Grab Bag: Even More Genesis Games!
Three more titles for the sleek black machine, reviewed for your reading pleasure!
I’ve no doubt filled these digital pages so far with plenty of nods to the Sega Genesis. As much as I’d love to have been a full-on child of the 1980s, I was born in ’83 and wasn’t really exposed to video games until ’89 or so. While the NES was still alive and kicking by then, that shining era of its emergence and unchallenged primacy was over. I was never that kid who did nothing but play video games, but I won’t pretend it didn’t often take priority over doing homework for me. The Genesis was the system I spent the bulk of my formative years pouring afternoons into, and is perhaps the one I remember best. I loved how you could mute the TV and plug headphones into it if you wanted. I loved, and still love, the distinctive sound of its Yamaha sound rig. The graphics have a unique tone to them as well; it’s as if the SNES’s palette was too garish and bright for some things, and the Genesis’s colors had a slightly muted tone more suited to games like Golden Axe or Altered Beast.
I’ve chosen three more Genesis titles at random (well, I guess I should say just arbitrarily) to discuss for another Grab Bag. All three are ones I remember encountering at least briefly, and I’ve revisited them via the miracle of emulation to refresh (and correct) my memory. Without further ado, let’s start swingin’ at them nuts, shall we?
Don’t worry. I’m not going to shit on this one. I love it as much as you do. Normally I go with a bad one first. I’m switching it up this time.
Treasure is a company that went on to have modest but memorable success with Sega platforms after the Genesis era; Guardian Heroes for the Saturn and Ikaruga for the Dreamcast stand out as front-and-center games for their respective systems and rank among my favorites to be sure. Gunstar Heroes marks their first effort, and is pretty astounding considering that fact. It makes for an exciting shooter, and is a good example of what made Genesis games stand out.
The game is kind of like Contra, if Contra had a more approachable set of gameplay parameters and more of a plot. The selectable players are two brothers of a family responsible for dusting some robot that threatened humanity, only to have the leader of a dictatorship begin gathering a set of gems necessary for its resurrection. You pursue the elements of this evil army throughout four stages you can play in any order before the end-part of the game becomes traditionally linear. Depending on which brother you choose, you can either fire freely as you run (a la Contra) or have your character stop in place whenever you fire. Powerups improve your gun’s power and grant capabilities like homing bullets, and the nicest aspect (at least for gamers like me who are terrible at avoiding harm) is that instead of insta-death you get a nice vitality counter.
The action is incredible and matches the standard for later Genesis games. You fight on rail carts, against giant mechanized monsters, and through varied environments as you battle to keep the world safe from General Gray and the Empire. The characters and story have a cool cartoony feel without being too silly, something that Treasure would pull off again with Guardian Heroes. Its challenge is comparable to standards in its genre, but I’d call Gunstar Heroes approachable for a shooter.
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
Fucking Disney games, man. I have a love-hate relationship with them. This one’s no exception. Mickey and Donald find a magical box, and it turns out to belong to that asshole dog Pete. Of course, Pete has to do something horrible to Mickey and Donald, so he sends them to another world. That’s the plot. You can clap now.
This is a well-made platformer and I’m not suggesting otherwise. It can be done in one or two player mode, with two players sharing a total number of lives. You start out in a magical forest where everything is intent on murdering you, but fortunately your magician cape functions as a deadly weapon. There’s a lot of that stupid kind of difficult in this game, like tricky distances and cheap little trick moments to force you into getting hurt. On the flipside, it’s got plenty of cool stuff like walking on spider strands and flying a magic carpet. World of Illusion is very fun to play, but like a lot of Disney games from the era, it’s hardly fucking around. This may be a world of illusion, sure, but its ability to beat Mickey and Donald’s asses inside out is very real. Obviously the game appeals to kids, so if you want to really test out your kid’s console chops, put this in front of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good game… just don’t think it’s soft-serve just because Mickey’s in it.
This was one of those oddballs you’d find at the rental place and take home because it looked cool. On paper, it IS pretty cool; the idea is that you pit monsters against each other in pro wrestling style combat, while occasionally feeding your beast or splicing its DNA to improve it. It comes off kind of like an extremely dark and nasty Pokemon analog.
In practice, Beast Wrestler is sadly mediocre as hell. I’m hardly the first reviewer to point out its horrible hit detection, and the very mechanics of fighting in the electrified monster ring are tricky to master. You have to really want to get good at this game, and it doesn’t make itself easy to like. On the upside, the graphics are wicked cool and I can’t fault the soundtrack either.
I guess I’m not really prepared to put a total thumbs-down on this one, but Beast Wrestler could have been a way cooler game if a little more effort had been put into fine tuning the actual combat. I’m guessing it was either someone’s sophomore day out or it was a rush job, but I’ve always been kind of disappointed by it. I mean, it’s mutant monsters in pro wrestling matches in the year 2020. Don’t set us up with that and then let us down!
Gunstar Heroes – 8/10 (This is a great Genesis title and it should be in your collection if it isn’t.)
World of Illusion – 6/10 (Don’t underestimate it, but if you’re into Disney and/or platformers it’s a must have.)
Beast Wrestler – 4/10 (Someone shit the bed here, but the smell’s muted a little bit by good presentation.)
Enjoy your holiday and Stay Retro, my friends.