Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 5

Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge Pt 5

So if you’ve not been following along (and why not?), I have been on a mission to play through every single game I own, from Super Mario Bros to Splatoon, in an attempt to finally play long-ignored games and finish those I’ve yet to get round to finishing. And as I go through, I’m going to offer up my thoughts on the games, from first impressions of games I’ve never played before to general thoughts on my experiences with the games I love.

Last week, we finished up 1991, and this week we cover all of 1992. Yes, all of it.

There weren’t that many games, to be fair.

Shining Force: Legacy of Great Intention

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Camelot Software Planning | Year: 1992 (Japanese release)
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Defeat the evil Kane

Actual Outcome: Defeated Kane and then went after Darksol…and then gave up somewhere in the final chapter

Opinion: Shining Force is a game where you can recruit a werewolf in assless chaps.

It’s also the followup to Shining In The Darkness. If you remember, I found that game oddly interesting but had huge problems with its repetitiveness. It was basically Corridor Simulator 1990 for the most part. Shining Force avoids this repetitiveness by changing its entire genre to a tactical RPG in the same vein as Fire Emblem. That’s one way to do it, I suppose.

In this game, you are yet again a hero who has to battle evil and save the world. No princess to save this time, and your party is significantly larger than 3, largely because a tactical RPG kind of needs a million characters in order to be effective. As you venture across the world, you gather various mages, archers, knights, warriors, birdmen, magical squids, strange cyborg monstrosities, the aforementioned werewolf in assless chaps, and others, and then go on a battle to defeat evil.

Shining Force is a good game. The battles challenge your brain and the gameplay is generally pretty smooth. Commands are all fairly simple but allow for many possibilities, and the pace is spot-on. Not once did I feel the game was dragging out its running time for the hell of it, and not once did I feel bored. Quite often I found myself thinking about the game and wanting to play it some more when I wasn’t. It also never once felt repetitive like its predecessor.

However, Shining Force retains that maddeningly awful inventory system, only now it’s seemingly made it worse by halving the number of slots per character. Admittedly, with roughly 30 characters by the end of the game, you do end up with more slots overall, but only your party leader can pick up items and they don’t get pushed down the character list if his inventory is full. As a result, constantly having to fiddle in your inventory to hand each individual person a sword got very old very fast.

It’s also a game prone to bizarre moments. At one point, I was freed from jail by a wandering NPC, who then tells me he’s off to live with the mermaids and then he just…leaves. No one bats an eye when a magical squid hops into your headquarters and joins your band of misfits. And then there’s that endlessly recycled “twist” that the dark forces are controlling every town you visit. It’s played as if you really don’t expect it, even though it’s goddamn obvious, and it does it EVERY TIME.

And then there are parts where the game is downright frustrating. Towards the end of the game, fights can become incredibly difficult, and it’s easy to feel underpowered. Some research told me that ideally it’s best to attempt fights multiple times for experience, but I feel it would have been better to have a system where you could replay earlier fights for experience, or a sidequest system, or just something so you can train your fighters up more if you’re struggling. Because it was this frustration that ultimately led to me just moving on and not finishing the game despite being so close to the end.

But despite that, I liked Shining Force. There were moments of frustration and moments where things fell flat, but on the whole this was a great tactical game that kept my interest.

Kid Chameleon

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega Technical Institute | Year: 1992
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Battle through the game and defeat Heady Metal

Actual Outcome: Died on stage 4 or something, I think? I wasn’t really paying attention by this point.

Opinion: Remember when I reviewed Decap Attack and mentioned that making a good, memorable and charming platformer is actually very difficult? Well, here we have further proof of this.

Kid Chameleon is another generic as hell platformer that’s pretty much a bizarre mixture of Super Mario Bros and Altered Beast. You run, you jump, you hit blocks by jumping into them, you power up with various items that pop out of the boxes. It’s actually pretty shameless about how much it wants to be a Mario game, which is interesting because Sega already had their own answer to Mario by this point, and his games didn’t need to lift the gameplay wholesale.

Well, this does play like a Mario game, except for basically everything that makes Mario fun. Instead, we have an uninteresting RADICAL 90s kid in a VR simulation jumping awkwardly around and sometimes getting extra abilities. But unlike the fluidity of Super Mario Bros or Sonic The Hedgehog, we just have a clunky game that seems to want to be many things at once.

I have little else to say, in fact. The game was so boring and uninteresting that I mostly just allowed myself to die so I could stop playing and move on.

Ecco The Dolphin

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Novotrade International | Year: 1992 (EU release)
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Find Ecco’s friends and save the ocean

Actual Outcome: Defeated the Vortex Queen (although I did abuse the hell out of save states to achieve this)

Opinion: As a child, I always wanted to play Ecco The Dolphin. However, I owned a SNES, not a Mega Drive, and therefore playing it was out of the question. Now I’m an adult and actually making the effort to go through the Mega Drive collection (as well as every other game I own), I can finally play this cutesy little game about being a happy dolphin.

Oh sorry, did I say cute and happy? I meant unnerving and terrifying.

Ecco The Dolphin is the original survival horror. Despite the happy dolphin picture on the box, this game decides to show players that the ocean is a horrible place full of things that want to murder you. On top of that, Ecco decides to make things even weirder by chucking in aliens, time travel and Atlantis and a soundtrack that sounds like someone fed a Pink Floyd album to a robot.

And it’s AMAZING. I’ve complimented some old games on their art styles before in a sort of “it still looks cute” way, but this is something else. This is video games as art. Designer Ed Annunziata used the limited tech of the Mega Drive to make a game that told an interesting and unique story, with absolutely stunning art design, and that weird soundtrack? It’s pure atmosphere. It’s what helps make the game so unnerving.

On top of that, this sense of dread and terror permeates down to the gameplay, largely because Ecco is so goddamn hard. This is a game that made me wanna tear my hair out. Crabs leaping at my face, sharks swimming in view out of nowhere, sections where merely swimming through a tunnel is made difficult by things falling on you or stabbing you, and there’s the ever-present air meter just to remind you that dolphins do indeed breathe air. Annunziata stated that this was deliberate as it prevented kids from renting the game and beating it in a weekend, but it’s still mean.

And yet, as frustrating as it is, it’s charming and intriguing. It keeps pulling you back for more. As I said, the game is a charming technical feat for its time, with gorgeously fluid sprite animations, subtle lighting effects as you move deeper into the waters, and some really neat attempts at storytelling that draw you in. It’s easy to feel invested in Ecco’s world and discover the mysterious mythology behind it all, and for a game from 1992, that’s incredibly impressive.

It’s a frustrating experience, but it’s also so damn impressive. This is a game that got me invested in its lore, wowed me with its art design (despite the obvious date 16-bit nature of it) and creeped me out with its music. It took over 20 years for me to finally play this game, but it was so worth the wait.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sonic Team | Year: 1992
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Beat the game with all 7 Chaos Emeralds in hand

Actual Outcome: Got all emeralds and kicked Robotnik ass

Opinion: Hello I like the Sonic The Hedgehog series both ironically and unironically. I think I may have mentioned this with the last game. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is one of those games in the series that’s easy to like unironically.

So, as I already mentioned, while I like the first game, it has a tendency to slow down unnecessarily and the lack of a Spin Dash is maddening. So, thankfully, Sonic 2 is a massive improvement because the levels are better designed with speed in mind (except for that purple water in Chemical Plant, of course!) and the Spin Dash adds a new element to the gameplay that makes it feel less frustrating.

Of course, like the first game, this is a game I’ve beaten before, so the challenge this time was to finally get all the Chaos Emeralds and then get through the rest of the game. Which I did. And had a great time doing so.

Sonic 2 is fun. It’s fast-paced, it’s got excellent level design, and it still looks pretty good despite its age. My only major issue is Tails, who likes to screw you over in the special stages at every possible opportunity. Stop running into bombs, Tails!

Streets of Rage 2

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Sega/Ancient | Year: 1992 (US release)
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Take down the revived crime syndicate

Actual Outcome: Died on Stage 5

Opinion: Streets of Rage was a very 90s game. It was set in a cyberpunk dystopian future where everyone knows martial arts and fights for dominance, which were pretty common themes back then. Streets of Rage 2 managed to get even more ridiculous in its absurd 90s-ness.

The villain looms over the city like an evil wizard in a JRPG. Towards the end of the first level, a lady in a cocktail dress rips her clothes off to reveal bondage gear and starts attacking you. You punch guys off their motorcycles, which causes their bikes to explode. You beat up guys who were just enjoying a nice game of Bare Knuckle in an arcade (that’d be this game’s Japanese name, by the way). Part of a baseball field turns into a lift and descends into an underground fight club where you fight a pro wrestler straight out of the WWF.

You fight so many obvious Street Fighter knockoffs I’m surprised Capcom didn’t sue. You fight ninjas on a pirate ship. You fight a goddamn ALIEN DEMON.

Yes, Streets of Rage 2 is very silly, and that’s why I enjoyed the game so much. It’s not changed much gameplay-wise from the first game, but it does feel smoother and more fluid than its predecessor. But the decision to just get more ridiculous in terms of level and enemy design is a welcome one, as it makes the game so much fun.

I didn’t finish Streets of Rage 2 because I’m bad at these sorts of games, but I had a blast with it so I can easily see myself returning to it again someday.

I’ll be back next week with updates on how I’m doing with the games of 1993. Until then, check out my YouTube channel where I do Let’s Plays of games I think are cool (although the next one won’t be out for a few weeks yet). You can also follow me on Twitter and donate to my Patreon to help me produce more awesome gaming-related stuff!

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