Platform Summary and History
Ah, the Sega CD, Sega’s first disc-based platform. The Sega CD was released in late 1991 in Japan, fall 1992 in the US, and 1993 in Europe. The system attaches to the Sega Genesis, and, as the name suggests, plays CD games. The system also has save memory in it, and some additional hardware as well — in addition to some more RAM, the Sega CD has hardware scaling and rotation support, unlike the Genesis. The additional RAM makes video fairly easy, though hardware restrictions, and the Genesis 64-color limit, mean that video often has only 8-16 colors in it. It is real, moving video, though, which was an accomplishment at the time. Games which use the scaling and rotation hardware often look quite nice, as well.
As I mentioned, The Sega CD has 8KB of internal rechargeable battery-backed save RAM for game saves, and also has a memory cartridge, the Sega CD Backup RAM Cart, for a much larger save space — it’s 128KB! Unfortunately almost no action games support any kind of saving; it’s mostly only used by FMV games, sports games, and RPGs. Unlike the Turbografx CD, there are no shmups or shooting games which support saving your high scores to the system, for example. It’s disappointing. Still, for the games that do support it, the very large size of the memory cart is fantastic. You’ll really only ever need one.
The Sega CD was Sega’s answer to the Turbografx CD (PC Engine CD in Japan), which was successful and gaining in strength when the Sega CD released in 1991. It was also a pre-emptive strike against Nintendo’s upcoming [but never to be released] SNES CD. Sega failed to take over the CD market in Japan, and the TGCD easily won there, but it did do well in the US. Sega’s newer system has some hardware advantages versus the Turbo CD… advantages which Japanese games did not always take advantage of. The Turbografx CD, the first console CD addon (it released in Japan in late 1988), didn’t add any new hardware features other than the large disc and some internal save memory, but the Sega CD has hardware scaling and rotation, which is a huge plus. The additional RAM when compared to the original Turbo CD also makes video much easier; on the Turbografx cutscenes are more often than not inanimate stills, even for many games that require RAM-expanding system cards, but on Sega CD, video is easy. The Sega CD is limited by the Genesis’ 64-color limit, however, and when playing video, that 64 color limit is restricted even more. As a result, video on the system is often using only a handful of colors. It … can look bad. Even so, it IS video. I know that some Turbo CD games have [animated or live action] video (particularly on Super CD), but many titles do have only animated stills, while animated Sega CD games generally have video. Overall, compared to the TGCD, the Sega CD is more powerful, with easier video support and hardware scaling and rotation, but is severely limited by that 64-color limit. The TG16 can display hundreds of colors (even though both systems have 512-color palettes), so it wins in that for sure.
Now, the library. The Sega CD saw its greatest success in the US. Of the up to six million Sega CD systems sold, 2.5 probably million sold in the US. We do not know actual Sega CD sales numbers, and even a good estimate has eluded us, but it’s somewhere between 1.5 and 6 million systems, anyway, and was most successful in the US. That 2.5 million number, if accurate, is more than two and a half times the probable total of TG16 plus TGCD plus Turbo Duo systems (about 900,000 TG16s plus ~20,000 Turbo CDs and 20-60 thousand Duos are the best estimates I’ve seen), and it’s significantly more than the Sega Saturn sold in the US as well — that system only managed about 1.5 million systems sold here. It’s highly likely that the Sega CD did indeed outsell the Saturn in the US. And going by game availability I’ve seen around here, I believe that the Sega CD outsold the Saturn; I’ve certainly seen more Sega CD games around than Saturn games. In fact, the TG16 plus addons’s worldwide total is in the same ballpark as the Sega CD’s sales total! The system didn’t do as well in Europe, but still, a solid majority of Sega CD systems sold in the West. Of course, that the Genesis sold tens of millions of systems in Western markets, while in Japan they finished in third place, obviously was a major factor behind that as well. The Japanese game library for the Sega CD is, overall, underwhelming. There are some great games in the Japanese library, including six shmups, several great strategy games and RPGs, and some more, but Sega of Japan itself failed to capitalize on their own hardware. There are almost no Japanese SCD games which make good use of the scaling and rotation hardware, for example; there’s the Sonic CD bonus stages (average, looks like SNES Mode 7), the disappointing After Burner III, the impressive Formula One World Championship, and not much of anything else. And those latter two titles were outsourced, and not actually developed by Sega, even though Sega did publish them. For third party Japanese titles, Night Striker is about it; it’s solidly done. Most of the games which pushed the scaling hardware are Western, though, primarily titles from Malibu/Clockwork Tortoise and Core Designs. The Japanese title Silpheed looks amazing, but ther than that, most of the most impressive looking games on the Sega CD are Western.
One major problem with the Sega CD’s library is that Sega of Japan simply did not put the effort into supporting their CD system that NEC and Hudson did with the Turbo CD in Japan, and it shows. While NEC and Hudson moved the primary format for their system over to CDs, Sega of Japan mostly stuck with carts for the top games, and left the CD for enhanced ports of games from other platforms (mostly Turbo CD or Japanese computer games) and only a handful of internally developed top-tier efforts. Some games which did start on the Sega CD, such as Phantasy Star IV and Outrun 2019, ended up being cartridge releases. And Sega released the 32X in late 1994, only a few years after the Sega CD, and the Saturn at the same time as well. While the Sega CD released in 1991, Sega of Japan had almost no first-party software at first. The whole next year saw no improveemnt. You can see this when you look at the US launch, 9-10 months after the system released in Japan. Sega of America had so few options that they were forced to make all of their packin games in the first year of the systems’ life be third-party titles, including first Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (a game also available on Turbo CD and PC) and Sol-Feace (later also released on cartridge; it’s a port of a Japanese computer game), and later Sewer Shark (later ported to 3DO). The situation improved somewhat in 1993 as Sega of Japan did release some high-quality major Sega CD titles in 1993 and 1994, most notably Sonic CD but also including Shining Force CD, Dark Wizard, Panic!, and more. Later Sega CD and CDX models in the US were packed in with Sonic CD, for example. However, at the end of 1994, with the 32X and Saturn releases Sega of Japan essentially abandoned the Sega CD. All of Sega of Japan’s first-party releases in Japan in 1995 were Western titles, and they didn’t even release all of them there. As a result of this, the Sega CD’s first-party Japanese game library is singularly unimpressive. There are some hits, but far too many ports of B and C-tier games from other platforms (many of these never released in the West), and almost nothing that made any use of the scaling and rotation hardware, either.
In comparison, Sega of America put serious effort into supporting the Sega CD between 1992 and 1995. These efforts are often unappreciated today, as the largest part of their release library went into games full of live action video, but in 1992-1995, that kind of game was popular and highly desired, so regardless of how questionable many of the titles are as actual games, I think that SoA’s decision to focus so much on live-action video FMV games was a reasonable, defensible choice. That FMV-game library is the primary reason why the Sega CD sold as well as it did in the US, after all; games like Sewer Shark, Night Trap, and the like sold a large number of those systems. I know many people hate FMV games, and I’m not much of a fan of them myself (I dislike a lot of them), but it was the right decision at the time. I do think that this was a factor in the Sega CD fading in 1995, as that year FMV was being replaced with polygonal 3D as the thing everyone wanted to see, but still, it brought it a level of success for a while, which is something. It would have been nice to see more platformers and action games from Sega of America on the Sega CD, but ah well… at least they did a few. Sega of Japan’s library, Sonic CD aside, is extremely heavy on the RPGs, adventure games, and such, and very light on much of anything else. Those are games which work better on a CD than a cartridge, certainly, but it wasn’t the kind of library that had made the Genesis successful in the West and wasn’t going to sell here, and didn’t succeed at making the Sega CD equal the Turbo CD in Japan, either. Continuing to support the Genesis was a good idea, but Sega needed more stuff on the Sega CD as well. Of course Sega was overloading themselves with far too much hardware, and thus supporting any one platform enough was a problem, but they should have been able to see that. They didn’t until too late.
Regardless of that, largely thanks to third party efforts both Western and Japanese, I do like the Sega CD’s library. Both Sega branches produced a few lasting classics for the system, and third-party companies like Core, Working Designs, and more made some great games as well. The Sega CD is a good console well worth owning. The library is only moderate-sized (100-something, in the US), but it is far larger than the 32X’s library, and games like Silpheed, SoulStar, Battlecorps, and F1 World Championship are quite impressive looking (and playing!) as well. The Turbo CD is the better platform for CD versions of games that could have been on cartridge (minus the cutscenes and music), but the Sega CD has a clearly distinct library. Overall the Turbo CD IS probably the better platform, but the Sega CD is much cheaper and more affortable, and its top titles include some great classics, and some of the best shmups playable on the Genesis, too. Any serious Genesis fan should absolutely get a Sega CD. It has enough great games to definitely be worth it, even if Sega didn’t capitalize on it as much as they could have.
There are several models of Sega CD. First, there is the original model, with a tray-load drive, which sits below the Genesis and was designed to match the original-model Genesis. Next came the side-by-side top-loaded Model 2 Sega CD, pictured above. It is more reliable than the model 1, and was designed to match the model 2 Genesis best. The last first-party model was the Sega CDX, a small Genesis and Sega CD combo unit which also works as a portable CD player. There are several third-party models as well, including the Sega PAC for the LaserActive, which can play regular Genesis and Sega CD as well as LaserActive-exclusive Mega LD games, and the JVC X’Eye and its Japanese equivalents, the Wondermega line. The X’Eye/Wondermega systems are all-in-one Genesis plus Sega CD clone systems licensed by Sega.
I bought my Sega CD in June 2006, one month after I got a [model 2] Genesis. I was very lucky, and found a Sega CD, attached to a model 1 Genesis, with one power supply and no controller, for $5 at a local pawnshop. It’s the only time I saw a Sega CD for sale there, and it was really cheap! It was untested, though, so I was taking a chance, but when attached to my Genesis 2, not only did the Sega CD work, but it’s worked flawlessly ever since. It even still had save files on the system when I got it, somehow! That Genesis 1 attached to it never worked, however. The power light turns on, but nothing else happens. Oh well, I have a Genesis 2. At first I did play quite a few games on CD-R, since the system has no copy protection, but over time I’ve bought a good-sized library of actual titles. The Sega CD is a good system worth having. It’s not as good as the Genesis, and the Turbo CD is better overall even if it very rarely manages actual moving video because it’s got more great games, but the Sega CD is still a very good console with more than enough good games to absolutely be worth owning. It’s also an interesting piece of history, thanks to its huge FMV-game library, but there ARE great non-FMV games on the console as well.
My favorite games for the Sega CD
1. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
2. Sonic CD
4. Dark Wizard
5. Keio Flying Squadron
7. Robo Aleste
8. Shining Force CD
9. The Adventures of Batman & Robin
10. Popful Mail
Honorable Mentions: Battlecorps, Snatcher, Rise of the Dragon, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco 2: The Tides of Time, Mickey Mania, Flink, Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit, Night Striker, Wirehead, Lodestar: The Legend of Tully Bodine, Star Wars: Rebel Assault (kind of), Lunar: The Silver Star
Worst Games: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Double Switch, Supreme Warrior, Tomcat Alley
Table of Contents: Games Covered
4-in-1 Classic Arcade Collection
5-in-1 Classic Arcade Collection
The Adventures of Batman & Robin
The Adventures of Willy Beamish
After Burner III
Android Assault: The Revenge of Bari-Arm
Annet Futatabi (J) [Annet Again]
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Brutal: Paws of Fury
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck
Ecco the Dolphin
ESPN National Hockey Night
Fahrenheit (SCD) (CD/32XCD two-in-one)
Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit
Ground Zero Texas
Keio Flying Squadron
Lodestar: The Legend of Tully Bodine
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
The Mansion of Hidden Souls
Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse
Night Striker (J)
The Ninja Warriors (J)
Revengers of Vengeance
Rise of the Dragon
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective — Volume I
Shining Force CD
Sonic 1 Megamix (PD)
Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin
Star Wars Chess, The Software Toolworks Presents
Star Wars: Rebel Assault
Third World War
WWF: Rage in the Cage
Yumimi Mix (J)
Sega CD 32X
Fahrenheit (32XCD) (game is CD + 32XCD two-in-one)
Slam City with Scottie Pippen
There are about 62 games covered here. Games do not save unless I say so (listed after the number of players). The Sega CD Backup RAM Cart is the system’s only memory card. It goes in the Genesis cart slot, and has a lithium cell battery in it (not a CR2032, though; it’s a higher-density battery than that). The Sega CD itself has only 8KB of save space, which goes fast, but the Backup RAM Cart has 128KB. Not all games support saving directly to the cart, so for some games you have to transfer files back and forth in the Sega CD system menu, but either way, the Backup RAM Cart is an essential accessory. They’re kind of pricey, but a must have. I also list it if games support the 6-button controller, and would mention the mouse if I had any of the few games that support it. I also mention the Cyber-Stick joystick/XE-1AP analog controller the few games that support it. It’s an analog joystick and gamepad (both work the same way) that was only released in Japan, naturally. I list this as “XE-1AP” but the Cyber-Stick works with those games too.
As always, I only cover is only games I’ve played on actual hardware, not in emulation.
Summaries – Sega CD
4 in 1 Classic Arcade Collection (contains Golden Axe (new version), ). This disc was a pack-in with the original US release of the Sega CD, and includes a slightly redone version of Golden Axe and straight, unaltered ports of three Genesis games, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns, and Streets of Rage. Yeah, it says “arcade collection”, but it’s basically a Genesis collection. Golden Axe’s graphics are from the Genesis game, but two changes have been made, one good and one bad. On the good side, the game has CD audio, which is great. I like the CD audio mix of the soundtrack. On the bad side, for some bizarre reason the game was made single player only. Very disappointing! Multiplayer is one of the major reasons why beat ’em ups are fun, so with no multiplayer it’s just not nearly the same. Still, this is worth considering if it’s cheap, for the CD music. My copy of this is a dual-case game with the 4-in-1 on one side, and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective on the other, as it apparently came in the original packin. (The other pack-in game with the original Sega CD 1 release, Sol-Feace, came in a separate paper jewelcase.)
5 in 1 Classic Arcade Collection – This is the same as the above collection, except with one game added to the collection of straight Genesis ports on the disc, Super Monaco GP. Otherwise it’s identical to the first version. My copy of this is a dual-game paper case with the 5-in-1 and Ecco the Dolphin CD as the other disc. This Ecco and 5-in-1 dual-pack apparently was the pack-in with the Sega CDX, though I don’t have a CDX; I got this by itself. And yes, Golden Axe is still single player only, but with CD audio, just like with the first version of this collection.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin – 1 player. The Adventures of Batman and Robin is a later Sega CD title (1995), developed externally by the same awesome but very short-lived team, Clockwork Tortoise, that also made the Genesis Adventures of Batman & Robin game. Sega published both titles, though the team had come from Malibu Interactive, who had made Batman Returns, Ex-Mutants, and some other games. Malibu had a great engine for SCD scaler games, as you can see in the Sega CD versions of Batman Returns, Hook, and Cliffhanger, and Clockwork Tortoise inherited it. The Adventures of Batman & Robin has the great graphics and solid gameplay you might hope for from a later release. This game is one of the best-looking Sega CD games. Unsurprisingly considering its developer, the game is a sequel of sorts to the Sega CD version of Batman Returns. Specifically, it is a sequel to the driving levels in that game, and it runs on the same engine, I think. Like that game, it’s a “3d” (though sprite-based), scaler driving-shooter game. Some stages are in the Batwing, so they’re straight-out rail shooters, though the whole game plays in that style. Unlike Batman Returns for the Sega CD, though, this game only has driving levels; once Batman reaches his destination, you see a cutscene instead of gameplay. The cutscenes are awesome, though. They look just like the cartoon of the same name as this game, and that cartoon, for those who haven’t seen it, was probably the best Batman TV show ever. This game is essentially a “lost episode” of the TV show — in total, there are 15 minutes of fully-animated cutscenes in the game, all fully voiced by the real voice actors from the show. As in the show, there’s some dark imagery here sometimes; the scene of Batman and the plant monster has a memorable ending, for instance. Eerie.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin has fantastic graphics ingame, too. It makes great use of the Sega CD’s sprite-scaling powers. It’s really too bad that so, so few Japanese Sega CD games actually make use of the systems’ sprite scaling power, but at least some Western games do, and this is one of the best. There’s more to say about the game, but in short, The Adventures of Batman & Robin is a definite must-play Sega CD game. It’s gruelingly hard, but keeps you coming back again and again, as the game is incredibly fun to play. You’ll die a lot, and get game overs, but will keep coming back. The difficulty is something I need to say more about though. First, as with almost all Sega CD action games, the game does not support saving. I have no idea why almost no action games on the Sega CD support any form of saving (even just for high scores would be awesome!), but they don’t, and this one is no exception. The game has limited continues too, and a very, very high difficulty level. Even just getting past the third level will be a very serious challenge, and I have never finished the Joker’s cyber-world stage. It’s a crazy-hard maze of dodging and shooting. Relentless, brutal stuff. But even if you can’t beat it, as I can’t, definitely get this game! It’s a visual standout, it’s connected to a great ’90s cartoon, and the game plays great, even if it’s unforgiving. Highly recommended!
The Adventures of Willy Beamish – 1 player, saves (to system only). Willy Beamish is a Dynamix (Sierra) adventure game from the early ’90s. It’s a good classic adventure game where you play as a “normal” fourth-grade boy, Willy Beamish, and have to go through various adventures in your town. You start out in detention, because you played a prank on the teacher, and ahve to get out, and try to get home before your bad report card does. Yeah, I can’t relate to that much, but it’s a solid setting for a fun adventure game. However, the game has a problem: the frequent long load times makes this version hard to justify playing today. The game itself is a fun, interesting graphic adventure from a great adventure game studio, but those load times… argh! I actually find most Sega CD loading tolerable, but in this game they’re just so frequent (every screen!), and so long, that it is a problem, unfortunately. Still, the game is a good cartoon-style game. And yes, the game may start out normal, but it gets weirder farther on. This version is a port of the PC original. It’s a lot like the PC game, except here it’s on a CD, so of course it’s fully voice acted, something you won’t find in the floppy-disk-only PC game. The voice acting is okay, as usual for Sierra adventure games. I like Sierra adventure games, and this is a fun one, so it’s cool to have for Sega CD. There’s only one problem, but it’s a really bad one: The load time are horrendous and frequent. If you play this game, you will spend a LOT of time staring at loading screens. In 1993 that was probably tolerable, but now? I do recommend playing this game, but play the PC version if you value your time. Fun stuff… if you can survive the innumerable loading screens. Overall though, I recommend playing the other Sega CD port of a Dynamix adventure game, Rise of the Dragon, instead; it’s also a good game, but isn’t crippled quite as badly by loading screens. That’s a very different kind of game though, of course. Much more serious and adult. Anyway though, Willy Beamish is good classic adventure-game fun, but I just can’t take the waiting. Also on PC, Mac, and Amiga (in Europe only on Amiga).
After Burner III – 1 player, supports XE-1AP analog controller. After Burner III is a port of a Sega rail shooter. While it has the “After Burner” name on it, this game is much more like a subpar predecessor to G-LOC than it is a sequel to After Burner, unfortunately. The game is a home port of Sega’s arcade game “Strike Fighter”, so the After Burner name was tacked on for greater sales of the home versions. The home ports were actually outsourced, too — though Sega made the arcade game, the home versions were done by CRI. and they did a mediocre job. Yes, Sega’s only first-party-IP Sega CD scaler-style game is a highly disappointing, bland, oursourced port. Sega of Japan’s Sega CD release list was … quite weak, and Sega of Japan never did do much of anything with the scaling and rotation powers of the system, Sonic CD bonus stages excepted. And compared to Wetsern stuff like SoulStar or The Adventures of Batman & Robin, those bonus stages, or this game here, look awful. It’s really, really disappointing that Sega of Japan didn’t put any effort into making action games for the Sega CD. They did some RPGs (mostly ports of Japanese computer games), sports games, and a handful of (2d) exclusives mostly in the RPG, strategy, and adventure fields, but not much like what you’d expect from Sega. I think I could make a good argument that there are more good great exclusive Sega of Japan games on the 32X than on the Sega CD, strangely enough, considering that they mostly dropped the 32X after like six or seven months, but supported Sega CD for three years!). Anyway, yeah, this game’s actually by CRI, and it has very bland graphics. The objects on the ground are small and uninteresting. The game has limited motion, as in G-LOC — you can’t fully fly around like you could in After Burner I and II. You get used to it, but it’s not quite as good. Also as in the aforementioned G-LOC, which released later, this game has you flying in the cockpit of a fighter plane, as you shoot down all of the planes coming at you. The graphics are just so, so bland, though, that the game quickly gets boring. I liked G-LOC (the arcade game, at least), but this one isn’t much fun. I don’t know if Strike Fighter is better, but I imagine the better arcade graphics, and a flightstick controller, would make this a bit more fun. Even in arcades, though, this surely was never After Burner’s match. The arcade game isn’t the greatest, but does look better than this, and the system can do better. This game is just decent enough to maybe be worth getting for a few bucks, but only get it if it’s very, very cheap, and have very low expectations. If you want to play a great After Burner game on the Genesis, get After Burner for 32X — it’s a fantastic port of After Burner II, and it’s a great game. This is not. It could have been had Sega cared about making good action games for the Sega CD, but they didn’t, so it isn’t, and Sega’s attempts at publishing ports of arcade scaler games on their first system with scaling and rotation chips ended here. Pretty pathetic, that. Ah well, at least After Burner and Space Harrier made it out on 32X… though I badly wish Outrun had as well! Also on Fujitsu FM Towns (FM Towns Marty compatible, Japan only) and in arcades. Apparently the FM Towns version is just as bland as this one.
AH-3 ThunderStrike – 1 player, saves (to system only). AH-3 ThunderStrike is the first of Core Designs’ three scaler action games on the Sega CD, and it’s the only one of them that supports saving, stupidly enough; the two later games, Battlecorps and SoulStar, are better games than this, but it’s really frustrating that they removed the save system from those games that this one has. This game was successful and popular, unlike those two games, and became a lasting franchise — the game has two sequels, one on the Saturn and Playstation, and the last on Playstation 2. ThunderStrike was clearly successful. The game is a helicopter action game. You fly around, shoot at stuff, and win the mission once all of your objective targets have been destroyed. Unlike, say, Desert Strike, though, here you control the copter from a third-person view directly behind your vehicle. The game is a fairly simple shooting game. You fly around, use your different weapon types against their appropriate targets, and try to stay alive. There are military-style briefings before each mission that tell you your objectives. I don’t find this game nearly as exciting to play as Battlecorps or SoulStar, as I prefer the deeper gameplay those games have, and like their sci-fi settings more than this modern-military setting as well, but still, ThunderStrike is definitely worth getting. It’s a good game, first and foremost. It’s not the best Core Design game for the Sega CD, but it’s a fine one, and it’s definitely fun enough to be worth playing at least some of. And with that save system there, you won’t have to play it all in one sitting, either, which is great. Try it.
Android Assault: The Revenge of Bari-Arm – 1 player. Android Assault is a horizontal shmup. In this game, you control a plane that can transform into a robot, as you fight to save the universe from evil etc etc. The intro cutscene is solid, but predictable. The plot comes from Macross or Gundam or something like that, and the gameplay is a hybrid of Gate of Thunder (for Turbo CD) and the Thunder Force games (for Genesis). Don’t expect any original ideas in this game, you won’t find them. It’s a clone, through and through. The game is a good game, it’s well made, has good graphics, solid robot designs, and some solid level designs as well… but I can never shake the feeling that this game is too derivative to love. I just can’t entirely respect this game; they clearly didn’t use any original ideas when designing it. The game does have some areas which are a few screens tall, but Lightening Force has that, so that wasn’t first seen here either. The weapons are good, but the green laser can be tricky — it shoots a column of narrow beams, so hitting enemies with it requires precise placement. Still, with good graphics, fine level designs, and plenty of fun, Android Assault is a pretty good game, it really is. It’s probably my least favorite of the Sega CD shmups that I’ve played (and I’ve played all of them except for Lords of Thunder, which is probably better than this), but still, it IS a good game; the Sega CD’s six or seven shmups are just all very good games. Android Assault isn’t particularly expensive, and is a fine, quality shooter, so absolutely pick it up. I would recommend playing better games like Lightening Force or Gate of Thunder over this, if you have to choose, but still, Android Assault’s worth playing sometime too, for sure.
Annet Futatabi (J) (Annet Again) (Japan only release) – One player. I don’t own this game right now, but I did play and complete the game on my Sega CD several years ago. I’ll get a copy eventually for sure, even though it has issues. Annet Again is the third game in the series that includes Earnest Evans (GEN/SCD), the first game, which starred adventurer guy Earnest Evans and is generally considered to be poor, and El Viento (GEN), the second game, which is a good platformer. This one’s entirely different from the first two, though, as it’s a beat ’em up this time. As with El Viento, you play as Annet here. This time she’s gotten involved with some evil neo-Nazis, or something, at a castle in Europe I think. The story is decent, as usual in the series. Unfortunately, the game has no multiplayer, which is never fun in this genre; one of the best things about a beat ’em up is always playing them co-op with others! You can’t do that here, sadly. Otherwise though, it’s a serviceable beat ’em up. It’s not one of the greats of the genre certainly, but isn’t awful either. Perhaps the most annoying design decision is that you can’t use your super attacks during boss fights. The super meter charges up, and when full you can unleash a powerful blast against everyone on screen… as long as you’re not in a situation where you actually need it, that is, in a boss fight. Actually letting you win bossfights without tedious frustration? That’d be crazy, these designers seem to have thought! Argh. And when you die in a level, you start it over; no continuing where you died here. You do get infinite continues though, at least, and the levels are on the short side, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, but it is frustrating. The graphics are decent, and there is CD music of course. The game also has plenty of cutscenes which are fully voice acted in Japanese. Even though I don’t know what’s being said, with the pictures and vocal words (as opposed to text), I can get some of the sense of what’s going on. The story and cutscenes are well-done, I wanted to keep playing in order to see what would happen next. Still, I’d like to see a translation sometime. I think that the game doesn’t exactly end in the most conclusive of fashions, but unfortunately they never made another game, so this ending will have to do for the franchise. Maybe someone will bring it back someday… okay, likely not, but you never know.
Battlecorps – 1 player, 6 Button Controller supported. Battlecorps is Core Designs’ second Sega CD scaler action game, and this one’s quite the game. Battlecorps is a first-person mech shooter. It’s got a cool futuristic theme, and looks and plays great. First, a guy explains what your mission is. The speech is kind of hard to understand, but fortunately the game is pretty straightforward. You walk around in a mech, exploring around a nice variety of levels, killing enemies and finding your way through the stage. Some levels have bosses to fight, so kill those too. You have six weapons, and can switch to them with X, Y, Z, and Mode plus X, Y, and Z; the 6-button controller is highly recommended for this game, it makes switching weapons much easier. The graphics are fantastic; this is one of the better-looking Sega CD games around. The mech cockpit looks very cool, and the “walking” sound you make asy ou move around is awesome. You can choose between three playable characters in this game, too. They have different stats, but also act as your lives — after each dies you choose one of the others, and then lose all three and it’s a game over. This game is hard, and long too; this really needed a save system! You had one in ThunderStrike Core… bah. At least there is a level-select cheat code. I recommend using it in lieu of that badly needed save system. Regardless, definitely, absolutely play Battlecorps. With great graphics, a nice variety of environments, lots of challenge, and plenty of reasons to come back and keep trying, Battlecorps is a must play Sega CD game. And fortunately, it’s cheap and fairly common as well! Pick it up for sure. It’s one of the system’s best, and Core’s second-best game on the console as well.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1 player. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a FMV platformer. Note that this is a Sega CD exclusive; it’s not a port of any of the other “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” games on other systems. Unfortunately, it might be even worse than what I’ve heard of the other games. So, you control a digitized actor-sprite, and walk to the right hitting bats and rats on your “epic” quest to stop Dracula. This game is a complete disaster of a game; the background graphics are great, but the “gameplay” is so bad that it’s not much of any fun to play. The first problem is that the controls are very stiff and aren’t any good. Your actions are restricted, perhaps because it’s a digitized sprite of an actual actor. Good control? Yeah, you won’t find that here. The gameplay is repetitive, simplistic, and seriously subpar, as well. This was one of the first Sega CD games I got, and man am I glad that I also found Battlecorps early on, because this game is quite the opposite of that one in quality. I do like the FMV backdrops, which get interesting a few levels in, but the gameplay… avoid! The game has very little enemy variety, too. Bats, rats, and not much else, a lot of the time. Hit kick to stomp on the rats, punch to punch the bats, and jump to attempt to jump over pits. Good luck with that; fortunately you don’t die if you fall in them, only take damage, but still, they’re annoying. Later on more enemy types appear, but this game doesn’t have much variety. You can tell that the design was questionable once you notice that on the lower left of the screen, there’s an enemy health bar… the FINAL BOSS’S health bar. Yes, that “Dracula” bar will sit there, full, all the way until you get to the very end of this tediously unfun game. I didn’t stick with it long enough to get that far, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else do either. It’s not worth it for the bad video clips, the bad controls, the bland and uninteresting gameplay, or much else either. Awful game.
Brutal: Paws of Fury – 2 players, 6 Button Controller supported, Password Save. Brutal: Paws of Fury is a slightly enhanced port of the Genesis cartridge version of this not-very-good fighting game. They added CD audio and adds one new character to the SNES/Genesis original ten. The game was apparently popular, because it got released on not only the Sega CD but also later had a 32X cart release as well, but it’s not good on any system. This is a bad European fighting game inspired by the fighting game craze of the early ’90s, which means think Mortal Kombat, but with comic-book-style animals as the fighters, and a WHOLE lot worse. The game isn’t irredeemably terrible, admittedly, as the graphics are okay, the writing amusing, and the fighting average at times, but it’s definitely not good, either. The characters are moderately entertaining, but once you actually get into a fight, you’ll see how bland and lacking this game is. The game has a few unique features, including that you have to actually earn your special moves by winning matches, and some decent story bits in between fights too, but while that RPG element is kind of interesting, it also makes the early matches even MORE bland, as you don’t even have special moves to use early on! And even once you get them, moves are hard to use. Argh. The password-only save system is also incredibly lazy. I know some other games do this too (Earthworm Jim CD, both Ecco CD titles…), but it’s never forgivable, and these passwords are long! Have a password option too if you want, sure, but support save files on a system which can do it! Ah well. Overall I had low expectations for this game, given what I’d heard about Brutal, and unfortunately, the game lived up to my expectations: it’s not that good. You can certainly do much worse than Brutal, and there are worse fighting games even on Sega CD, but you can do a lot, lot better, too. There isn’t a whole lot of reason to play any version of Brutal, honestly, unless you really like the concept (anthropomorphic animals in a fighting game) or character art, or something. This game is an enhanced version Sega CD exclusive, but it’s a slightly enhanced version of Brutal for the SNES, Genesis, Amiga, and Amiga CD32. The final version was the 32X version, Above the Claw, which adds two more characters to the game, but sadly removes one of the few good things in the Sega CD game, the story scenes. So yeah, if you MUST play Brutal, maybe try this version (Sega CD). It’s below average at best, though.
Chuck Rock – 1 player, Password Save. Chuck Rock is another Core Designs game, but unlike the two Core games earlier on this list, this one isn’t a Sega CD exclusive. Instead, it’s a port. This game is one of the many Sega CD gaems which is simply a Genesis game with CD audio and a few video sequences added. Chuck Rock was a moderately successful 2d platformer, and was released on many platforms. This version is the same as the others, except it has pretty entertaining cartoon animation sequences added in at the beginning and end of the game. The intro’s pretty good, and is well worth watching. As for the game, though, whether you like Chuck Rock or not depends somewhat on how much you like classic Euro-style platformers, because that’s what this game is. In the game, you play as caveman Chuck Rock, out to save his kidnapped girlfriend. Yeah, zero points here for story. The gameplay has a few original elements, though. You don’t just walk to the right and hit things here, Bonk-style; instead, this game has some puzzle elements. You have to figure out how to progress through the game, and there are some puzzles to solve, as well. Chuck has a … large belly … and can bump things in front of him with it. You can interact with stuff this way. Unfortunately, that is also Chuck’s main attack, so your main weapon requires you to be at very close range. I think the game is alright though, with decent sprite work, a solid musical score, and okay gameplay, but it doesn’t grab me and keep me coming back, and you can get stuck in this game, unless you use a guide, since it does have the puzzle elements. The game does have password save, but that they didn’t toss in save files shows that it was yet another lazy port, even if they did those animated cutscenes. Still, it’s an okay to good game. I can see why it was successful, even if I don’t love it. Because of the animated scenes, this probably is the best version of the game. Without the animated parts, the game is also on SNES, Genesis, Game Gear, Game Boy, and, in Europe only, the SMS and five or six computer platforms.
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck – 1 player. Chuck Rock II is actually fairly different from the first game. While it is another caveman platformer, this time it’s a more conventional game. In this game you play as Chuck’s baby son, who has to rescue his father, who got kidnapped this time. He has a club, so you’ve got more attack power in this game than in the first one. The levels are also more straightforward, though there are still some puzzles, where you hit things around with your club. Unfortunately the save system was removed from this game, so there aren’t even passwords. Lame! There is another nice animated cutscene at the beginning, though. As with in the first game, it’s entertaining and worth watching, even if it is cliche. It’s even better than the first games’ intro, and is good length too. The CD version has more animations than the cart versions do, as well, and there is some use of voiced sound effects in the game also, as in Mickey Mania. Pretty nice. Overall Chuck Rock II is a fairly generic platform-action game, but it’s decent to good, and I think I like it a bit more than the first game. It’s nothing original, and may not hold your interest all the way through, but is decent fun for a while anyway. Pick it up if it’s cheap. Also on Genesis, Game Gear, and in Europe only SMS, Amiga, and Amiga CD32 as well (without the CD extras on all but the last platform of course).
Cliffhanger – 1 player. Cliffhanger is another Genesis-to-Sega CD port, but this one has enough added content to definitely make it worth considering. Cliffhanger is a licensed game, based off of the Stallone movie of the same name where he plays a rock-climber guy. I’ve never seen the movie, but it involves guns and thieves or something. Unsurprising. The game is mostly a very mediocre, but overly difficult, beat ’em up. Expect to die a lot, run out of continues on a regular basis, and keep having to start over because the game has no saving on top of those limited continues, of course. This game has some long movie clips on the disc; many Sega CD games have only short movie clips (the ones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula are only seconds long, for example, and may be new and not from the film), but a full 20 minutes of video from the movie were crammed onto this CD. The video quality is poor, of course, but still, it’s impressive that they fit so much on the disc. In addition to the movie clips and some CD music, the other major addition is a scaler-style snowboarding section. The isometric snowboard levels of the SNES and Genesis game are gone here, and replaced with something much more impressive. Malibu Interactive made the SNES, Genesis, and Sega CD versions of this game, so they got their guy who’d done the Batman Returns scaler levels and had him do something like that for this game as well. The results are pretty good; it plays great and looks even better. It really shows off what the Sega CD can do when people who knew how to push it programmed for the system. There is a downside, though: it’s HARD. The snowboarding levels come all at once, instead of being spread out through the game, and are a grueling, almost nightmarish ordeal of pain and suffering. Did you like how hard The Adventures of Batman & Robin quickly gets? Then this is a must-play too! You’ve got to dodge lots of stuff coming at you, and don’t have much time to do that in given how fast you move in this game. The speed is impressive, but makes the game harder. I actually gave up before finishing the snowboard levels, myself… it’s just so hard. Still, this game is absolutely worth getting; whether or not you get through the snowboard levels, they’re a definite showcase for what the Sega CD can do, and the game is well worth getting on those grounds alone. And they are fun to play, too, when you’re not hating them for their difficulty. Unfortunately there’s no “snowboard only” mode in this game, unlike Batman Returns, so you do have to also play the mediocre beat ’em up before the snowboard section, and for the rest of the game after if you get farther than I did, but still, it’s good. There are some little mini snowboard courses you can directly access form the main menu via a cheat code, which is cool. Try them out. This game is based off of the SNES and Genesis versions of Cliffhanger; though the snowboard section is entirely different, of course, and video clips were added, most of the rest of the game is the same. On one final note, Malibu also added some scaler parts into their other Sega CD game, 3 Ninjas Kick Back. I haven’t played that one myself though.
Cobra Command – 1 player. Cobra Command is an animated, Dragon’s Lair-style QTE FMV game. It’s actually a Japanese game, though it’s dubbed here of course. In the game you have control of a helicopter, and have to do various missions to save the day from terrorists and the like. The first level’s set in New York City, too. Yeah, it’s ahead of its time! As it’s a Dragon’s Lair style game you have to press the correct direction, or the button, when prompted. This game does tell you what you should hit, but that doesn’t make it easy, for sure. This game is tough. Is it fun? Eh… it’s not awful, but this is definitely not my kind of game. The graphics are decent and the art and animation are nice, but the simplistic Dragon’s Lair gameplay gets old fast, as it does with every game in this genre. I kept playing for a little while, to try to see more areas, but eventually got frustrated with the game and gave up. I’m not the greatest at this kind of game, and the interaction definitely is limited. Still, for its genre, decent effort here from Wolfteam. Arcade port.
Dark Wizard – 1 player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). Dark Wizard is one of Sega of Japan’s best releases for the Sega CD. The game is an outstanding, deep, and relatively complex fantasy strategy game. The game has anime-style character art and a generic ’90s fantasy anime setting and art style, and it looks pretty good. The story is a fairly generic one of heroes who have to save the land from the ancient evil lord, but hey, at least there’s no princess to rescue; just defeat the demon lord, and save the world. Simple enough.
However, while the story may be predictably average, the game isn’t at all. A lot of effort clearly went into Dark Wizard, and it’s awesome that it got a US release! This game is more complex than some others from its time on consoles, and it’s a pretty interesting game. First, you have four different characters to choose from, two male and two female, and each with a different story to play through. If you want to beat all of them, there’s a lot of content here. The four stories do eventually merge, but still, there are enough differences, particularly in their unique beginnings, to encourage repeat play. You control your chosen main character, and an army of troops that you can take from mission to mission as well. Yes, leveling up units is important, because some of them do carry over between missions. On that note, each mission takes place in a specific area of the world, but it really is one big map. Units can also become new classes once they reach high enough levels, too. But perhaps most importantly, the game uses a hex grid, instead of the usual square one. This was a just fantastic idea! Squares are okay, but hexes allow for more strategy, which is why the most serious strategy games, wargames, almost always use hex grids. It’s very rare to see a Japanese fantasy strategy game with hexes, but here one is, on the Sega CD. The game has some complexity to it, too. As you send your army out around each mission, there are various secret things to find, as well as the main objective of simply defeating all of the enemies. The game also has various cities around each mission. If you take cities, you will then get additional income from each one. You can then buy items and such for your army with your income. Castles can only be taken by your leader, but cities can be taken by any member of your forces.
As for negatives, there really aren’t many. I guess I can mention a few things, though. First, if you turn on the attack animations, the load times for those attacks is tediously long. Fortunately the designers realized this, and you do have the option of turning off attack animations. The only other real issue is that some of the secrets, in that classic JRPG/Japanese strategy game tradition, will be near-impossible to find unless you play the game with a guide. That kind of game design is always annoying, even if Japanese games do it all the time… ah well. Do make sure to talk to everyone, of course; some quests or conversations won’t trigger until you talk to the right person, or unless you have the right item in your inventory, or unless you say the right thing. Some solutions are quite obscure. Whatever you do find though, may be helpful; this is a challenging game, and having a strong party is important. Overall, Dark Wizard is an absolute must-play for any strategy game or strategic-RPG fan. It’s an outstanding game, easily one of the best on the console. Get Dark Wizard. It’s one of the best console strategy games of its generation, hands down.
Demolition Man – 1 player, Password save. Demolition Man is a port of the Sega Genesis game of the same name. Yes, this is another cart-to-CD port. This game isn’t as much enhanced as Cliffhanger or Mickey Mania, though; this is pretty much just the Genesis cart game, but with CD audio, CD cutscenes from the movie, and that’s about it. It’s yet another annoying game with password-only saving on a console with internal save memory, too. Even if it doesn’t make the best use of the medium, though, Demolition Man is actually a pretty decent game. Yes, even 4th gen licensed games published by Acclaim could be okay. Demolition Man has good graphics (as with the Genesis game), decent controls, and solid action. The game has ten levels, mostly side-scrolling but a few top-down isometric. In either perspective, the game is an action-heavy game. This is an action game through and through, and you’ll do a lot of shooting. With fine controls and decent, if average, level designs, though, the game’s fun to play. I went into this game with low expectations, but it exceeded them. The game is a cartride title with CD audio and FMV cutscenes from the movie, so if you have a cart version this may not be worth getting, but for those without any version of the game, definitely consider Demolition Man for Sega CD. That CD audio soundtrack is good, and regardless of platform, the game is a fun, solidly above-average run & gun action shooting game which I certainly recommend playing on some platform. Also on SNES and Genesis. Apparently the SNES version might be slower than the Genesis and Sega CD ones, so they’re probably the better choices.
Devastator (J) (Japan only release) – One player. Devastator is a side-scrolling action/shooter game based on an anime of the same name that I have not seen. Devastator was yet another giant-robot-mech anime, clearly, because that’s what this game is too. There are cutscenes, probably from the film, in the game every so often. They’re well animated and look decent for the system; though they aren’t quite as nice as, say, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, they’re fine and add a bit to the game. I don’t really know what the story is, but I do know that what you do in this game is simple enough: use your mech to defeat all the badguys and save the day. Devastator is a bit short, with only six or seven moderate-length levels and an average to low difficulty level, but the last two stages are tough, so the game will take a little effort to finish. The level designs are good, though, so the game kept me coming back until it was over — I definitely didn’t want to stop playing! There’s also no saving, so you do have to play it in one sitting. Still, this game is definitely not going to last all that long, unfortunately. While it lasts, though, it’s a pretty fun side-scrolling action-platformer/shooter. Devastator has decent to good graphics and fun gameplay, until you hit that hard part. The game is mostly a scrolling run & gun style game, but there is a flying level or two which feel more shmuplike (though it’s mostly not autoscrolling). You’ve got several different weapons, and plenty of enemies to shoot at. It’s simple, straightforward stuff, but fun. Devastator is too short, and when I was over I was left wanting more, but still, while it lasts, this game is good. I’d recommend playing it, but do try to find it cheap; the short length is a drawback. I wish this was in English so I knew what the story was… the cutscenes are voiced, so I can get the idea of the tone of voice and such, but I don’t know what they’re saying. Ah well. Overall, I like this game. The shooting action is good, the graphics decent, and it’s fun to play. It’s too bad it didn’t release here.
Double Switch – One player, saves (to system only). Double Switch is, in terms of gameplay, the sequel to Night Trap. The gameplay is the same as that “classic”, and the game is from the same developer, Digital Pictures. Now, I don’t own Night Trap, and haven’t played it, but I have played this game, and I absolutely hate it. So, I think I’d hate Night Trap too. But why do I dislike this game so much? From what I’ve read, it’s supposedly better than Night Trap is, gameplay-wise. Ouch… if this one is this bad, and it’s actually IMPROVED… seriously, why DID that game ever get popular? It’s not like ALL of the live-action-video games were as bad as this one and Night Trap are, they aren’t. But somehow that game succeeded. Ah well. But anyway, in the game, you have to trap thieves who are trying to break in to an apartment building that you are defending with a security system and traps. As in Night Trap, there are several different rooms in the building, and you have to monitor all of them at the same time. Now, the thieves usually appear in empty rooms, not occupied ones. So, just like in the first game, you have to spend most of your time looking at empty rooms, while FMV video scenes that you might want to be watching, but can’t because you will lose, occur at the same time in other rooms. It’s brain-hurtingly bad design… why have all that video there, and then not let you watch it? Really, really stupid. And beyond that, trying to trap the thieves is frustrating too. You have to hit the right button to activate the right trap while the enemy is over it, and timing things correctly can be frustrating. I don’t feel much satisfaction from getting things right, either, honestly. This game is painfully horrible, one of the very worst “games” I own for the Sega CD. I can’t think of anything good to say about it, not one thing. And once people finally realized that about Digital Pictures’ games…, that’s probably when they went under. Also on Saturn and PC.
Ecco the Dolphin – One player, Password Save. Ecco the Dolphin was a very popular game on the Genesis. The game’s a brutally difficult, and very weird, undersea action-adventure game where you play as a dolphin who has to save the world from aliens, or something like that. Yeah, the plot starts out normal, but then gets very strange… and unique. With a difficulty level as high as Ecco’s, though, only the best players got to the end. I haven’t, myself. I keep meaning to put some serious time into this game sometime, but still have not. The few levels I have played I really like, though. It’s a confusing, frusrating, and original title, as you swim around under the sea, try to solve puzzles, use your sonar, and look for air (since, as a dolphin, you have to breathe of course), but it’s brilliant, it really is.
As for this version of the game, Ecco CD is a slightly enhanced cartridge port. The CD version adds six more levels (so 33, instead of 27), enhanced sound, two live action FMV videos of real dolphins at the beginning, and adds checkpoints to the levels, which is very nice. It’s unfortunate that htye didn’t add saving to the system, though. The sequel, Ecco 2, has no such enhancements, but does add animated CGI cutscenes telling backstory; they’re good, Both games’ CD versions also add one other major thing: those amazing CD soundtracks. Ecco CD’s other additions are nice, but the music makes it an ABSOLUTE MUST OWN for anyone who likes electronic music. The Ecco CD soundtrack is absolutely exceptional. It perfectly fits the setting, and is just really, really good undersea atmospheric electronic sound. Awesome stuff. Buy Ecco CD, and get Ecco 2 CD too. (I haven’t reviewed it here since I still don’t own it, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack, and it’s just as good as this games’ is.) Also on Genesis and PC.
ESPN National Hockey Night – Two players, saves (to system only). ESPN National Hockey Night is a bland, generic, and mediocre hockey game from Sony. This game isn’t awful, but there’s nothing really to recommend it, either. I see that it got solid reviews, but I can’t find this game fun at all. With average at best graphics, average at best controls, nothing original or interesting about the game at all, pointless CD addons like random little videos that it stupidly inserts at random points during play (with the expected loading screens too, into and out!), and more, there’s no reason to play this game at all, unless you really, REALLY like 4th gen hockey games. Even if you do, though… play EA’s NHL ’94 for the Sega CD instead. That game is actually good, quite unlike this one. I only paid a couple of dollars for this game, but really, I don’t think it was worth it; it’s not fun, not worth playing, and not really worth owning either. Also on SNES and Genesis. Those versions are probably slightly better, but really, being slightly better than a bad game is not saying much positive. Pass!
Fahrenheit (SCD) (CD/S32XCD two-in-one) – One player, saves (to system only). See my review of the 32X CD version, below, for my coverage of this game — this is the same thing, pretty much, just with worse video quality and fewer colors. In short though, Fahrenheit is an adventure game, pretty much. It’s an okay game, for an FMV game… but man is it frustrating.
Flink – One player. Flink is a European side-scrolling fantasy platformer from Psygnosis, and it’s a great, highly under-rated game that should be a classic. Flink is a young apprentice wizard, and in this game he, and thus you, is the last hope to save the day from evil forces with, as you expect from a videogame, your platforming skills and magic. In addition to jumping on enemies and shooting them with spells, you also can collect items, in order to create new spells. There’s a puzzle element to this part of the game, and if you don’t look up the combinations, figuring out what will create what will take trial and error. If that frustrates, though, just look up the combinations. I did some of that myself; Flink is great, but I do like knowing what I should be doing, and looking for. And with a game as hard as this one is, you need the help.
Flink is yet another cart-to-CD conversion, but this time the cartridge version was only released in Europe, so if Americans want to play this game without importing, you’ve got to buy it for Sega CD. Fortunately the CD version is better than the cart. In addition to the expected CD audio and intro cutscene, it’s also got enhanced sound and some added level segments in this version as well, so it’s a bit longer. Also, having an intro is nice; the cart version doesn’t really have one. As for the game though, Flink is a beautiful Euro-platformer. The cartoony graphics look fantastic, and the game controls quite well for a Euro-platformer too. The game is mostly linear, but the puzzle and spell-component-collection elements add some exploration to the game as well. Overall, as I suggested, Flink really is a fantastic game, and I highly recommend it! The game has only one flaw, its very high difficulty. That flaw is a potentially significant one, as this is a long and grueling game with many levels and even more areas. Since there is no saving allowed at all and not even any continues, beating Flink will take practice and serious effort. Well, unless you use the cheat menu, that is; I haven’t. I think it’s worth the time, though: this is one of the better Sega CD platformers around. Pick it up. The developers of this game went on to make the possibly even more obscure The Adventures of Lomax for the Playstation. It’s a platformer with graphics very similar to this one, except you play as a Lemming and thus have Lemming skills, instead of magic. Look for that game as well. Also on Genesis, Amiga, and Amiga CD32, all in Europe only.
Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit, known as Heavenly Symphony: Formula One World Championship 1993 in Japan, may have a very long name, but it’s also a very interesting game. This game is one of the very, very few Japanese Sega CD games which actually push the hardwares’ scaling and rotation powers. There’s this, Night Striker, and not much else of note. Fuji Television directed and produced the game and did the videos, but Sega programmed it. The game has some flaws, most notably its very slow, tedious pace that will turn off most people who are not serious Formula One racing fans, something I am most definitely not. So, yes, I find this game incredibly tedious, boring, and dull. However, even so, the game is an extremely interesting one on technical grounds. Formula One World Championship’s graphics engine really is great. This game really is in true 3d, and has a smooth framerate as well. Sure, everything is made out of sprites, but you’re in a real 3d world, and the tracks in this game are laid out just like the real tracks are. No other 5th gen racing game could say the same; even Mode 7 games on SNES don’t have anything on this in terms of accuracy. I badly wish that Sega had taken this engine, or team, and had them make an arcade-style racing game too; it could have been fantastic! It’s really a big missed opportunity. With an engine this good, it’s a real shame that it was only used for a hardcore sim.
Now, some people take issue with this games’ controls. If you want the best controls in this game, you will definitely need to customize the car settings, and know what you’re doing with them too. I don’t, myself, so I can’t really do that. I’m horrible at this kind of game anyway, though, so I doubt it would help very much. I do wish that you could skip the practice and qualifying before every race, though. By the time I get to the actual race, I’m pretty bored; you have to do quite a few laps around a mostly-empty track before you finally can race against actual cars, which, for me, is the only fun part. Ah well. Yeah, this game really isn’t for me, but because of its technical accomplishment, I gave it a serious try anyway. I think it’s worth playing, seriously. Play this game, watch some videos of the actual tracks, and be impressed at how accurate this game is. No linescroll game could ever, ever even hope to match this. I think that racing games benefited from 3d more than almost every other genre; sure, I love stuff like Micro Machines and Top Gear, but 3d gave racing games options that just didn’t exist before. Other genres struggled to adapt well to 3d, but racing games took off on it from the beginning, and this game is one example of that. Give it a try, whether or not you find the subject interesting.
Ground Zero Texas – One player, saves (to system only). Ground Zero Texas is a two-CD-long live-action-video FMV shooting game. The plot is that aliens, who are disguising themselves as humans surely for budget reasons, have invaded a small Texas town. Well, you’ve been called in to shoot them all dead. This is another Digital Pictures game, so when I put it in the system, I was expecting the worst. Well, I didn’t get it. While some people hate this game, I actually think that it’s the most fun of the Digital Pictures games that I’ve played. Objectively it’s not exactly a great game, but it’s worlds more fun to play, and competent as an actual game, than dreck like Double Switch or Supreme Warrior are, in my opinion anyway. The acting manages to be fun-bad, which is nice; some Digital Pictures stuff is just awful, but this one’s amusing. As for the game, Ground Zero Texas is a light-gun style shooter, except it has no gun support. Wait, don’t leave; it’s actually decent. As with Night Trap and Double Switch, in this game you’re watching four cameras at once, and have to shoot the bad guys. Except, this time, you actually get to WATCH the videos! Yes, sometimes you do have to look away and go through a shooting gallery segment in an empty area, but most of the time, you actually get to watch the actors this time. It makes a huge difference, actually being able to watch the thing that the game exists for. But you need to pay attention, too, because during each video, at some point someone will turn into an alien. It’s not always exactly the same, as there are some variants of many scenes, so you need to pay attention and react quickly, in order to shoot the alien once revealed, before it can hit you. It’s a tricky game, but it is some fun. The game is tough, and beating it will be a challenge, but it’s fun enough to be worth playing for a while, anyway. With two CDs full of video to play through this game’s got a decent length to it, too — the case boasts that the game has over 110 minutes of video, though you will not see all of that in every playthrough of course. On that note, I love two-CD Sega CD jewelcases… that additional plastic part where the second disc goes is great. It’s very cool that they can fit a second disc without needing a special larger case. So yeah, Ground Zero Texas is fun. It’s got entertainingly cheesy acting and simple gameplay. This is not exactly an objectively great game, but for a 4th gen live-action-video title, it’s decent. Try it, I think. Also, unlike many Digital Pictures titles, this one is in fact Sega CD exclusive — can’t play it anywhere else.
Jurassic Park – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). Jurassic Park is a first-person graphic adventure game. The game is all hand-drawn art, so it’s not FMV. Don’t expect any video from the movie in this one; it’s not there. Instead, what you get is a very tough Myst-esque graphic adventure game. The game is good in concept, and good in exceution as well, except for its difficulty level. You see, you have a timer in this game. You have about twelve hours to beat the game. If you go over time, you lose and have to start over. The timer is strict, so some replay is quite likely. I hate timers in games… argh. It’s a real issue here. Other than that though, or if you don’t mind timed games, this really is a pretty good adventure game. You have to scour every screen looking for items, and then explore around and figure out where those items can be used in your quest to escape from this dinosaur-filled island which you have found yourself on. The music’s good too, and keeps you on your toes with dinosaur sounds as well. Jurassic Park for Sega CD was made by a Sega of America internal team, Sega Multimedia Studio. The studio was something of a disastrous money pit, as Sega spent a huge amount of money to set up the studio, only to have it release only two games (this and Wild Woody) before being shut down, but at least both games they managed to release were pretty good… that’s better than some teams, certainly. Jurassic Park for Sega CD is a pretty original game for a Jurassic Park title; it’s one of the only JP adventure games, and it’s a good one. Definitely play it if you like graphic adventures. And yes, needless to say, this game is Sega CD exclusive, and is ENTIRELY different from every other game on other platforms with the same name. None of the others are even in the same genre.
Keio Flying Squadron – One player. Keio Flying Squadron is a cartoony shmup, and it’s a tragically rare and very expensive game; it’s surely the most expensive game to buy of all the games on this list, if you get the US release of the game, anyway. That’s really too bad, because this is a fantastic game! Keio is my favorite Sega CD shmup, in fact, just edging out Silpheed and Robo Aleste in greatness. The game is a very anime-styled game, and is a cute ’em up through and through. The game has a completely silly alternate-world plot, and you play as a young witch in a bunny-girl outfit (leotard, bunny ears, the works), who has a very, very frustrating day ahead of her. Nothing goes well, and you’ve got lots of enemies to shoot down as a result. She flies around on a dragon, and you can power the dragon up with powerups. The enemies are all cute cartoon anime designs; it’s a fun, well-drawn game. The level designs, graphics, enemy patterns, and gameplay in Keio are all top-notch stuff. The game has a good difficulty balance too, as it starts out easy, but gradually gets more difficult over time. This game’s just plain fun through and through. The cutscenes are quite entertaining as well; the story’s completely absurd, but that’s what makes it fun. It’s all lighthearted stuff as well; the whole “young girl in bunny suit” element is a bit creepy-anime, but there’s nothing objectionable here beyond that. It’s just such a silly, silly game; she takes on everything from the US Navy and Russian Army to endless legions of an evil raccoon-god militia. The good graphics, music, and design all combine to make a great game that I highly recommend. It’s just really, really too bad that it’s so stupidly expensive… ah well. At least you get a great game for your money.
Lethal Enforcers – Two player simultaneous, Genesis Justifier Light Gun supported. Lethal Enforcers is a port of the popular Konami light gun game of the same name. Lethal Enforcers was a light-gun game with digitized actors to shoot at. This game was also on the Genesis among other platforms, though, and honestly, I can barely tell the difference between this and the Genesis version. The graphics are decent, but doesn’t look better than the Genesis version, not by much. I guess it has more speech and maybe some minor visual enhancements, but seriously, they could have done more with this — it feels way too much like a cart game on a disc. Even the music is mostly cart stuff. As for the game itself, Lethal Enforcers is okay, but honestly, it’s aged. This game was kind of cool back when digitized characters were the new, awesome thing, but they aren’t anymore, and without that, all you really have is a very average light-gun game. This game is set in the modern day, so you’ve got endless waves of bank robbers and the like to shoot down. Lethal Enforcers is an okay game, but I almost never go back to either this game or its sequel, which I have on cart. Still though, if you haven’t played Lethal Enforcers before and, preferably, have the Justifier and a CRT to use it on too, pick it up. It’s not a bad game, just very (too) average, and the near-complete lack of enhancements in this CD version is disappointing. The game’s also hard, of course; avoiding damage is tough, and I doubt I’ll ever beat it. Overall, it’s alright, but nothing special, not now. Also on arcades, Genesis, SNES, and PS1.
Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine – One player, saves (to system only). Loadstar was the first game from Rocket Science Games, and it’s an FMV game, predictably. This game is esentially a bigger, better, and even harder version of Sewer Shark. The game starts with a fairly well-made intro video with live actors. The acting and video quality are well above average for the Sega CD. You play as Tully Bodine, rocket-sled driver in the future. You’re on another planet, and have to get through networks of rails to your destinations, without crashing into oncoming sleds or blocked paths. Because of some troubles you had in the intro, though, you’ve got a time limit, so move quickly! Meanwhile, you also have to shoot enemies which fly around and shoot at you. You’ve also got a shield you can activate which will absorb a certain amount of enemy fire. The ingame graphics are pretty good. There’s almost no graphical variety, but the rails look great, high-quality stuff. However, the game has a problem: navigating is INSANELY hard. In order to beat each level, you need to reach a destination. The problem is, all rails look the same, and there’s no map, so figuring out how to get where you’re trying to go takes a mixture of extreme patience, great luck, and repetition. The only real way to tell where you’re going is to look at the on-screen compass and figure out which compass point, or building in the horizon, you should be turning towards, because the background does turn as you do. Yeah, it’s not exactly precise navigation, to say the least. Your robot copilot will occasionally tell you which way to turn, but this is very rare. If you manage to reach a recharge area you know you’re going the right way. I’ve honestly never managed to beat the first level of this game; I drive around endlessly, shooting enemies and maybe once in a rare while managing to bump into the recharge station, but I never manage to get to that goal. If there was a map I’m sure I could get there easily, but in this game you have to do it all based on near-blind reckoning. And even if you do head in the right direction, sometimes an oncoming sled will force you to take a long detour. It’s all incredibly frustrating stuff. If you ever do manage to beat a level in this game, though, it does save your progress, unlike Sewer Shark, so that’s great. The game has only four levels, but beating them will be quite tough. Still, despite its incredibly high frustration level, I kind of like Loadstar. It’s more fun to play than most Sega CD FMV games, I think. Also on PC.
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). This game is the second of Game Arts’ great Sega CD RPG series, and it’s my favorite 4th gen traditional console JRPG as well. Lunar 1 was a pretty good game on Sega CD, but for several reasons I prefer the PS1 remake (because they added Luna as a playable character in the early parts of the game, because of the visible enemies and added puzzles in the dungeons, and such; there are also some not so good changes, like removing random battles in the overworld, but overall I think it did more good changes than bad). The original version’s great too, but I haven’t bought it because I’d rather just play that one on PS1. Lunar 2, though, I think is better for Sega CD, so this one I have for the Sega CD… and a great, great game it is. Lunar 1 is a very good RPG, but it’s got a much simpler plot than the sequel. Lunar 2 is a deeper and more complex game, and I like the cast more too; they’re still all stereotypes, but they’re quite different ones from the characters in the first game. For instance, how many JRPGs have the main healer character being a gambler-addict man? Well, Lunar 2 does. Lunar 2 is the story of Hiro, initially a self-styled treasure hunter. He’s got a bit more character and personality than Lunar 1’s hero does, and that’s a good thing. He meets a mysterious girl, Lucia, who has great powers, Lucia, and naturally gets drawn into a quest to save the world from evil, as usual in games. The story is decent to good and the characters entertaining. Much like how Hiro is more interesting than Alex, Lucia is a far more interesting character than Luna, and actually travels with you through the game, too. The other characters include that priest I mentioned earlier, a dancer/martial artist girl, and a mage girl, as well as Hiro’s flying dragon/cat Ruby, of course (who is kind of annoying). Lunar 2 has good graphics and music, fun cutscenes, a good story which has some interesting parts and some twists that you may or may not see coming, the same great semi-strategic battle system that the first Lunar had, and more. I haven’t said much about the battle system, but it really is very good. The characters actually have to move around in combat in order to reach eachother, so the game requires a bit more thought than the simple menu-based battle systems of too many JRPGs. I love that, the battle system is great. Lunar 2 is a truly exceptional game and well deserves that accolade I gave it in the first sentence of the review. Working Designs’ translation does have a few silly ’90s references tossed into the script here and there, but I don’t have a problem with that. I also don’t mind that in the US version you have to spend upgrade points to save; you have enough upgrade points (points you spend to upgrade your magical skills) to both upgrade all the magic you need and save on a regular basis. Plus, as always in Lunar games, the save-anywhere system was maintained. That all Lunar titles have save anywhere really is another one of the best things about the franchise, and it makes the games tolerable in ways that many JRPGs are not. No more frustration in losing hours of progress because you’re far from the save point! If you lose a lot of progress, it’s entirely your own fault. That’s much better design.
Now, I would like to spend a while comparing the PS1 and Sega CD versions of the Lunar games, and Lunar 2 in particular. The PS1 remake of this game is more similar to the Sega CD version than PS1 Lunar 1 is to Lunar 1 for SCD, but unlike that game, the main story changes made in Lunar 2 made the game worse, not better. The PS1 version messes up Lucia’s character in several ways, for one thing. I really like her character in the SCD version, but while the PS1 version is similar, a few of the changes really don’t make sense. You see, Lucia is a complete innocent to the world. She comes from teh Blue Star, and knows nothing of the ways of humans. One major plotline in the series is trying to make Lucia understand humans more. It’s a good concept, and it’s executed quite well, on Sega CD at least. The PS1 version is close, but makes a few changes that don’t make sense. On Sega CD, Lucia’s character is consistent, and she shows gradual change over the course of the game. On PS1, though, some stuff is just weird. For one thing, the game adds a pointless, but fanservicey, bath scene early in the game; this scene does not happen in the SCD version. However, The SCD version also actually has more total cutscenes than the PS1 remake! Yeah, they added in that thing, but cut out (or turned just into in-engine dialog) other, better cinema scenes. Disappointing. Another change was to the other bath scene, the one that IS in the Sega CD game. In the SCD version, Lucia’s reaction in the scene is consistent to her character and makes sense. On PS1, though, it’s completely over the top and kind of stupid. Not good. I’m sure I’d have more complaints if I’d played farther into the PS1 version, but I haven’t. I just can’t do it, I always end up playing the better Sega CD version instead. On that note, while I said above that I like PS1 Lunar 1 better than the SCD version, and I do, I do admit that in terms of overworld design, the Sega CD is far better for both titles. The Sega CD Lunars have random battles in the overworld, but on PS1 that was removed. Without the battles, the overworld feels kind of pointless — which they clearly eventually realized, since the GBA and PSP remakes of Lunar 1 remove the overworld entirely and just have a map screen you select locations from. Lunar 2 has no remakes since the PS1, unfortunately, but still, the direction is clear. And as much as I like PS1 Lunar 1, Sega CD Lunar 2, with its larger, harder to navigate, battle-filled overworld is, quite simply, the more challenging, and more fun, game to explore. Random battles are frustrating, but just wandering around everywhere with no opposition isn’t really better… ah well. As for the dungeons, there the Sega CD games have larger dungeons with more mazelike layouts, but the PS1 versions have visibile enemies and occasional puzzle elements. I think that one of the worst things about JRPGs is that they almost never have puzzles in their dungeons (yes, that Golden Sun actually has puzzles is one of the best things about the series, honestly!), but the PS1 Lunar games don’t have enough puzzle elements to completely make up for the shrunken size. I still think that the other enhancements make Lunar 1 a bit better on PS1 (GAH the sewer area early in the game is so hard on Sega CD, with no healer!), but for Lunar 2, it’s a pretty clear-cut case: The Sega CD version, with its more complex, more challenging to navigate dungeons, is the better version of the game.
In addition, the US Sega CD cover art looks just AWESOME! I really, really love this games’ cover; it’s almost certainly my favorite cover for a Sega CD game. I was disappointed when partway through the game Lucia changes outfits, that outfit she has on the cover is so much better… ah well. At least the cover’s as it is. When this game released in 1995 I didn’t care about anime at all and hadn’t really watched any (and wouldn’t until about 2002, either), but even so, I remember seeing an ad for Lunar 2 for the Sega CD, and thinking that it looked pretty cool and wishing that I could play it. And yeah, the game is, and so is that cover. Lunar 2 is my favorite game for the Sega CD. This version is Sega CD exclusive, but there’s also a remake for the Playstation and, in Japan only, the Saturn.
The Mansion of Hidden Souls – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart), supports Sega/Mega Mouse. Mansion of Hidden Souls is a first-person adventure game, in the genre inspired by games like Myst or The 7th Guest. In the game you’re a boy who’s traveled to a mysterious mansion, looking for your sister, who was chasing butterflies. Apparently in traditional Japanese lore butterflies can represent the spirits of the dead, and those are what you will run in to in this haunted, creepy mansion: butterfly spirits. Your challenge is to try to get out again alive. Unlike those other games though, this game isn’t so much about solving set-piece puzzles, as it is finding items and figuring out where to go with what. It’s a very simple game — you have no cursor, and simply can try on each screen to interact with something, if there is anything there to interact with. Generally screens will have zero or one thing you can interact with on them. Yeah, don’t expect Myst-like depth from Mansion of Hidden Souls, you won’t find it. The game is short, too, if you know what you’re doing. However, despite that, I do think that it’s a good game. This is definitely not a game for everyone, as it’s slow paced, and yet so simple and small in scope; you spend most of the game in a small mansion. There are people (well, butterflies) to talk to, simple and yet sometimes frustrating puzzles to solve, and the like. You’ll either like it or you won’t, but those with an interest in first-person adventure games should definitely check this game out. The game has a sequel for the Saturn, which was, confusingly, given the same title in the US; it’s not a port though, it is a new game. The developers also made a third game with similar gameplay, Lunacy for Saturn. See my Saturn thread for my review of that game; it’s got a wider scope than this game, and is also good. This game is a LOT cheaper than that one, though, that’s for sure, so start with the first game.
Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse – One player. Mickey Mania is a multiplatform platformer from Traveler’s Tales Traveler’s Tales made some good games and some not so good ones, but this game is widely regarded as being one of their better ones for sure, and this is the best version of the game. Mickey Mania is, for the most part, a straightforward, and traditional, platformer. The game doesn’t do anything particularly new, gameplay-wise. What it does do is have great controls, level designs, and presentation. This is a Mickey Mouse history game, and each level is set in a different classic Mickey cartoon. You start in Steamboat Willy, with black and white environs, and gradually move into color as you progress through the game. It’s very cool. The Sega CD version has additional audio, too, which makes it feel even more like the cartoon. Those added audio elements are the main reason I’d recommend this version over the cartridge releases; they are also pretty good, but the presentation here is even better. The great, traditional platformer gameplay is the main reason why this is such a good game, though. Mickey Mania is challenging fun, with increasingly tough levels and obstacles for Mickey to make his way through as you try to get through each cartoon. There’s not really all that much to say about this game; it’s just a great traditional platformer, from late in the great age of 2d platformers. Apart from its irritating but all-too-common lack of saving, the game has no major flaws — no jumping puzzles full of leaps of faith, no questionable controls, no bad level designs. The game is a definite challenge, but it’s a challenge well worth facing! Mickey Mania is recommended to anyone who hasn’t played it already. Other versions of the game, without the CD enhancements, are on the Genesis and SNES. There is also a Playstation version released only in Japan and Europe.
Midnight Raiders – One player. Midnight Raiders is a live-action-video FMV shooting game published by Sega. The game has a light-gun-game style, but does not support any guns, or even the mouse; instead, it’s gamepad only. That is not a good sign, and the game lives up to those low expectations. Really the only value this game has is entertainment value for those looking for some comically awful video. The gameplay… is not so good. You play as a hotshot helicopter pilot on a Gulf War-inspired mission to stop a Middle Eastern madman from using his chemical/biological weapons arsenal. At first, the game seems okay; the acting in the cutscenes is ridiculous in its “so bad it’s good” FMV goodness, and the shooting works. In the first of the games’ three levels, you’re in your helicopter. You move the cursor around the screen, and have two fire buttons, one for anti-air missiles (for air targets), and the other for air to ground missiles (for ground targets). Yeah, you’ll need to be careful there, to use the right button for the right type. In Normal difficulty you only barely have enough ammo. I recommend Easy; this game is still extremely hard even in “Easy”, and it gives you extra ammo. If you get hit, you have two backup helicopters (extra lives). The second level is the last one I’ve reached myself. In this level, you land and go in to the facility on foot. Here you hvae only one life. Get hit once by a bullet and it’s game over and you start the whole game over from stratch. Period, no way to get around it. Yeah, it’s brokenly unfair, horrendous design! This decision alone completely wrecks thegame, in my opinion. The first level is amusing, but no way is this game good enough for me to put the time and effort in that would be required to master level 2, much less get to the third level. According to the manual, in the third level you have to get to a jeep and then escape the area in it before the plant blows up. Overall, absolutely get Midnight Raiders! It should be extremely, extremely cheap, and the silly-bad acting is quite entertaining. It’s not worth playing enough to actually finish, but it’s worth watching some of at least. There was supposed to be a 32X CD port of this game, but unfortunately it was cancelled. Too bad.
Mortal Kombat (1993) – Two player simultaneous, 6 Button Controller supported. Yes, it’s Mortal Kombat, on Sega CD! This port of the super-popular arcade classic starts up with an original intro that is an expanded version of the great TV ad for the console release of Mortal Kombat. MORTAL KOMBAT! I’ve never been a big Mortal Kombat fan, but that intro’s great anyway; go watch it. Beyond that intro, the main changes between this and the Genesis cart version are that this time you don’t need a code in order to see red blood; instead, the blood’s red by default. Nice. Behind all that “SNES has no red blood” controversy, people forget that you had to enter a code even on the Genesis to see the red blood. That’s not true here. The game also has some other minor visual and audio enhancements. However, the load times are annoying, particularly for Shang Tsung’s morphing. There’s an option that restricts his morph to only the two characters here (so he could only morph into your clone) if you want to cut the during-matches loads that are otherwise required. The loading is annoying, but despite that, overall I do think that this is a better port of Mortal Kombat than the Genesis version. It’s quite similar, but a bit better in almost every way. Mortal Kombat is a real classic, and while this is definitely not the best version of the game around (perfect ports of the arcade game can be played on many modern consoles, after all), it’s one well worth owning if you’re a Sega CD owner. Also on almost everything.
Night Striker (J) (Japan only release) – One player, supports XE-1AP analog controller. Night Striker is a rail shooter from Taito, and it’s one of Taito’s two Sega CD releases; the other one is below. You play as a guy in a well-armed flying car, and have to save the day. In most levels your flying car is in the air, but there are a few where you’re on the ground only, instead. Night Striker’s Sega CD port is pretty good. The game gets mixed reviews, but I like it. Night Striker is a short but fun rail shooter. The game has very blocky graphics on this platform, and all stages are flat (so there are no “hill” elements), and it’s got no added content unlike the later, better (and also Japan-only) Saturn port, Night Striker S, but it’s fun while it lasts. “How to play import Sega CD games” issues aside this is also a perfect import, because the game has absolutely no Japanese text ingame; the story (it’s text-only, not voice acted), menus, and game interface are all in English text. I think the graphics look good; blocky or no the game has good art design, and it shows. Night Striker is a simple, fun rail shooter. The game has branching paths, Outrun-style, which gives this very short, only moderately challenging game a bit more replay value. It’s a good game, and even if the presentation is basic — why doesn’t it even have voice acting for the story? — the good gameplay and hardware scaling clearly show why this was a Sega CD game.
The Ninja Warriors (J) (Japan only release) – Two player simultaneous. The Ninja Warriors is a good port of a mediocre arcade game. The Ninja Warriors is a side-scrolling beat ’em up. You walk to the right, Kung Fu style, and hit everyone as they approach. Walk, hit, duck, repeat until bored or you win or lose. It’s simple and repetitive. However, even if the game itself isn’t the best, this game is the best version of it you’ll find. The game has good graphics, an outstanding soundtrack, some entertaining added story sequences, full English voice acting for all cutscenes (with Japanese subtitles, and the two player mode is intact, too! The other console port of The Ninja Warriors, which is a Japan-only Turbografx-16 game, has worse graphics and sound and is single player only. This is far better than that. The original arcade machine, like the first two Darius games, used a triple-wide monitor, so this single-screen port is necessarily zoomed in, but it works. You can see far enough to get by. The game has limited continues and no saving, so beating the game won’t be easy and will take practice. It may or may not be fun enough to be worth the effort, I’m not sure. Playing with two people helps a bit. The graphics aren’t amazing, but are decently good, for a port of a then several-years-old arcade game. The two titular “Ninja Warriors” who you play as are actually robots, and as you take damage parts of their clothing/”skin” tear off, revealing the robot underneath. It’s a nice touch. The fully English voice acted intro, ending, and Zuntata Mode backstory cutscene sequence (separately watchable from the main menu) all are decently done. It’s weird that this Japan-only game has English voice acting, but it does, and it’s by native speakers too. Why did this not release here? It’s stupid! It should have, and Night Striker too.
On the note of Zuntata, The Ninja Warriors has a fantastic soundtrack from Zuntata, Taito’s sound team. It’s a classic work of early videogame CD music, from the days when cart-style music was just being adapted to CDs. Great stuff, it’s one of my most-listened-to Sega CD soundtracks. Zuntata Mode is a weird little 6 minute or so long cutscene, fully voice acted in English with Japanese subtitles. It tells the backstory of why the “Ninja Warriors” were chosen for their mission, and is done in the style of a noir film, I think. It’s pretty weird and interesting; do watch it! Unfortunately it’s made up of stills, not moving video, but still, it’s interesting. The visuals are of live actors (members of Zuntata, I believe, playing the roles?), not animation. It’s a weird extra that you’d only see on an early CD game like this, I think. So yeah, overall, The Ninja Warriors is worth getting, probably, even though the game itself is bland. Also in arcades and on the Turbografx-16 (Japan only). The game has a sequel, which was released in the US on the SNES as “The Ninja Warriors”, but is “Ninja Warriors Again” in Japan. The game has much better, much more varied gameplay than this one, but sadly cuts out the multiplayer mode. See my review of it in my SNES thread.
Panic! – One player. Panic!, aka Switch? Panic!, is an animated FMV-style game from Sega. At its core, this game is Dragon’s Lair-esque. Basically, in each section you’re presented with various switches you can press. Pressing each one will cause something to happen, but only one (or a few) is the correct answer. This is a weird, crazy, and very Japanese game, but it fortunately did get localized here. Panic! is a very genre title, and has limited “gameplay”, but it’s amusing to mess around with for a while, pushing buttons and seeing the silly things which happen as a result.
Popful Mail – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). Popful Mail is a great fun, cartoony side-scrolling action-RPG from Sega. It’s a remake of a game from Falcom, the same company which made the Ys and Legend of Heroes franchises, among others. This game is their only Sega CD release, but it’s a good one. Unlike those long-running series, this game unfortunately was a one-off title; they should do a sequel sometime, it’s a great game! The game plays somewhat like earlier Falcom titles like Faxanadu or Ys III, but this is one of the best games in the genre, with good graphics, good music, a silly, entertaining plot, good controls, solidly animated and voiced cutscenes, and a reasonably long, and challenging-but-not-too-hard (in the US version at least) quest to work your way through. In the game you play as a team of three characters, but the lead is the female elf warrior Mail. The comedic fantasy tone with a female lead makes me think of Slayers, which is a good thing; I love that franchise. I like that the game has a strong female lead. The comedic tone works great as well; this can be a funny game at times. The other two characters are a male human mage and a (male) baby dragon. They definitely have their uses, though Mail is overall the best. You can switch between the three characters at will, and as each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own health bars too, you will need to do that. The baby dragon can jump/fly much higher than the other characters, for example, and the mage has magic (obviously). It’s a good system; the separate health bars is a particularly nice feature. The game is broken up into levels, with a basic world map (level-select style), and sometimes you may have to revisit an earlier stage to go to a specific store, go to a new area, and the like. The game is mostly linear, so it’s not too confusing, but it has just enough depth to add a bit to the game without making it complex or dated. I love that Popful Mail isn’t a grinding-heavy game, unlike, say, Ys III; you will need to grind a bit, particularly in the US version since Working Designs made it harder, but it isn’t an Ys game, and you can mostly keep moving forward. That’s how games should be! And the silliness, varied environments, and great gameplay all kept me coming back, too. Popful Mail has save anywhere too, which is fantastic, and fits with Falcom tradition.
So yes, Popful Mail has cute anime art and solid side-scrolling action-RPG gameplay. The characters all look cute, the baby dragon particularly. The Sega CD version of Popful Mail is a graphically enhanced remake of earlier Japanese computer versions of the game. The original Japanese computer game also has a console port on the Turbo CD. The game is a Japan-only Super CD game with Arcade CD enhancements, and is a straight but enhanced port of the computer game, so it’s got very small graphics in that classic Falcom fashion, and plays in a border in that annoyingly usual (Legend of Xanadu excepted) Turbo CD Falcom fashion. As usual for Falcom games, there’s no attack button; you just run into enemies to attack on the Turbo CD. Sega changed that on the Sega CD, so this version has an attack button. The larger, redrawn graphics of Sega’s Sega CD port look much better overall, even if fewer colors are used, and the more traditional control scheme on the Sega CD is an improvement as well; Ys is great, but I do like having an attack button. In the cutscenes, the animation is much better on Sega CD, but looks different — Sega drew the characters looking a bit older than they do on the computer/Turbo CD version. Both versions are good, but Sega’s has the edge overall (despite lacking colors) because of the much superior animation; as is common on the Turbo CD, animation in the cutscenes is limited; the Turbo CD cutscenes look great in screenshots, but don’t animate nearly like the Sega CD ones do. The basic level maps are altered in the Sega CD version, but they are clearly enhanced versions of the computer original. Looking at the Sega CD and Turbo CD games, many levels look similarly, major graphical differences aside. Sega CD Popful Mail is a great game, must-play stuff for any action-RPG fan. There was also a SNES version, also Japan-only, but that version redoes the level maps, so it’s really a complete remake, not an enhanced port/remake like this version is — the SNES levels are entirely unrecognizable compared to the other versions, they’re all new. The SNES version does have quite nice graphics though, but sadly restricts saving to inns only. Hopefully it gets a fan translation patch someday, though. The Sega CD version was released in the US by Working Designs, and, as they often did, they made the game harder. It’s quite doable and fun, though; it’s definitely not too hard. Just fun, and occasionally challenging. This version is Sega CD exclusive, but other versions are on the NEC PC88 and PC98 computers and the Turbo CD for one version, and the SNES for the other, though this Sega CD version is the only version of the game released outside Japan.
Racing Aces – One player, saves (to system only). Racing Aces is a 3d airplane racing game, with sprite-based planes in polygonal environments. Yes, it is a highly ambitious game; it’s one of the only Sega CD games in a polygonal, fully 3d world. Many worlds, in fact — this game has a huge amount of content. However, the game is as flawed as it is ambitious. On the one hand I want to like this game, but on the other hand, the horrendously low framerate is a serious issue. Yes, the framerate is this games’ biggest problem. Now, polygonal 3d games on the SNES and Genesis almost always had framerates just as bad as Racing Aces does. However, the Sega CD is more powerful than the Genesis alone. The developers probably didn’t get everything out of the system. And regardless, if you can’t do a game like this well, I’m not sure if it was worth doing. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t… I like that it exists, but I’d be much happier with it if the game ran faster. Now, Racing Aces is, as I said, a plane racing game. The game has minimalist presentation — there is no video intro here, you just go straight to the menu and then the game. First you choose one of a variety of airplanes (there are at least a dozen pilots here), then the main game or a single race on one of the game’s substantial track selection (there are dozens of them!), and take to the sky. The game saves your progress, if you make any, which is nice. Controls in the game are simple, and that’s one of its other flaws — you don’t really have any speed control here! Seriously, I really wish I could get going faster, but you can’t. It’s frustrating. The problem might be having to make a game that will run on the 3-button Genesis controller, and all three buttons are used, but the game really needs better speed control. Also, this game has weapons — you can shoot guns and other projectiles out of your plane. Hitting things can be tricky, though, as you might expect given the framerate issues. Still, it adds something to the game for sure. You collect powerups by managing to fly through them. Good luck… but actually staying on the track is the harder challenge, often.
In each race, you have to try to get around the course enough times to complete it, and in a good finishing position too. Between the framerate, the lack of speed control, the other planes trying to get you, and the course designs — each level is a large open area, and you are NOT railed on a path, you just need to try to follow the correct line — this is a very challenging game. To make matters worse, the game has an upgrade system in the main game, and getting enough money to upgrade your plane enough so that it is competitive is a serious problem — you’ll lose a lot at first, and it’s not fun or well designed. I admit, I’ve never gotten far into it; I like the concept, and I think it’s a very interesting, ambitious game that’s well worth trying, but it either isn’t programmed quite well enough, or just was trying to do more than the hardware could manage. Any racing game fan should try the game anyway though, it’s one of a kind.
Revengers of Vengeance – Two player simultaneous, saves (to system only), 6 Button Controller supported. Revengers of Vengeance is a fighting game RPG with some shmup elements. Yes, this game tries to be a lot of things. The cover is fantastic work, but unfortunately, the game inside has some problems. The presentation is pretty good, though. This game doesn’t have the best graphics around, but they’re decent enough to do. Still, the system can do better than this; this game is just somewhat mediocre. After you choose a character and watch the nice introduction, you start in the town. The graphics are somewhat ugly, but there are a few things to do, including buying stuff, getting shmup missions if you have enough gold, saving, training your skills, or going to the overworld to fight a fighting game match. Unfortunately, things don’t get better in fights. The graphics are better than the town, certainly, but the fighting is bland and generic. Each character has a few moves, and your character will get better over time as you win fights and train, but the fighting game here is nothing above average, certainly, and probably is a bit below that. The moves, action, and characters in RoV are nowhere near the level of, say, Street Fighter II, that’s for sure, or even Mortal Kombat. Fighting in this game is slow and simplistic, and lacks depth and strategy; spamming exploitable attacks can work well. The RPG system also is annoying at times. This isn’t a linear game. Instead, you have one year to beat the boss, Venum. Your goal is to train enough in that year to be strong enough to beat him at the end. Each action, whether it’s a fight or training, takes up energy, and you only have so much per day. This system is often seen in dating sims, I believe, but here it’s in a fighting game. So, you go around fighting people, and can fight any of the other characters any day, so some fights will be near-impossible to win because of your level, but you won’t know that until you’re in the fight. Now, when you lose it’s not game over but instead you just get sent back to town, but still, losing repeatedly is frustrating, and once you get better at the game, it’s far too easy to win with cheap moves, too. Yeah, this game is flawed. As for the shmup element of the game, those levels are fun. If you have the money, at one of the buildings in town you can go into some shmup levels, where your character walks up the screen and shoots down all the enemies which appear. These levels are basic, but fun enough; I only wish that they looked better and that there were more of them. Still, the shmup parts of RoV aren’t bad. They’re a bit better than the fighitng game, I think. However, they really are a sideline here; most of the game will be spent in the town or in fights. And for that reason, Revengers of Vengeance is, despite its great cover, a disappointing game maybe worth passing on, unfortunately.
Rise of the Dragon – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart), supports Sega/Mega Mouse. Rise of the Dragon is Dynamix’s other PC-to-Sega CD adventure game port, following Willy Beamish. The game has hand-drawn art and is fully voice acted. This game is a cyberpunk adventure game, and you play as a detective in this cyberpunk world, initially investigating a suspicious death. The game is quite good. It has very good art design, a solid story, decent to good voice acting, and plenty of puzzles to solve. The game is heavy on inventory puzzles, as you’d expect, but that’s fine with me. Rise of the Dragon was censored a bit on the console, as a few thing were cut out of the PC original, but most of the serious themes are still here, and the game is absolutely worth playing. The game defintely has dark themes, including murder, drug use, and more. This game may get overlooked by people who only focus on Snatcher, but while obviously thematically somewhat similar, the two games have important differences. For one thing that game is entirely menu-based, while in this game you have a cursor. That makes the games play quite differently. This one also doesn’t have action scenes, and is a Western game instead of Japanese so it has a different style. It’s nice to see a Western game that natively supports the Backup RAM Cart, too; that was oddly uncommon. I don’t want to say too much about this game because I’d rather not spoil the story or the puzzles. Instead, play the game for yourself! This is a good classic adventure game anyone who likes adventure games or cyberpunk should definitely play.
Robo Aleste – One player. Robo Aleste is Compile’s Sega CD shmup. The game released in 1992, the same year as Spriggan mark 2 for the Turbo Super CD, but this game is nothing like that side-scrolling game; it’s a vertical shmup. Sadly those games were Compile’s last 4th gen shmups; after them all they did were two 8-bit games in 1993 (a Game Gear game and a Master System game), then years passed before Compile’s last shmup, Zanac X Zanac for the PS1. It’s really too bad that Compile abandoned the shmup market not too long after releasing this game, because this is one of their best shmups ever. In its basic gameplay, Robo Aleste comes from the style of MUSHA (Genesis) and the first Spriggan (Turbo CD), except with a completely different setting and story. Like those two games though, you collect colored powerups which give you different weapon types in various combinations depending on which ones you have. Compile had several different shmup styles, including this one, the one seen in Blazing Lazers and Space Megaforce, and the simpler style of their earlier titles, and each has its strengths and weaknesses, but of the three done in this style, I like this game the most. Spriggan and MUSHA are very good games, but I think Robo Aleste is better for sure. It’s got better graphics, a more interesting story, and improved gameplay and level designs as well. The game is a little on the easy side, and I’ve beaten it repeatedly, but there is a difficulty level selection if you want it harder, and the game is great fun regardless of how hard it is. The game gives you infinite continues, which makes completing it easier, but doesn’t support saving sadly; none of the Sega CD shmups do, not even for high score backup. I know, I’ve said this before, but it’s stupid!
Returning to the story, one thing that’s different about this game from Compile’s earlier shmups, but is somewhat like Spriggan mark 2, is that the game has much more story than their earlier titles. The game has regular cutscenes between levels, and there are conversations between your character and the bosses at the end of each stage, too. The game is set in a fantasy version of Oda Nobunaga’s Sengoku Japan, except with giant robots of course. The plot has some twists and turns, but the end results aren’t surprising. You play as a guy out to defeat the other warlords in Nobunaga’s quest to unite Japan, but Nobunaga has some dark secrets of his own as well. The story may be predictable, but I think it enhances the game. The high-quality graphics and good art design help as well. I like all the character portraits of the various Sengoku characters. Some people prefer MUSHA’s graphics to Robo Aleste, but I’m absolutely on the other side of that one — I think Robo Aleste is significantly improved, visually, over MUSHA. The game unfortuantely doesn’t make much use of the Sega CD’s sprite scaling and rotation powers, as is true with most all Sega CD shmups not called Silpheed, but the game does have a few little bits of scaling here and there, which is nice, even if it makes me wish for more. Ah well. This US release also had one cutscene with a bath scene in it removed, but it doesn’t hurt the game much at all. All of the actual gameplay is entirely intact. The bath scene isn’t really any more explicit than the intro to Sega CD Lunar 2 though, and that was left intact in the US, so it’s too bad that they removed it. Minor point though. Robo Aleste is an outstanting game! With good graphics, great, extremely well polished game design, fast-paced action, great level designs, and a decent story, Robo Aleste is one of the best shmups around. The Turbo CD may have more than six times more shmups than the Sega CD, but individually, the Sega CD’s shmups stand up to anything on the Turbo CD in quality, and this is one more reason for that.
Sewer Shark – One player. Sewer Shark is a railed first-person shooting games where you fly through tubes shooting sewer creatures. It is also, of course, a FMV-heavy game with many live-action video cutscenes. Sewer Shark was an early hit on the Sega CD, and was a pack-in with the system for a while too. Despite that, the game isn’t very good. I think that this game was popular because it was unique, as one of the earlier video-heavy Sega CD games, much more so than for actual good gameplay. Sewer Shark has a cheesy sci-fi story, mediocre acting, and lots of sewer tunnels to fly through. Yes, the visuals in the actual game are not thrilling. Get used to shooting rats, you’ll be doing a lot of that in this game. The other major issue with this game is that, much like its spiritual successor Lodestar, navigating can be frustrating. This game is not as hard as Lodestar, and you won’t get lost quite as much, but unlike that game Sewer Shark doesn’t support saving, so you have to play the whole thing through in one sitting. This is a real pain; there’s only so much annoying getting lost in identical looping tubes that I can take before I turn off the game. The story and acting aren’t as good as Lodestar, either. The control issue where your targeting cursor is also your movement cursor is here too, unfortunately. Yes, it’s very easy to accidentally go the wrong way while you are just trying to shoot some badguy. This game can be had for very cheap, and might be a nice nostalgia trip for some, but the gameplay hasn’t held up very well. Only get it if it’s very cheap, and even then, think twice. It’s mediocre at best. The bad acting is kind of amusing I guess, and the gameplay could be worse — this is a lot more fun than Night Trap! — but still, it is by no means a good game.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective — Volume I – One player, saves (to system only). Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective was a series of adventure games from Icom released in the early ’90s. There were three games in the series, and this first one was one of the very early CD titles with video in it. The game first released on Turbo CD in ’91, but was ported to Sega CD and PC in ’92. As I said at the top, this game was a packin with the Sega CD when it launched. The game may not make a good first impression, as you just read or watch stuff and do not interact otherwise and the videos all play in a small, fuzzy window, but if you stick with it and take your time, I do think that the Consulting Detective games ar quite decent. First thing, the acting is actually decent. They got competent actors for this game. Each game has three cases, and there’s next to no replay value here, unfortunately; that is definitely the games’ biggest flaw. Everything will be the same every time. The actual gameplay of each case is slow and deliberate. You are first given your case, and then have to go about figuring out how to solve it. This is not a linear puzzle adventure game; instead, for each case you’re given a few issues of the newspaper, a list of people you can go talk to, and a list of people with descriptions. I recommend reading through the papers thoroughly, vital information will be in the articles. It takes time, but it’s worth it. Also talk to everyone you can, and pay attention to the video clips. By talking to people and reading stuff, you can make progress in the case and maybe get more people to talk who hadn’t before. If you can get into it, trying to figure out the mystery of each case can be compelling. This is a slow game, with limited interaction and a lot of reading and listening, but still, I do think that it is a good game worth playing. The game may be slow, but the cases are well thought through and interesting, and the challenge of trying to figure out who did it kept me through to the end. The developer has been trying to re-release these games (including a failed kickstarter), but the original release was on DVD (version you’d play with your DVD remote), PC, Mac, Sega CD, and Turbografx CD.
Shining Force CD – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart; Backup RAM Cart required in order to see all content). Shining Force CD is a strategy game in the long-running Shining series. This one is mostly a port/remake of the first two of the three Game Gear Shining Force games (the last one released after this game, so it could not be included), with some original content added on at the end. This may be a pair of ports, but these are hugely enhanced ports. With better graphics, voice acted story scenes, more content, and more, this is the best way to play either of these games for sure! Unlike the Genesis Shining Force games, the Game Gear games, and thus Shining Force CD as well, are somewhat simplified strategy games. In particular, you do not explore an overworld yourself in this game; instead, towns are just menus, and you straight from town to mission to town. In towns you can buy stuff for your group members, save, etc, the usual things. Fans of the Genesis games may be disappointed, but I like this setup; I prefer strategy games to RPGs overall, this gives the game a more strategy-focused feel compared to the Genesis Shining Force games, which are somewhere in between strategy and RPG. The battles here are as good as ever in the franchise. It’s a turn-based strategy game, and you move your characters around the map, trying to defeat all of the enemies. The game has RPG levelling and inventory systems, and as I said earlier you can buy items in the towns, or maybe get stuff from enemies sometimes. There is a lot of content here, too, with two games and two unlockable bonus modes to play through. Each Game Gear game is not as long as the Genesis games are, but both combined, plus the exclusive bonuses, adds up. This will keep anyone busy for a good while.
Shining Force CD has only a few issues, and none are major. But of them, first, the load times for battle animations are, as in Dark Wizard, annoying. Also, this game isn’t nearly as ambitious as Dark Wizard. It’s a great game, but most of the content isn’t Sega CD exclusive, and the game is simpler than that game is as well. And last, Shining Force CD pretty much requires the Backup RAM Cart, which most people don’t have. Each games’ save file takes up the entire system memory, and you must have complete files from both games in order to unlock the two bonus modes. There are no third party memory cards for the Sega CD, or alternate backup memory options, so in order to play the whole game, you must buy a memory cart. Fortunately they are worth owning for reasons beyond this game, so just go get one. They aren’t cheap, but are worth it. Overall, Shining Force CD is a great compilation with exclusive content, and absolutely is one of the better Sega CD games. Play it!
Silpheed – One player. Silpheed is a vertical-scrolling shmup, and it is one of the Sega CD’s most visually impressive games. It’s also one of the system’s better games, as well. Silpheed is a great visual accomplishment, and has the good gameplay to back up its great graphics. The game has a slightly angled playfield, some audio chatter playing during the levels, polygonal ships (or sprites emulating polygonal ships; it’d be hard to tell the difference), and a prerendered CG “polygonal” FMV backdrop. Yes, the background is video. It’s very impressive video, takes up most of the screen and is hard to tell from real-time polygon graphics except for that it’s putting far more polygons on screen than the Sega CD could ever handle, but it IS video. The overall effect is very impressive. The backgrounds zoom by, as in the many levels in this game you pass through fleets, asteroid fields, hyperspace, fields of hexagonal pillars, and more. Most of the background is non-interactive, but there are some areas here and there where your ship will take damage by hitting background objects. Also, of course, there are the enemies and bosses to deal with. You do have a shield in this game, so you can take multiple hits, but you’ll need it! Your shields don’t fully recharge between levels; instead, you only get a few hits back each time. Also after each level you can re-equip your ship, and you unlock new weapons as you progress through the game. You’ve got a left weapon, a right weapon, and a special to choose. You can make a nice variety of fire types with them. If your health gets low, uniquely, you have a few more hits — the first hit after your 6-hit shield is lost will take out one weapon, the second will halve your speed, and the last will finally destroy you. So, you have a total of 9 possible hit points in the game. Silpheed isn’t an incredibly difficult game, but it is challenging, and doesn’t let you save (of course) and has limited continues as well. Given the games’ length, it is easy to run out of lives late in the game and have to start over. If you want though, there are cheat codes to get around that. Silpheed is a must-play game, as it shows off what the Sega CD’s hardware can do better than almost any other game on the system. The enemy ships, bosses included, are a bit small compared to the size of background ships, and maybe the gameplay isn’t quite as amazing as the visuals are, but still, this is a very, very good shmup. I really love it! Very highly recommended, this game is one of the system’s best. It’s got great graphics, an impressive and great use of the systems’ hardware to pull off something unique, very good gameplay, good level designs, some impressive stages (that hex-block level is particularly cool!), a fun challenge level, and more. Silpheed is a Sega CD exclusive, but the game is part of a series; the first game was for computers (released in Japan on MSX, in the US on PC and Apple IIGS), this is the second, the third is for PS2 (Silpheed: The Lost Planet; it’s sadly mediocre compared to this one), and the last is a 3d space combat game, Project Sylpheed, for the Xbox 360. It’s decent to good. The Sega CD game is the best game in the franchise, though.
Snatcher – One player, supports Genesis Justifier light gun in , saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). What is there to say about Snatcher? It’s a legendary classic, really. The game is a menu-based cyberpunk graphic adventure by Hideo Kojima. The basic concept here was clearly inspired by Blade Runner, because your character is a detective looking for humanoid robots. The game has drawn art for graphics, and has voice acting for the story, of course, and the voice acting is well-done. The game has a pretty good Japanese cyberpunk story, reasonably interesting characters, good graphics, a great sense of mood and atmosphere, and good music, but only decent to good gameplay. Indeed, the gameplay is a little weird — instead of having a cursor in this game, instead you just choose options from a menu, exclusively. You see a picture of the current location on the upper part of the screen, and your options below. As this is a port of a Turbo CD game, animation is limited; the game is mostly stills. They are well-drawn, though; that good art helps this game for sure. The only time you aren’t just choosing items from a menu is during the shooting sections, where you can use either the light gun or gamepad. And even there, the gameplay is still basic — you just aim at one of the nine parts of the screen, and shoot when enemies appear. It’s very simple, easy stuff. You get used to it, and it makes the game move quickly, but I do think that removing the cursor element of the adventure game was a mistake. And it’s not like you have a text parser here instead! No, you just choose menu options. It makes the game a bit too streamlined and easy; just ask everyone everything, investigate all the menu options, and you’ll get through. There are some puzzles, certainly, but they aren’t as hard as the puzzles in a more traditional adventure game would be, I think. With no text parser and no pixel hunting, that’s not surprising. Despite this though, for its well-told story and decent gameplay, Snatcher’s definitely worth a play. The game has a good length; they partially compensate for the simple controls by making this game longer than some adventure games, though it is not a really long game; online reviewers put it at 6-12 hours. Not too bad. Because of the simple design though, you will rarely be challenged much along that length. It’s a compelling game with a good story to tell, but the challenges of adventure games, such as item puzzles, environment puzzles, etc. are only in limited display here. There are definitely some puzzles, but they are infrequent. This game is somewhere in between visual novels and true true adventure games, unfortunately. I much prefer the latter to the former. You are frequently making choices, but it’s mostly just going through menus, not being challenged. The game has a great setting, story, writing and voice acting, music, and visuals, but the gameplay is minimalistic, unfortunately. The question is, which do you care about more?
So, is the game worth buying? Probably… but it is a question, thanks to the absurd prices the game sells for now. Honestly, considering the price, I don’t know if I recommend this one or not… the only game on this list that costs more than Snatcher is Keio Flying Squadron, and I absolutely love that game and have to recommend it. This one, though? Well, for Hideo Kojima fans, it’s an easy buy of course. But for everyone else, and this would include me; I’ve never cared much for the Metal Gear games? Well… maybe, maybe not. It’s a good adventure game, it’s just a bit too straightforward because of the menu-only design… and those shooter segments really are disappointing, particularly when played with the gamepad. The game does a great job of increasing tension, making the situation feel tense and the threat dire… and then it turns into a basic shooting gallery. Lame! It’s much better with the light gun I’m sure, but with gamepad, it’s not great, even more so than usual for lightgun games because of the extremely basic “nine-point targeting” design. I still enjoyed them, because of the great presentation and story, but the actual shooting is far too easy compared to the level of tension the story raises things to. Snatcher was first released on Japanese computers (MSX2 and NEC PC-8801), with no voice acting of course, but this Sega CD release is a US-exclusive port of the Japanese-only Turbo CD remake of the game. There’s some minor censorship in the US version (of two scenes of partial female nudity), but otherwise everything else is intact. Yes, as usual, the sexuality is cut from the US version, but the violence is entirely intact. There are also later Japan-only Playstation and Saturn versions of the game.
Sol-Feace – One player. Sol-Feace was another one of the original pack-in games with the American Sega CD, but as I said at the top, it is a third party game, and actually is a port of a Japanese computer game. The game’s decent to good, and I think it gets under-rated; this game often seems to be considered the worst of the Sega CD shmups, but it’s actually a good game. I like it more than Android Assault, anyway, though there aren’t really any bad Sega CD shmups — they’re all good games. Sol-Feace is a simple, straightforward horizontal shmup, but it’s got good gameplay, good controls, and some fun level designs and decently good graphics with plenty of good ship and vehicle designs. I like things like the moving arms that try to grab you, too. These probably are done in software, not Sega CD hardware, since they look the same in the cartridge version of the game, but regardless, they’re cool. I like the CD audio music too, and the game has a nice voiced introduction at the start. Sol-Feace has only seven levels, but they get hard by the later stages, so this won’t be as easy to finish as it might initially seem. The difficulty balance is done just right, I’d say. Overall, Sol-Feace doesn’t have Android Assault’s multi-screen-high stages, multiple ship types, innovative graphical design like that in Silpheed, or Compile’s greatness, but even so, it’s a great traditional shmup from the high age of great classic shooters, and that’s awesome. I was surprised at how much I liked this game after I got it, but it really is quite good. The game should be cheap, too. Get it. Sol-Feace is also on the X68000 computer and, under the name Sol-Deace, later got a port on Genesis as well. The cartridge version is similar, except it doesn’t have the CD audio or the introduction and ending, of course.
Sonic 1 Megamix (PD) – One player, saves (to system only). Sonic 1 Megamix is a player-developed game that you can burn on a CD-R and play on your actual Sega CD console, or an emulator of course. No, it is not for sale. The game is built in the Sonic engine, but is definitely not an official release, and isn’t a port either — the level designs here are new. Stages use familiar themes, but the actual maps are original. There are a bunch of playable characters in the game, too, which is cool. Most characters play very similarly, but still, it’s nice to have some choices. Sonic 1 Megamix doesn’t really do anything that the Genesis game didn’t, but it’s not supposed to; being similar to the original, but with new fanmade content as the actual levels, was the goal of this project, and they succeeded. Try it out, the game’s decently fun, and it’s very cool to see a fanmade game on actual hardware, not just modern PC or something.
SoulStar – Two player simultaneous, 6 Button Controller supported. SoulStar is the last of Core Designs’ scaler action games on the Sega CD, and it’s probably their best as well. SoulStar is half rail shooter, half free-roaming vehicular combat game in open levels. With great graphics, decent controls (with the 6 button controller, particularly), multiple gameplay styles, a fantastic soundtrack, and some pretty good level designs as well, SoulStar is fantastic. The game is a sci-fi game, as the title suggests. You control a spaceship which can transform into three forms, one plane for rail shooter stages, one plane for the open-area levels, and a walker mech for other open-area levels later in the game. SoulStar has some of the best graphics on the system, and has both good art design and great hardware scaling. The game has a multiplayer mode too, though player two only controls an additional cursor, not a whole ship. Still, it can be extremely helpful. However, the game does have some issues. The first thing you see in the game is a rail shooter stage. It looks great, and is only moderately challenging. Fantastic level. Once you get to the end, you move to the first open-area area, which is the second half of the first level…
And probably proceed to die quickly, because the free-roam levels are far harder than the rail-shooter ones. And even if you don’t die, this area can be confusing, because it has three exits, and the one you choose determines which difficulty level you’re selecting for the rest of the game. Yes, this is how you choose your difficulty, not a menu. Whichever one you choose though, this games’ difficulty balance is not quite right, why are the open levels so, so much harder than the railed ones? I seem to get hit more and die more in the open stages. Another issue is that the game doesn’t let you save. Sure, there are only six to eight levels, depending on which difficulty level you choose (each higher difficulty adds a stage), but with a difficulty level this high, beating any of them will be a serious challenge. Core knew how to include saving in games, and it’s unconcionable that SoulStar and Battlecorps both don’t let you save. And last, the on-screen interface is confusing and cluttered. Sure, it looks kind of nice in a spaceship-ey way, but it’s not too functional, and figuring out exactly how much health you have left is kind of tricky. Your health bar is this small angled bar, and starts at about the one-third level, which is odd. The cancelled Jaguar CD port of the game has a much-improved on-screen interface, but no luck here. Even so though, despite those issues, SoulStar is a fantastic, fantastic game, and it is an absolute must play game without question. Levels like the desert level (Hard path exclusive stage) absolutely must be seen! SoulStar is exceptional, flaws or no. The game is Sega CD exclusive; 32X and Jaguar CD ports of the game were cancelled, unfortunately. There’s a beta rom of the Jaguar CD version out there, but all you can play is the first part of level one.
Sonic CD – One player, saves (to system only). Sonic CD is, of course, the Sega CD’s Sonic platformer. The game was designed by Sonic’s original creator, and Yuji Naka didn’t work on this one. As a result, it has a distinctly different style from the Genesis games, and some people like it, while others don’t. For some time Sonic CD was considered this lost classic, this one great game on the Sega CD that hadn’t been ported anywhere (other than the PC, but that version needs Windows 9x to run competently). However, the game finally got a port in the Sonic Gems Collection, and now is available on many modern platforms. So, today, this isn’t really a system seller for the Sega CD itself like it was in the past. Despite that, though, it’s still a great game, and if you get a Sega CD, definitely pick up Sonic CD. Sonic CD is pure Sonic — you play only as Sonic, and have to get through various worlds on your quest to stop Robotnik. This isn’t just a linear platformer though, as I will explain. Amy and Robo-Sonic make what I think are their first appearances, but for other characters that’s it. Sonic CD also has a good soundtrack. The game has two soundtracks, as many know; the US version replaced the original music. I have the US Sega CD version, but I think the soundtrack is great, so no complaints here. Both soundtracks are good, really. The animated introduction is good as well.
As I said, Sonic CD is not like other Sonic games in gameplay. Instead of just having to run to the end of the level, or get to the end while finding bonus game areas like in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in Sonic CD, the game has the element of time travel. There are four different versions of each stage — the Present, the Past, the Bad Future, and if you unlock it, the Good Future. The level map is the same in each version of the stage, but the graphics and music change. Now, in order to get Sonic CD’s good ending, you have to do one of two things: First, you can beat all of the bonus games and get the Chaos Emeralds that way (the bonus game here is a Mode 7 style area you run around). Alternately, you can go back to the Past in every level (well, every X-1 and X-2 level; the third area of each world is just a boss fight and does not have time travel gates), search for the machine in the stage, and destroy it. Once you destroy the machine, the Future map in that stage will change from the default Bad Future to the Good Future, and you should then go to the end (in the Good Future). With this method, you must find the machine in every single stage in order to get the good ending, but it’s the method I chose, because I find having to beat all of the bonus games harder; the only SOnic game I’ve ever actually gotten all of the Chaos Emeralds in that way was Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and there the save files were key to helping out. Here though, I went with the more interesting route, and did the “go to the past” way. Now, every Present level is full of “Future” signs, but has only a few Past signs. If you hit a sign and then run fast enough for a while, you will time-warp. Each sign is one time use, so if you try but fail to warp with a sign, because you hit something or an enemy hits you or something before you’ve gotten far enough to warp, you’ll need to find another sign. That there are so many fewer Past signs, but so many Future signs you need to avoid, is a part of the challenge. I liked the challenge of having to do something other than just running to the ending each time, it made the game a bit longer, and once I got used to it, was pretty fun.
However, the game does have a few oddities. First, the environment stuff for all four versions of each level are all on top of eachother, so you’ll often see coins you can’t access, random pieces of walls that mean nothing cluttering up space, etc. It give sthe game a somewhat randomly-laid-out feel, even though it’s not. Some people may not like that. Also, early in the first level, there’s a part where you run up a giant ramp, rotate, and go flying into the air. It’s pretty cool… but is almost never repeated. What a waste of a cool use of the hardware scaling! ALso, while the time travel mechanic is interesting, it feels kind of wasteful to have four versions of every level, when the game itself is only average-length. I understand why they did it, but I wish that the game was longer, and if you’re playing the game correctly, you’ll probebly almost never even SEE a huge amount of what they designed. The Bad Future levels are to be completely avoided, the Good Future ones you’ll only see for moments, the Present you want to get out of quickly, etc. They put a lot of work on each stage into making stuff that most people will never see. Perhaps the game could have had a few more levels, instead. Ah well. Sonic CD also has a different method of spin-dashing than Sonics 2 and beyond on the Genesis. You’ll get used to it. Overall, though, Sonic CD is a quite good game. It’s not the best Sonic game ever, but it is a great, and interesting, Sonic experiment. I definitely recommend it. Sonic CD has been ported to the PC (twice), PS2 (Japan and Europe only), Gamecube, cellphones, Ouya, PS3, and X360.
Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin – One player. This game is an enhanced port of Sega’s Spider-Man game for the Genesis. It’s a fairly popular title, but just doesn’t interest me much at all, and I can’t give a fair review of the game — I’ve never managed to stick with this long enough to get more than a level or two into it. The game has average at best controls, mediocre level layouts from what I’ve seen, and I just don’t find it particularly interesting at all. I’m not a big superhero-games fan, which doesn’t help, but if the games are good, I’ll play them anyway. This one… it’s mediocre. Spider-Man isn’t actively bad, but it’s not good either. For one thing, this game is somewhat open-world. Instead of just following a linear quest, yhou have to find these bombs which The Kingpin has planted around the city (in the process of falsely accusing Spiderman of being the villain; the intro cutscene’s decent), and you can got to various different areas around the city, choosing from a map. Many will be pointless excursions, though, while only a few will have your actual goals in them. Having to search around a bunch of empty levels looking for the ones that matter isn’t really my idea of fun. So yeah, in the rare case that I actually play it, I always end up just turning this off. I know that this is a quite popular game, but I’m not entirely sure why. Other versions of the game are on Genesis and Game Gear.
Star Wars Chess, The Software Toolworks Presents – Two player simultaneous, saves (to system only). Star Wars Chess is essentially a Battle Chess clone that uses Star Wars characters on the board. So, just like Battle Chess, it’s a chess game which plays “fight” animations when pieces are taken. The attacking piece always wins, of course, since this is Chess and not Archon or something, but the animations are fun to see, the first time at least. However, much like Battle Chess, after a while it could get old, so this probably doesn’t have the longevity of a Chessmaster. The AI is decent and can beat me, but it’s no Chessmaster for sure. Also, this clearly isn’t the highest-budget production; it may be a Star Wars license, but the game is by Mindscape (Software Toolworks), not Lucasarts, and you can see the difference. Still though, Star Wars Chess is a decent to good game. It’s a perfectly decent chess game with Star Wars pieces and battle animations. Pick it up if you see it for cheap. Also on PC.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault – One player, saves (password only). Rebel Assault is a Star Wars CD action experience! So yes, it is a horrendously badly dated early CD title. Still though, for nostalgia value at least, I still like this game even if objectively it’s probably not that great. The PC version of Rebel Assault was one of the first CD games I ever owned, and this version is very similar to that one, so I have some strong nostalgia for the game. This Sega CD version cuts out one level and removes the option to play as a female pilot, so you’re male only here, but is otherwise intact. It’s also not a bad space shooting game, either. Not all game modes are equally good, but this game is decent fun. The games’ introduction is a video clip from the original Star Wars (episode IV), but past that, Rebel Assault has hand-drawn backgrounds, not live-action-video. There’s some animation, but also some stills; it’s a mix. The game is fully voice acted of course, and has that great Star Wars music playing in the background, so presentation-wise, it’s great. As for the actual gameplay, Rebel Assault has quite a variety of tasks. The game has rail-shooter levels, where you control a ship from behind, trying to avoid obstacles and perhaps also shoot enemies; first-person cockpit shooting levels, where you have to move a cursor around the screen, shoot targets, and maybe do some very basic avoidance (move cursor to side to shift ship very slightly out of the way of something, you can’t actually fly around); a few top-down areas where you do a basic vertical shooter; and a third-person on-foot shooting game, sort of pre-Time-Crisis-esque, as you can hide behind something, or pop out and shoot. The original PC version had two of these levels, but they cut the second one from this version. Too bad; these levels are frustrating, but this game is a bit short, so it’s too bad that they made it shorter. They pretended tyhat it has the same number of levels by splitting up one other level into two parts, but yes, this version is missing a level from the PC game, and doesn’t add any new content. Now, Rebel Assault is a hard game. The rail-shooter levels particularly can be quite tricky, but some of the space shooting sections can be tough as well. When I was a kid I never managed to beat the third level, which is a rail-shooting stage in a canyon full of rock pillars you have to avoid, so I only got farther by looking up some passwords. With this version I did actually finish the game, but it does have some tricky moments for sure. Rebel Assault is short, but challenging. Overall, I would say that Star Wars fans should try Rebel Assault. It’s badly dated, and most people today likely won’t like it, but darnit, it’s got charm… I still kind of like this game. It’s flawed certainly, but give it a chance. Also on PC and 3DO. All three versions look quite similar visually, unfortunately (so yes, the [DOS] PC version is horribly blocky, just like Sega CD FMV), but the Sega CD version probably is worst thanks to the cut content. It’s still decent though.
StarBlade – One player, supports Sega/Mega Mouse, supports XE-1AP analog controller. Starblade is a light-gun-style shooter that many people call a “rail shooter” because it’s set in space and you’re in a spaceship. You have no control over your ship in this game, though. It’s a first-person title, and you fly along a preset path through the game, trying to shoot as many of the enemies as you can before they stay on the screen long enough to hit you. I’d call that a light-gun-style game myself, even though you can’t use a gun here; to be a rail shooter you need some control over the ship! In Starblade, you have none, not even speed controls like After Burner. Starblade is extremely challenging on the Sega CD, because unlike other ports of the game you only have two continues in this version, so I have not finished it yet, but it is a good, and good-looking, game. The game uses a unique mechanism for displaying its graphics — instead of being all rendred by the system (the Sega CD could not do that, too many polygons), or all FMV for the background like Silpheed, Starblade seems to use a unique system where it sends preset vertexes to the system, which then renders the polygons. It’s not exactly video, but this only works because the game plays exactly the same way every time, like a video would — the Sega CD could never render this in any situation where things could change. You can tell interactive parts because all enemy ships are wireframes, while background objects have flat-shaded textures filling their frames. It’s a kind of weird look, but you get used to it, and I think the game actually looks pretty good for the Sega CD. Starblade is a very simple game which clearly shows the limitations of early CD- game technology, but still, it’s a fun one to play for a few minutes here and there. The graphics are good, the action fast and furious, and the game well designed, in its simple way. Starblade is an arcade port, and also is on the 3DO and Playstation. Those versions are fully polygonal and give you infinite continues, so they’d be much easier to finish, but I haven’t played them myself.
Stellar Fire – One player. Stellar Fire is another Sega CD game from Dynamix. This one isn’t an adventure game, though; instead, it’s a Battlezone-style vehicular combat game. And Battlezone is definitely the title to mention here. Much like the contemporary PC/Mac/SNES game Spectre, Stellar Fire looks very much like an enhanced version of Battlezone, so you control a tank in a world of plain ground and flat-shaded objects, shooting enemies. Yes, the game uses hardware scaling, which is nice. While Spectre is a multiplayer-focused arena combat game, though, Stellar Fire is a single player only experience. The game has a nice voiced story introduction, with live-action-video and prerendered CG elements and voice acting by Star Trek (TNG/DS9)’s Michael Dorn, telling you why you’re here on your quest to stop the evil alien threat, and then you’re off. Stellar Fire is a decent to good game, but it’s got a problem — it’s very hard! I’ve never gotten past the first or second level of this game, in fact; it’s that tough. Levels in Stellar Fire are very large, and there are bosses at the end, as well. In each stage, you have some crystals that you have to collect, while seemingly endless waves of enemy tanks try to take you down. Once you collect all the stuff, you go to the boss and try to defeat it, but this can take a while because of the distances you have to travel, and because everything in each level looks the same, so it gets very repetitive very fast. The radar on the bottom shows you where enemies, obstacles, and objectives are, and the game points you to your next goal, but getting there without taking too much damage is difficult, and the bosses at the end of each level are hard. I want to like Stellar Fire, but it’s just so frustrating that I can’t quite… dying at the boss, and getting sent back all the way to the beginning of the level yet again, is not fun. I would recommend getting this game for cheap for anyone who likes Battlezone or Spectre, or wants to play a first-person [vehicular] shooting game on the Sega CD, but be prepared for a challenge. Saving would have been nice, here. Oh well. The game is reasonably well designed, though; the challenge isn’t entirely unfair. Decent game overall, I think, but it could be better. This game is a part of the Stellar 7 series of Battlezone-inspired titles from Dynamix. The first game, Stellar 7, was on Apple II and Commodore 64, the second (also Stellar 7) was for PC/Mac/Amiga, the third (Nova 9) for PC/Amiga, then this game, and last was Stellar 7: Draxon’s Revenge for the 3DO.
Surgical Strike – One player, saves (to system only). Surgical Strike is a FMV sci-fi vehicular shooting game, and it was the last game released in the US for the Sega CD. The story is basic and cheesy, as you’d expect. The gameplay is maybe a little bit like the first level of Midnight Raiders, but it’s far, far better than that game, and it uses some interesting design, too. Even though this is an FMV game, it’s not entirely on rails! Instead, the game plays out on a large city map. You can choose which street to drive down, and can turn at intersections too. Now, since the game is FMV, sort of like a Sewer Shark or Lodestar, you see the same video clips over and over reused in different areas in order to turn a limited amount of video backgrounds into a large world. This means repetition, but unlike those games you won’t get lost, because there is a map screen you can access with a button press. Very nice! It really makes the game much, much more playable than those others, and having choices in where you can go makes this more replayable than linear games like Midnight Raiders, too. The graphics are about as good as you’ll see in a Sega CD FMV game. Sure, color is lacking as always (lots of grey…), but that’s unavoidable. The story and acting is cheesy and silly as usual on the Sega CD. It’s the future, and you’re going in with your hover-tank to take down the badguys before they can destroy your nation with their missiles. So, destroy everything they’ve got, tanks, soldiers, missile launchers, etc. You’ve got a couple of different weapons, and have to be paying attention in order to hit all the targets, which appear with yellow boxes around them. You do a lot of blowing things up in this game, but it’s not easy; you have a health bar, unlike Midnight Raiders, but will take plenty of damage. The game gets frustrating because if you die, or let the missiles launch, you have to start the whole thing over, and watching those same “weapon firing” and explosion videos again and again and again gets repetitive. Still, for a Sega CD FMV game, this is one of the better, and more playable, ones. It’s got issues, and isn’t as good as a normal (non-FMV) vehicular shooter for sure, but it is an interesting product of its time maybe worth a look. There’s also a 32X CD version of the game, but it was cancelled in the US, unfortunately, and ended up only getting released in Brazil. That release is incredibly rare and nearly impossible to find even there, so just stick with the Sega CD version.
Third World War – One player, saves (to system or Backup RAM Cart). Third World War is a hybrid turn-based and real-time Cold War strategy game, of a what-if if the Cold War had turned hot, and was fought on battlefields, not just with nukes. You can use nukes, but also conventional arms. The game is complex and dated and is hard to get into; I find ’80s and early ’90s strategy games can be very hard to enjoy today, interfaces then were often horribly obtuse and frustrating. I love strategy games, but games like this… it’ll have a sizable learning curve, let’s just put it that way. At the start of the game, you choose a nation to control. There are sixteen countries in the game, all major nations; most of the Third World is just grey space here. After you choose one, then you go to the world map, and here you can control your nation. There are quite a few menus and options, so take your time learning everything. You can look at nations’ military and economic power, try to influence other nations to extend your nation’s power, etc. Eventually, after you send troops to a nation where your enemies also have troops, you’ll end up in a battle. There, the game goes to a close-in isometric RTS-style battle. You can move around your various types of vehicles, or call in air and sea support fire types as well. While the strategy map graphics are quite basic, consisting of menus, graphs, and a basic map, the battles look much better. Graphics in the battles look fairly nice. The graphics are pixelated and battles are slow and somewhat time-consuming, but still, it looks good and plays well. Give your orders, and try to destroy the enemy! Overall, Third World war is a dated, but interesting, game. The battles really save it; the strategic view is a very badly dated early ’90s menu-based strategy game, but the battles are more interesting to look at and play. Definitely pick this game up if you’re a strategy game fan, it’s an interesting game. On one final note, I have the US version, but the Japanese cover is pretty silly stuff — it’s got Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein shaking hands! Hah. Please note that the Backup RAM Cart is VERY highly recommended with this game — it uses up the entire Sega CD internal memory for a single save file. Get the Backup RAM Cart if you want multiple files, or want to save any other game.
Time Gal – One player, password save. Time Gal is a Japanese Dragon’s Lair-style QTE FMV animation game. The game was originally an arcade game, but this Sega CD release is the only version of the game available in English. Unlike Dragon’s Lair, Time Gal does have indicators telling you what you should be pressing, and also has passwords to save your progress. Those are both very nice features that make this game easier to play than Dragon’s Lair is. Of course, though, the gameplay is the same — the game is a video, and you have to press the right buttons at the right times or you lose a life. This game sometimes reverses the inputs, so just memorizing won’t get you through, you have to pay attention to the inputs shown. That makes it trickier. In the game you play as the Time Gal, Reiko, and travel through time, chasing time-travelling criminals. The game has anime-style art, and Reiko turns into a cute little chibi character during the many death animations, so this isn’t the most serious of games. That’s fine with me. I think that Time Gal Reiko isn’t quite as hopeless as the version of her in Castle of Shikigami III (Wii) is, but yes, she isn’t the most competent protagonist, though I guess that fits with the genre; nor was Dirk the Daring, after all. I never liked Dragon’s Lair much, but this is one of the better games in the genre. It’s still extremely basic and frustrating, but at least you can continue if you beat a level, and it does hint at what you should be doing, which is good. Time Gal’s an amusing game, and it’s worth a try if you can find it and have any interest in the genre. The game is also in arcades, Laseractive (Sega PAC), and more, but all other versions of it are Japan-only and are not in English.
Tomcat Alley – One player, saves (to system only). Tomcat Alley is a complete disaster of a live-action-video FMV game. In the game you’re the pilot of a Tomcat fighter plane, Top Gun-style, and are out to save the day from a Russian madman in Mexico with a store of chemical weapons. How original. The acting is bad as expected, but the video quality is good for the system. The “gameplay”, though, is irredeemably bad. Some people seem to actually like this game, but I am most definitely not one of them! While you may be a pilot of a fighter plane here, make no mistake, this is NOT an action game, or a flight simulator either. Instead, it’s a button-pushing game, sort of like Panic! but harder and worse. Make sure to read the manual before you play, because if you want to get anywhere in this game, you must know what the various commands do. Once the game starts, you control a cursor over the screen. Various icons appear on screen, each for one different action you can take, and you’ve got to do the right thing each time, following the instructions you are told. They won’t tell you what button to push, though, just what end-result you need, so read that manual. Timings are quite strict, so memorization is key here; the game will not tolerate many mistakes. In the background your plane is flying around, you might shoot at badguys, etc., but all you ever have to actually DO in this game is press the correct buttons before you run out of time and lose a life. It’s miserably unfun, and is one of the worst games I have played for the Sega CD, in my opinion. Also on PC.
WireHead – One player. Wirehead is a Dragon’s Lair-style live-action-video FMV game. That’s a bad sign, right? I have not been kind to most of the Sega CD’s live action video titles. This one is one of the few I like, though. Wirehead is a completely silly and utterly over-the-top game that’s great fun to watch, regardless of if the gameplay itself is so limited. Unlike Dragon’s Lair, in this game, the game pauses at each input point until you choose something. So, the challenge isn’t in pressing inputs with precise timing, as it is sometimes in Dragon’s Lair, but is just about figuring out what is the right choice at each point. The game has limited continues and no saving, so write stuff down, or print out the walkthrough on GameFAQs, if you want to get through the whole thing, probably; you could perhaps memorize it all, but it’s a decent-length game and that would be a lot of memorizing. Wirehead is fun enough to be worth playing regardless, though. As the name suggests, in the game you play as a guy, Ned, who has a remote installed into his brain, so someone with a remote control — you — can control him from afar. Evil people want to kidnap him (for science!), though, so you need to protect him and get him out of there. That will be a challenging task, as these guys after him just won’t give up! You start in Ned’s house, but as this is essentially a ridiculous action movie, the game moves through a variety of settings, including the street, an airplane, a Western town, and more. The real star here is the acting, script, and scenarios; this game knows it’s ridiculous, and goes with it full-force. So, Ned doesn’t just take a plane, he’s forced to jump out of the plane midair without a parachute. Holding on to a raft from the plane, he flips it over, uses it to slow his descent, lands in a conveniently placed river, and off you go towards the rapids! Yes, really. The game is full of comically silly stuff. It’s obviously intentionally silly, and it’s good stuff. You generally have three choices at each choice point. Sometimes there is only one correct answer, but sometimes you can choose multiple paths. As the example above shows, the correct option is not always obvious — who’d think that the correct thing to do in a plane is … jump out of it? Experiment, or use the walkthrough, to find all the alternate options. The video quality is on the better tier for Sega CD games, too. Unfortunately the 32X CD port of the game that was in development was cancelled (should have released it, Sega!), but still, definitely get Wirehead. It’s fun, entertaining, and quite enjoyable to play or watch.
WWF: Rage in the Cage – Two player simultaneous, 6 Button Controller supported. This is a wrestling game. It’s from the same developers as the Royal Rumble, WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game home port, and WWF Raw games on the SNES, Genesis, and 32X, this version is Sega CD-exclusive. Apparently it’s quite similar in gameplay to those other titles, just with more wrestlers to choose from, and video clips of the actual wrestlers, of course. There are 20 wrestlers in this game, which is far more than you’ll find in the Genesis or SNES wWF games. The Cage Match mode is also apparently the only one in a 16-bit WWF game. I do not like wrestling games at all and never play them, but the game seems to control reasonably well (it’s a button-mashing-heavy wrestling game, as usual), and it’s got plenty of content too. Pick it up if you’re a wrestling fan, or if you see the disc for a dollar or so like I did. Do use the six button controller with this game though, the controls are much better that way.
Yumimi Mix (J) (Japan only release) – One player. Yumimi Mix is an animated FMV-style adventure game. The game is in Japanese, so it’s not the easiest game to play, but even though there are some issues, it’s amusing anyway. So, the game starts out normally. The main character is Yumimi, a Japanese schoolgirl. Things seem normal at first, but they get weird later, as eventually aliens show up. Well, why not? The animation and stills are good, and the game is voice acted. The problem is that instead of being like Dragon’s Lair where you hit a direction, in this game, you’re given a popup box of Japanese text options to choose from at each decision point. So, unless you can read Japanese, what you choose at each choice point will be random. You can sort of get some understanding from the voice parts (tone, inflection, what’s happening on screen, etc.), but from text? Sorry. Ah well. That aside though, this is an amusing little game. The interaction is limited, but know that going in and it’s not too bad for what it is. The game has solid art design, and the animation is fairly good too; the game often uses moving static images or only animating facial expressions instead of full animation, but does have actual animation too when it’s needed. It’s not quite as animated as an actual anime would be, but it’s close enough. The music is catchy, and the voice acting good. Also released on FM Towns (Japanese computer) and remade on Saturn as Yumimi Mix Remix, all Japan-only of course. It’s too bad that this didn’t become an actual anime… ah well. Even just as is, without knowing what I’m choosing, this game is entertaining and silly. The concept may have been slightly influenced by Project A-Ko, but this is a much more normal school, and cast… with aliens that show up. Good stuff.
32X CD (3 games) (note: these summaries are also in the 32X list as well.)
Fahrenheit (32XCD) – One player, has saving (to system only). Fahrenheit is a live-action video FMV game which includes both Sega Cd and 32XCD versions in the box. The 32XCD version has much better video quality and many more colors in the video, as you’d expect. The five 32XCD games are all FMV titles that use the 32X for better video, and it makes a real difference — the Sega CD’s tight color limit was a big problem, and the difference is huge. As for the games though, they’re still live-action-video FMV games, so don’t expect much… this one is probably one of the better ones, but it’s frustrating. In Fahrenheit you are a firefighter going into burning buildings, trying to find people to rescue and dangerous objects to remove. You have a time limit based on your air supply, and lose air when you trigger dangers or gain it when you rescue people. So yes, the game takes skill and some trial and error to get right, you will need to learn the helpful things and the hazards. The game is first person, and you go between screens with the arrows then look around and choose what to interact with. Some things will damage you, others help you. It’s kind of frustrating and random, the game involves a lot of memorization. The levels are mazes which are pretty confusing to navigate. The later levels are huge and extremely complex, but even the first, simple level can be a little confusing because of the first-person perspective and how it can be hard to remember exactly what is in each direction at all times. If you just look at the maps in the manual navigating the levels may seem easy, but it is much more challenging in the video, with the camera moving around, as you try to remember which other rooms are where and which direction will send you towards what. I guess being in a real burning building could be confusing, but not as bad as this I would hope! The second and third levels increase in size on the higher difficulty settings, so at least they do make it a little easier to deal with if you play on Easy. Despite the frustration though, for an FMV game, Fahrenheit’s not bad. Hard, but not bad. Also on Sega CD; uniquely, both versions are included in the case.
Slam City with Scottie Pippen – One player, has saving (to system only). Slam City is an FMV basketball game from Digital Pictures. This game comes on four CDs, but it’s four CDs of awful gameplay. While Slam City is more playable than Supreme Warrior (below), it’s also a bad game and is not worth your time unless you’re looking for some great examples of how unplayable and lacking in fun FMV games really were. In the game, you can move your player, who you see in a third-person-behind view on the screen, around the court. Unlike Supreme Warrior, you do actually have control over where you go, which is great. Actions are somewhat limited by the FMV, though — you can’t just play, of course, and your opponent is running in a video clip in the background. It is very hard to figure out when you can do what — you need to memorize what buttons work with the opponent in each state, pretty much. When the opponent is doing a specific thing, you need to do the right thing in response in order to get past them or score. It’s frustrating and not any fun. A few minutes of this FMV “basketball” and I pretty much had enough. Scottie Pippen is the games’ final boss, but good luck tolerating it long enough to get to him… Also on Sega CD.
Supreme Warrior – One player, has saving (to system only), 6 Button Controller supported. Supreme Warrior is an utterly abysmal, atrocious two-CD FMV fighting game from Digital Pictures that’s so bad that even by the incredibly low standards of Sega CD FMV games, it’s a very bad game. The good-quality video of the 32X CD gives it a good first impression, but as soon as the actual gameplay starts and what the game actually is is revealed, that quickly fades away. Supreme Warrior is, as the name might suggest, a fighting game. You are a martial artist, and have to defeat an evil martial artist, but first you have to defeat his underlings of course. The story is mediocre. Oddly, you can play the game with either English or Chinese voice acting, since the game was filmed in Hong Kong I believe… but there are no English subtitles for the Chinese voice acting, so you’re stuck with the much worse English dub unless you know Chinese. Stupid! As for the gameplay, the game is a first person fighting game where your opponent moves around in front of you while you try to use your attacks (have a six button controller, the game is even less playable without it) to hit them. You’ve got a block and various different kinds of attacks. Read the manual, the moves are not listed in the game and you must know them well, and practice them, to get anywhere, because the enemies are brutal. Honestly, I haven’t beaten the first fight yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. The learning curve to figuring out how to not lose is high, and the game is so incredibly unfun that it doesn’t give me any kind of a reason to want to even consider spending that time. It’s a very frustrating game where the enemy moves around in front of you doing stuff while you press buttons trying to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to be doing… and supposedly, even if you do figure it out, it’s still not fun. Don’t bother with this game, it’s very, very bad. Also on Sega CD, PC, and 3DO.