Sega Genesis Game Opinion Summaries, Part 2: Letter C

This time, 13 summaries of the games that start with the letter C. There are a lot of very difficult games in this update. Some are pretty good, others not as great, so it’s a nice mix of quality… but in terms of challenge, only a few games here aren’t hard. That’s okay though, the Genesis has a lot of good but hard games, and games like Comix Zone and Contra Hard Corps are great examples of that!

Update Contents
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Championship Pro-Am
Columns III: Revenge of Columns
Combat Cars
Comix Zone
Contra: Hard Corps
Cool Spot
Cosmic Spacehead
Crack Down
Crusader of Centy
Cyborg Justice

Genesis Game Opinion Summaries, Letter C

Cadash – 2 player simultaneous. Cadash is an okay side-scrolling action-RPG by Taito. This is a port of the arcade game of the same name. The graphics and gameplay are very similar to the arcade version, but there are a few missing features in this Genesis version that really do hurt the game when compared to the arcade or Turbografx-16 versions. But first, the game. In this game you can choose two playable characters, the Warrior or the Mage. In two player, one person plays as each one. This is a sidescrolling fantasy action-RPG where you walk around killing endlessly respawning monsters as you train yourself up enough to be able to fight each areas’ boss. The graphics and sound are okay, but not great. Levels are reasonably well designed, and while this is a linear game with a clear path to follow, you aren’t just always walking to the right, level designs are a bit more involved than that. There are also some tricky jumping puzzles at times, to add some variety. The two player co-op mode is great and is defnitely the way to play the game, if you have someone else good at this kind of game and with a lot of time, that is. Cadash does not have any saving on any platform, so you’ve got to play the whole game in one sitting. Unless you use cheatcodes you have limited continues as well. This is a real problem; this is a tough game, particularly at the beginning, and having to either cheat or constantly start over isn’t fun. Probably the best thing to do is grind up some levels right at the beginning of the game. That isn’t fun either, but at least you’ll be able to make it through the first area.

After the first boss you then finally reach a town where you can heal and buy items. It would have been better if you could do this at the starting castle as well, the game is probably a bit too hard right at the start, but you can’t. And then I eventually get game over and it’s back to the beginning of the game unless I cheat. Seriously, this is why almost all action-RPGs have save systems, they’re needed in this kind of thing! Still, Cadash is an okay to good game. On the good side the visuals are decent enough, there is some variety, two player co-op is nice, and the game will certainly present more than enough challenge. However, the graphics aren’t great, the game essentially requires grinding in order to progress, it should have had a save system, and two of the playable characters from the other versions have been removed in this Genesis release. That is the main cut I referred to earlier; the Ninja and Priestess, probably the more interesting and better two characters from the arcade and TG16 game, aren’t in this one. I don’t know why they cut them, but it was an unfortunate decision which hurts the game. Still, despite all its flaws, Cadash can be some fun. If you find it cheap pick it up. It is an average game for the genre overall, though. Arcade port, also on TurboGrafx-16. The TG16 version is the way to go, though it also has no saving and requires cheats if you want to continue.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse – 1 player. One of the Genesis’s first great platformers, Castle of Illusion helped show off some of the capabilities of the Genesis, and it’s a pretty good game as well. Castle of Illusion predates Sonic, and definitely doesn’t have Sonic’s speed as this is a somewhat slow-paced game, and as usual from Sega at the time the difficulty is high, but the great level designs, variety, puzzle elements, graphics, and music all combine to make this a quite good game. As the name suggests, in this game you play as Mickey Mouse, and as usual in videogames you have to rescue the girl; Minnie was kidnapped by your requisite evil witch. So yeah, the story is sexist unfortunately, but the game is good. Castle of Illusion is made up of only five levels, but each has several stages and won’t be too easy to finish. This is one of many Sega games on the Genesis that I haven’t managed to finish. Castle of Illusion is an approachable challenge, but it will take practice and quite a bit of repeat play to get through. You have limited continues, so you will have to regularly start the game over, and that’s where I get frustrated and quit; I really do strongly prefer to not have to redo things I’ve beaten before in games. This game isn’t easy unless you have it all memorized, and I don’t.

This game is more than good enough to be worth that effort, though. Castle of Illusion controls well, though the controls are a bit weird. Mickey walks, runs, and jumps as usual, but you have to hit jump again before landing on an enemy to do a butt-stomp or you will take damage. This is a bit annoying even once you do get used to it. You also need to be careful to land on enemies on the top, not the sides, even with a stomp. Mickey can also throw projectiles, though these are limited. You only have one walk speed, however: slow. The visuals along the way look good, though. Castle of Illusion has bright, colorful graphics, and each area is different looking. There is a good amount of enemy variety as well. Enemies fit to each setting, from the toyland world to the dark forest. Later Genesis games look even better than this one, particularly in spritework, but for an earlier release this looks great. The parallax scrolling backgrounds are nice as well. More importantly, the game keeps mixing things up as you go forwards. This is a platformer, but the game does have exploration and puzzle elements to it. Later games in this series would emphasize this side of things more, but even this first game has some mazelike stage layouts, tricky bosses that take practice to figure out, secrets to find, and more. I really like the stage variety. Sometimes you go right, other times up, other times multiple directions. Sometimes you are on solid ground, and other times you’re jumping on platforms in the sky. There is a lot to see here. It is possible to be stuck sometimes and not know what to do to progress, but still, overall there is a lot more to like than dislike about the level designs. The music is good as well. The Genesis soundchip can do more than this, but Castle of Illusion’s tunes sound good and have a cheerful tone that fits Mickey’s character well.

Overall, Castle of Illusion might be the Genesis’s best platformer released before Sonic the Hedgehog. The game is challenging, the graphics, while good, don’t quite match up to later releases for the system, the pace is slow, and I really wish you had passwords, but otherwise this is a great game which deserves most of the praise it gets. With good graphics, varied levels, lots to see, and more, Castle of Illusion is a classic. There is also a Saturn port of this game that was only released in Japan. Sega also made a Game Gear/Master System game of the same name, but it’s a different game with the same concept.

Castlevania: Bloodlines – 1 player, password save. Castlevania Bloodlines is a good, but somewhat disappointing, game in Konami’s iconic platform-action series. I have, in the past, frequently been critical of Bloodlines. It’s a pretty good, B-grade game for sure, but it followed up two of the best action-platformers of the generation, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood, and isn’t nearly as great as either one. This game feels more like a followup to the NES Castlevania games than either of its predecessors. Some people like it for that, but I don’t. Worse, though, as with Contra below, Konami made this game harder for its Western release… and again just like Contra, they made it far too hard. What they did to the continue and save system in this game is unforgivable and kind of breaks the game.

First though, the good. Castlevania Bloodlines is a sidescrolling platformer that plays a lot like a NES Castlevania game with a few elements of Super Castlevania IV tossed in. The game has two playable characters, John Morris or Eric Lecarde. One has a whip, and the other a spear. Each can access a few areas that the other can’t, which is nice. One can attack diagonally while on the ground but not while jumping, while the other can attack diagonally while in the air but not while on the ground. The controls are good and responsive as usual in the series, but that is an incredibly annoying limitation that shouldn’t have happened; Super Castlevania IV got it right in letting you attack diagonally at any time, this limitation was a bad idea. But at least you have SOME diagonal attacks. The game has only six levels, but each one is long; this design, of having few long levels, is common in many (though not all!) of Konami’s Genesis games, perhaps to save money on a platform Konami clearly considered secondary by not having to design as many areas as they would in a SNES game. The story mixes in elements of the Dracula movie mythos, most notably the Bram Stoker’s Dracula story, into Castlevania. Unlike the usual castle-based setting, in this game you travel all over Europe; each stage is in a new place. I like the variety. Visually, the game looks okay, but lacks the polish of its SNES and Turbo CD predecessors. This game clearly had a smaller budget than either of those games, that’s for sure. Still, there is a reasonable amount of variety within each stage. Each level is made up of several parts, often with different settings, and there are usually minibosses in each level. The stages have variety, and some have nice visual effects, most notably the reflective water and the spinning Leaning Tower of Pisa. The music is also great. It doesn’t match the music in its two predecessors, perhaps because the SNES sound chip and CD audio are more suited for orchestral-style scores than the more techno-suited Genesis chip, but still, Bloodlines does sound good to great.

Apart from the cheaper feel compared to its console predecessors, though, my main issue with Bloodlines are the ways Konami messed with the game for its Western release. In Japan, Bloodlines gives you a password when you get game over that lets you continue from the beginning of the level you died in. You get two continues per game before you reach that game over and get a password. Passwords start you with a full load of lives and continues, so you can keep trying on each level as long as you want with no punishment, once you have reached it. Dying definitely punishes you, because levels are long, but it’s a doable challenge and I very much want this version of the game. In the West, however, the game is an insanely annoying punishing challenge. Konami changed things so that now you get a password only after beating a level, and the password saves your lives and continues into the password! Now, when you get game over, that’s it, start again from your last password. This transforms the game into an extremely frustrating game where you need to repeatedly replay levels over and over, trying to die fewer times so as to save some of those precious lives and continues. Any death means a life permanently lost, unless you find a 1-up. This is utterly unlike the continue system in every single other TV console Castlevania game ever made; all other console Castlevania games, and almost all of the handheld games, have infinite continues from the beginning of the level you are currently on. Almost all also allow you to save your progress by password or save file. The Western version of Bloodlines is the only Castlevania game ever to have both passwords AND limited continues that are saved to the password, and it was a terrible design decision that really hurts the game. Overall, though, Castlevania Bloodlines is a good game despite its faults. The game looks decently nice, plays well, has some nice variety and good level settings, and sounds good. Despite all my complaints I do like the game overall, even in its frustrating Western incarnation. Bloodlines is no Rondo of Blood, and that is a negative, but it is a good game. If it wasn’t getting a bit overpriced now I would certainly recommend it. Get the Japanese import version if you want to have fun; I’ll need to do that for sure, someday!

Chakan – 1 player. Chakan is a super-difficult platformer that seems to have been designed mostly to make, well, a super-difficult platform-action game. The game is based on a comic book license, and has a dark tone with brooding music and a dark color palette. It fits the ‘edgy’ style of a lot of Genesis games well. You play as Chakan, an immortal, and unhappy, warrior. You’ve got to destroy all evil if you ever want to rest. Good luck with that, I’ll never see the end of this game and nor will most players. Chakan may be immortal, so you can keep trying as many times as you like without ever seeing a Game Over screen, but when a game is this hard that’s not much of a help. The game has four levels you can play at the start, with many more levels after that that if you somehow manage to beat all of the first four. Chakan is longer than many platformers of its time, apparently; the shortest longplay on Youtube is an hour and a half long. You can’t save either, of course, as usual from a Sega game. Thanks. Apparently the game has two endings, one normal and another if you beat the insanely hard final boss, but there’s next to no reward at all if you beat it; the designers must have presumed no one would.

Visually, Chakan is a decent-looking game. The graphics and art design are well designed, but are a bit average for the system. The music is similarly good but not great. Chakan is a large character, which looks good visually, but this makes gameplay harder because things come at you from just off screen far too often; you don’t have much draw distance with sprites this big. Blind jumps are, as a result, a big problem in this game. If you fall in a pit that counts as a death, it’s back to the main level-select area with you, and this will happen often with pits you couldn’t see. Stronger enemies can take a ridiculous number of hits to defeat, as well, and if you run out of health, it’s back to the level select. I’ve never gotten very far at all into this game; I kind of like the style and visuals, but the game is unapproachably hard, and I don’t like blind jumps. Overall, I’d call Chakan a below average game, though fans of very hard games will surely like it more. Maybe check it out if you find it for cheap, though; Chakan is interesting, regardless of its issues.

Championship Pro-Am – 1 player. Championship Pro-Am is a port of Rare’s popular NES racing game R.C. Pro-Am. This is one of four NES games that Rare ported over to the Genesis, before they were bought by Nintendo. I covered another one earlier, Battletoads Double Dragon. R.C. Pro-Am was a very popular racing game on the NES, and it’s still great fun here! This game has okay graphics and fun but very simple gameplay. You race an RC car along walled-in tracks. The controls are skiddy, but you quickly get used to them. It controls just like the other games in the series. When you hit a wall you bounce off it, angling into the road, so you will eventually finish even if you don’t turn. Still, this is a tough game and skill and memorization will be required in order to get deep into it. You move on if you finish in the top three in each race, and fail if you finish below that. You only get three continues. I like the gameplay in this series a lot, and this game is as good as any of them there. RC Pro-Am games are very simple, but lots of fun. This is a fast game with a nice sense of speed. You zoom along, make the turns with the help of the on-screen map, and try to pick up as many of the powerups and weapons as you can that are scattered around the track. There are tire, acceleration, and top speed upgrades, along with bomb or missile weapons. You can only have one weapon or the other at a time, as always in the series. Stars add ammo for your current weapon.

The problem is that enhanced visuals and music aside, absolutely nothing here is new. This game is essentially the same exact game that released on the NES four years earlier, but with better graphics and music. I do like the visual and aural upgrade, and the sense of speed is probably improved here, but because of its simple design originally, the game feels dated compared to other Genesis racing games. None of the added features found in R.C. Pro-Am’s sequel on the Game Boy, which released before this game, or its sequel on the NES which released soon after are present here, so there is no multiplayer, no choices in the upgrade system, and the game still is an endless title that goes on until you lose, instead of having an ending as the sequels have. There is a limited number of tracks, but they will repeat if you manage to finish them all. All Rare did here was port over an old game, upgrade the graphics, and replace the NINTENDO letters you can collect in the game with CHAMPION ones. I wish that they had at least put in multiplayer, that would have been fantastic. For what it is, though, Championship Pro-Am is great fun. RC Pro-Am is a simple series, and I do prefer Micro Machines in part because those games are harder and require a lot more skill to be successful at because unlike this series the raceway is not walled in in Micro Machines and bumping into things doesn’t knock you ahead, but this is a fun little game that’s fun to race around in once in a while. There is challenge too, if you want to get through all the tracks and loop the game, so it isn’t easy, just simple to learn. I like Championship Pro-Am, it’s a good game. I just wish that they had made a new game instead of a feature-unaltered NES port. This version is better than the original, but the sequels on GB and NES are, overall, the better games.

Columns III: Revenge of Columns – 1-5 player simultaneous (with Sega multitap). Columns III is, of course, the second and final Columns game on the Genesis. There was another arcade game in between the first one and this, to explain the name, but I’ve never played it. Anyway, this is a puzzle game in Sega’s long-running Columns block-dropping puzzle game series. This time the game is Egyptian themed, instead of the supposed Phoenician theme of the original Columns. Columns III is one of their first-party games Sega allowed other publishers to publish in the US, and I can sort of see why; this is an okay game, but not great. Columns III is a fairly bare-bones game, particularly if you are playing alone. This game is heavily focused on multiplayer, that’s for sure. The only modes here are a single player vs. CPU quest with three difficulties or multiplayer modes for two to five players. There is no endless mode, oddly enough, even though the original Columns was all about endless play and this game adds a few new features. In single player, you will only ever see one bland stone-block background and one music track; other backgrounds and music are exclusive to the multiplayer modes, annoyingly enough. There are sprites of your opponent in single player, but they are very simply drawn and have minimal animation. Overall this is not good design, don’t lock so much out of single player! There should be a music selection, at least. There are three difficulty levels to choose in the single player game, but that’s the only option, and if you know how to play Columns even Hard isn’t too tough to beat.

In terms of gameplay, Columns III is very similar to the original game, but with some additions to the multiplayer. As before, stacks of three gems drop from above. You can rotate the order of the gems, but cannot turn the blocks, so all pieces you drop will be three vertically-stacked titles. Your goal is to match 3 gems of the same type in a row. It’s simple, but works. Columns is no match for the best block-dropping puzzle games, but it is a fun little amusement here and there. It’s a bit easier to play than some other puzzle games, and that isn’t all bad. The game now has a display showing the next piece you will get, and a counter for special attacks as well. This is the number below the next-piece display. 3 points add to this meter when you make a 3-in-a-row match, 6 points for a 4-in-a-row, and 12 points for a 5-in-a-row. The counter maxes at 30, so pay attention to it; there is no indicator when it’s full. Hitting a button uses meter, with a minimum use of 10. 10, 20, and 30 each use a different ability, lowering your block field and raising the enemies’. Some powerups also can raise your blocks or lower the other players’. You also get a special powerup for each match you win that you can use at any time in the pause menu. I like the added strategy that having to deal with an opponent brings, it’s a nice challenge. Still, as a single player game, Columns III is lacking. The single background and music track get old, and there is no gameplay variety. The multiplayer options are better, and this is probably your best option for 3-plus player Columns on a home system, though, so it is well worth getting for that, if you have the right multitap. But as a single player game Columns III is strictly average. I like it because I like this genre, but non-fans can skip this without missing too much. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.

Combat Cars
– 1-2 player simultaneous. Combat Cars is Accolade’s take on RC Pro-Am, pretty much. This is a top-down sci-fi combat racing game. Unfortunately, while I want to like it, the game has some critical design flaws which mostly ruin the game.. Combat Cars is unbalanced, has poor controls, and is absurdly difficult. As a result, it’s not nearly as much fun as it should be even for someone who likes top-down racing games as much as I do. To start with the worst thing about this game, you have, effectively, one life and no continues in the main championship mode here. No continues, no extra lives, no saving. Finish out of the top three positions on any race in the game and you lose, try again from race one. There isn’t even a ‘Game Over’ screen, you’re just dumped to the high-score entry screen and then back to the title. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the like in a game like this. Of course, this game demands memorization to succeed at; you won’t beat races after the first few on your first try. Combat Cars is a fast game with skiddy controls that are hard to get used to and tracks loaded with sharp turns and obstacles that will slow you down if you don’t get turns just right. Memorization is the only way to proceed, but with the game kicking you back to the start after every single failure, it’s not worth the hassle. There isn’t a course map on screen during play, either; it’d be nice if there was. This is an awful combination. Thankfully there are some cheat codes that make the game more playable, though really emulators probably are the best way, sadly enough. Even with them, however, this is a flawed game that only the dedicated will get far in due to the super-skiddy controls. There is a two player splitscreen co-op mode, which is nice, but why play this when you could play Micro Machines instead?

Presentation-wise the game is better, but does have issues. In this game you can play as eight different futuristic combat racers. However, the only ones worth using are the ones with homing missiles; the rest are near-worthless, pretty much. Don’t pick them. Visually Combat Cars looks nice, but not great. This game is about on par with the first Micro Machines game, visually. This is a strictly top-down game which doesn’t really push the hardware, but it does *look nice enough for the time. There is a nice variety of track settings as well, which is nice. The music is okay but not too memorable, but does have some decent tunes. This should have been at least an average game, and with better controls and a continue system it could have been… but it was not to be, sadly. I love futuristic racing games and top-down racers, but I can’t defend this one. Combat Cars is a bad game and while I like some things about it, it’s probably is the worst racing game I have for the Genesis. Accolade came close here, but their mistakes are sadly crippling.

Comix Zone – 1 player, 6-button controller supported. Comix Zone is a very good side-scrolling beat ’em up from STI and published by Sega that released in 1995. This is a game I noticed at the time, and I thought it was really cool! Comix Zone and Vectorman are probably the two Genesis games from ’95 that I remember best, and the game is indeed very good. Comix Zone didn’t sell nearly as well as Sega hoped, but it is a great game I highly recommend, even if it’s excessively difficult as some Genesis games tend to be. I don’t mind that, it’s really great regardless of that I’ve never gotten past halfway through the game, Comix Zone is almost certainly my favorite side-scrolling beat ’em up ever! So, Comix Zone is a side-scrolling beat ’em up, but it is an unconventional one with puzzle and adventure elements as well as platforming. It also has a very unique visual style. You are Sketch Turner, a somewhat implausibly buff comic book artist, and the supervillain from your comic has come alive, warped you into your own comic, and is drawing new pages as well! The game sticks with the comic-book theme throughout, as each level is called a “Page”, and all game play areas look like panels from a comic book. I love the look of the game, the panels are a unique mechanic and look great. The graphics in general look great, actually. Comix Zone is a later release for the Genesis, and it really shows; this game has fantastic, very well drawn visuals that get the most out of the Genesis’s limited color palette. The game does have some slowdown when a lot is going on on screen, but mostly it runs well, and it always looks very good. The game has a great synth-rock-style soundtrack, also. While not the absolute best, it’s probably one of the better soundtracks on the system. Presentation-wise, Comix Zone is fantastic and is a real showcase for what the Genesis can do.

The gameplay is very good as well, difficulty aside. While there are only six pages (levels) in this game, each one is reasonably long. This game is made up of many single-screen panels, so there isn’t a lot of scrolling except between panels. This works fine, and serves to focus you on the current area. The game has branching paths in each page; though they all lead to the same places in the end, which ones you choose does matter. Comix Zone has an inventory system, you see; this isn’t just a brawler. A six button controller is highly recommended for this game, it gives you quick access to your inventory — X, Y, and Z each use the item in that slot on screen. You can only have three items at once, so sometimes you will need to choose what is more important. Memorization will be key here, because sometimes you don’t know what you’ll need until you go to the next panel, and you cannot go back to a previous panel once you have advanced. It’s important to search each panel, both as Sketch, and by letting out your rat companion from its space in the inventory. Your pet will turn off traps, find hidden items, and more! It really is essential stuff. When faced by a wall of barrels, you do NOT want to have to break them down with your fists, as each punch drains some health and it will take many hits to destroy them. Instead, just use that dynamite that your rat found hidden behind the panel earlier in the page! So yes, memorization is key here, and I very much wish that the game had a save or password system between pages, but the game is rewarding as you figure out what to do to progress past each puzzle or action challenge.

As for the combat, it isn’t too complex, but does have a bit of depth. You have only one button for fighting, items aside. You can do attacks at different heights by pressing up or down along with the button, though, powerful attacks with a combo of punches, and jumping attacks, though, so there is a reasonable variety. Some items also can act as weapons, knives in particular. Generally don’t use dynamite on enemies though, save that for key obstacles. You also have a strong attack that drains health (hold down attack to use it), but this should be avoided because health is precious. Enemies often will block, so you need to use a mixed variety of attacks in order to get hits through. Sometimes there are scripted sequences such as the one at the end of the first page where you punch a guy through several panel borders, tearing open the page; that’s pretty cool. There’s never been a comic book game that more feels like it really is taking place in a comic book than this one! The game is hard, though. Enemies can be tough, and the game is unforgiving — health it does not refill between pages, only if you use one of the very few healing items, and you get only one life per continue and start with zero continues. You do get a single continue each time after beating the bosses on pages 2 and 4, but the one added chance won’t keep you alive for long. Comix Zone demands a lot of repetition, and I keep dying in page 3 or, at the best, 4. There is a stage-select cheat, but I’ve always wanted to try to beat this game legit, so I haven’t used it… ah well, I don’t mind; what I have seen in this game is amazing. If it was easy it probably wouldn’t be as fun, the challenge keeps you coming back again and again for more! And that code does exist. Overall, Comix Zone is a fantastic game, and it’s probably a bit under-rated as well. The game has very good graphics and music, a great sense of style, is unmatched at sticking to its comic-book theme, has branching paths and some depth to its combat system, and has puzzles along the way to keep things varied. Your usual side-scrolling beat ’em up is a tediously simplistic affair, but this is about as far from that as you can get, and so while not perfect, this is the best game in its genre on any platform. Comix Zone is really great, play it! Also available for Windows 3.1/95 PC and, in Europe only, Game Boy Advance. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.

Contra: Hard Corps – 2 player simultaneous, 6-button controller supported. Contra: Hard Corps is another one of the Genesis’s amazing, but incredibly difficult, games. This game is a side-scrolling run & gun game in the popular Contra series. Despite its excessive difficulty, Contra: Hard Corps is easily my favorite Contra game. As with Castlevania Bloodlines Konami messed with the game in negative ways for its Western release, but even if I’ll probably never beat the US version of this game, it’s really amazing. What makes this game so great, then? Everything, really! Contra: Hard Corps has fantastic graphics, lots of great visual effects, an outstanding soundtrack that is ideal for the Genesis’s sound hardware, great, extremely responsive controls, lots of awesome bosses to fight, branching paths with a total of 14 levels between all of them, an actual story for the first time in the Contra series, four playable characters including the series’ first female playable character, constant high-tempo action, good level designs and challenges, and more! Contra: Hard Corps really is the complete package, and difficulty aside I don’t have much of anything bad to say about this game, except that it IS still a Contra game, and while Contra games are fun, personally I like the Metal Slug series more. But of the Contra games this is the one I like best and have played the most; it’s the only Contra game that gives the Metal Slug series a run for its money, for me. Some series fans dislike this game because it is different from previous games, with a more Gunstar Heroes-inspired focus on boss fights and flashy visuals, but I think this style works better than classic Contra, myself. It surely also helps that I probably have more nostalgia for this game than most any other Contra game, admittedly, but regardless, it’s great.

This game is a sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars for SNES. The story is told over the course of those 14 missions, and there are multiple endings so you will not see the whole story even if you do manage to play great enough to reach one of the endings. The levels have a huge amount of variety and the game is constantly throwing new challenges and obstacles at you. This is a beautiful game with lots of sprite scaling and rotation, showing off how well Konami could program for the Genesis when they pushed it hard. This is easily Konami’s most technically impressive Genesis game. If it is a response to Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes, well, Konami outdid Treasure for sure in my book! The level designs are as varied as the graphics, too. Rarely will you just be walking to the right and shooting; instead, flying stages, many boss fights, vertical sections, and more keep the game interesting. This is an incredibly fast-paced game which is constantly changing. Each route through the game is very different as far as I have managed to get, and I’m sure it keeps that up to the end in each path. The soundtrack is almost as great as the graphics, and has just as fast a tempo as the gameplay. The music almost seems sped-up at times, but no, this is how it is supposed to be. The game controls great, too. You can run and shoot with the buttons, and with a 6-button pad, X through Z or pressing A while holding B will switch between two firing modes, one where you can move freely and the other where you stand in place and fire in any direction. A 6-button controller isn’t essential, but it s nice to have the command on a single button. One key move is the slide. Press down and jump and you slide, and while sliding you are invincible. Mastering the use of this is essentially the only way to finish the Western version of this game, but it is great that it is here. Awesome work all around, in graphics, design, and gameplay.

Really the only downside to this game are the changes Konami made for the Western release. As with Castlevania on the Genesis, this game also was made far harder than it was originally intended. In Japan, this game gives you three hit points per life and you get infinite continues. It is a very hard game, but with patience you will finish it. Someday I will definitely get a region-modded or import Genesis so that I can play this version of the game; I’d miss out on understanding the story, sure, but at least I’d be able to get to the end! In the US version that is unlikely. Here, you die in one hit and have only 5 continues. This makes the game exponentially harder, and forces you to start the game over constantly as you run out of continues. Sure, eventually you will get a bit farther in as you learn the next bit of the game, and the game is rewarding in that regard, but I hate having to start over because I don’t know what to do in some boss in level three or four, it’s frustrating! The Japanese version is better designed. This is a memorization-heavy game where learning enemy and boss patterns is absolutely key, and sending you back to the start frequently is kind of unfair; you can’t get through this on your first try, you need to die a bunch to learn what to do in each area. It’d ahve been better if they had 1 or 3 hitpoints and infinite or limited continues as options you could choose between; that would be ideal to satisfy both those of us who want to have fun with the game, and masochistic types who are great at this kind of game and want a serious challenge. Even so, though, as it is Contra: Hard Corps is an amazing game. It may be too hard, but with fantastic graphics and sound, great level designs full of constant action and technically impressive bosses, great controls, and more, Contra: Hard Corps is a must-have classic that I can’t recommend enough. It really shows of what Konami could do with the Genesis when they seriously tried! For me, this is as good as Contra games get. Buy it. Sadly the Japanese version is region-locked, but if you can play that, play it instead (or also).

Cool Spot – 1 player. Cool Spot is a platformer from Virgin. This is a licensed platform-action game starring the 7-Up Spot, the lemon-lime soda 7-Up’s 1990s cartoon mascot. 7-Up soda was more popular then because Pepsi did not introduce its own lemon-lime soda, Sierra Mist, until 1999; before that many restaurants serving Pepsi sodas had 7 Up who now would have Sierra Mist instead. Spot is a round red circle with legs, arms, and, of course, some ‘cool’ shades to have some of that ’90s attitude. He’s got a good design which fits the mid ’90s very well. This is a nice-looking but average game. The game looks a lot like Virgin’s other Genesis platformers such as Global Gladiators or Aladdin, but plays a lot more like the former of those two games than the latter, unfortunately. Cool Spot has good graphics and animation, as expected from the developer, but the game has some design issues. Though it is an okay game, Cool Spot doesn’t play as well as it looks.

This is an exploration-based platform-action game. You need to collect a minimum percent of the red dots on each stage, then find the cage holding a jailed spot, and only then can you progress. Levels are, as a result, large, open, and exploration-heavy. Fortunately at the start there aren’t too many death pits, but that will gradually change as you progress. Enemies are numerous and fast-moving. Spot moves quickly as well, so enemies often hit you before you even saw them coming, and those death pits can be impossible to avoid. You shoot in this game to kill enemies, instead of jumping on heads, but because of the speed, and Spot’s loose, slippery controls, many hits are inevitable. Fortunately you do have a life meter, so the game doesn’t have one-hit kills, but still this is a frustrating game. Making things worse, you have no continues at all unless you find them in the game, so you’ll be starting this one over from the beginning a LOT. I don’t like that, of course. This game may not be quite as ruined by blind jumps as Global Gladiators is, but the numerous fast enemies help make up for that gap.

Despite its problems Cool Spot can be fun to play. This is a somewhat fun game to play, but the slippery controls, high speeds, death pits, and somewhat aimless levels drag the game down. Blind jumps over death pits are bad design, particularly. They pretty much ruin Global Gladiators and Taz-Mania, and this game is worse because of them as well. An element of chance in a game is fine, but forcing players to take that kind of chance, in a game with limited lives and no continues or saving, is not fun. Trying to creep through the levels slowly enough to shoot enemies before they hit you also isn’t fun, not when Spot’s natural pace is quite quick. I also would probably prefer a more focused game overs the large, sprawling, collection-focused levels in this game. Still, there are things to like about Cool Spot. The game has very nice graphics and production values, decent music, a different setting in each level, lots of stuff in each level to find, and some okay level concepts. Still, overall Cool Spot is an average game. I had hopes for Cool Spot when I got it some years ago, but didn’t like it as much as I hoped, and I never have played this game much, I don’t have enough fun to want to face trying to memorize the game. I do like the art design both in the game and in the manual, though. Only get this if you like the Virgin school of platformers beyond Aladdin. Also on SNES, PC, Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, and Master System. The game was successful and has a sequel, Spot goes to Hollywood. That game is an isometric action-platformer, so it’s a different kind of game from this one, but I’ve never played it.

Cosmic Spacehead – 2 player simultaneous (minigame only, main game is 1 player), password save. Cosmic Spacehead is a platform/adventure game from Codemasters. This is one of only two games Codemasters published for the Genesis in the US, along with Micro Machines; I have both. Their other games only released in Europe. This is a comedy space adventure game, and it’s amusing stuff. The game is a sequel to Linus Spacehead, a somewhat similar game for the NES. I haven’t played that one, only this. Cosmic Spacehead has a nice cartoony art style with reasonably well-drawn graphics. You are Cosmic Spacehead, a boy in a superhero-style costume with a “C” on the chest, and are on an adventure in a somewhat Looney Tunes-esque retro-future world. I love the look of the backgrounds. Those background graphics are great, but the sprites are only okay; they look a bit amateur at times, and don’t match up to the environments. The game starts out as a traditional adventure game. You walk around, collect items, and try to figure out where to use them, and such. You control your character directly, but also can move a cursor around the screen. Pressing a button switches between controlling the two. Here you have five commands, Look, Pick Up, Talk, Give, and Use. As a console game on cartridge this game does not have nearly the volume of text that a PC game of the time probably would have, but there is a fair amount of it, and with dialog options along the way as well. This is an amusing game with a decent sense of humor.

As you figure out what to pick up and where to go, you will play side-scrolling platformer segments in between adventure areas. Codemasters was probably trying to make the game more interesting for kids than just a straight adventure game would be, but the mix is a little odd. The platformer is decent, but it’s nothing special, visuals aside. You just walk to the right, avoiding enemies as you go because you can’t attack them; it’s average stuff at best. The platformer stages are short, as well. Fortunately most of the game is in the adventure portion, so this is mostly an adventure game, but perhaps it should have been only an adventure game, though I guess some variety to mix up the usual item-based puzzle-solving is okay. The game has some tricky puzzles and difficult platforming at times, so while the game isn’t too long, it is challenging. Linus Spacehead isn’t a great game, and it never did hold my interest long enough to finish the game, but it is a fun little game worth a look. It’s definitely something I will return to sometime to play more of. Also on PC, Amiga, Master System (Europe only), and Game Gear; this is a remake of Linus Spacehead’s Cosmic Crusade for the NES. (The first game is Linus Spacehead for the NES.)

Crack Down – 2 player simultaneous. Crack Down is a good top-down action game for the Genesis from Sega. I have finished this game; it’s not particularly difficult, surprisingly enough, even in single player. The game has ugly, basic graphics in a small window, but the good stealth-action gameplay makes up for any visual shortcomings. You have to kill the enemies in each level, get to certain points to deal with bombs, and get to the exit. You will attach to walls when you get near them, something fairly original at the time. Just running around and shooting will get you killed, so you need to take it slow. With a little practice it’s not too hard, but it is a lot of fun; this game is good fun regardless of its visuals. I did a full review of this game several years ago, so go look that up, it’s better than something I can write in the more limited space I have here. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.

Crusader of Centy – 1 player, battery save to cartridge. Crusader of Centy is one of the three great top-down action-RPGs on the Genesis. The game was developed by NexTech, and while Sega published it in Japan and Europe, they didn’t release it here, and Atlus brought it over instead. This game is the most expensive of the three today, but unfortunately for your wallet, it’s also a very good game that anyone who likes the genre definitely should play! I do like Landstalker a bit more than this game, but Crusader of Centy is also great. Right from the first moment, Crusader of Centy’s main inspiration is obvious: it’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The visual look of this game is about as close to LttP as you can get on the Genesis. particularly in the environments; sprites have an anime-style look that is a bit different from . The game is colorful and very well drawn; it’s impressive stuff for the Genesis, though Beyond Oasis does outdo it visually. Aurally, the game sounds good, but not amazing. Centy doesn’t match a Zelda games’ incredible soundtrack. The sprite work probably doesn’t match a Zelda game either, though I have my issuees with LttP’s sprite work as well. Either way though, this is a good-looking game which impresses, though the music isn’t quite as good as the visuals.

Crusader of Centy has a large world to explore. While it isn’t exactly the same as Zelda, this game plays even more like Zelda than Beyond Oasis or Landstalker do. This is definitely the most directly Zelda-like game on the Genesis. The story is one of the ways this game distinguishes itself from Zelda. Centy has a surprisingly interesting and weird story. You play as a somewhat generic teenage boy hero, but while the game doesn’t have a lot of text there is a fair amount, and the plot is unique. Your hero can talk to animals, and in fact, through most of the game you can ONLY talk to animals, not other humans. Yeah, the story is a bit odd and unique. You do do a lot of basic help-the-animal quests, but that’s fine. The gameplay is what matters most in games, not the story. But I do like that the story isn’t just a standard heroic journey, it has a unique twist.

And in that gameplay, Crusader of Centy is a pretty good game. The game doesn’t quite match Zelda’s quality, and it really is a blatant clone, but still, it’s good. This game is broken up into areas, so unlike Zelda, but more like Beyond Oasis but with bigger levels, it doesn’t have one contiguous overworld. The style works fine. Each area in the game looks different, and you can travel between them from an area-select map screen. In town areas you will find some minigames, to mix things up a bit. That’s always nice to see. In exploration areas you walk around, kill monsters, and try to figure out puzzles. Combat is simple, as you just hit a button to swing your sword, but works well enough. You can jump, nicely, with the right ability; that’s nice, though Zelda did it first, as this game released after Link’s Awakening. You’ll hop between platforms, push blocks, find switches, kill monsters to open paths, and such. Some puzzles that use the special abilities you have equipped… or rather, the animals you have following you. As you progress you will get various animal companions, and each will give you different powers. You can have two following you at a time, so this works a lot like items in Zelda. As you might expect, you get them from beating bosses, generally. This game never gets really hard, but I’m fine with that because it’s fun along the way. You wander around, fighting enemies and solving puzzles for animals, with the help of your animal companions. The game looks nice and sounds okay. This is a very good game overall. However, it gameplay is VERY similar to a Zelda game, and Zelda does this slightly better. Also, this game is highly overpriced now, and perhaps hard to justify at its currently inflated prices. Still, if you can afford it, definitely get Crusader of Centy. It’s a pretty good game well worth playing.

Cyborg Justice – 2 player simultaneous. Cyborg Justice is an isometric beat ’em up made by Novotrade and published by Sega. This is a cool-looking game with a great concept and lots of moves, but also flawed, incredibly repetitive gameplay and design. Overall this game is average to below average, but it’s the fun kind of average. Cyborg Justice may not actually be good, but it’s good stuff anyway! In this very Genesis-ey concept, you play as a robot and have to defeat an army of enemy robots. You can create your robot at the start, which is cool; there are at least a half-dozen parts each for your arm, leg, and torso slots, and your choice does affect how the game plays. This is a fairly standard isometric beat ’em up, but instead of just button-mashing you do have moves to learn in this game. If you want to succeed at Cyborg Justice, reading a guide to learn how to do the moves, the rip-apart-the-enemy moves in particular, is highly recommended. The old staple of the genre, the jump-attack, is also effective and does quite a bit of damage, though actually hitting enemies with it can be tricky because you need to jump from just the right spot in front of an enemy to hit them. The gameplay and controls are somewhat slow and clunky and hard to get used to, but it is nice that there are moves to learn. Still, I wish the game played better. The game is playable once you learn what to do, but there is no flow in this games’ combat, and moves may or may not work when you try to do them. Different robot types have different moves, too, interestingly.

The game has good graphical design as well, with some nice-looking robots and decently well drawn backdrops. However, everything is extremely repetitive. There are three stages in each location, and all three are just palette-swaps of the same exact environment. Each stage is just a straight walk to the right with absolutely no variation; don’t expect any kind of interesting level design here, you won’t find it. There are probably only a couple of screens worth of actual background to see in each location, repeated far too much. Along the way you will fight enemies, but the only other things that appear are occasional pit or magnet-freeze trap circles. The pits must be jumped over, and this can be tricky because of the somewhat clumsy controls, while the circles are just spots to avoid. Otherwise, you just walk to the right. There is no more variation in enemies than there is in backgrounds, either, as most everything you fight also seems to come straight out of that same character creator you used at the start. Yes, it creates a fair number of robot variants, but you’ll see the same designs over and over and over as you play, with little new added. Cyborg Justice is a tough game, too. There are five difficulty levels and they definitely affect the games’ challenge level, and you can select whether you get 1 to 5 health bars per life, but enemies can do the same moves you can, and some bosses will use those instant-kill tear-apart moves on YOU! These mean an instant game over no matter how many health bars you have left, and you only get two continues per game. And with how repetitive and bland the game is, it’s hard for me to want to keep playing this game enough to get deep into it. I do like some things about this game, the graphical design and concept most importantly, but the gameplay is sadly lacking. Overall, Cyborg Justice is average at best, and could have been a lot better. It’s too bad. Still, the game can be amusing, so give it a try if you find it cheap and like beat ’em ups. Plodding along ripping apart or jumping on robots is fun, once in a while, until the frustration and repetition set in.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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