Monday, June 18, 2018

Streets of Rage

Streets of Rage, Sega Genesis, Sega, 1991

Now this one is special. My Sega cousins blew my mind with the first Sonic the Hedgehog in the summer of 1991. However, nothing prepared me for Streets of Rage later that fall. I had played beat-em-up games in the arcades, like Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, but they were nothing like this.
Streets of Rage was gritty, visceral, with a blood-pumping soundtrack and dark urban setting that felt wholly original. And no arcade was necessary! We could play it in my cousin's den!
Streets of Rage, I will press any button you tell me to.
The crazy thing is that Streets of Rage still holds up, even outside the lens of nostalgia, without which, admittedly, I will never be capable of viewing it, hence this sentence may be a lie, but I doubt it. Streets of Rage uses a simple setup, "A" for a special movie, "B" to attack, and "C" to jump. You only get one special move per life, unless you earn an additional one. By tapping "B" rapidly as you pummel foes, you can do combos. By tapping B while you are in the air, you can do a flying kick. Hold B and C together and you can hit behind you. That's it. About as simple as it gets.
As simple as kneeing this dude in the nuts.
The player essentially moves up, down, left, and right through the corridor of each level, attempting to get the angle on soon-to-be-beaten-senseless thugs. There are three characters to choose from, burly Adam, head-banded Axel, and the nimble Blaze. All three are ex-cops, determined to clean up the crime-infested city streets. The trio can pick up weapons like baseball bats, pipes, and knifes throughout each level, though using these changes the timing of attacks. Most importantly, two players can play at once cooperatively, taking on Streets of Rage together.
I've never felt closer to you than I do right now, though I do feel just a bit closer to this guy, who I have in a headlock.
Streets of Rage is one of the best buddy team-up games ever, though the fact that you can damage your friend's character can also completely destroy you friendship in the heat of battle. Someone will most definitely pull out"You did that on purpose!" no matter how evil the other player's intentions actually are. It's awesome. Not quite as awesome: it's really easy to accidentally hit "A" in the thick of battle and waste the special move, which in this game involves a squad car pulling up and raining instant death fire upon all of the bad guys onscreen. Better to save it for the bosses, who aren't insta-killed, but are still extremely damaged by your backup's fiery justice.
"We'll just identify their bodies by their dental records."
The game looks great, with detailed, sometimes scrolling backgrounds, a wide array of color, both neon and gritty, well-designed, distinct characters, and cool environmental touches within each level, like wind-blown trash and rain. However, in the production department, it's Yuzo Koshiro's surprisingly atmospheric, early 90's club music-influenced soundtrack that's the star of the show. I can't stress enough how effective Koshiro's score for this game is, fully transporting the player into Streets of Rage's unique world--it's an all-time great. The sound effects are also delightful, punches popping satisfyingly. The best is the death gasp every enemy lets out when you've defeated them, letting you know its time to move on to another baddie.
Blaze, holding it down.
Thankfully, Sega's dreaded, "the game is only 15 minutes long so we have to make it impossible" bug was starting to wear off during Streets of Rage's development, as the game is suitably challenging, but not impossible, while still taking a good 45 minutes to complete.
The insane thing about the first Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage games is that in just a year, Sega would both completely top and perfect them with their sequels. Early 90's Sega was on fire!

Graphics: 8.5/10.0
Sound: 10.0/10.0
Gameplay: 9.5/10.0
Lasting Value 9.5/10.0
Overall (Not an Average): 9.5/10.0

Strider

Strider, Sega Genesis, Sega, 1990

And here is another one of those classic, early Sega Genesis games that sounds incredible, looks great, and is almost completely impossible. Strider is Sega's port of Capcom's arcade game of the same name, a 2D side-scroller featuring the ninja, Strider Hiryu. Strider can jump, flip in the air, pull himself up ledges, slide into enemies, and most importantly, slash with his sword. Level design varies from good to unbelievably good, going in so many unexpected directions, it's better to expect the unexpected. For instance, start out on a snowy plain fighting wolves, slide under a shutting metal door, fight a giant, mechanized gorilla, climb up a cave wall to some vertical conveyor belts, fight through a system of electrical conduits, spring off of floating platforms, and climb aboard an airship bossed by a trio of evil acrobats. This describes what is probably Strider's most conventional level.
Why don't you point that thing someplace else?
While the level design is great, holy cow, do these levels, enemies, and Strider himself look incredible. People were amazed by these graphics in the early 90's, and compared to some of the lazily made indie 2D games of today, they still look absolutely revelatory. Strider is a huge, well-detailed and animated sprite, enemies are huge, and backgrounds look great, detailed, bold, and colorful. You know what's better than the colors, though?
The soundtrack, composed of phenomenal, complex, classically influenced tunes. makes perfect use of the Genesis' unique bassy tones. It's a classic. The best part is that each piece is dynamic, changing as Strider progresses through each new segment of a level. This all comes together to create a truly unique musical experience. The sound effects, though, are tinny and minimal. Of particular note is the fact that Strider's sword only makes a sound if it hits an enemy...otherwise, he swings it in silence.
"He Swings It In Silence" was also the moniker for my failed beat poet career.
I wish the silent sword was my only complaint, but unfortunately, the gameplay poses a far bigger problem. There are times where Strider is incredibly fun, exploding foes with Strider's sword, slashing through the game's ridiculously imaginative bosses. However, the overall experience features a considerable lack of polish. Enemies come from all directions, and their attacks are often unavoidable. The player often has to tap the attack button non-stop to take out incoming foes, and still, it's impossible to stop all of their attacks. The controls are also a bit imprecise: jumping accurately is often not an option. Of course, like most of those early Genesis games, a playthrough of the entire game only takes about 20-minutes, so to make up for it, the game has to be impossibly hard. A personal story to really drive this point home: Strider features a swap trick wherein the player can put a copy of Altered Beast into their Genesis, then quickly switch it out for Strider, and get infinite lives. A buddy of mine tried this trick with me, and it worked. The two of us have played through many games successfully over the last few decades. With an infinite amount of lives, we still could not beat Strider. It is that damned hard.
You see a thing of such grace and beauty as this mechanical gorilla, and your first instinct is to chop it in half?!
Still, Strider is so pretty, sounds so good, and features such insane, off-the-wall level and boss design, these factors almost overcome the fact that playing it can, at moments, be control-shattering-level infuriating. Maybe, I'll play it again right now.

Graphics: 9.0/10.0
Sound: 9.0/10.0
Gameplay: 7.0/10.0
Lasting Value: 6.5/10.0
Overall (Not an Average): 7.5/10.0

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Altered Beast

Altered Beast, Sega Genesis, Sega, 1989

"Wise from your gwave!" That's about the only thing most gamers know about the Sega Genesis original pack-in game, Altered Beast, and unless those gamers are huge Genesis fans, it's all they need to know.
"kick a ghoul/in the nuts/cover his buddy/in his guts"
Altered Beast is a beat-em-up, "A" to punch, "B" to kick, and "C" to jump. The game stars some random mythological muscle-dude, who must rescue Zeus' daughter from a bunch of ghouls. He traverses a barely 16-bit Roman mythological world, and if he smashes three blue three-headed wolves (until the instruction manual told me afterward, I thought they were bulls) in a level and collects their floating orbs, he gets to become the Altered Beast. Actually, he has to become the altered beast because if he doesn't, the level will go on and on forever, tossing the player a random blue three-headed wolf until they finally get three of the danged orb things. Once the player transforms into the beast, whose form is unique to each level, they gain new superpowers, and access to that level's boss.
I bet those ghouls are intimidated now! I know I am!
Altered Beast only contains five short levels, and to make up for that, it does the same thing nearly all games from that period did--be really, really hard. It gives the player three lives with no continues, and a hit meter with three bars that cannot be filled. Sure, you can beat the game in 15 minutes, but good luck doing it in your first 20 tries. And yet...there's something here.
Wolf life.
First, the game's music is delicious, yummy Sega Genesis trippy, bassy jingles that make all of the dopamine flow around one's brain like marbles in a Rube Goldberg machine. Also, as caveman simplistic as the game's "Hulk Smash!" gameplay is, there's always something satisfying about punching a monster into bloody chunks. And finally, Altered Beast has a two-player mode where it is possible for one player to hog all of the orbs, becoming a giant, barrel-chested wolf-monster, while the other player has to stay a puny human in ancient Roman underwear. This is always a good thing, and perfect for a ribald night of retro-gaming. It was fun back in the day when it was just "regular" gaming, too.

Graphics: 5.8/10.0
Sound: 7.5/10.0
Gameplay: 6.0/10.0
Lasting Value: 4.0/10.0
Overall (Not an Average): 6.1/10.0

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega Genesis, Sonic Team, 1991
I don't remember what came first--the advertisement, or the experience. I'm pretty sure it was the commercial.

Sonic looked so awesome, so fast it was unbelievable. At the same time, I chafed at the derogatory comments toward Mario...I mean, I like Mario. Who doesn't like Mario? In 1991, the jumping plumber still rode high on Super Mario Bros. 3, released just a year before. However, my cousins who always got the newest thing, including the Sega Master System in the late 80's, got a Genesis and Sonic. Their house not only had all the coolest stuff, but was far less restricted than my home--I was already going there to watch Baywatch everyday, anyway. Why not try out Sonic while I was there?
What's the worst that could happen?
In just 30 seconds of play time, the game blew my mind. Sonic WAS so fast. So fast he could run upside-down. Way faster than Mario, even if the experience wasn't quite as well-refined. It was an entirely new experience! But 27(!) years later, does the experience still hold true?
Spoiler: The answer is the same as the one to, "does Sonic like to act out Lionel Richie songs?"
Honestly, it feels the same.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2D platforming game, where the player runs the blue critter through loops and jumps him over spikes and pits. Sonic can also roll into a more resilient ball form if the players presses down on the control pad. Like Mario, Sonic collects 100 of a particular item to get an extra life. Unlike Mario, this item, in Sonic 's case, golden rings, acts effectively as a life preserver. Get hit and the rings all bounce away from sonic like loose change, but if Sonic can grab more, he is once again safe from death when he is hit again. Run out of rings and get hit, or fall into a pit, and Sonic's life is over.
The game's sense of speed is still excellent, with Sonic blazing through levels. The sense of discovery, and the way the game's designers laid out multiple paths through each level makes for an insanely replayable game. The insane difficultly level, trademark of early Genesis games, also increases replayability, as it will take many, many playthroughs for most gamers to make it to the end.
Get ready to become intimately familiar with this screen. Not...in a dirty way...unless that's your thing, I guess.
It must be said, when there's a lot going on, the Genesis can't quite handle it, and the framerate slows down to a stutter for moments. This is one of many ways the first Sonic is also a little rougher around the edges than its descendents (the Sonic's 2, 3, and 4). Another way is the gameplay, itself. There are times it feels like the developers are punishing the player for going fast--an unseen spike will suddenly shoot from the ground, or a hidden enemy will dart in from behind and take out Sonic--Sonic the Hedgehog features cheap hits galore. There are also times the controls and level-designs clash just a little bit--for instance, Sonic might lose momentum on a hill, and can only get over it with great difficulty and maximum player effort.
Obviously, Dr. Robotnik programmed those parts of the game...or as we liked to call him in 1991, "Dr. Robuttnik." The 90's were so edgy.
The game's graphics are bright and iconic, with memorable level backgrounds and villain design. Sonic can jump on the game's bad guys to destroy them (as long as he is rolled up in a ball), and every time he does, he frees a forest animal from its mechanical innards.
The game's plot, which I remember being explained in an issue of Disney Adventures, is that Sonic and a scientist, Dr. Robotnik, were best buddies, until a failed experiment made Sonic blue and fast, and Robotnik evil. The wicked Doctor then enslaves the game's animals into the aforementioned dastardly robots, and it's up to Sonic to set the little creatures free.
While the game's plot is only implied within, its music is explicitly awesome. The Sega Genesis' soundchip may not have been as powerful as the one of its arch-nemesis, the Super Nintendo, but it created some unique, bass-heavy, metallic tones, and Sonic the Hedgehog utilizes it for a fast-paced, funky 16-bit earbath. Earbath sounds gross. I screwed that description up. Let's just say, the soundtrack is bouncy in the best way, and catchy enough that I am humming along replaying it so many years later. It's a crime that Masato Nakamura doesn't have a few dozen more video game soundtracks to his name.
I still remember this particular image from the commercial more than anything else from the game...which is ironic, as I often didn't make it this far in 1991, and was never able to acquire this extra life.
Sonic the Hedgehog is exactly as I remember it. Very fun, very difficult, and a bit frustrating. The graphics, while more simple than future installments, are visually pleasing, and the music is excellent. I must admit, this game does provoke some negative feelings for me, simply because it reminds me of a time in life, namely early junior high, when I had the realization that I wanted agency, but had none. In more human terms, I was ready to watch R-rated movies and drive a car, but I wasn't old enough to do those things. That carried over a bit into video games, as I started to feel like they could be more forgiving, while still occupying a lot of the player's time. Perhaps due to the put-in-another-quarter influence of arcades, or maybe just because games had to be ridiculously hard so that players couldn't beat their ten short levels in 20 minutes, games from the 80's and early 90's were so frustratingly difficult, and often for reasons that felt cheap. Play for an hour, make it to the final boss, die, start all over. A lot of times, it felt like a wasted hour. With better technology, games no longer had to be that way, and the first Sonic game comes on the cusp of this, meaning it could be just a bit better, and just a bit longer, while also being just a bit less difficult. That task would be accomplished by future games in the series.
Or in this one, you can just press up, down, left, right, then hold "A" and press start at the main menu...but you didn't hear that from me.

Graphics: 8.0/10.0
Sound: 8.0/10.0
Gameplay: 8.5/10.0
Lasting Value: 8.5/10.0
Overall (Not an Average): 8.5/10.0

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sturmwind

Released April 24, 2013, Duranik's Sturmwind not only proves that old consoles don't have to die, but that shoot 'em up games don't have to be impossible.
This blue laser could double as a bitchin' bug light.

Poor old Sega Dreamcast--cut down in its prime after just 18 months on American shelves. The first console to feature a built-in modem, able to seemingly crank out classic games like clockwork, the final console released in the 20th century, murdered on March 31, 2001.
Sega, terrified of Sony's big mean Playstation 2, and hampered by the mistakes it made in the mid-90's, decided to cut its losses before the Dreamcast actually incurred any. My Official Dreamcast Magazine suddenly stopped arriving in my mailbox, Sega announced the Dreamcast was being discontinued, and ever since then, I and other Dreamcast fans have only had the ability to play our old games and wonder what might have been...
Until now.
Actually, games have been trickling out for the Dreamcast since the exaggerated reports of its demise. People who love the Dreamcast as much as I do, but also know and understand how to make video games, have been putting out scattered independent titles for years, but few have been stronger than German devoloper Duranik's Sturmwind.
Just who is this snowman? And why does he need such a large dish?

Sturmwind, released in 2013, belongs in the shoot 'em up genre, a group of games, like fighting and racing, that I both love and suck at. Shoot 'em ups generally involve the player piloting a space ship or fighter plane either horizontally or vertically across an automatically scrolling screen. The player must shoot down a variety of enemies while dodging barrages of their fire.
Shoot 'em ups, or shmups for short, have over the years been leaning toward a subgenre called "bullet hell." This is exactly what it sounds: bullet hell games throw the player into massive waves of enemy fire that they must dodge with insanely fast reflexes and picture perfect memory.
The insane level of difficulty involved in bullet hell games unfortunately neglects all but the most hardcore and battle-hardened gamer, cutting off the shmup genre from many who would otherwise enjoy it.
Thankfully, in the spirit of creating a game for a console the manufacturer ceased producing 12 years before, Duranik had the casual, as well as the hardcore gamer in mind when they created Sturmwind. The game's adjustable difficulty can be set to a mode that, while still challenging, will allow your average player the opportunity to enjoy all the game has to offer...and the horizontally scrolling Sturmwind offers a lot.
Saw some pretty glass. Shot it with my laser.

Sturmwind's graphics look incredible--the lighting effects, explosions and full-screen-sized bosses are all visually stunning, archaic Dreamcast graphics chip or not. The particle effects from the ship's weapons and their subsequent-caused destruction are a feast for the eyes, excellent explosions of color. Backgrounds, a brilliant mix of 3-D and 2-D, are richly detailed and varied, from deep, starry space, to skies high above a lush green planet, to an undersea graveyard, to hellish lava pits and factories, and everywhere in between. The Dreamcast's considerable power is fully tapped.
The sound effects are on point, explosions, laser fire, sirens, and panicked pilots shouting in German all creating an enveloping atmosphere, while the throbbing, expertly produced electronic soundtrack gets the blood pumping.
I'm all out of bombs, I'm so lost without them.

Thankfully, Sturmwind's gameplay is no slouch.
The player's fighter ship starts with three laser-powered weapons: one concentrated but powerful, one with a broader range but weaker firepower, and one that is a good balance of both. These can be switched through at any time, and all three can be powered up three times within a level by picking up various floating power-ups dropped by certain destroyed enemies. Get hit, and you lose the weapon you are currently using. Lose all three, and you lose a life  (you start out with three lives). The floating power-ups can be toggled through each weapon-type by consistently firing upon them (before the screen scrolls past them), allowing the player to decide whether or not they want to power up their favorite weapon, or ensure that they can take more damage by choosing a weapon they've lost. In addition, the player can switch fire from front to rear with the touch of a button, and even shoot in both directions simultaneously when a weapon has been sufficiently powered up. Of course, there are also the requisite bombs, scarcely given, and wisely saved to use against Sturmwind's enormous, awesomely absurd bosses.
What do you mean, absurd? I always fight giant cod with my spaceship!

Sturmwind controls like a dream, though I highly recommend using Agetec's Dreamcast Arcade Stick for the most immersive experience. Duranik has fine-tuned Sturmwind's handling with a fine-toothed comb, and you'll be dodging through space, switching between weapons like a pro in no time. You also won't be feeling like you are terrible at video games thanks to the aforementioned difficulty settings.
If you just want to see Sturmwind's incredible sights, jam to its music, and enjoy its clever weapons system and refined controls, you can set the difficulty to easy and cruise on through. There are still 20 levels to experience, which will take some time flying through, though thankfully this doesn't have to all be done in one sitting. The game has an excellent save system, and also allows the player to revisit any previous level any time they choose. Of course, if you are looking for bullet-riddled insanity, you can amp up the difficulty to experience that, as well.
Overall, Sturmwind is an old-school Dreamcast fan's...dream. It not only keeps the memory of the system alive...it keeps the very system itself alive. If modern developers can keep squeezing gems like this out of our orange(or blue if you're European)-studded box, the Dreamcast will have a life for years to come.


9.0
Graphics
Bright, colorful, full of great lighting and particle effects, with awesomely bizarre boss designs.
9.0
Music and Sound
Excellent, pulse-pounding soundtrack, along with speaker-rattling booms and blasts.
9.0
Gameplay
One of the most balanced shooters in recent memory, perfect for both beginners and longtime fans of the genre, featuring some inventive mechanics.
9.0
Lasting Value
Tons of missions, an adjustable difficulty level, and hi-score unlockables stretch out the play time.
9.0  FINAL SCORE

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes


Released on June 28, 2000, on the Sega Dreamcast, after a successful life in arcades, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes pits a giant combined roster of Marvel and Capcom characters against each other in chaotic, 2D fighting mayhem.


Eighth grade. Don Carter's Bowling Alley, Baton Rouge, LA. I love bowling. I love hanging out with my friends. But the thing I love the best is when no one is anywhere near the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade, so that I can play the 2D fighting masterpiece, X-Men: Children of the Atom, without the threat of some game rat with a handful of quarters scoping me out, and coming over to slaughter my character and take over the cabinet.
I have never been great at fighting games (except for a stretch of mid-2000 when I briefly became an ace at Soul Caliber). If anyone other than my friends who are also not great at fighting games challenges me to fighting games, I will probably lose. This has always been true, even earlier in junior high when Street Fighter II was still shiny. Nothing in 1995 was worse than finding X-Men: Children of the Atom free, winning a couple of fights against the computer and feeling like a badass, then having some high-schooler waltz over and ruin it with a quarter and his superior fighting skills. Yes, 1995 was a pretty chill year for me (it was one of the best years of my life).
As time passed by, and home console technology improved, I rejoiced. Now I could play 2D arcade fighting games on my Dreamcast without worry of some professional jerk ruining my fun. Better yet, X-Men: Children of the Atom's descendant, Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, was coming to Dreamcast--combining favorite characters from both Marvel Comics (The X-Men, Avengers, Spiderman, etc.) and video game studio Capcom's (Mega Man, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, etc.) storied histories.
By this point in history, arcades were becoming a dying destination. Finding a fully-loaded one was becoming next to impossible. Thankfully, the now demolished Siegen Village movie theater procured their own Marvel vs Capcom 2 machine. I figured I'd give it a spin before purchasing the home console version. Rather ironically, I used a trip to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an excuse to play me some 2D fighting goodness...and then, the unthinkable happened: some junior high kid a foot shorter than me challenged me to a fight. I soon learned that Marvel vs Capcom 2 did not feature breakable, interactive, expanding environments like X-Men:Children of the Atom. It did, however, feature a combo system so blindingly fast, I actually broke into laughter when the 13-year old kid billion hit combo'd me, swiftly sending my Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm tandem to the grave.
This did not appear to be the game I wanted, and stores in Baton Rouge didn't seem capable of stocking the Dreamcast version anyway. I forgot about it for a few years until I came across a complete copy for $25. Marvel vs Capcom 2 generally sells for considerably more than $25, so I scooped up this mint copy. I've now had the benefit of playing an "arcade bully-free" Marvel vs Capcom 2 for quite a few years. Is it the classic it's been billed to be, or is it the senseless, hyper-speed oddity that freaked me out so many years ago?
Longer: this cast of characters, or the introduction to this review?
Yeah, you guessed it. It's both, of course.
First, we should talk about aesthetics. New Age of Heroes is pretty. The 2D characters are well-animated, though they don't look as ridiculously good as their Dreamcast brethren in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Guilty Gear X. However, Marvel vs Capcom 2's ridiculous hyper-combos are animated insanity. When a certain amount of regular moves have been landed or attempted on the opponent, the player fills up a gauge at the bottom. When the gauge is full, a hyper-combo, like Mega-Man morphing into a giant, laser-firing robot, Iron Man unleashing a massive wave of energy, or Wolverine unleashing an unbelievably fast salvo of claw-swipes, can be used. These are all nuts.
Hey, Cyclops, instead of standing around looking annoying, how about you stand around getting hit with cannonballs from a pirate ship?

Yeah, now you look way less annoying!

Except your visor. Haha, it looks so dumb!

You get to use three fighters in a fight, one at a time, switching freely, until all have been KO'd, or you have KO'd all three of your opponent's fighters...or the game's 99-second fight timer runs out...or your cat rubs against he power outlet and unplugs your Dreamcast. However, if you build up your hyper-combo gauge three times over (you can fill it up to four times over), all three of your characters can attack with their hyper-combos at once.This looks spectacular. The game's graphics do feature a divisive aspect, however. Instead of utilizing 2D, as it does with the fighters, the developers animated the MvsC2 backgrounds in 3D. The player's range of motion, however, is still 2-dimensional.The results are strange, and shouldn't work, but as I'll address again momentarily, this is one trippy game, and in that context, the backgrounds work.
Why is the game so trippy? In addition to the aforementioned backgrounds, MvsC2 plays like a strange drug trip. You can be winning a fight, when suddenly the computer decimates you with combos for a minute straight. I don't mean hyper combos either--MvsC2 utilizes some insane air combo'ing, where you can hit your opponent into the air, then use your various punches and kicks to deal blow after blow that your foe can be helpless to defend against. Unfortunately, that never really happens for me, and I am generally on the receiving end of these air combos. I am just not good at fighting games, particularly ones where you have to tap out dozens of button combinations to pull off these sorts of moves. Thankfully, MvsC2 understands players like me.
And their solution is far better than Mega Man's general, "launch a fireball and yell like a kid" problem-solving method.

New Age of Heroes, thankfully, features an adjustable difficulty level. This way, I can play on easy, and enjoy more reasonably-paced fights, instead of nightmare acid trip clobberings. This also makes mastering the game's simple control scheme far easier. Each fighter has a light and heavy punch, and a light and heavy kick. Many fighters feature the classic down, down-right-, right, push B projectile moves from previous fighting games, as well as directional variations. This only uses four of the Dreamcast controller's buttons, though (not counting the joystick or directional pad). The two shoulder buttons are used in certain combinations to respectively do hyper-combos, tag-in a teammate, or call said teammate to rain down an assist move (these fights, outside of hyper-combos or brief assists, are mano a mano)--this, of course, all adds to the chaos, but as mentioned, in the easier modes, at least it is controlled chaos. Thankfully, the game features a practice mode to hone all of these skills, as well.
In practice mode, Doctor Doom just looks at you smugly, instead of floating around like a chump, as usual.

Wait, did I say, "Dreamcast controller?" I guess using a Dreamcast controller is okay, but for fighting games on the system, you should really splurge and pick up the Agetec Arcade Stick controller. As of this writing, it is still reasonably priced used, and makes playing fighting games on the Dreamcast so much more fun. Speaking of fun...
Hey, you know how I mentioned an acid trip a minute ago? Speaking of that, Marvel vs Capcom 2 features a bizarre acid-jazz soundtrack that is extremely out of place, but pretty hilarious. I'm not sure if it is intentionally so, but listening to the wonky vocalist belt out over-dramatic lines over weird saxophone melodies, while the Incredible Hulk throws boulders at Mega Man's face is pretty funny. The announcer also sounds like he's been hitting the uppers pretty hard, speaking in a strange, almost psychopathic smiling voice. Even some of the character voices, like Sabretooth and his weird lisp, accentuate the craziness--though most characters speak in voices more apt for their characters. Oh, yeah, also, the menus feature a bunch of bright, swirly colors. What's not trippy is excellent replay value, and New Age of Heroes has it, and that segue was terrible.
The player begins with a limited roster of characters, and must fight and win in the game's arcade or score attack modes to earn points, so that further characters can be unlocked from the in-game store. The game's roster is huge, featuring dozens of Marvel Comics and Capcom games most beloved characters, as well as a few newcomers, unique to this game. Get all of the characters, and then you can earn alternate uniforms for them. Buy all of those, and you get the option to use the same character as all three members of your team. Mastering the game will also take time, and playing it is fun, so you are going to want to try to do that.
Yep, this is what OCD looks like.

I forgot to mention, there's some weird story about how all of the characters are fighting so that they can reach, fight, and defeat some weird shapeshifting beast named Abyss--you fight against seven sets of foes gathered from the game's cast in both arcade and score attack to reach him/it. You know, typical fighting game stuff--with that said, every character has the same ending...you are using three at a time, anyway. You can also play against a friend, hopefully not that jerk from the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade. That's always fun, particularly if you are evenly matched, but even better if you actually are that jerk from the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade.
Unless mankind finally invents both time-travel, and reverse aging, I will never get to play mid-90's 2D fighters as a teenager ever again. However, old enough to be President me can laugh with my son, as we unleash yet another cheap laser burst from Cable into Juggernaut's face...because like all good fighting games, Marvel vs Capcom 2 features some really cheap characters. That wasn't where I intended to go with that sentence, but I guess I should talk about it. This game features several characters who can shoot laser projectiles that do damage even if the opponent is blocking. You can block with the back button--sometimes it doesn't work, but against these types of moves, it never works. So feasibly, you can just stock Cable or Iron Man, and have them shoot lasers at your haplessly blocking enemy until they die. This takes little skill, and you definitely shouldn't do it, especially if you are fighting against your own child. That is, of course, unless you are teaching them to do it, so in the future, when arcades hopefully make some inexplicable comeback, they can be that kid. Yes. The cycle continues. FOREVER!


9.0
Graphics
Beautiful, crazy fast animation, bright colors, and trippy visuals, though not quite on par with the best of the Dreamcast best.
7.5
Music and Sound
Weird acid jazz soundtrack casts a bizarre atmosphere, as well as do some of the character voices, though most voice-acting and sound effects are solid.
9.0
Gameplay
Some of the zaniest, most fast-paced 2D fighting ever, at the service of an insanely vast Marvel and Capcom combined cast.
9.5
Lasting Value
Collect every available fighter, earn every costume, play the game to you and your friends' hearts' content, and congrats, you're eligible for Social Security!


9.2  FINAL SCORE

Monday, October 31, 2016

Jurassic Park 16-Bit Showdown



If there's a film event that joined Generation X'ers and Millennials together in the early 90's, it's Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Psyche, it's Jurassic Park. Displaying never-been-seen special effects, utilized by famed director Steven Spielberg to maximum effect, Jurassic Park contained a wow-factor just as great for jaded teens and 20-somethings as it did for (likely terrified) kids. Best-of-all, the film led many to Michael Crichton's source material, an incredibly fun book of the same title. Both are set on Crichton's fictional Isla Nublar, an island off the cost of Costa Rica, where an eccentric billionaire has used DNA technology to create a theme park featuring real-life dinosaurs. The dinosaurs break loose, and the humans become their modern-age prey, and/or Kleenexes. While the film contains numerous iconic set-pieces, the book somehow features a multitude more. With the film's famous, world-building aesthetic (the movie itself even features a gift shop!), coupled with the film's and book's action and varied geographic locations, the Jurassic Park world was ripe for video game interpretation. Thankfully, game developers didn't disappoint.
Jurassic Park came right in the middle of home console video game's 16-bit generation, with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES) and Sega Genesis vying for power. The war between these two consoles meant a wealth of video game goodness for 90's gamers, including SIX! 16-bit Jurassic Park titles. And while Dr. Grant, the film's protagonist, may have been a mild-mannered paleontologist, he stars in the majority of these games as John Rambo's more violent step-brother. Here's a head-to-head look at all six Jurassic Park 16-bit games in order of their respective release dates, followed by a final ranking list.
Welcome to Jurassic Park...16-Bit Showdown.


Jurassic Park, Sega Genesis August 26, 1993

The first 16-bit Jurassic Park game to market was the Sega Genesis version. An unbiased playthrough now confirms how it came to market so early--the game feels rushed. JP SG (You're hearing it referred by that here first!) is a 2-D platformer/shooter, featuring seven fairly short levels. The controls are very stiff, with timing sometimes seeming off between button-pushing and on-screen action, and abundant graphical slowdown sometimes causing the game to stutter and jumps to become more difficult. Speaking of jumps, the game developers (Blue Sky Software) seemed to realize their game was not going to take long for an average player to complete, and added several unfair elements to the gameplay--or possibly, they didn't fully understand how to design a game--but I prefer to assume the latter. To quote page 22 from the game's own instruction manual, "You can't always see your next foothold. If you must jump blind, go for the middle distance." This is a game that features bottomless pits at the bottom of most levels, and player damage seemingly anytime their character falls from a height of more than two feet. This game has no excuse to make the player jump blind. Trial-and-error jumping certainly stretches out the playing time (because you'll keep dying), but it also isn't a fair gameplay mechanic. Of course, a blind-jump would be forgivable if it only happened once, but it occurs throughout the entirety of the game--it's almost JP SG's genre. Then there are the "low-roof" jumps, where the player has to somehow, with the game's faulty controls, jump to a platform directly about their current standing place--hit your head on the roof, and it's down to the bottomless pit again. It's like ET for Atari, though thankfully, instead of tapping on the controller forever, you just die...er, your avatar just dies. However, with all that said, Jurassic Park for the Genesis has charm in spades, which is why it still kindles fond memories in 90's videogame players that burn just a little bit, but are still fond anyway. First of all, the graphics look great, with detailed backgrounds, trademark Genesis shadow and light work (to mask the system's limited color palette), and nice, digitized-looking animation for the dinosaurs and Dr. Grant. The way Dr. Grant moves just looks...cool. Like I said, charming. Also, the music is a classic Genesis score, with Sam Powell employing the system's trademarked bass-and-beat-heavy sound, but adding in a surprising amount of atmosphere, particularly a noirish tone in the Power Station stage.  So, firing off tranquilizers at dinosaurs is enjoyable when the graphics, sound, and controls all hit together (and when they don't, outside of the slowdown, it is always the controls' fault). Also, the developers did have one good idea to extend gameplay: adding the carnivorous, swift-yet-heavily toothed-and-clawed velociraptor as a playable character. Bounding around as a six-foot reptilian tank with razor-sharp teeth and claws, and a vertical that could clear your neighborhood Denny's, is a blast. Though the raptor only gets to romp through five of Dr. Grant's seven stages, one of which is about six jumps long, and is not immune to also having to make blind leaps, the option to choose it extends and diversifies gameplay. In the end, the first released Jurassic Park 16-bit game is good for some nostalgia and production values, and it's cool to have two very different characters to choose from, but it just doesn't play that great. If only the developers could have taken some extra time to iron out the kinks...and add a couple extra levels. I mean, they've been extinct for 65-million years, what's another two months?

Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 6.0/10
Lasting Value: 5.5/10
Overall (Not an Average): 6.3/10.0




 


Jurassic Park, Super Nintendo, October 1, 1993

Ocean Software's SNES Jurassic Park game, released several months later, is a bit more ambitious. Instead of side-scrolling ,the game goes for an isometric, top-down view when the player, as Dr. Grant once again, ventures across the park, and a first-person perspective when Dr. Grant enters a building. The isometric graphics are solid, resembling The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and create a convincing Isla Nublar. The 3D graphics, while primitive now, were cutting-edge for a console, and a rare-feat at the time (and even include green-tinted night-vision sections!).  The excellent usage of these perspectives makes for a far more immersive experience, made even better by the game's best feature: the Jonathan Dunn-composed music. Full disclosure: Jurassic Park for Super Nintendo features one of my all time favorite video game soundtracks. It is completely unique, bouncy and energetic outside, dark and tense inside, but always atmospheric and enveloping. The sound quality is so high for a 16-bit game (music, done on an in-house audio board, is often the best feature of Ocean-developed Super Nintendo software), it seems like it is coming from a CD. The brooding track that plays when the player ventures near the ocean would be a standout on any modern games score. I can't praise this games audio component highly enough, including the excellent, Dolby Surround-enhanced sound effects (dinosaur noises everywhere!), and periodic digitized speech, including a game-opening "Welcome to Jurassic Park" that magically transports the player (or at least this player) to Michael Crichton's fictional island. The gameplay is fun, but doesn't quite measure up to the production values. While the controls are fantastic outside, and at the least, competent inside, the game suffers from two major flaws: it gives little direction to what the player is supposed to do, and it gives no opportunity for the player to turn off the SNES until Jurassic Park has been completed. There are no ways to save, and no passwords. The player has to figure out what to do, completing various tasks around the island, as well as find 18 raptor eggs, before the game is completed. Shortly after this game was released, I spent several days playing, dying and getting many game overs attempting to figure out what to do. This culminated in an all day session, where I reached the end of the game, only to realize I had only found 17 raptor eggs. There was one hidden egg I could not find, and when I finally gave up and turned off the SNES, I didn't play the game again for another five years, this time with detailed notes, including the location of that stupid final egg. The game is fun to play through, though, with enough weapons to keep things interesting (you get to use the same ones inside and outside), and a good layout when you know what you are doing--plus, it is fun to explore, and the game mostly rewards exploration, except when you discover the T-Rex. Overall, with any kind of save system and a slightly longer challenge (the game can be beaten in under two hours once you've mastered it), this game would be an absolute classic, even with the nebulous goals, but as it is, it is only pretty good.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound:10.0/10
Gameplay: 7.0/10
Lasting Value: 7.0/10
Overall (Not an Average): 7.5/10.0







Jurassic Park, Sega CD December 17, 1993

Here's the real oddball of the bunch. Jurassic Park for the Sega CD (a Sega Genesis add-on...which could play CD games) conforms to none of the gameplay norms of the other 16-bit Jurassic Park games. Everybody loves a rebel (except that guy who kept yelling at James Dean in that movie), but unfortunately, Jurassic Park for Sega CD is the worst of these six games.This plastic disc contains an early 90's first-person, PC point-and-click adventure game, except its on a 16-bit add-on console. The player, not Grant this time, but some nondescript scientist, is choppered onto Isla Nublar shortly after the events of the first game, and placed in what is essentially a wrap-around, okay-looking 2D hand-drawn panorama of the Jurassic Park beach, to give the illusion of a 3D-environment. There are roughly 30 of these panoramic screens, representing the entirety of the park, that the player will travel to and through, as they search for and incubate eggs from seven different dinosaur species. Each panorama is connected by an FMV "travel-video" of either filmed footage of driving through representative terrain (i.e. a jungle), CGI steps or tunnels, or a quick hand-drawn montage to represent movement. These are...pretty low-res and grainy. To start, the island is bereft of people, and the game does a good job of creating a feeling of isolation. However, actually progressing in the game can be quite a chore. Often, the player has to look around to see if the environment contains a grabable object. If so, they can add it to their, thankfully, limit-free inventory. Then the player must figure out where to use it. The problem is, most actions must be incredibly precise to progress, and it is easy to do what one is supposed to actually do, not get the desired result, and assume that the solution attempted was incorrect. For example, a certain moment in the game presents an overturned jeep next to an angry looking triceratops (dinosaur animation with the environments isn't incredible, but gets the job done). If the player honks the jeep horn, the triceratops rams the jeep...then kills the player. I should probably mention: this is a point-and-click adventure where the player can frequently die. But back to the puzzle. If the player honks the horn a second time, at just the right moment, an object flies out of the car that the player must pick up...but then, the player must honk the horn again at just the right time, or they will again get gored to death. If the second honk isn't timed perfectly, at an arbitrary moment, it's a horn through the gut. The action must be partaken again to retrieve yet another loosed item, and then the player must high tail it out of there before they might possibly get gored again.  I understand that a Jurassic Park with harmless dinosaurs doesn't really make sense, but with that the case, the puzzles should be more intuitive, and less temperamental and timing based. Speaking of timing, and making matters worse, the player has a twelve-hour time-limit to complete the game. While the timer unfolds in real-time when the player is exploring a screen, it automatically drains many minutes any time the player travels to another screen--thus exploration is almost discouraged.  There are also a few point-and-click shooting segments (with non-lethal weapons) against dinosaurs and some late-comer malevolent humans that are incredibly cheesy(all 16-bit JP games from here on out will feature human villains, who are attempting to steal the park's dinosaurs...don't worry, though, the dinosaurs are still not your friends). Speaking of cheesy, Spencer Nilsen, creator of the groundbreakingly atmospheric soundtracks for the Ecco the Dolphin Sega CD games, lends a strangely uneven score to the game. While many moments are simply soundtracked by well-done island sound-effects (also, the player's own varied, terrified death screams are a hilarious game highlight), some moments are punctuated by music. Instead of a cohesive sound design for Jurassic Park, Nilsen seems to be employing the "Hey, what sounds does this keyboard have?" technique. For some reason, this time he is really fond of whistles. For better-or-worse, it's 90's through-and-through. Thankfully, though, this game isn't a complete drag. Information kiosks are scattered around the island featuring videos of real-life paleontologist, Robert T Bakker, talking about dinosaurs. This is undeniably cool (and educational!). Also, the odd puzzle really does satisfy, particularly a mean-spirited one involving a frog. The game's hub area, the movie's famous visitor's center, is fun to explore, featuring a computer where the player can save their game (and receive amusing update messages from a mainland scientist(if this review had been written in 1993, "a cute mainland scientist")), and also houses the incubator where eggs must be placed to complete the game. A couple of park employees from the film have visit-able offices, as well, which definitely sweetens the experience. It's those extremely dorky ties to the film that make the game worth playing. Otherwise, it's a forgettable, highly uneven experience.

Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 7.0/10
Gameplay: 5.5/10
Lasting Value: 5.5/10
Overall (Not an Average): 6.0/10.0







Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition, Sega Genesis, September 5, 1994

Jurassic Park returned to the Sega Genesis barely a year after the original, with Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition. It's clear after playing this game for a few minutes that BlueSky Software wanted to right some of the wrongs of the original game. The first game's biggest issue, it's tight and inconsistent controls, have been remedied for Rampage Edition. Dr. Grant and the Raptor, who both return here selectable at the start, control smoothly. It's actually a joy to move them around levels now. Gone are the blind jumps of the original, as well as the jump damage. The player generally never has to jump blind, and on the rare occasion that they do, doesn't have to worry about falling to oblivion, or cracking open their skull. The game is still a side-scrolling platformer/shooter with some moments of normal-paced level exploration, but more than anything, Rampage Edition is a chase game. The Aviary Stage sees Grant running from a marauding Pterodactyl that can bring him to the start of the Stage, the Cargo Ship Stage sees Grant climbing up to escape floodwaters, the Savanna Stage puts Grant on the back of a Gallimimus (a lightning-quick, ostrich-like dinosaur) in an attempt to outrun dive-bombing helicopters and vicious raptors, the Rapids Stage sees him taking a boat down rapids and waterfalls (way more fun and playable than the original's Boat Stage) as rival boaters and dinosaurs give chase, and the Final Stage sees Grant try to make it down the river and off the island before the jaws of his old buddy, T-Rex, can clamp over his head. Thankfully, this time around, Dr. Grant has more than just a bunch of puny tranquilizer weapons at his disposal. Now Grant wields as diverse a mix as shotguns, machine guns, a flame-thrower (complete with a corresponding crispy-critter death animation for foes), an all-powerful electrical ray (complete with an x-ray-to-dust death animation for foes(and lending this game the now-defunct "MA-13" rating), among several others. The raptor gets to have more fun now, too, with an upgraded jump attack, and a chance to "Raptor Rage." A "Raptor Rage" occurs when the raptor finds and eats several boxes of lysine (scattered around each level), whereupon the screen tints red, and the raptor becomes invincible, killing most foes by simply touching them. This allows the raptor to tear through stages with Sonic-esque speed, which greatly utilizes the Genesis' faster-processing power. The graphics stand out, as well, featuring a black outline around each character this time (which is a divisive choice, but one I don't believe lowers the graphical quality below the first game), the previously mentioned death-animations, and even a Grant pistol-twirling animation when he is idle. This is certainly a more 90's "extreme" and fun game, and the blinking and salivating raptor on the game's startup menu, backed by an opening heavy-metal-esque musical theme attests to this (though strangely, Sam Powell's music this go-round is a little more minimalistic than before, though still driving and quite good). However, the game's menu screen also attests to this game's great flaw. Players will immediately notice that there is no "Password" option like there was in the first Jurassic Park Genesis game. This seems like a huge problem, until the reason for it becomes clear--Rampage Edition only features six levels. If you know what you are doing, you can beat this game in fifteen minutes. Less if you're the raptor, as it only gets five levels, which are all basically identical to Grant's first five levels. Because of  this, Rampage Edition feels like a great demo, and not a complete game. The game also offers the player a chance to collect items, but those items serve no purpose whatsoever in the game. The short play-time and item dead-end lead me to believe that once again, BlueSky (perhaps due to Sega's command) rushed their game to market. They had time to remedy the first game's flaws, but not enough time to actually craft a full-game around these better game mechanics. The result is a fun, but short-to-the-point-of-disposable romp.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Gameplay: 7.2/10
Lasting Value: 4.0/10
Overall (Not an Average): 6.5/10.0







Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues, Super Nintendo, January 1995

After working on such an ambitious first Jurassic Park game for the SNES, Ocean software decided to make something decidedly more simple for the second: Contra in Jurassic Park. You read that correctly. Instead of a combined isometric and 3D shooter/exploration game, the little-known Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues is a supremely difficult 2D run-and-gun/platformer, ala Contra. While the game doesn't feature the graphical insanity of Contra III, it looks very solid, with some nice detail, atmospheric fog, some cool lighting effects, and a fully animated opening cutscene. The real star of this game, though, is the sound. The aforementioned cutscene features minutes of actor-recorded speech, virtually unheard of in a SNES (or Sega Genesis) game. The Dolby Surround-enhanced raptor-squeals and weapons-blasts are great, but once again the game standout is its soundtrack. Jonathan Dunn, the excellent composer of the first game, stepped down this time, with Dean Evans taking soundtrack duties. However, instead of a drop-off, Evans comes up with something that is possibly better than Dunn's work for the original. Befitting the The Chaos Continues' militaristic nature, Evan's compositions are bombastic, symphonic, percussion-led tracks that again sound CD quality. The atmosphere is so thick, you  can cut it with a raptor claw, especially in the darker, more mysterious tracks, with "Dark Jungle" a particular standout among any music composed for any video game, ever. The gameplay doesn't quite match the outstanding music, but the Jurassic Park 2 is still quite fun. Either one or two players can take part in their choice of six missions, in any order they choose. After each mission is completed, the player must tackle an emergency follow-up (which is timed, and follows a story-order, meaning the order doesn't change, regardless of what level the player chooses), plus an additional final stage for each difficulty level, meaning fifteen total levels for the hardest difficulty. Levels generally consist of shooting everything in the way, man (a rival genetics company is causing havoc...erm, chaos on the island) and dinosaur. The dinosaurs, except for raptors, must be taken down with a non-lethal weapon, while human foes must be taken down with lethal ones (dino-tranqs don't effect them). Raptors can thankfully be subdued by any means necessary (and here they're meaner than ever). Ammo is sparse, and there is a dino count at the top of the screen that announces the amount of the great reptiles (minus raptors) currently living on the island. Use a lethal weapon on one, and the count goes down. Take it down too low, and it's game over. Thankfully, the count rises as you play (because dinosaurs are like bunnies), so there is some forgiveness in that aspect of the game, but otherwise, The Chaos Continues gives no quarter. A handful of bullets or dino-bites mean death, and death means starting a level at the beginning. Once the game's small handful of continues is exhausted, it's game over. There is no way to save progress. There are no passwords. Like the first SNES game, once you get a game over, you lose all your progress, and get to start from zero. Death doesn't come so easy (outside of getting T-Rex'd) in the first game, though. Here, death is constant, until the player has mastered the game. Thankfully....
I would generally never suggest this, but Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues demands it:
At the level select screen, enter: L, L, L, R, R, R, L, L, R, R, L, R, L, L, R, R, L, L, L, R, R, R.
Boom. Infinite continues. Just like Contra. Or sort of. You'll still have to start the level from scratch every time you die...but you won't lose your game progress. This cheat is vital to enjoying Jurassic Park 2. It allows you to fully explore what The Chaos Continues has to offer, but it doesn't make the actual gameplay easier. You'll still have to become a hardened pro to get through any of these stages. I will unabashedly say that I beat the game this way on the easiest difficulty, after many hours, but afterward, when trying the hardest difficulty with no cheating, I tore through the levels like a master. This is one of the few games where cheating actually makes you better at the game later on when you don't cheat. And the gameplay is so fun, cerebral in the way strategy is involved in weapon selection and ammo consumption (though a selectable standard weaker lethal weapon and a weaker non-lethal weapon, respectively, never run out of ammo, and should be leaned upon when possible), nice and crazy when guns are blazing against raptors and mercenary commandos. And finally, Contra for the SNES has myriad bosses scattered across each level-Jurassic Park 2 has a T-Rex, choppers, and a Schwarzenegger-wannabe with a flame-thrower. While there isn't near the enemy variation of Contra, the game's bad guys are quite serviceable. The "regular" flamethrower stormtrooper is particularly nighmarish, as he can kill Dr. Grant in just a couple of seconds. These guys are almost always in the most inconvenient spot for Grant to deal with, too, requiring lots of strategy and experience to take down efficiently. My rambling is showing my sweet spot for this game. Like the first Jurassic Park for SNES, The Chaos Continues would be a heralded classic if it featured any type of save system (and also if one otherwise awesome level did not contain an unfairly unclear objective). As it is, though, this unfairly obscure Jurassic Park sequel is still nearly great...and even a bit better than the first game.

Graphics: 8.0/10
Sound: 10.0/10
Gameplay: 7.5/10
Lasting Value: 7.5/10
Overall (Not an Average): 7.8/10.0

 




The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sega Genesis, September 16, 1997

Few people know that a second Jurassic Park game was released for the Super Nintendo. Even less know that a THIRD game was released for the Sega Genesis. The Lost World, having little to do with the Jurassic Park sequel it takes its name from, is one of the last games ever released for the Sega Genesis, first available in stores two years after the release of the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn, and a few weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of the Nintendo 64's release. Because it was released so late in the Sega Genesis life-cycle (less than two years before the Sega Dreamcast was released!), The Lost World is a little known oddity, which is a shame, as it may just be the best Jurassic Park game every released, 16-bit or not. Eschewing the 2-D side-scrolling platformer action of the previous Genesis Jurassic Park titles, The Lost World takes up the overhead, isometric view of the first Jurassic Park game for SNES. While The Lost World doesn't feature the SNES game's first-person interior perspective, it does feature four pseudo-3D, "Mode-7"-style boss fights that are quite technically impressive for a 16-bit system, and particularly the Sega Genesis. While the isometric graphics aren't quite as strong as their SNES counterpart's, featuring far less color variation (a whole lot of green and brown), they are still pretty easy on the eyes. Likewise, while the sound quality isn't up to the SNES games' standards, the score and sound effects are still quite good. Taking full advantage of the Genesis "drum n' bass" favoring sound capabilities, The Lost World's soundtrack sounds like a lost Daft Punk album--its only flaw is that the entire score is maybe seven tracks long, though none ever get old. Also, while the sound effects aren't up to the Dolby Surround quality of the SNES games, they are still quite nice, particularly the booming blast of the shotgun. But while the SNES games hold a technological advantage over The Lost World, The Lost World holds several distinct strengths over the SNES games. Those SNES Jurassic Parks feature far more complex and longer-lasting gameplay than the first two Genesis ones, but the first SNES game features plenty of objectives that are never really spelled out, and have to be intuited by the player. The second SNES game divides itself into many missions that can be completed in any order, and most give a very clear briefing of what must be accomplished, but neither game gives the player any sort of game-saving option, and no password to pick up where the player has left off. This means the player must undertake many long-hour single-sitting sessions before the game can be completed...which can lead to much frustration. The Lost World features four stages with multiple missions (adding up to nineteen total). Each stage's missions can be completed in any order, outside of the boss battle, which is naturally always last. These missions come in a variety of forms, from searching caves to collect items, to marching across the landscape to destroy enemy encampments (like several of its predecessors, The Lost World features both dinosaur and human antagonists), to herding dinosaurs into cages, to driving away from an angry T-Rex. With such a diverse group of missions with optional completion paths, the lack of some type of saving feature would be brutal. Thankfully, this isn't an issue. The Lost World features a lovely password system, offering a password for any level completion combination when a level is completed. No matter what order the player completes missions, there is a corresponding password to pick up at that point of progress. For once, it feels like the game developers have some empathy for the players.  This means The Lost World is truly the only pick-up-and-play game of this bunch that still takes an actual time commitment to complete (about ten hours or so on single-player mode). As a bonus, when certain missions are completed, "just-for-fun" passwords are given, unlocking bonus modes and features. Speaking of modes, this game features multiplayer co-operative and versus modes. It's an actual full-game experience! Of course, none of this would be worth anything if the game wasn't fun to play--but thankfully, it is! Though The Lost World leans on film nostalgia less than any previous Jurassic Park game, it might just be the most enjoyable to experience. While it may take the player a moment to get used to the lack of a jump button, the nameless mercenary protagonist is a breeze to control (and he can move in any direction!). Weapon selection is vast and fun, and the option to control an SUV and hovercraft at certain points in the game is extremely cool. The pseudo-3D boss fights feature some great, arcade style shooting action, and can be breathlessly paced. While the main game action sometimes features some graphical slowdown when too many enemies and objects are on screen, this doesn't detract from the overall gameplay experience. Also, as a final sort of bonus, Appaloosa Interactive (same company that made Ecco: Defender of the Future for the Dreamcast) does not appear to have rushed this game. The Lost World contains many special touches, like the dinosaur and human antagonists fighting each other if the player stays out of the way. But best of all, unlike Rampage Edition, The Lost World's special items actually hold a purpose. Scattered thoughout each level are Jurassic Park tokens. Every time the player collects six, a crate is airdropped to that very spot, containing armor, ammo, and an extra life. It's a small, but great touch. So while The Lost World is harder to find than the other Jurassic Park games, with just a handful of copies appearing on EBay, its barely known existence keeps its price low, and it deserves a spot in any 16-bit or Jurassic Park fan's collection. It's a true hidden gem.

Graphics: 8.0/10
Sound: 8.0/10
Gameplay: 9.0/10
Lasting Value: 8.5/10
Overall (Not an Average): 8.5/10.0



This was an outrageously fun way to spend a month. I should note here, I do not publish a review until I complete the game(s) I am reviewing. These write-ups take into account the full games, start-to-end. I've put many hours of play-time into each of these to inform my opinions.  Honestly, if I factor in my personal bias, my favorite game here is The Chaos Continues. It sets off a special dopamine nostalgia release in my brain--I love the music, how it feels to control...really everything about it, despite its considerable flaws. However, remaining objective, The Chaos Continues is not quite the best of these games. Here's how I rank all six, objectively, following the scores listed above:

1. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis, 1997)
2. Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues (Super Nintendo, 1995)
3. Jurassic Park (Super Nintendo, 1993)
4. Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition (Sega Genesis, 1994)
5. Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis, 1993)
6. Jurassic Park (Sega CD, 1993)