"SEGA DOES WHAT NINTENDON'T!"
A beautiful slogan that helped define the early console wars. Just the other day I got into a conversation with a younglin' about video gaming and some of the classics of my earlier years. One thing lead to another and the mentioning of The Sega Genesis brought forth a perplexed look of total confusion. Genesis? What the hell is that?
Aside from signifying the beginning of our existence, it was a gaming console of pure awesomeness that sadly faded away into non-existence. Those from that era of gaming remember the system fondly as it gave Nintendo a run for its money as a more adult-oriented system. Nintendo refused to include blood, violence and mature content in gaming, while Sega held it’s proverbial middle-finger high and gave the fans what they wanted. Nintendo won’t include blood and fatalities in Mortal Kombat? No problem, Sega will. In fact, Sega gained such a following from giving gamers the things Nintendo wouldn’t, that by the time the second MK game was released, Nintendo quickly dropped the “family system” moniker and began including blood and adult themes in their games.
For many this will be a walk down memory lane, for those that missed out, enjoy this look into the awesomeness that was the Sega Genesis.
1. 'Altered Beast'
Some “Lord Voldemort” looking dude kidnapped this old man’s daughter, so he decided to make you “Rise from your Grave” in order to bring her back into his arms.
You walk around as the beefed up hero taking on zombies and two-headed dogs, collecting steroid-orbs that magnify your power. These balls literally make your muscles expand, causing your clothes to shred off of you, giving you the ability to throw flaming punches. By the second orb you resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger from Pumping Iron as you plow through enemies. 3 balls are the charm as the 3rd and final ball forces you to transform into various beasts. You become a wolf-man, an electric-pulse firing dragon, a bear that kills with a bad breath blast, and a Man-Tiger that fires off bouncing balls as you take on the bald boss and his varying transformations.
It’s 2D, side scrolling action that represents the early age of gaming at its best. It’s a quick play through as you smash through each level, eventually defeating Voldemort and taking the old man’s daughter for your own…in wolf-man form no less.
Let's take a brief look at how quickly roids work in video game land:
2. 'Revenge of Shinobi'
Sega’s side scrolling ninja game was a direct answer to Ninja Gaiden, but in my opinion, far superior. Shurikens, ninja-magic and a close-range sword attack enhanced your badassery as you ran through a unique assortment of levels, squaring off with bosses that were blatant rip-offs of comic characters and movie monsters.
In one level you do battle with a muscle-freak that tosses car parts at you. The more you land shots, the angrier he gets until he eventually turns green showcasing a striking resemblance to a certain comic character that suffers from the same problem when you make him angry. But it doesn’t end there, land a few more shorts and his skin ruptures revealing a Terminator-esque exoskeleton. Oh just wait, a few levels later, no joke, you face off with Spider-Man. After a handful of shurikan shots Spider-Man clings to the ceiling and morphs into Batman. Spider-Man literally transforms into Batman. DC and Marvel together? What madman concocted this orgy of fandom for us to play? The same madman that also included Godzilla as a boss battle. I’m not sure how they got away with these copyright infringing bosses, but it was still badass nonetheless.
Shinobi vs Spider-Man/Batman
3. 'Streets of Rage'
This here is the equivalent of an 80’s action flick. We have our blond-haired white guy, a Luke Cage looking black dude, and an Asian lady wearing a skirt so short that a money shot is one kick away. Button mashing is at its finest as you guide one of our heroes around the streets challenging various gangs. The best part…co-op play.
You and a friend can join forces and take on hordes of goons, punching and kicking your way to victory. And for an early console game, the soundtrack kicked ass. Slick vibes created the perfect backdrop as you battled your way around town. You can almost picture that 1980’s style movie montage of your character cruising the streets, contemplating life and taking on any challenge. (80’s movie fans know exactly what I’m talking about).
Here's a peep at its 80's inspired intro
4. 'Golden Axe'
What do Conan, the dwarf from Lord of the Rings and Red Sonja have in common? Nothing, except that Golden Axe's 3 playable characters bear a striking resemblance to their movie counterparts. Gaming alone is one thing, but when you bring in a friend, family member or what have you, the duel-joy shared is amplified with its fantastic co-op play system.
Golden Axe created the perfect platform for controlling fantasy warriors through different levels of action, swinging swords, axes, and riding dino-chicken hybrids. Traveling across the lands left our heroes tired, as any journey should, forcing them to take naps between levels while a band of wild elves crept up and stole their food and supplies. Don’t worry, you would wake suddenly and have the opportunity to literally beat your food out of them in pre-level bonus rounds.
5. 'Kid Chameleon'
Here we have another game that at first glance would appear to be a direct challenge to the Mario franchise. In true 2D platforming fashion, you ran through levels using your head to bash blocks and find random objects of power. Much like Mario 3 the item found would transform your character, presenting a mix of different powers and characteristics needed to complete the game.
Some more cinematic/comic ripoffs occur here as you transform into The Fly, Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, Cyclops from X-Men, Rhino from Spider-Man fame, and many more. The levels and bosses were weird and uniquely challenging, providing hours of entertainment. The effects and soundtrack were pretty killer as well.
Here we have your typical island surfer who wipes out thanks to a gnarly wave that miraculously forces a magic amulet around his neck. Sounds cool enough until the Pam Anderson like babe tells you that it will not be removed from your neck until you find some lost Aztec treasure. Again, not too bad except that the amulet will make ALL living creatures go berserk around you, leading to obvious challenges on your journey.
Simple run and jump action, frisbee tossing attacks, and a pedal-copter backed by some cool cartoon style graphics make this game highly playable. This is from a time when complicated gaming didn’t exist. You had a few buttons and even fewer actions to make your way through the different levels of play…and it was fun.
Here's a look at this classic, yet forgotten title
7. 'Mortal Kombat'
The original. If owning an arcade game proved to be costly and damn near impossible, owning this game for the Sega Genesis was the second best thing. Where Nintendo shied away from the gore, Sega welcomed it with open arms (although they did allow kids to play in censored mode for the parents that were anti-blood).
Simple, combat action with unique characters and abilities became an easy fan favorite, especially with your ability to murder your opponent afterward. Genesis didn’t have the best graphical capabilities but it did a great job displaying MK’s classic motion capture action. Hell, Sega even released a six-button controller to mimic the arcade console's controls for this release. How many other gaming systems can you say have catered to the fans the way Sega has?
The game that almost won the console wars for the Sega Genesis
8. 'Splatterhouse 3'
The original release for the Turbo Grafx 16 (yeah, look that one up) was an awesome button masher where you played a Jason Vorhees lookalike battling your way through horror-infested levels of mayhem. Blood and guts splattered the screen, no pun intended, as you did all in your power to save your true love. Sadly, as badass as the Turbo Grafx was, it faded away into obscurity rather quickly. The 3rd release needed a home and what better option than Sega Genesis, especially with its lack of concern for bloody content. Press button 1 to attack and button 2 to jump. Simple, yet highly effective in keeping one entertained for extended periods of time.
Wickedly-grotesque bosses. Pretty awesome art for an early console:
9. 'Ecco the Dolphin'
Trading in your standard playable characters, you take control of a mystical dolphin with the ability to jump miles high out of the water, coming into contact with the quasars instantly altering reality. You make your way through alien infested waters, along with other natural predators, in what was one of the Sega Genesis’ most beautiful games ever released. The graphics were top-notch and the controls were extremely smooth. Despite its obvious weirdness, Ecco was highly addictive. I can't even count the amount of hours that were wasted just swimming around, enjoying the scenery and eating fish.
10. 'Castle of Illusion'
By the time this came out I had entered what I thought was early manhood, far too cool to play games that didn’t contain blood or mindless action. Mickey Mouse? Yeah right, that was far too childish to me, until I watched my little brother play for a few. Not too long after I was snatching the controller from his little hands and game hogging the hell out of this release.
Mickey Mouse or not, good gaming is good gaming. The graphics were tight and all, but the game play was stellar. Within a few minutes of jumping around the levels it was easy to forget that you were in fact controlling Mickey Mouse. A beautiful score and tons of fun made this game an instant classic. The good news is that Apple IOS and future console holders can now download this game for a minimal fee that is absolutely worth it.
Sega Genesis is a forgotten gem that any gamer should travel the ends of Earth to play at least once. Since purchasing a playable Genesis is damn near impossible, do yourself a favor and search the web for a solid emulator to test drive these titles.