Covered in this update: D and E games, and a game I forgot from C from the Genesis 6-Pak, Columns.
Columns (from Genesis 6-Pak)
Desert Demolition: Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf
Devilish: The Next Posession
Duel, The: Test Drive II
ESWAT: City Under Siege
Columns (from Genesis 6-Pak) – 2 player simultaneous. Columns is Sega’s first major puzzle game. This game was released in the wake of Tetris’s smash-hit success, and filled the need for a puzzle game from Sega. Columns is no Tetris, but it is a decent game that can be entertaining to play, even if it isn’t as great as the best block-dropping puzzle games. Columns has three modes, 1 player endless, 1 player Flash mode, or two player versus. In Flash mode you have to clear a certain flashing tile to progress to the next screen, while the others are self-explanatory. In any mode, blocks drop as vertical stacks of three gems. In Columns the blocks are always a three-tall pile of pieces, that is the games’ main distinction. Gems disappear when three or more of the same kind touch, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. So, Columns is simple, but there is some strategy to it. You have to always keep in mind when dropping a piece how it’ll line up three-in-a-row connections. The field is not huge, so you need to keep making a steady stream of matches in order to keep going. Fortunately that’s not too hard, and sometimes in Columns massive combos will empty big chunks of the playfield without your even trying. The game eventually does get challenging, but I don’t find Columns as hard as, say, Puyo Puyo or Tetris, and it’s not quite as fun as those games either. The vertical-only orientation may be distinctive, but it is also restricting; sometimes I wish I could rotate pieces horizontally. I know a few later Columns games do allow that, but this first one did not, and nor does Columns III on Genesis. As for the graphics and sound, Columns looks and sounds okay, but that’s about all. This is a very early Genesis game, and it looks it. Still, overall, Columns is a decently fun little puzzle game worth playing once in a while. I like puzzle games, and though Columns does have some flaws, overall it is above average and well worth having in some form. I’ve got it in the Sega 6-Pak, Sega’s great collection of six early Genesis games. It is also available individually. Arcade port, also on the Master System, TurboGrafx-16, Game Gear, and more. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.
Death Duel – 1 player. Note that with a 6-button controller you need to hold Mode down on power on with this game for the controls to work correctly. Death Duel is a somewhat odd first person robot fighting game from Razor Soft. This is an ‘edgy’ game for the time, with a tough name and a bit of blood and sexuality. Death Duel is no Mortal Kombat, though; this game is about giant robots and monsters shooting at eachother, and the violence is somewhat tame today. Still, you’d never see this game on the Super Nintendo, though it’s not that good either. The story is that in order to save the Federation from rival powers, you need to fight ten duels to the death. If you win, glory; if you lose, the game over screen explains how people now revile your memory while looking at your (unseen) corpse. Yeah. Winning won’t be easy until you know what to do against each foe, though. This is a shooting game, but it’s as much puzzle as it is shooter because you must use the correct loadout of weapons against each enemy in order to win, and you won’t know what that is unless you look up a guide or guess correctly. Good luck. The game has a first person view. There are two aiming modes. In movement mode you move left or right with the dpad, but the cursor is locked to the center of the screen. By hitting Start you switch to aiming mode, and now you can’t move your robot but can move the cursor around the screen. Enemies are moving all the time, though, so aiming mode is mostly useful for adjusting cursor location, not for actual combat. The enemy robot moves left and right in front of you, and there are some breakable shields in between the two of you that either can destroy with weaponfire. Each enemy robot is made up of numerous parts which you will have to independently destroy, because enemies are only destroyed once all of their parts are blown up. You automatically lose if you run out of health or ammo, or if your robot’s parts are too damaged to continue. Between levels you buy weapons from a shop.
It’s a decent system, but the game is more frustrating than it could be. In order to make this short game longer, unless you know the exact right weapon loadouts to use you have no hope of winning after the first match or two. You can only sometimes change weapons after losing and the game punishes you by carrying over damage incurred in your failed attempt so you can’t just buy a full set of weapons the next time if you do go back, annoyingly, so sometimes just starting the game over is easier than continuing. That’s just not right. I don’t find the puzzle element of this game fun, the game punishes you too much for guessing wrong. Your ammo runs out very quickly and does not carry over between missions, so you really need to know what weapons to equip against each foe to have a chance. Trying to get the most points possible to spend in the shop for the next enemy is also critical, both during battles and in the shooting-gallery minigame between each stage. Sure, conceptually it’s nice that the game isn’t just a mindless, simplistic light-gun-style shooting game, but this isn’t really better, not with as annoying as it can be to play. Visually the game is only average, also. The robots do look decent, but graphics are, for the most part, not too great, and the music is average chunky Genesis techno. I do kind of like the soundtrack, but it’s not too memorable. Overall, Death Duel is an interesting, but not that great, game. If prices in the store were cheaper, so you could afford to buy more stuff, and the game let you respec after each failure with no punishment maybe it’d be better, but the core gameplay isn’t anything special either. Tracking enemies can be annoying because they move around quickly, causing you to waste ammo firing at enemies who have moved by the time the shots get to where the enemy is. Their movements are not predictable either, so luck plays a bit too large of a factor here, though skill matters as well, certainly. Of course teh game also punishes you too much for failing to guess what weapon you need, so as to force you to restart the game over and over to make this maybe 15-minute game take much longer to finish. Overall, Death Duel isn’t that good. The game is amusing in short bursts, but isn’t fun or engaging enough to really be worth playing.
Decap Attack – 1 player. Decap Attack, or DecapAttack, is an average-at-best platformer with a comical horror theme to it. This game is from the same developers of, and plays very much like, Kid Kool on the NES and Psycho Fox on the Master System; gameplay-wise, the three games are sort of a trilogy. DecapAttack is one of the first games I got for the Genesis after getting the system in 2006, but it’s not a game I had played before that. The game started boring me almost immediately, and I’m not sure if it was actually worth getting. I know some people like this game, but I don’t at all. This is a fairly quick-moving game, and you often have to make blind jumps, and memorize segments in order to make it through jumping puzzles because of the games’ momentum system. This is really annoying and not good. Also, Decap Attack, like those other two games, has a weird attack system where you attack with an extremely short-range punch. In this case, it comes from a weird creature living in your torso, fitting the undead-monsters theme of the game. You can also throw this thing at enemies, but it doesn’t come back automatically, which is a problem; you have to go pick it up. And no, you can’t jump on enemies, that hurts you. Attacking enemies in all three of these games is sometimes frustrating and poorly designed. Levels are not fun to play, either; they are too long and tedious, on top of the poor mechanics and frustrating jumps. Visually the game looks decent to good, and I like some of the graphics, but the gameplay just isn’t any fun at all and the few times I’ve played this game I usually turn it off even before getting game over just bcause of how frustrating and boring it is. Don’t bother with this bad game, it’s one of the worst Japanese-made Sega platformers on the Genesis in my book. This game doesn’t quite make my bottom-10 Genesis games list, but it’s close. Note that the Japanese version of the game plays the same, but has entirely different graphics with a different theme based on a licensed anime; it was redrawn for the West to remove the license and presumably fit the market better, I guess. I haven’t played the Japanese version but imagine it’s mostly the same, visuals aside.
Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote – 1 player. Desert Demolition is one of the Looney Tunes-licensed platformers Sega of America published on the Genesis. This quite nice-looking game was made by Blue Sky, the same team as the Jurassic Park and Vectorman platformers, and is in between those two in quality. While Taz-Mania was far and away the most popular of Sega’s four Looney Tunes games, it’s also the worst of them. This game, on the other hand, might be the best. It’s no Vectorman, but it is a good little game. For Sega’s best Genesis Looney Tunes game it’s either this or Taz: Escape from Mars, but I think I might like this game more. Some of that might be that I always loved Road Runner, while I didn’t care about or watch the ’90s Taz cartoon. This is the best Road Runner game I have played; other Road Runner platformers are usually too fast for their own good and are ruined by slippery controls and mountains of blind jumps, but though this game is fast and you do have blind jumps when playing as the Road Runner, the game is great fun despite that thanks to good design.
Desert Demolition distinguishes itself from other Road Runner games not only with its good graphics and solid design, but also its faithfulness to the cartoon, variety, and ability to play as Wile E. Coyote instead of the Road Runner in two separate routes through the game. This is a short game with only maybe five levels per character, but the high replay value makes up for that. Each character plays very differently and plays the levels in a different order, so playing as both is strongly encouraged. As the Road Runner, you move around very quickly as usual in Road Runner games. However, it works here because you won’t find much in the way of death pits in this game, so you can explore around without constantly dying. Levels are large and well thought through, and are fun to explore. Desert Demolition is a Western platformer, so like many of the time levels are large and open, and exploration is important. Your goal is to get to the end, but there are multiple routes along the way. The level designs are decent to good, and the levels are nicely large. The Road Runner is trying to reach the end of each stage without getting caught by Wile, while picking up lots of powerups along the way. As either character you have only a one minute timer at the start for each stage, so as the Road Runner you need to pick up time-extend powerups and keep moving in order to not die. Wile will appear from ACME boxes and various other trap locations as you move around each stage, while other pickups give you points and hourglasses give you time.
As Wile E Coyote, though, the game is slower and more deliberate. Wile doesn’t zoom around, so you can take your time more as him. You do have a run button, but even there you are under control. In order to keep that timer from running out, Wile must catch the Road Runner regularly; that is how you get those hourglasses. So, you’ve got to chase that roadrunner and do your best to leap on him with your leap attack! It’s a different playstyle from the Road Runner, and might actually be even more fun thanks to the slower pace and chase-focused gameplay. You almost never can play as Wile E. Coyote in Road Runner games, and it’s awesome that you can in this one. The animations are just great as well, and really add to the game every bit as much as the very nice backgrounds do. Since this is a Road Runner game it is set in the American deserts, of course. The visuals are all very well drawn and look great; this game does a good job pushing the Genesis hardware, visually. This is one of those later releases for the system that shows what it can do. The audio is cool too — instead of a normal soundtrack, the game plays music while your character is moving, and it changes tempo based on your speed. It’s cool stuff which fits the series great. Overall, Desert Demolition looks great, plays well, and has a nice amount of variety with two very different characters to play as. Exploring levels is fun, and running away from or chasing the other character while also looking for items is a nice challenge. This isn’t a long or particularly hard game, though the tight timers can be tricky sometimes, but it’s a fun one that many people overlook. This is a good game that I like, and it’s well worth playing. Pick it up!
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf – 1 player, password save. Desert Strike is an overhead-isometric flight combat game from EA. It’s part shooter, and part sim, making for a somewhat unique mix when combined with the perspective. This game was very popular at the time, and its massive success led to a long-running series through the ’90s. However, I’ve never liked this game very much, or the other two 4th-gen Strike games either. Desert Strike isn’t a bad game, and for the time it might even be good, I just don’t find interesting to play or much fun. I do like the two 5th-gen Strike games slightly better, but still, I’ve never quite gotten why this game, and series, was so popular. Part of might be that the theme clearly was inspired by the first Gulf War of the early ’90s. EA did a good job capitalizing on the war against Iraq with this games very Saddam Hussein-like villain and desert setting. The gameplay has to have kept people interested once they got past the theme, though, and that’s where the game loses me. Desert Strike is not a fast-paced shooter, but it is not a simulation game either. It’s in between, too boring to be a shooter but not nearly deep enough to be a real sim. The game has only four missions, each on a different map, but each is absolutely huge with many objectives to complete. I’ve never beaten the first mission, as much because of a lack of interest as anything. There are passwords between missions, but not between objectives, unfortunately. Visually the game looks okay, with reasonably well drawn sprites, but the realistic military theme isn’t something I find too exciting and the desert all looks the same. The music is strictly average.
So how does Desert Strike play, then? While the game looks sort of 3d due to the isometric angled perspective, the game is, control-wise, two-dimensional. You can only move around at a set altitude over the ground and cannot control your height. All four subsequent Strike games use this same exact mechanic. It keeps things simple, but sometimes height control would be nice, though it would add complexity as well due to the difficulty of targeting things in 3d. Anyway, enemies can be on two planes, in the air on level with you, or, more commonly, on the ground shooting up at your copter. While moving forward your copter will angle down, because that’s how helicopters work, so you can shoot downwards while moving, or straight ahead while standing still. You have several weapons to use, including machine guns and various missiles. All have limited ammo which definitely can run out, so learning where the ammo pickups are on the map is important. If you stop over a pickup, you can use a winch to get the item, whether it is ammo or health. Avoiding damage is impossible, as enemies fire too much to avoid it all, so just try to stay alive. You can’t be too cautious, however, because the game also has limited fuel. If you take too long, and run out of fuel and can’t find any more refills, you crash and lose a life. If you run out of lives, game over, try the mission over. That will take a while. It’s a challenging, somewhat boring, and not particularly fun game, and I’d rather not put the time in to this game it demands. I’m sure some people will really like this game, though, so it is worth checking out, whether or not you like it. For me though, this is an average game at best. Still, Desert Strike was a hit and was EA’s best-selling game up to that point when it released in 1992, so they ported it to many platforms. Desert Strike is also on the SNES, Game Boy, Game Gear, DOS PC, Amiga, Macintosh, Master System, Lynx, Game Boy Advance, and PSP (in the EA Replay collection). I don’t know which is the best version, but this is the original one — the game was developed first for the Genesis.
Devilish: The Next Possession – 2 player simultaneous. Devilish is an interesting ball-and-paddle block-breaking game in the style of Arkanoid or Breakout. This is a difficult game with nicely drawn visuals and some original concepts, but poor ball physics and no continues. I do like this game, but it could have been a lot better. You don’t get any continues in Devilish, so it will take a while until you’re good enough to get far, but the game is reasonably rewarding as you play it more and get a bit farther each time, if you can ever get used to the weird, random ways the ball bounces, that is. In Devilish, you play as a prince and princess who were turned into paddles by a demon named Y. You’ll have a fair number of levels to beat here, each with a boss at the end to work through. The bosses are difficult and can kill your ball easily, so practice and memorization are essential, along with some luck as well. Despite their plight, they take off to defeat him as they are, using a magic ball that appeared as their weapon. The game has either one or two player cooperative play, which is great, and does have difficulty settings though it’s hard on any of them.
So yes, as that may suggest, you have two paddles in this game, one at the bottom of the screen and one a bit above it. The upper paddle can be rotated either flat, left vertical, or right vertical by hitting a button, and can move all the way up the screen with up and down. It’s very useful stuff! The lower paddle, however, is locked to the bottom and can just move left or right, to try to save the ball from going down the bottom. This game scrolls, and sometimes goes sideways instead of just always moving upwards, which is interesting. Making a blockbreaking game with scrolling is somewhat unusual, but for the most part it does work. As the ball bounces around and breaks through things the screen will scroll up along with the ball, to keep it in view, and you can’t go back, of course; you lose a life when the ball goes out the bottom, though that is not true for the sides of the screen. The game has a nice variety of blocks, powerups, and enemies to whack the ball with, and because you can move that upper paddle around, you won’t have teh usual Arkanoid/Breakout problem of that one block you can’t get to in this game, which is great.
Visually, Devilish has detailed art with a dark fantasy visual theme. It’s a bit Alien-like, actually, at times. I like the graphical detail, though the game clearly didn’t have the biggest budget. The music is okay but not great. Overall, Devilish is a good game with some interesting things that make it worth a look for sure if you like blockbreaking games, but also some drawbacks. The ball physics, tough bosses, and zero continues are its main faults, but with nice visuals, unique gameplay for the genre, decent mechanics most of the time, and some variety, Devilish is more good than bad. I like Arkanoid-style games, and this one is a fun challenge to try playing once in a while. There is also a Game Gear version, though I think it’s a bit different. Devilish got a remake many years later on the Nintendo DS from Starfish. Unfortunately, the remake might be worse than the original, though most of Starfish’s DS and Wii classic remakes are also worse than the games they follow up so that isn’t surprising; Monkey King is a lot worse than Cloud Master, and Heavenly Guardian, while good, isn’t quite as good as Pocky & Rocky.
DJ Boy – 1 player. DJ Boy is a bad beat ’em up from Kaneko. This game has poor controls, mediocre design, zero extra lives or continues so if you die once you have to start the entire game over, is single player only in a genre which is far better in multiplayer, and has a racist-stereotype character which they censored for the US release, too (it’s the first boss). Kaneko was not known for making great games, and this one is no exception, unfortunately. You play as DJ Boy, a hip urban youth in this game straight out of Japanese stereotypes of America. He’s on roller skates, permanently. This means that you slide around with slippery control. This fits the skates, sure, but is kind of annoying. Visually, DJ Boy is an early Genesis release and looks it. The graphics are okay but not above average, and it’s hard to understand why there is no two player support, though it’s easy enough to just play a better beat ’em up on the system which does. As far as the gameplay goes, this is basic stuff all the way. You just slide around, punch and kick people, and repeat. There is no depth here beyond hitting both attack buttons for a hit to both sides. Considering that you have only one life and no continues, try to avoid taking damage when you can if you want to survive long at all. Really, your only task in this game is to memorize the levels so as to avoid traps and enemy attacks. However, it’s not fun, it’s far too easy to die, and the controls aren’t great. You will do better with practice, and this isn’t the worst beat ’em up around, but there isn’t much of a reason to put that kind of effort into a game this poor. Skip it. Arcade port.
Duel, The: Test Drive II – 1 player. Test Drive II: The Duel, whichever order you put the title in, is a racing game from Accolade ported over from the PC. This game has sprite-based cars in polygonal 3d worlds, with the single-digit framerate you expect from a 4th-gen title that attempts to use polygons. The first three Test Drive games were popular racing games in the late ’80s to early ’90s, and this game was the first time the series came over to consoles. There wouldn’t be another Test Drive game on consoles until the PS1 version of Test Drive 4 in 1997. For anyone who knows newer Test Drive games, though, this one is a bit different from the style of the series from TD4 and on. While Test Drive II is not a simulator, it tries to be a bit more realistic than other racing games of the time. The 3d graphics are one element of that, as they allow a much more realistic world than you can do with top-down or linescroll graphics, and the slow-paced gameplay also fits that theme. In this game you choose one of three real licensed high-end sports cars and one of three tracks. This game has long, point-to-point races made up of multiple stages each, so three is actually a reasonable number; each one will take a while to finish, if you finish at all. This style, with long multi-stage point-to-point races in a semi-realistic car racing game, is one you also see in EA’s later first Need for Speed game. NFS1, particularly the original 3DO version, was probably inspired by Test Drive. Due to the better hardware that is the better game, but Test Drive II does have some things going for it, for car fans particularly. I’m not one, this is probably why I find the game somewhat boring. Still, it’s an okay game, framerate aside.
First, you choose a track and car in the menu. Each race is, as the title suggests, a 1-on-1 race of you against an AI opponent car. You only have one opponent, so you’ll either win or lose, nothing in between. The games’ pace is slow thanks to the slow framerate and realistic speeds, but that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. There are a lot of civilian traffic cars on the road to avoid, though, so it’s not only the two of you alone. Tracks are often quite narrow, and some are on cliffsides and the like, so avoiding the traffic while staying on the road can be difficult; this is a major part of the games’ challenge. If you hit anything you lose a life, and you get five lives per race. If you run out of lives it’s game over. Your car has limited fuel, so make sure to stop at the periodic gas stations to refill. If you run out you will be returned to the last gas station you passed, losing a bit of time in the process, though you won’t lose a life for this, thankfully. Finishing all of the sections of a track without running out of lives will be difficult, but with practice it’s surely possible. Is it fun enough to be worth the time, though? Well, I don’t regret buying this game, but it’s not something I’ve played a lot of either. It is interesting to see what the Genesis can do polygon-wise, but the low framerate makes enjoying the game difficult. The original PC version, on a more powerful system, is probably better, though I haven’t played that myself. That version also would probably save your best times, while here you’ll need to write them down if you want them recorded; Accolade didn’t put a save chip in the cart, sadly. Also, of course, I strongly prefer less realistic, fast futuristic racing games over this kind of more realistic approach. Still, Test Drive II: The Duel is an okay game worth getting if you see it for a few bucks. PC port also on the Amiga and maybe other computers. The computer versions are better, but this game is okay.
Dynamite Headdy – 1 player. Dynamite Headdy is a platform-action game by Treasure. You play as a robot rejected from the factory who goes through a sequence of quite silly and crazy adventures… if you can survive them. While Treasure’s shmups are usually exceptional and three of them are among the best ever in the genre, their record with platformers is more mixed. They’ve made some good ones like Mischief Makers, but also some that aren’t as good, like Stretch Panic. This game is pretty good, but I don’t love it quite as much as some. Treasure games usually have some kind of gimmick that the game is designed around. Dynamite Headdy is for the most part a standard platformer, but its unique element is suggested by the title — your cute cartoony robot guy can throw his head around. You attack enemies that way, so you use projectiles to attack in this game and not jumping. You also can use your head to can grab on to certain points to vault up to higher platforms. You also can find a wide variety of alternate heads which give you different powers, including homing attacks, higher jumps, shrunken size to fit in narrow passages, and many more. The game has great graphics with bright, colorful designs and some nice visual effects that show off how well Treasure knew the Genesis hardware. The rotating 2d/3d platforms in one stage a bit into the game are particularly awesome looking. The bright and colorful look has to have been inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog but with a different, toys-and-robots aesthetic, but it does look good.
This game can be great, crazy fun as you fight off the many robot enemies. While the game is supposedly a platformer, with how much shooting you do and the constant barrage of bosses sometimes it feels as much like a run & gun game as a platformer. I’m sure Gunstar Heroes fans love this game, there are definite similarities between the two games even if this isn’t always as fast-paced as that game is. I like both games, but they do get a bit crazy; sometimes it’s hard to follow what is going on on screen, as you spin around attached to a cat-slinky-robot thing for example. Fortunately you can take a lot of hits, but the health meter is just a colored light in the upper corner of the screen, not a meter. I wish there was a health meter to make it clearer about exactly how much health you have left. And on that note, this is a very hard game. The Japanese version is a lot easier, but the Western version of Dynamite Headdy is unforgivingly difficult, and you don’t get any continues either; one game over and it’s back to the start of the game. I haven’t finished it yet. I’d kind of like to try the Japanese version, it’d be fun to play a version of this game that isn’t super hard. You really would need to memorize everything in this not-short-for-the-time game to have any chance of winning the Western version. There is a level-select cheat at least, if you want to use it. Apparently some cutscenes were cut back on in the Western version too, disappointingly, though some do remain. The game has a good sense of humor, so they are missed. I like the game, and it is worth playing to get better at, but I wish that they had put in both difficulties as options, instead of just making everything a lot harder. Also, this game has many Secret Bonus Points scattered around the game, but apparently collecting them does nothing, so there isn’t much of a reason to go back and play this again if you finish it other than to just experience it again, or get those secret bonus points for no reason other than to get them. Mischief Makers’ system, which unlocks more of the ending based on how many of the major collectibles you’ve gotten, is better.
El Viento – 1 player. El Viento is a good platformer from Telenet, published here by their US division Renovation. As with all Telenet games the game has issues, as Telenet never released a game without at least some problems, but the good is more than the bad, here, for sure. This is a very anime-esque game set in 1920s America. You play as Annet, a mysterious girl from Peru, on a quest to stop some badguys from resurrecting a demon and conquering or destroying the world with it. Naturally, she wears a skimpy, and somewhat odd-looking, outfit, but it’s rare to find a 4th-gen console game with a female protagonist and Annet is a reasonably strong character despite her costume. The game has cutscenes between each level telling the story. The plot doesn’t entirely make sense, but that’s okay, it is better than nothing. Ingame, the game has average graphics, decent but not great music, and solid level designs and gameplay. Annet controls okay, with your usual run and jump, and attacks with projectiles. She can run fairly quickly, but this game isn’t Sonic fast. The pace is just about right. As you progress through the game you will get magic spells to use, which you use by holding down the attack button to charge up for them. Using these is a bit clumsy, as you can’t move while charging but often will want to use spells in bossfights, so you’ll have to try anyway. This game isn’t polished, but it is fun. Each level is different, and it’s amusing to see this games’ quite stereotyped version of 1920s America. ’20s America means gangsters of course, so one level is in a gangster-infested warehouse in Chicago. You also go to the Grand Canyon, among other places. Each level is different, and the level designs are good. The game does slow down a lot when Telenet shows off their attempts at getting things like sprite scaling and rotation working on the Genesis, but it’s nice that they tried, and there aren’t many such parts. The game keeps mixing it up with new challenges. You’ll fight people on motorcycles, tanks, demon-worshiping magic-users, and more, and each level has an entirely different setting as you chase the villains and try to stop their plot to destroy the world. Yeah, this is an amusingly weird game, though the story gets dark as you get farther in. This is a challenging game and finishing it won’t be easy, but it is rewarding and you should get farther each time. El Viento is a good game well worth playing, and it’s probably one of my favorite Telenet games. They made two more games in the franchise, Earnest Evans (Genesis, also Sega CD in Japan) and Annet Again (Sega CD, Japan only), but this is the best one.
ESWAT: City Under Siege – 1 player. ESWAT is a side-scrolling platform-action game by Sega. This is an earlier release for the Genesis, and definitely looks it; the graphics here are not great. Gameplay is a little better than the visuals, but the game has some issues there as well. ESWAT for the Genesis was clearly inspired by the original Shinobi, except with a character with a jetpack and a variety of weapons. I love jetpacks in games and like Shinobi, so the core design here is good. You play as a police officer. For the first two levels you’re just a normal guy, but after level two you get a power-armor suit, complete with jetpack. The game gets even harder at this point. Throughout, you move very slowly, and turn around slowly as well. You can shoot left, right, or straight up, but not at diagonals. Because of your slow, frustrating controls, hitting an enemy straight above you can be hard; you’ll need to fire up, miss slightly, turn around, edge back a bit, try to aim up again, fire up… it’s not great. The game should have had diagonal attacks and better movement control. Visually, each of the eight levels has a new setting, but there are only so many enemies, and the graphics are pretty mediocre compared to a lot of other first-party Sega titles on the system. The music isn’t too great either. Playing this game again now for this summary I liked it more than my mostly negative memories of what I thought of the game from when I got this game in the late ’00s, but it’s still a flawed game. Still, I like Shinobi and Rolling Thunder enough to want to play this game even though ESWAT isn’t as good as any classic Shinobi or Rolling Thunder game.
This is a hard game for quite a few reasons. ESWAT has some difficulty and lives-per-continue options, but it’s hard on any of them. You do have three continues, but only in the Western version; the Japanese version has no continues at all. Beyond that the controls are, as described above, slow and not great, so avoiding enemy fire can be hard. And worse, you have absolutely no invincibility after being hit, so if an enemy gets on top of your sprite, or if you are hit by a wave of fire, you’ll lose hit points FAST, and you do not have many of them to lose. It’s very easy to go from full health to almost dead in a second, and health refills are few and far between. Memorizing enemy locations is absolutely critical if you want any kind of chance in this game, and it gets frustrating starting from level two. Bosses also are difficult and require a lot of memorization to get past, if you don’t just give up or go look up what to do online. That’s not all, though; ESWAT punishes you further for dying, as if you have a weapon other than the default one equipped when you die, you lose it. And since there are not weapons in boss rooms, if you die at a boss, that weapon is gone until your next continue, if you have any left. It’s really frustrating stuff; I understand punishing players for losing, but making boss fights essentially impossible just because you died once is not fair, and yet that’s exactly how this game works! Without the charge-shot attack many bosses will be ridiculously hard, but one death with it and it’s gone. It’s really frustrating stuff. After dying on a boss once it’s basically over, just give up and try again next continue or game. Playing the game for this summary I got to the end of level three, which is as far as I’ve ever gotten into the game I believe, but all the problems I just described made me not really want to keep trying, after getting stuck there. ESWAT is an okay game and there are some good things about it, but with mediocre visuals, bad controls, no invincibility on hit, and more, overall ESWAT is a disappointment. Sega could make great platform-action games, but though I like some things about it ESWAT isn’t one of their better ones. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.
Eternal Champions – 2 player simultaneous, 6-button controller supported (and very highly recommended). Eternal Champions is a fighting game by Sega of America, and this was a popular and highly-marketed game. The game is basically comic books crossed with Mortal Kombat, but not quite as good. Eternal Champions is, literally, a difficult game to like, though; this game is HARD, and the AI will wipe the floor with you unless you have practiced a lot and can do the moves. Make sure to have the manual or a good guide before playing this game, you need it. The game plays okay, but it’s not Capcom or SNK-caliber. This is a standard, special moves-based fighting game, but it doesn’t have quite the near-perfection of controls and moves you’d find in those games. Oh, do have a 6-button controller, you do NOT want to try to play this with only three buttons. The game uses a Street Fighter-style six button layout. The modes here are only the usuals for a fighting game of the time — a championship where you fight against the others and then the boss, a versus mode, training, and options. The story here is that a group of people good at fighting who were just killed at various points in history have been pulled into a fighting tournament by the master, or something like that. Only the winner will be rewarded with life; all the others die. The game has decent comic book-style art design, and the character designs are good. The graphics are extremely dithered, which doesn’t look great on modern pixel-perfect TVs, but that is common in 4th-gen games. Overall Eternal Champions is okay, but I just don’t find it very fun to play. The game is unapproachably difficult, decent but not great looking, and only okay mechanically. It plays well enough, and I don’t really dislike Eternal Champions, but I’ve never tried to get good enough at this game to beat the story mode, either. The game has a sequel on Sega CD that I don’t have because of how I don’t like this game too much, and two spinoffs — X-Perts for Genesis and Chicago Syndicate for Game Gear, each starring a character from this game. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.
Ex-Mutants – 1 player. Ex-Mutants is an okay platform-action game based on a comic book, developed by Malibu, a mid ’90s comic and videogame company, and published by Sega. The game is based on a comic which I know nothing about by Malibu’s comic book arm. The game highlights a team of six mutants, but you can only play as two of them, one male and one female; you need to rescue the other four. Some ex-Malibu developers would go on to make The Adventures of Batman & Robin, but this game isn’t quite on that ones’ level. It is better than Malibu’s Batman Returns game for the Genesis, however. The name clearly was “inspired” by X-Men, but the concept here is sort of the reverse of that series — this game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and everyone else are mutants while your characters are among the few humans. The game has a story which is told between missions. A lot of the mutants are evil, though not all. There sure are plenty of them for you to fight, though. These characters aren’t as memorable as Wolverine and co. so I can see why it didn’t take off, and the character art for the humans in this game particularly isn’t great. The environments are average looking at least, though, and the game is a quality, fun game even if the visuals are only average. In addition to some environments, I also like the voice samples; both playable characters have some voice quips they’ll say during the game. They will also encourage you in text form sometimes when you die. That’s nice. The game does have limited continues, so it’ll take practice to finish despite having only six levels. You get a lot of continues, but it’s easy to lose lives, particularly in levels such as the quite frustrating mine-cart stage. This isn’t the hardest game, but it isn’t easy either. The mine cart stage aside the difficulty here is reasonably well balanced.
This game is heavy on shooting and exploration. As in many Western platformers of the day you have good-sized levels to explore. There is always one path forward, but there are often multiple routes and lots of secret areas to find full of weapons and other powerups. You can only hold one sub-weapon at a time, and these have limited ammo, so you will need to make choices about which one to take with you. Some of the many powerups just get you points, but the health and weapon powerups are vital, and there are 1-ups as well. Exploration is worthwhile; try attacking or blowing up suspect walls, sometimes hidden areas are behind them. The game has a nice variety of challenges to overcome, and there are quite a few different enemy and trap types. Most enemies are exclusive to one level, so you’re not facing the same exact foes throughout. Traversing the levels is a fun challenge, as you try to avoid lava fountains, swinging axes, guns in the walls shooting you as you travel on ladders, and more. There are also bosses every other level, and they do have on-screen health bars, which is great. Overall, Ex-Mutants has only average graphics and fairly standard gameplay, but it’s a fun, reasonably well-designed game, and I like it. That mine-cart level is a pain, but otherwise this game is good.