that you feel is unjust and can cause people to seethe with rage or even worse instant death on occasion. If you think Greendog is hard to control on land then just you wait until you get him to go underwater.

I do have to give the game some praise though for trying to break things up a bit. There are skating levels, in which Greendog either jumps on a red skateboard or puts on pink rollerblades. And then you have levels with Greendog’s pedal copter, which he uses to travel from one island to the next. In these pedal copter levels you bash the C button repeatedly to remain airborne while using the B button to use the copter’s spring-loaded boxing glove weapon to attack enemies. The game is playable and it is completable despite feeling tough, because eventually you seem to get on board with its janky controls and learn to work around them. If you just watch someone play it and don’t feel what it’s like then you’d be forgiven for thinking that its a great game as there was certainly a lot of effort put into it.

Yes, you could say that Greendog is yet another platformer on the Mega Drive – a console that certainly is not short of 2D platformers, but to its credit I think it does enough to have its own flavour and therefore stand out as its own thing. The game has its Caribbean sort of style you find yourself traversing through jungles, across beaches, exploring an aquarium, visiting a native village and other places. It’s nicely varied while also managing to keep everything connected to a central theme and I think it does this very well. Along the way you will collect items, these are usually foods such as French fries, burgers and doughnuts, but you also get power-ups which upgrade your Frisbee or give you more protection from damage.

Lastly I want to talk about Greendog’s music. In all honesty I think it is simply excellent. Much like the graphics it sticks to this Caribbean style but it also offers a wide variety of tunes. Most importantly I think what is on offer really fits the games general theme, it works well with the graphics and gives the whole package a certain degree of charm. It’s just a shame that these good things about the game are not really backed up by the gameplay.

OK so I tried this game at 50hz UK and 60Hz US and I have to say that the game is more fun at 60hz as moving that little bit faster helps the way the game feels, and the music also sounds a lot better. I did think it was a little bit easier when it was slower though I guess that’s just because it allows for you to be a bit slower in your reaction to enemies, etc.

It is kind of hard to rate this game, I mean on the one hand it is really broken in some departments, but then its full of character and it does make a big effort to break up the action. There is a lot about it I really like and also a lot I dislike. I feel that what it really deserves is a six out of 10. It’s slightly above average and there was certainly all of the stuff here that could have taken it up to classic status but there was also far to much dragging the game back down.

If you really want to play it then complete copies seem to be around the £15 mark, with loose carts being about half this much. While not exactly bad prices there are much better games you could spend your money on.

 

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #2: Beast Wrestler (aka Beast Warriors)

So the game I am going to be talking about now is a game called Beast Wrestler (also known as Beast Warriors in Japan). Did you ever have a game which as a kid you played so much it was a bit of an obsession? Maybe it delivered just the right cocktail of things you were into at that precise moment in time that it just felt almost as if it had been made just for you.

Well this is how I felt as a youngster about Beast Wrestler. I was massively into wrestling of the WWE favourite but I was also big into monster movies, so combine grappling with a creature feature and how can it be anything other than awesome? Load up the game and let it do its introduction and you will be greeted by the site of all manner of cool looking beasts and what I can best describe as some 16-bit foreboding Phantom of the Opera style music which really sets the scene. Hats of to the developers here, they really did know how to get people pumped.

Apparently the game was made by a company called Riot. Information on them appears to be rather limited but it turns out Riot was a subsidiary of Telenet Japan. It came into existence in 1991 when Telenet Japan was expanding but when Telenet started to lose sales in 1993 it was closed with some of its staff being transferred. It was was best known for employing graphic artist and later director Eiji Kikuchi, and music composer Michiko Naruke. The game was published by Renovation Products which was basically Telenet Japan’s US publisher of Sega Mega Drive games. Telenet would later go on to be purchased by Sega themselves, which is rather fitting seeing as they had heavily supported the Mega Drive and only ever released one SNES game.

So with monsters and such you might think that this game is set in the past. Well no, according to the Japanese manual this game is set in 2020 – two years from now. But heck when this game out in 1991 the year 2020 probably felt pretty darn space age, and basically it’s all about genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has allowed scientists to develop specific life forms called ‘dragon warriors’ and basically trainers have used these creatures to fight in a wrestling championship. So ladies and gentlemen I guess you have two years to save up your cash and decide what kind of monster you would like to own. This is one of those games where if you grab the US version there is some absolutely fantastic Engrish, there are plenty of words pushed together missing adequate spacing and some excellent typos which managed to slip through the translation process, in fact before your first fight you will be called a “bovice” when offered your first monster. If you’re a lover of funny Engrish then this game is one to keep an eye out thats for sure.

The visuals in Beast Wrestler are very mixed in my opinion. I find the monster designs to be very interesting. They are reasonably detailed and there is a fairly good variety of them and I think that they show a great deal of creativity. It is kind of from here that things get worse though the arena is plain, it lacks any real care or attention, plus you probably noticed I said arena not arenas. That’s right there is only one so you better get used to looking at the same backdrop as you play. I am also sad to report that the graphics look even worse in motion than they do in static screen shots. This is because the animation on the whole is pretty darn stiff and could seriously do with the frames of animation being doubled, it looks odd and well janky. It feels like someone took a lot of time to make the beasts and they were then just poorly put into the game.

The music in Beast Wrestler is far more consistent than the graphics though, and more importantly it is in my humble opinion pretty darn great. It has this fitting orchestral meets 16-bit sort of feel, it really feels like the most of the Mega Drive’s sound capabilities was used here. It really does help the game to try and create a dramatic atmosphere. The sound effects though I kind of think they’re a mixed bag. The hitting noises are not too bad and the noise when the beasts hit the ground offers a nice satisfying feel, but the noise used when one monster bearhugs or chokes another is pretty grating and all of the monsters roar the same when they are beaten.

When it comes to gameplay, Beast Wrestler is once again a mixed bag. You move your monster/wrestler around with the D-pad with the A button being used to punch, the B button being used for tail-based strikes, and the C button being your special/signature move button. The idea is to beat your opponent’s monster till it cries out on the ground three times. Once you have managed this then you have won the fight. In order to do this you need to cause damage to your opponents’ monsters and you do this by punching, tail whipping, body slamming, and clotheslining the living heck out of them. In total honesty though it is a bit of a button masher, it never seems to feel like quite what you want is happening.

The game has two modes: match and tournament. Match mode is basically your versus or exhibition mode. In this either two players can go head-to-head with 10 selectable beasts, or one player can fight a computer controlled beast. This is basically good either for just practising or having a quick go with a buddy. Now tournament mode is the real game, the story mode. Here you use a pre-chosen creature and fight battle after battle. The game has three acts the Pro Test, Domestic Rank and World Rank. You don’t have to finish the whole game in one sitting as passwords are provided but they are pretty long so that’s worth bearing in mind.

After every other match you win, you get the chance to spend some of your winnings. You can use these to get various items and serums that can help you raise your monster’s speed, strength or stamina. At certain points you will also be forced to merge your beast with a choice of monsters you have already defeated, being told that your monster’s badly injured and without merging it its life will be at risk. I think this is part of what really gripped me back as a kid and it’s something I don’t remember experiencing in a game before and wouldn’t again until I played Monster Rancher on the PS1 ( A game I would strongly recommend even if it is incredibly pricey).

So despite loving this game as a kid it’s time to let rip now. The game has a lot of issues – the first being that the grappling and damage systems seem unreliable. A lot of the time who wins a grapple seems to be really random, you try to pound the buttons or press them at certain times and nothing quite seems to help your situation. Apparently the US instruction booklet states that timing is key but in all honesty if there is some kind of proper way to time things I have never really worked it out.

Weirdly your character can face in six different directions, but can only attack in two of those directions. There is no block and no real dodge so there’s not really anything you can do defensively. Add to this the hit detection seems to be a real mess. When you’re fighting the big upright monsters punches and tail whips hit well enough but don’t work very well when your fighting against short enemies. Sometimes it looks like your blows really shouldn’t be connecting and yet somehow they are. Soon you will find that you’re kind of managing to get by but it’s not because you have learned how to play the game its more like you have learned a little bit of the game’s broken logic.

OK, so its a little bit hard giving this game a rating as it was a pretty big part of my childhood. It was a game I invested a lot of time in and yet I want to be totally honest, this game is a real mess, and for that reason I need to give it three out of 10. I don’t think the game is without merit, there is in fact a lot of things I like about the game but it really feels like it needed a lot more work for it to be a good game. If you want to try the game, it never came out in Europe, and US copies very rarely seem to go up for sale so really you will probably be stuck with a Japanese version and the prices are all over the place. I have seen fully boxed versions go for around £13 but some people seem to want a lot more than this for it. Really I wouldn’t worry that much as there are much better things to spend your cash on.

150 Mega Drive games reviewed #1: Mercs (aka Wolf of the Battlefield II)

The game I am going to be talking about for my very first Mega Drive game in this series is Mercs, or to give it its original name Senjō no Ōkami II which translates as Wolf of the Battlefield II.

I played this game back when I was a kid and never for a second realised it was a sequel. In fact at the time I also didn’t realise that it had been an arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1990 before it was on the Mega Drive. In fact it had been one of the games on Capcom’s Capcom Play System (CPS) arcade hardware.

For those interested in the inside of arcade machines, the CPS was an interesting bit of kit. It was essentially a large arcade Jamma-compatible board with the games then stored on removable ROM cartridges/boards. You could then if you were an arcade operator buy a new small ROM cart with a different game on it and change this instead of having to buy a whole new large arcade board, it’s kind of like the Neo Geo MVS system SNK used – most famous for being the hardware that ran the original Street Fighter II. I actually own a CPS board but I only have one rom board for it and that is Pang! 3. (Capcom also went on to release an adapted console version of this board in Japan for home users, as well as two sequel boards for the arcades, named the CPS2 and CPS3.)

This game first came into my life when I got a cheap Japanese copy of it from my local indie game store Gamesworld. I used to buy a lot of import games from here because when they were new and not out over here they were quite expensive. But as soon as the game was out over here the Japanese version would drop to around £5 and I could usually either buy this with my £5 a week pocket money, or I could just not eat at school and save up my dinner money to buy games, something I frequently did. I kind of wish I still owned that Japanese copy, but at least I still have a copy of it. It was years later that I realised it had been in the arcades and that it was in fact the sequel to the 1985 Commando – a game which I actually had played in the arcades as well as a part of it on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer.

I am always moaning like heck that various games deserve more sequels and this one actually got one in 2008 called Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3, which was a downloadable game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I didn’t actually play this till I got the Capcom Digital Collection, which was a compilation of digitally-released Capcom games which had appeared on the Xbox 360. I am not reviewing Commando 3 but I will say it’s a bit of a lesser sequel in my opinion, but still not too bad.

So what we have here is the second part of a trilogy right? Well the answer to that would be yes and no, I guess. You see Mercs on the Mega Drive wasn’t actually made by Capcom at all. It was instead converted by Sega and they actually made quite a few changes. Now most people would expect me to say what happened was Sega removed a whole bunch of stuff and made a weaker, worse version that their console could more easily pull off, right? Well there is a tiny bit of truth to this, in that the arcade game was a one to three player third-person shooter game, and this game is a one player game. I know people are instantly going to think: “Oh dear, removing the multiplayer sucks, just look at how much it affected games like Final Fight on the SNES, but really I think Sega did more than enough to cover this. Sure, a two-player mode would have been nice but there is a lot to recommend about this game.

For a start there are two modes of play, one is called arcade and the other is called original. Arcade is basically a one-player conversion of the actual arcade machine. It puts you in the shoes of one particular soldier, who can collect various different weapons throughout the different levels. It’s good to see the arcade game on offer here even if it is restricted to one-player mode. A lot of games would have given you this and then just shrugged off the fact that they’d cut out the multiplayer and gone: “Well it was the best we could do given the hardware”.

The way the arcade mode plays you basically take your guy and travel vertically up the screen shooting enemy soldiers, vehicles and turrets while trying to take as little damage as possible. At the end of each level there is a boss, for example at the end of the first level this is a fighter jet which shoots its machine guns down at the cliff you find yourself standing on while you try to dodge the bullets and take it out. The gameplay is deliciously old school. It’s simple to pick up but with room to master. Basically you move with the D-pad and shoot with one button and then have a button which uses what is called the ‘mega-crash’. This is your screen clearing/heavy damage bomb button, which tends to be good either for when you’re surrounded and in danger, or to deal heavy damage to bosses. The gameplay is really simple, you basically shoot everything – enemies, item boxes to open them, and trees or gates or other things which hinder your progress – all while trying to get shot as infrequently as possible. During certain levels you will be able to get into certain vehicles. These include tanks, boats and jeeps and as well as providing a little extra armour to you they’re also great fun and help to break things up a bit, if you enjoy arcade style games then you’re bound to get a fair bit of fun from this.

The original mode, is sort of a rearranged mode with a few neat touches. You start off with one soldier, you only have one life and your weapon starts off pretty darn pathetic. At first you feel seriously underpowered to take on what the game will throw at you and this is much harder than the arcade mode. In fact at the end of the first level you basically have to defeat the arcade level one boss and take so little damage that you will have enough life to make your way into the second level. I would strongly recommend starting with the arcade mode and playing this as sort of game-plus kind of thing.

In this mode you wont find any extra lives but as you progress you will find fellow soldiers/mercs. These mercs will have different guns, basically they are the guns you can collect in the arcade mode but here each gun is tied to a different guy and once you have more than one you can tactically switch between them, thereby using the right guy for the right situation. As you gain more items the weapons you have will become a lot more powerful but you will need to decide which of your characters needs to pick up what is in front of you, be it food or power-up icons. These extra guys essentially become your extra lives, but if you only concentrate on powering up one of them then when he dies well the others are basically screwed. You will collect medals on your journey and these become a form of currency you can use in shops in order to power your guys up. This added mode is a lot tougher to complete and I feel it adds a heck of a lot more to this title, in fact when I have gotten the arcade version of Mercs on various compilation collections I have often found myself feeling like i’d prefer to have the Mega Drive version which is something you seldom hear said about a conversion. It’s a shame that there has never been an enhanced version of Mercs for later systems offering all of the benefits of both the arcade (multiplayer) and Mega Drive versions.

For a pretty early Mega Drive game this game has really good graphics. It’s the kind of thing that people would have wrongly called arcade perfect back in the day. They are in fact not identical to the arcade’s graphics but they are quite frankly close enough for me to not care at all. Everything looks correct and runs smoothly and when you throw in what I find to be a brilliant action-packed soundtrack it all just fits and offers up what I would personally consider an amazing experience. I have actually found myself humming bits from this game long after I have finished playing it which for me is always a sign of a good video game soundtrack. As I try my Mega Drive games on both a 50hz and 60hz console I want to briefly touch on that in my reviews, as far as Mercs goes it actually doesn’t feel much different when played on either set up, although if you do play the game on a Japanese console you do get the alternative title and the story will be shown in Japanese.

OK, I suppose it is time to give Mercs a score. I happily give this game nine out of 10. It’s great fun and as well as bringing the arcade game home it offers a mode with a little more challenge which helps it last longer as a home experience, I guess it just the lack of multiplayer which makes it lose out on the perfect 10 out of 10 score for me. But I’d still rather have this version than its arcade counterpart.

If you want to buy this game how much is it likely to cost you? Well PAL carts seem to start around the £7 mark with boxed copies starting at roughly double that, both of which I think are good prices for this game. Obviously if you want to give it a bash I would advice you to look around and decide if you want a loose cart or a complete copy and then go for the best one you can find bearing condition and price in mind.