Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 3

Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 3

And the challenge keeps on rolling! As you may already know from the first two weeks of this challenge, I am currently on a mission to play through every game I own in order of original release. Currently this means I’m mostly playing through the entire Ultimate Mega Drive Collection, but this should hopefully change up a little more in coming weeks. For now though, let’s continue on with 1991!

Shining In The Darkness

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Camelot Software Planning | Year: 1991 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Find the Arms of Light and defeat Dark Sol

Actual Outcome: Got to Level 3 of the labyrinth, and got immensely annoyed at the game’s repetitive nature and sudden unnecessary difficulty spike

Opinion: After my misadventures with Phantasy Star, the prospect of another mysterious Mega Drive JRPG was one I was approaching with a huge sense of dread. Pleasantly, however, I actually got quite into Shining In The Darkness, but don’t get me wrong. It has plenty of its own problems that hindered my enjoyment.

Where Shining overcomes Phantasy Star is that I knew exactly what to do. The princess has been kidnapped, I am a hero, I have to venture into a mysterious labyrinth to find her. Cue a first-person dungeon crawl which encourages and rewards exploration and opens up in a logical, consistent manner. It actually got me surprisingly hooked.

And then I reached Level 3 of the main labyrinth. Up until this point, the game had a fairly sensible level progression system. Enemy strength correlated with a realistic progression of your likely strength level at that point, and usually the strongest armour was good enough to protect you against the more severe damage. On Level 3, the designers felt that this wasn’t enough of a challenge, so the difficulty spikes up to the point where you limp your way through and face off against a boss who can knock a single party member’s health in half in one turn. With the strongest armour available, it must be said.

What makes this sudden frustrating spike in difficult even worse is that it highlights the game’s major shortcoming – it’s incredibly repetitive. While this fact was somewhat obvious when moving through the early-game trials, the steady progression through the game helped nullify it. Once I hit Level 3, however, I found myself traipsing the same hallways again and again. And again. And once again. It got incredibly tiring and I stopped enjoying the game and just gave up on it out of boredom.

And it’s a shame, because this is a game with great potential. The exploration could have been genuinely interesting if the locations were changed up a little more, and the art design was generally fantastic. The few plot-induced villager interactions that turned up at key points were charming and entertaining, and more of them would have broken up the monotony rather nicely.

Sadly, I didn’t want to continue. When you’re bored of seeing the same hallways and endless streams of identical enemies, you know it’s time to move on.

Flicky

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1991 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat stage 48

Actual Outcome: Died on Stage 4 I believe

Opinion: In certain Sonic The Hedgehog games, there are animals trapped inside robots and Sonic can free these animals by attacking those robots. But those fuzzy creatures actually started life in Flicky, which was an arcade title from the 80s that got ported to the Mega Drive in 1991.

Flicky sees you playing the eponymous bird, who has to rescue chicks from various rounds while avoiding the cats that populate the area.

It’s also a dated relic from Sega’s arcade beginnings, and honestly has no business getting a 1991 release on a home console. The problem is, the gameplay here is repetitive, but also not particularly interesting to begin with. You jump around in a small space picking up little birds and lead them back to a door. And that’s it.

It also doesn’t help that this game scrolls constantly, and would probably have been better if it had static screens like its arcade contemporaries. Because they insisted on having the screen scroll from side to side and loop the stage around, it’s hugely disorienting as it’s very hard to tell where you actually are at times.

I liked Flicky better when he was trapped in a Badnik.

Bonanza Bros

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1991 (Genesis release, USA)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Clear all stages

Actual Outcome: Died on stage 2

Opinion: Stealth games have pervaded games for a while now, thanks in no small part to the Metal Gear series. But did you know that Sega made a stealth game for the Mega Drive? Neither did I, and here it is.

In Bonzana Bros, you play a thief, and with a second player you can also play his brother who is also a thief. They break into a series of places and steal some stuff, and then escape in their blimp.

The game is a quirky little oddity in relation to everything else on the Mega Drive Collection I’ve been playing this stuff on. It’s not a platformer or a beat ‘em up, and it’s certainly not a repetitive or badly-translated JRPG. It’s a game of its own kind, played in a semi-isometric view that allows you to move up and down in the game’s various hallways. You can stun guards with your gun or, more hilariously, smacking them with doors. And it’s generally fun.

Gameplay is surprisingly tactical, and the art style is kind of cute and silly. And I think it appealed to the part of me that also loves the Sly Cooper series, so that probably helps. I was bad at it though, and died on only the second stage, but I would like to play more.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sonic Team | Year: 1991 (Genesis/Mega Drive release, USA & EU)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Collect all 6 Chaos Emeralds!

Actual Outcome: Reached Spring Yard Zone Act 2 with no Emeralds, and the challenge was no longer possible after that.

Opinion: I am not ashamed of my love for the Sonic The Hedgehog series. Even to this day, I enjoy the Sonic games in their various forms, even when they get admittedly bad. I’ll discuss this in more depth as the challenge continues, but it all started here, with this classic Mega Drive game.

I’ve already finished this game before, so my goal was to try and get all the Chaos Emeralds for 100%. And then I misjudged my jump and missed the ring at the end of Green Hill 1. And then I screwed up the Special Stages in Green Hill 1 and Marble Zone 1. And then I failed to get enough rings from there on out. It was a disaster and I’m disappointed in myself.

But you want to know what I think of the game. Well, it should be no surprise that I like the game. It set a lot of standards for the series, and stands out amongst some of the other more dated Mega Drive titles. Sonic holds up very well today, and is still very fun.

It’s also kind of maddening to play this when you’re used to its direct sequels and recent games such as Colours and Generations, as well as Sonic’s appearances in Super Smash Bros. When you’re so used to Spin Dashing absolutely everywhere, playing the first game gets frustrating when you pointlessly duck all the time and achieve nothing.

Sonic also feels surprisingly slow in places. While the game was supposed to demonstrate how fast Sega’s system could scroll and generate objects with its BLAST PROCESSING, there are parts of Sonic that require a lot of stopping and starting. Marble Zone, for instance, demands a lot of waiting and standing around, and it feels at odds for a series that demands that you gotta go fast.

Of course, Sonic, you’re such a wonderful game. It’s just a shame that you’re too slow.

Alien Storm

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1991 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat the game

Actual Outcome: Died on Stage 4

Opinion: Alien Storm is a sci-fi version of Golden Axe, where you play as a man, a woman, or Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still, and wander through the streets battling weird-looking alien things that have invaded the planet.

Seriously, this thing plays exactly like Golden Axe, except with guns and laser whips instead of swords and axes, and with a jump button replaced with a “roll across the screen like a madman” button. It’s a straight up clone, except for the jumping (which is possible, but now it requires fighting game levels of dexterity to pull off).

The only real way it differs is in the mini-games where the gameplay shifts, such as a first-person shooting gallery, or a Battletoads-style run-and-gun section. They make for some nice breaks in the action, but for some reason, this game simply doesn’t feel as fun as Golden Axe.

I don’t even know why. It just feels really bland. I actually had a lot of fun with Golden Axe but here I was just baffled by the dash move all the time and wondering why the aliens looked so stupid.

Streets of Rage

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega | Year: 1991 (Mega Drive release, Japan)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Take down the crime syndicate

Actual Outcome: Died on Stage 4

Opinion: Sega had a problem in the 80s and 90s, I think, as this is yet another scrolling beat-‘em-up ported from the arcades to the Mega Drive. And released only two months after Alien Storm, for that matter.

Streets of Rage is a little more enjoyable than Alien Storm, though. For a start, it has a ridiculous storyline suitable for its time – a crime syndicate has taken over the city, including the government AND EVEN THE POLICE, as if somehow that isn’t a branch of the government. And three bad dudes (one of whom isn’t actually a dude) have to set things right with martial arts.

Combat in Streets of Rage isn’t the most complex thing in the world. It’s a single button that does everything, and generally you’re just trying to wiggle around and get your hits in before your enemies. And that’s about it.

And yet, it’s quite enjoyable. Something about the cheesy 90s atmosphere makes the limited control options seems bearable. And the soundtrack’s pretty neat too. However, I do take issue with the limited dodging options making it very difficult to deal with bosses sometimes. I got very annoyed very fast with those bosses.

But I liked Streets of Rage. Not massively, but it’s fun. Holds up okay today.

Decap Attack

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Vic Tokai | Year: 1991 (Genesis release, USA)
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Defeat Max D. Cap

Actual Outcome: Died on 1-2

Opinion: It’s amazing how easy Mario and Sonic make it look. 2D platformers look incredibly simple to put together, and yet it’s easy to forget how intricately well done beloved franchises in the genre are. And then you play something like Decap Attack.

Jesus Christ, this game is not good at all. This is a game where you play as a headless mummy with eyes in his chest jumping through a Halloween themed world to…do something or other. But the controls are so awkward and clunky, and the methods of attack are noticeably limited. You can pick up skulls and throw them, but it barely adds much to the game. The environments are also unimaginative and dull, and sometimes they go out of their way to obscure where you can actually jump.

To add insult to injury, enemies have a tendency of respawning the second the camera moves an inch away, which makes some jumps downright frustrating as the game likes to dump enemies in places you’re likely to jump right into them. This is bad game design and I don’t like it. I don’t approve.

Decap Attack is a bad game and the developers should feel bad.

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