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BLAST from the PAST: BEST of the MEGA-CD Vol.1

The Mega-CD was a great system and home of a lot of great games. Some are well-known and some not so much. It is a system that's still worth owning and playing. I will be presenting you with the highlights of the system. The best that it has to offer.

Due to the high amount of quality games as well as limited blog post space. It will take several volumes to feature all the great games the Mega-CD had.

So with that said, on we go with the first volume!

Alshark - Sand Storm 1993

A cult game in Japan. Alshark is a 1991 PC RPG developed by Right Stuff originally for the Japanese PC-98 and Sharp X68000. The game was ported by Sand Storm to the Mega-CD in 1993. and re-made by Right Stuff themselves on the PC-Engine CD in 1994, which version was the one that popularized it among Japanese console gamers.

Alshark is a traditional Japanese-s/tyle RPG. And when I say "traditional" I meant it in every sense of the world. The game has a random battle encounter rate like you've never seen before. The interface doesn't have the user friendliness of even some late 80's/early 90's Japanese RPGs, nevermind what gamers are used to nowadays.

Alshark is a game of serious contrasts. On one hand it has a rustic, archaic even game design. And on the other hand it has some of the most unique and influential design features of it's time. In fact, Alshark could be very well considered the Japanese Mass Effect of it's time.

As a Sci-Fi based RPG, you have command of your own spaceship: the Atlia. Which you can customize and equip it with various weapons, frames and engines. You can use the Atlia to travel throughout space to several Solar Systems, each one with their own sets of planets and space stations. In space, you can engage in dogfights against enemy spacecraft,and even scramble a fighter ship to assist you. On land you can travel on foot, or in various vehicles like tanks, buggies and hovercrafts.

Your party comprises of 5 members out of a colourful and well designed cast of characters. You can equip your characters with the likes of ray swords or all kinds of fire weapons like hand guns, machine guns and bazookas. You can only control your main character "Shion" in battle. The rest of your party controlled by the A.I. that for the most part does an excellent work. You can also talk to your party members to see what they're thinking, or in case you forgot what were you doing.

Sand Storm was the developer in charge of porting Alshark to the Mega-CD, and unfortunately, they didn't do a good job. The game slowdowns when too many sprites are on screen. And slowdown on a 2 year old game that looked as ancient as this in 1993 is just plain unforgivable. And it's nothing else than the sign of bad and lazy programming. The Mega-CD version seems to be a port of the PC-98 version, only it looks less colourful because of the Mega Drive's limited colour palette.

On the plus side, some new cut-scenes were added. and of course, the amazing Red Audio CD soundtrack, which is the best of all of the game's versions.

I have to say that very few games have surprised me in the way that Alshark did. If I remember correctly, I bought Alshark in 1995, though knowing beforehand that it was a revered cult game in Japan, I was put down initially by it's archaic design and mind-boggling amount of random battles. Only to be totally overwhelmed after the first few hours of play. And I remained glued to it all throughout it's great and lengthy quest to a point that I ended up not caring at all about it's flaws.

I've little doubt that had this game came down overseas in a system like the NES/Master System. It would nowadays be regarded as one of the best c/lassic RPGS in history by gamers everywhere.

Alshark is certainly one of the best JRPGs ever. A true JRPG gem actually deserving of it's cult status.

Alas, for most of nowadays RPG gamers, enjoying a game like Alshark is almost an impossibility. Probably only the most dedicated of gamers will give the game a chance, which is unfortunate for a great praised game such as this.

Dark Wizard - SEGA 1993

The best Strategy/RPG game of the system. Dark Wizard is a deep and engaging game as every Strategy game should aim to be. And once you get into it, you won't be out for quite some time. I can't begin to count the amount of hours I spent with this game when I was younger.

At first glance, Dark Wizard looks not even worth of being a Mega Drive game. But what it lacks in graphics it doubles it in the gameplay department. The game does have attacking animations, but after you see them all, you'll end up disabling them, since they take too much time. I personally only enabled them for boss battles for that extra drama!

Some gamers actually used to praise the game's long anime cut-scenes more than the actual gameplay, which is a terrible mistake. Since the gameplay is simply diamond. Dark Wizard it's actually the predecessor of the Dragon Force games for the SEGA Saturn.

Dark Wizard has a very deep learning curve however, and it's very time demanding. Add to that the dated graphical feel and you have again a game that sadly only a certain fans of the genre that didn't played the game when it first released will play it now, which is a terrible shame.

Dark Wizard is certainly one of the best Strategy/RPG games of the 16-bit era.

Dennin ALESTE "Robo ALESTE" - Compile 1992

The successor of the amazing Musha ALESTE. Dennin continued the ALESTE gaiden entries based on an alternative mechanized feudal Japan. How this fictional era came to be is actually explained in the detail in the game. Unfortunately like many localized Mega-CD games of the time, the English versions feature boring and lifeless voice acting.

Dennin is not really the tour-de-force that Musha was. The game has a slower pace, however the gameplay was tweaked to match it, as power-ups no longer shield you. The weapon system also has been tweaked, though if that was for the best could be argued. There's one more power up (shurikens) and they are all much cooler looking but your positionable options are gone. They now can be launched at the enemy, I guess to cover up for the fault in Musha that if you get destroyed you end up severily underpowered without any power-ups. The bad thing is that this ends up being useless unless you do get destroyed. Because if you launch your options you can't shoot your sub-weapon leaving you overly exposed which translates in you certainly getting destroyed. On the good side, your options can now destroy some bullets and damage the enemy by touching them which encourages a more aggresive gameplay s/tyle.

The game has the same amazing shoot 'em up quality gameplay that Compile is renown for. The graphics and attention to detail is unparallelled in any Compile SHMUP, with only the soundtrack perhaps being a little to soft comprared to Musha's.

The real thing that amazes me about Dennin ALESTE more than the game itself is how it has remained so cheap all this time. Had this game been on the PC-Engine CD you can bet your life the game would have been on the $100 range and no less. of that I'm sure without any doubt in my mind.But honestly, Dennin is much better than any Compile SHMUP for the PC-Engine CD.

You can get this game easily within the $30 range. And for a game of this quality that only means "must-have". Dennin ALESTE is the best SHMUP of the Mega-CD. By all means recommended for anybody's collection.

Final Fight CD - SEGA 1993

Anybody unfortunately enough to have played the atrocity that was Final Fight on the SNES probably got on their knees, lifted their hands towards the sky and thanked the heavens for the Mega-CD version. Unless of course you didn't had a Mega-CD and you were left out stuck with that beyond-crap SNES version and it's laughable "Guy" update.

If that's the case, well, though luck...

But those fortunate enough to have a Mega-CD were in for a treat when SEGA saw it to themselves to do justice to this c/lassic of the Arcades.

Ported to the Mega CD specially by SEGA. Gamers finally got the true Final Final experience in all of it's glory as it was meant to be. All 3 selectable characters, 2-Player simultaneous play and all of the original Arcade stages. Plus if that wasn't enough, extended opening and ending cut-scenes, an arranged CD quality soundtrack and an all-new Time Attack mode with new stages were added to this version as the cherry of the cake.

The ever-mentioned limited palette of the Mega Drive shows it's ugly head again this time. The game does look less colourful and vivid compared to the Arcade original. But I doubt many gamers would care about that, when the most important aspects of the game, more specifically the gameplay and fun-factor are spot on.

Although there are far better beat 'em ups than Final Fight, even by Capcom. This is an oldie that just won't die. It's an historical game in the genre, and a must-play for any gamer.

Lunar: The Silver Star - Game Arts 1992

Released in 1992 in Japan and localized a year later by Working Designs. I feel the year-late western release demerited a little how great this game was for it's time.

From a technical point of view, this is your quintessential Japanese RPG. With your teenage boy & friends who must save world, clueless magical gir with hidden powers, swords, dragons etc. and gameplay-wise it was no different.

What made this game so special however, is the whole charm that Game Arts bought not only to this game, but to the genre itself. No Japanese RPG before Lunar had such level of character interaction, and no Japanese RPG after it was ever looked the same. Game Arts raised the standards of what gamers expected their Japanese RPG characters to be.

Characters would talk among themselves, and they would even reply to many of your casual townspeople comments. Townspeople themselves had 3 times the amount of lines than any other RPG. And while the game was strictly linear as it could be, the whole charm of the characters and the adventure made Lunar: The Silver Star one of the most memorable Japanese RPGs. And one for which I personally have very fond memories.

The game was remade for the next-generation 32-bit systems, but it lost something in transition. Especially for the Playstation English version, since it's the one that concerns the most people.

For the sake of longer FMV cut-scenes, half of the original game text was cut. And while the cut-scenes did looked a lot better visually, they are not necessarily better than the originals. The story as well as the soundtrack were greatly altered, and this was also not for the better.

The Silver Star is not quite the same game than The Silver Star Story Complete. And so, the Mega-CD original remains unique and arguably the best version of Lunar.

Watch Intro

Popful Mail - SEGA 1994

An original IP from Falcom for the PC-88 and PC-Engine CD. SEGA transformed the game into a Monster World inspired Platformer/RPG for the Mega-CD. And indeed, the game fits the role of the Monster World game for the system perfectly.

You take the role of Mail, a frustrated bounty hunter elf girl. And Tatt, a young wizard with a pointy hat. Both of them are after the rogue wizard Muttonhead, each one for their own personal reasons. Mail wants the reward money on his head and Tatt as former Muttonhead's apprentice wants to know what happened to his master. You also take control of a small purple winged creature called Gaw.

Like Monster World, the game plays like a side-scroller with some good RPG elements added to the mix. You can buy items and weapons and you can change between any of your three characters at any time. The areas are very long and offer plenty of action.

Certainly one of the funniest games on the system. Popful Mail is a great platformer/RPG game worth of being along the lines of the Monster World series. If you're looking for a game that will undoubtedly please you no matter your gaming tastes. This is your game. You just can't go wrong with Popful Mail.

Watch Intro

Shining Force CD - SEGA 1994

Actually remakes of the GameGear games: Shining Force Gaiden I&II. Shining Force CD brings them to the Mega-CD featuring superior graphics and sound that they deserved. It also features a brand new chapter that mixes both game stories together for a great closure.

Released before Shining Force II. The game offers more of the same gameplay and wonderful character design goodness that made the original famous. as well as carrying on from the original storyline and characters.

Many gamers seem to be stuck being overly negative with the lack of town exploration that was featured in the original Shining Force. But I see that as a trivial complaint as the games being original Game Gear games are quite remarkable as they are. And the whole adventure is one of the best you can play in a Strategy/RPG.

Many gamers were (and some still are I bet) unaware of the fact that to play the final chapter of the game (Book 3) you forcefully require a Mega-CD back-up RAM cartridge. As the internal RAM memory of the Mega-CD isn't enough to save all of the 3 chapters data.

This angried a lot of gamers, most specially late Mega-CD adopters than by the time they got their system and the game, back-up RAM carts were already very rare to find. This of course left a lot of people without the chance to finish the game.

Camelot sorted this issue on Shining Force III. As you can load and erase any previous scenario data from within another scenario and then just save over.

Shining Force CD is an excellent game. as charming and colourful as only the Shining series can be. Not to mention the amazing soundtrack it has. Needless to say, the game is a must-have for the system. But if you do plan to get it, be sure to track a back-up RAM cart as well if you're planning on finishing it.

Continued to next post...

BLAST from the PAST: GAME ARTS Mega Adventure Special!

Everybody knows Game Arts for their Lunar and Grandia series, Silpheed, Gun Griffon etc. But few actually know of their trilogy of Adventure games. Two of which were released for the Mega-CD.

But that ends now as I will present them to you in detail.

Yumimi Mix

Yumimi is a Japanese teenage schoolgirl who has been dreaming of unicorns lately. She likes to hang around with her school friends: her best friend/rival Sakurako, who is very bad-tempered and always seems to be eating something. Shinichi, the school newspaper photographer to whom Yumimi has a not-so-secret love crush. and Buchou, your typical airhead guy who thinks of nothing else but girls, and loves to hug them by surprise always getting beaten to a pulp by them. Yumimi also meets a new school girl named Rie, to whom she is linked in a way she's still unaware of.

The gang has been seeing sightings of strange occurrences and creatures all over the place. Could this be the beginning of an extra-dimensional invasion?

Breakfast is the best way to start the day. (better than an ice cube on the back at least)

Yumimi Mix deviates from the common Japanese Adventure game standard gameplay. The game is really an interactive full animated adventure. But don't mistake it with those awful FMV games. Yumimi Mix is fully powered by Mega-CD generated graphics.

Throughout the adventure you will often be presented by a set of various options for you to choose. Depending of which one you pick, Yumimi will perform different actions that will end in varying results. For example, at the beginning of the game Yumimi wakes up by the sound of her alarm clock. You then, have the option of either get up and get fixed for school, or keep sleeping and have Yumimi's mom wake her up by the ol' ice cube on the back technique.(gotta hate that) You can also choose how to deal with happy-hands Buchou, and the best method to "pacify" him. Either by a punch or kick, or the c/lassic german suplex.

Yumimi and friends, Sakurako is a real glutton.

Depending of the options you choose at the end, the outcome of the adventure may differ. However whatever option you pick throughout the game will not stop it from continuing. There are no wrong options or game over screens. So anybody (even non-Japanese speakers) can enjoy and finish Yumimi Mix without any worries.

Graphics and sound play a strong role in Yumimi Mix, since the entire game is all animation. Game Arts developed a special engine that pushed the known bounds of Mega-CD graphics to a new level, with impressive results. The game looks simply gorgeous, the graphics look as great and colourful as any Japanese PC Adventure game of the time, only better since it's fully animated. Game Arts did wonders to overcome the limited colour palette of the Mega Drive and the results are for all of us to see. The voice acting in the game is also top-notch, and the only flaw in the sound department is the music not being really remarkable. to punish Buchou-kun's impertinence?

Yumimi Mix is the kind of game that almost nobody outside of Japan would touch with a 2m stick. But this is not necessarily bad for people interested in the game, since due to the lack of demand you can probably get it quite cheaply off the internet, since I doubt there are many places that still have Mega-CD bargain-bins with anything worthwhile left, specially imports.

I really liked Yumimi Mix. It is a very charming game, but one with extreme limited appeal. After discovering the Game Arts Adventure games with Urusei Yatsura: My Dear Friends, I thought I wasn't going to be impressed more with this game, since it's was older. But I ended up liking it more. The game also received an updated SEGA Saturn port called Yumimi Mix Remix. And the only time Game Arts (or anybody else for that matter) did something quite like Yumimi Mix was with Daina Airan, also for the SEGA Saturn. and that could very well be considered the spiritual successor of Yumimi Mix.

Things are not looking good for Buchou-kun.

The game cost me around $35, just like Urusei Yatsura, however this one was brand new. Who knows for how long it was sitting on the shelves unnoticed. If you can get it for around the same price, it's well worth it's price of admission, even if it's for curiosity's sake.

Urusei Yatsura: My Dear Friends

Based on a anime/manga series by artist Rumiko Takahashi, creator of the popular Ranma 1/2. (that also has another Adventure game on the system) My Dear Friends is an Adventure game clearly designed to please fans of the series. And you can tell that from the opening intro which resembles one from an anime TV episode.

I have to admit that I'm not really fond of Rumiko Takahashi's work, as her particular humoristic s/tyle is just not of my liking. So I probably didn't enjoyed the game as a fan of her series would have.

Lum is not known for her patience.

Unlike Yumimi Mix, Urusei Yatsura: My Dear Friends works like a standard Adventure game. You move a cursor around and interact with various objects and people. You can travel around the city to various locales, investigating and obtaining clues and items that you have to use somewhere else. In almost every scene in the game there's some hidden stuff you can touch that will produce some out of the blue wacky results.

The game has a very simple design to it, and there aren't really any hard puzzles to be found. You can finish the game simply by touching and trying everything.

There's also 3 game cartridges containing mini-games hidden around your house that you can play in your home console for your amusement.

Poor Ataru has to put up with a lot of annoying characters...besides Lum.

The most remarkable feature of the game is it's animation graphics. The game uses an updated version of the engine that Game Arts created for Yumimi Mix. And if the animation looked great before, now it looks unbelievable for a Mega-CD game. Lets remember it is not FMV or CGI. the animation is done entirely by the Mega-CD hardware.

Urusei Yatusra: My Dear Friends is a good Adventure game, however I found it a little too simple. I don't know if it's because I'm not a fan of the series or not. But the whole adventure, although pleasing, it was rather unmemorable to me. What I liked the most about the game is that you can tell the Game Arts touch in, and is very detailed.

I remember I finished it in 2 days without the help of any FAQs of guides.(though I didn't had internet service back then anyway) So the game is really on the short side and not hard to finish. which in turn makes the game accessible to anybody.

The inventory screen. (can't Lum leave him alone even there...?)

Although a still rather unpopular title for most importers. The game may have slight more demand than Yumimi Mix. Mainly due to the source material than the game itself really. The game cost me also around $35 too, but it was used. (this was not long from it's release) Most probably it was a return or trade-in from someone who was reeled in by the cover, but ended up not digging the game. It happens all the time and we all have done that after all.

Again, if you can get it for around the same price tag (which is very probable) the game is worth owning alone for collection purposes.

mini-game screenshots:

Game Arts Adventure games:

Yumimi Mix 1993

Urusei Yatsura: My Dear Friends 1994

Yumimi Mix Remix 1995 (SEGA Saturn)

Daina Airan 1996 (SEGA Saturn)

BLAST from the PAST: The MEGA-CD

Released in 1991. The Mega-CD, although not the first ever CD-based video game system. It was the one that really introduced the CD-ROM as a video gaming format to a worldwide audience for the first time. Since it benefited from being under the popular SEGA brand name.

The sleek and shiny CDs felt light years ahead of the rudimentary cartridges. The redbook quality audio, superior data storage capacity and cheap manufacturing costs, made most mayor developers in the industry realize from the start, that this was the format of the future.

In spite of all of the clear bonuses of the new format, due to a terrible and fatal shift in focus and misuse, the great advantages that the CD-ROM provided, proved to be the own ruin of all of the first generation CD-based video game systems.

The superior capacity of the CD-ROM, allowed the most notably inclusion of lengthy Full Motion Video in video games. A novelty feature that certainly was impressive and jaw-opening at first.

Unfortunately, the faith and use of FMV during that period was totally misplaced at an almost unbelievable level. Many companies in the industry, (including SEGA's western divisions along others) seeking to capitalize on this new impressive feature, were totally convinced that this was the next "big" thing in video gaming. And so they put the majority of their effort and resources into it. A fatal mistake that they would later pay dearly.

The supposed ultimate aim of these FMV games, was to have a real actor move at the player's controller command. I suppose they saw in this, a way of cheating advancing technology.

To quote the immortal Jon Irenicus: "to THIS?"

FMV games, as amusing as some of them were. They were outright impossible to serve as an alternative, nevermind replacement for "normal gaming" as they would have wanted it. In reality, they became one of the worst trends to ever happen in video gaming.

The games were short. their gameplay was shallow, mostly limiting itself to what we now call "Quick Time Events" and they had barely any replay value. They never even felt near the movie level, but more of the likes of a TV episode.

Unless you knew exactly what you were getting into, there was just no way than any gamer, as open minded as they could be, after spending $35 or so for a game like this, would feel satisfied with their purchase and their system after playing it.

Had these games retailed at $15 or less. and had they been just a wacky offspring idea of the time. Then maybe, the FMV games would had been seen as a curiousity "good for the laughs worthy". But being marketed early as the main focus of the Mega-CD, clearly doomed the system and all of it's potential in the eyes of most consumers.

Eventually, next generation FMV/CGI games, like Enemy Zero that actually managed to do something with themselves, made it all clear. and proved to us everything that went wrong with FMV gaming in that era: It was all wrong. They were shoving us movie clips disguised as games, instead of making games around FMV.

Despite the obvious strong initial rejections to FMV gaming by both gamers and the media. SEGA's western divisions seemed hell bent in pressing on. Giving their FMV games massive advertising, even more than to the supposed flagship title Sonic CD. And this is of course, besides all of the other FMV publishers doing the same thing with the system.

Bewilderingly enough. the system itself later was bundled with games like Sewer Shark, instead of the better obvious choice of Sonic CD.

In the end, they succeeded in their quest so well, that even today, the most remembered games by on-lookers of the system besides of Sonic CD, are the likes of Sewer Shark, Night Trap and Jurassic Park.

While some FMV games like Time Gal and Ninja Hayate were highly amusing, they had no depth or staying power whatsoever.

But leaving the tragic history of the system behind. Loyal Mega-CD adopters found themselves with more than their share of treats. As the system managed to keep a steady flow of quality games coming all throughout it's lifetime. Indeed, the Mega-CD was home for some of the best games around during it's time. Most notably, the system turned the Mega Drive into "the" Adventure games console of the generation. A genre which was pretty much non-existent on consoles until then. Getting many memorable Adventure games both western and Japanese.

Life in Japan

In Japan, the Mega-CD served as the RPG/Adventure genre counterbalance to the core Mega Drive, which overall was lacking such genres. The system got the lot of the RPGs for the console, most of them were very anime-influenced and Japanese-centric, thus most were left in Japan. Although some of the best, such as Game Arts' Lunar series, managed to get an overseas release, thanks to Working Designs.

Some Mega-CD exclusive RPGs and Adventure games became very popular in Japan, and became cult-c-assiccs. It also got many ports from Japanese PC or other systems that became popular on the system. And lastly, many others were multi-plats shared between the Mega-CD and PC-Engine CD.

Rivalry with the PC-Engine CD

The PC-Engine CD was overall much more popular than the Mega-CD in Japan. (but not more popular than the core Mega Drive) Getting over 500 CD-ROM releases. However, despite the overwhelming disadvantage in game quantity. The Mega-CD managed to counter it by having more high profile quality games.

While the PC-Engine CD was home for many good games, very few actually managed to break the barrier into the great and "c-lassic" status. The most notable game being Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, which is pretty much the cornerstone of the system.

Thus, when it comes down to top-tier games, the kind that will go down as being remembered as true c-lassics of their generation. The Mega-CD manages to triumph quite easily over the PC-Engine CD. And in fact, has a staggering advantage in this aspect. Starting with SEGA being a much superior video game developer than Hudson Soft and NEC. Which translated in best first party games. Not to mention western support, which is something that the PC-Engine CD never knew what it was like.

Interestingly enough, while SEGA licensed some of their early games to appear on the PC-Engine CD, prior to the release of the Mega Drive. While competing, Hudson Soft actually ported a couple of it's first party games to the Mega-CD. Most notably, Lords of Thunder and The Space Adventure, that Mega-CD owners found themselves winning again by getting it fully in English.

A common misconception that many people do while comparing both systems. Specially at first-glance or by looking at screenshots. Is the belief that the PC-Engine CD was more powerful or looked better than the Mega-CD. This is false however. The only advantage the PC-Engine CD had over the Mega Drive/CD was the amount of colours it could put on screen at once: 482 against 64. (although many developers did managed to squeeze more colours off the Mega Drive's limited palette)

So the PC-Engine CD did in fact looked more colourful, which made it's games look more vivid. However, the Mega Drive/CD had superior hardware from ground-up. And the PC-Engine CD was just unable to do almost any of the special effects that the Mega Drive/CD could pull off. As well as just having overall poorer graphics and sprite animation. Despite the release of the Super and Arcade cards. All the cards added up for the system was more RAM. (some system versions like the Turbo Duo don't need the Super Card, plus it has some extra RAM) So even an Arcade Card game was unable to do some SFX equal to even early Mega Drive games. The PC-Engine CD was also unable to do FMV. rendering and animation of the quality level present in the Mega-CD.

Closing comments:

Ultimately, all of the first generation of CD-based systems are mainstreamly considered failures. And indeed, one could argue that they failed in their quest to take over the gaming scene of their generation as they were intended to. However, it would be a terrible mistake for anybody to disregard all of the stuff that they bought to video gaming. But it would be an even worst mistake to disregard the amazing games that they had. Having the option to play games like Snatcher with a more mature and serious tone, unparallelled voice acting and redbook quality audio. was an immersing experience on a level unlike anything else. On a time when the norm in gaming were mascot platformers and cartridge quality audio. Least we forget that the CD-ROM format indeed turned out to be the format of the future generation. and that those systems founded the bases to what we now have considered standard for a long time by now, and the way we play our games today.

The Mega-CD was the best CD system of it's generation, on just every possible angle. It's library is strong and diverse enough. and unlike the others, it had something for everybody, be your taste more on the Japanese or western side. It had enough import gems and more home releases and support than any other CD system. And while the PC-Engine CD is a great piece of system itself. The Mega-CD was just pound by pound better, even from a price-tag and worth point of view.

It is unfortunate that the system is often the subject of mostly uninformed hate. Should people actually took the time to learn more about the system and it's library. I'm more than certain they would find in it a great system that it's still worth checking out even today. As it gave us Megadrivers a lot of playing time and fond memories.


Missing In Action

Once they were popular...stars of the gaming world. They had fame, and all the spotlights in their faces.

Now they're long gone, their glory days are far behind, and for most modern gamers they are pretty much unknown and/or irrelevant.

They are the forgotten characters, the stars of yesteryear. Neglected and forgotten by their respective companies. Today we'll take a small moment to honor some of them.

Alex Kidd

Company: SEGA

Y.O.B.: 1986

Missing Since: 1990 (guest star appearance in SEGAGAGA, 2001)

The former SEGA mascot and image. Despite putting up the good fight against Mario, he was displaced by the mass appealing Sonic The Hedgehog as SEGA's frontman and star. Now he's just a frustrated clerk at a low profile Japanese videogame store.

Though luck old chap, but well, Sonic is Sonic.

While, it's pretty clear that Sonic was much better fitted for being a gaming icon than Alex Kidd could've ever hoped to be. It's still rather harsh how just SEGA went and forgot totally about the poor guy, as if he had never existed. And while even older SEGA mascot Opa-Opa still shows his face in the odd remake or compilation. Alex Kidd for all intents and purposes has vanished from the face of the earth.

Surely, it wouldn't had hurt SEGA to keep the old Kidd around.

Who says life is fair?


PC-Genjin "Bonk" or "BC KID"

Company: Hudson Soft

Y.O.B.: 1990

Missing Since: 1995 (cameo appearance in Saturn Bomberman, 1996)

Hudson Soft/NEC's own answer to Mario, and frontman of their PC-Engine Console, otherwise known as Turbografx-16. While rather popular in Japan, along the console. The Turbografx-16 was pretty much dead in the water for all of it's short lifespan outside of the land of the rising sun. So 4 years later, Hudson Soft had no other choice but to put him on a console where gamers were actually going to play his games: the Super Famicom/SNES.

For a mascot of a "supposedly" still running console, this certainly didn't made it look good.

While Hudson Soft seems will never let us forget about Bomberman, since they literally (pun aside) bombards us with more and more games every year. It would certainly be nice for them to give the bomberhead a rest, and take out the old caveman for a spin. In other form that cheap mobile games of course, which really no one cares about.



Company: Konami

Y.O.B.: 1993

Missing Since: 1994 (cameo appearence in Contra: Shattered Soldier, 2002)

The Rocket Knight. Not really much to say here. He's best remembered for both his Mega Drive games: "Rocket Knight Adventures" and "Sparkster". (also on SNES)

He was a good, well designed and charming character. and his games were fun and were well recieved overall. It's still a mystery why Konami suddenly abandoned him. He very well looked like he had potential. Cameo appareances include Snatcher and Contra: Shattered Soldier.

Any MegaDrive owner could remember these games.


EarthWorm Jim

Company: Shiny Entertanment

Y.O.B. 1994

Missing Since: 1999

The robotic power suit-wearing earthworm. EarthWorm Jim got as high as you could get as a videogame character. Even starring his own animated TV show.

Born in the dawn of a new gaming generation, the challenge proved too much for poor Jimbo and Shiny. And after two successful games, his fame went as soon as it came when Shiny Entertaintment went under and his posterior games turned out mediocre. Now he's just another forgotten character in the annals of gaming history.

A new PSP game was supposed to mark his return to the gaming scene, but alas, it was cancelled.

That's not how your last games were, Jimbo.


Twin Bee

Company: Konami

Y.O.B. 1985

Missing Since: 1998

Another Konami mascot, wouldn't you know it?

The cute lil' blue spaceship Twin Bee and his inseparable female? partner Win Bee piloted by the kids Light & Pastel.

Despite never really being popular in the west, the Twin Bee series was one of Konami's longest running and most respected series, hitting their 10th anniversary in 1995. Twin Bee itself being one of the most renowned and respected icons of Konami, and a living proof that Konami has considerably shift their gaming focus from their "we love shooting games" years.

Twin Bee is a true icon of the old Konami.

The Twin Bee series went beyond it's original Shoot 'em up genre and ventured into the Puzzle and RPG realms, with varying decrees of success. The series and characters also influenced and appeared in the popular fan-favourite "Parodius" series.

Konami seems that doesn't want to leave their series entirely forgotten, and so they have released Twin Bee Portable (which is basically the Twin Bee Deluxe pack released for the SS/PS) along with the Parodius portable collections for the Sony PSP. Any fan of the shoot 'em up genre which has never had a chance to play those great games, would do wrong in missing this chance.

Of course, even better than a collection, a brand-new Twin Bee game would do the series more justice.

Games that no SHMUP fan should miss.


Bonus Characters:

Strider Hiryu

Company: Capcom

Y.O.B.: 1989

Missing Since: 2000 (cameo appearence in Marvel X Namco, 2004)

Not really forgotten, but not really active neither. He seems to be an awfully popular character even nowadays. (no small thanks to Marvel vs. Capcom games) Yet I still found him worthwhile to put in here, since in reality he's only starred in two official games the last one which was only ho-hum. Ironically, as mentioned previously, his popularity comes mainly from the Marvel vs. Capcom games rather than from his main games.



Company: Victor Entertaintment

Y.O.B.: 1994

Missing Since: 1998

The cheerful dragon flying showgirl bunny from the Keio Flying Squadron series. Most probably influenced by Akane & Hikaru from Parodius. She starred in 3 games, the last one which was a non-relevant miscellaneous game. Although her first two games were good and pleasing enough, she was far from being a relevant or popular character. Her disappearance from the game scene is anything but a mystery.



Company: Success

Y.O.B: 1991

Missing Since: 2000 (appearence in Pachinko game, 2003)

The manic willow eating witch who loves to torment her fairy companion Silk. She has more games on her back than you'd think at first. Despite her last game being a bomb, another Cotton game would certainly be more than welcomed.


Mania Ohtorii & Maria Haneda

Company: Vic Tokai

Y.O.B.: 1992

Missing Since: 1993 (guest star appearence in SEGAGAGA, 2001)

The most bad-ass female pair that ever existed. They were perhaps too hardcore for this world.



Company: Namco

Y.O.B.: 1983

Missing Since: 1986

Ah, Mappy. Am I the only one who remembers you?


NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (Wii) failed to live up to the original

So I finally got around playing a good dose of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams on the Wii, and for a 11 year awaited sequel, it came nothing short of disappointing.

While I would really had been satisfied with just "more of the same" magical gameplay that the original NiGHTS Into Dreams... boughts us back in 1996. this new entry didn't quite managed to be even at the same level of it's predecessor.

The main problem here is that the original feeling of the game is all gone. The game's mysticisim was broken when someone actually thought it was a good idea having the character's actually speak. Now NiGHTS sports a british spoiled brat accent that really freaks me out. And the lame new cast consinting mainly of a beyond-annoying Disneylandian owl sure doesn't help the cause neither. Like with Sonic The Hedgehog, for some unimaginable reason Sonic Team seems to think that their games need more "complex" storylines or something. But just like with Sonic, everything they do just ends up working against what made the past games great in the first place: beauty, simplicity and great gameplay.

If Mario can go and nail a GOTY with no dialogue and only lame stereotypical one-liners, I think it's pretty obvious the last thing a mascot game needs is spoken dialogue and a storyline.

NiGHTS me old chap, you were better off silent.

Yuji Naka and the rest of the original Sonic Team staff were able to embond the original game with such powerful feelings and s-tyle. With the help of a wonderful charming soundtrack, lush imaginative graphics and great gameplay. Where just the facial expression of the characters and the gameplay were enough to move both you, the gamer and the game itself forward, now there's a whole load of corny and useless dialogue and a boring storyline that you will have to bear as you move throughout the game. It's a shame that Sonic Team USA were unable to convert to the game the powerful feelings of the original. It's pretty much clear that for Sonic Team USA this wasn't the "dream game" that it was for Yuji Naka back then. The American design and feel of the game is really miles away from the original Japanese one.

Another majestic problem that arisises in Journey of Dreams is how the design of the game goes against everything that the original was. NiGHTS: Into Dreams... was a game all about gameplay. It was the just pick up and play kind of game. No need of explanations or instructions, you just grabbed your new Saturn 3D controller pressed start and within seconds you'd be immersed in the game's stylish gameplay and "nothing" would put you out your in-game immersion. Now it seems everything in Journey of Dreams seems to be at odds with the gameplay. The long and boring story sequences, the on-screen instructions, in-game dialogue etc. It's really beyond me why in a game like this that is based in non-stop speedy gameplay, the developers would go and put characters and dialogue boxes that would force you to stop and/or get distracted from the game, this really kills the mood of the game. You could very well play NiGHTS: Into Dreams seamlessly in 1996, so I don't know why in 2007 the devs would think that you needed to be instructed for everything that you have to do in the game, as if the game mechanics were so complicated.

Meet this year's most annoying and uninteresting characters.

Unfortunately, the problems don't end at that. It seems Sonic Team USA thought that the original NiGHTS flying gameplay wasn't enough for nowadays gamers, so they went and added some new half-baked elements to "supposedly" to give the game more "diversity"(they should've focus in actually getting the core gameplay right first though) These diversity levels ended up falling short. Even worse, the main course levels are worse than the original. Now for whatever reason you must chase after some birds for your cage key (even though you're already out) the blue chips are pretty much useless on the main gameplay, and it's just stuff like this that ruins the game. why couldnt you just let it as it was Sonic Team USA?

The new personas that NiGHTS can transform into are pretty much pointless, and like the rest of the additions, they fail to give the game more depth. (which I would assume is what the devs wanted) There's even less moves this time around. In the original game NiGHTS had over 20 acrobatic moves, and they would tell you their name every time you pulled them out, now NiGHTS doesn't have even half those moves which is quite a let down.

The saving grace of the game is the superb musical score, which in the Sonic Team tradition is simply brillant. The music along with the CGI sequences were done in Japan and were given an utmost care, which makes you wonder why the whole game wasn't done in Japan.

Why try to fix what's not broken? the original did it right 11 years ago.

It's really a damn shame what happened to NiGTHS: Journey of Dreams. You can just tell the game would have been awesome if it had been more like the original. But instead, Sonic Team USA like with Sonic the Hedgehog seem to be hell-bent in messing with what made their past games successful. At least, fans of the series still have something to look forward with the upcoming release of the re-make of the original NiGHTS on the Playstation 2.

1997: 2-D gaming last stand

At the dawn of the 32/64-bit generation, the power-gaming mentality that was built all throughout the previous generation reached new heights with the coronation of three dimentional gaming as the new standard in videogames.

While gaming developers were thinking about the new worlds and possibilties that 3D gaming had opened for them. Console companies on their end, having built their consoles with this amazing new 3D gaming in mind, were trying their hardest to wow and convince you, the consumer to fully embrance this new form of gaming that their systems were bringing to you. Expansive worlds and higher polygon count, this is what you should look forward from now on.

The biggest hit Arcades have ever seen, finally moved on in 1997

Of course for their plan to come to full fructition, there will be need to get rid of the old way of gaming in the consumers and developers minds, and the faster the better. Developers should focus only in creating better looking and immersive 3D games to showcase the new revolutionary consoles. Certainly not outdated 2D games that have no use for in this new market anymore. The old way of thinking must go, and so 3D gaming became a policy.

In the struggle between 2D and 3D gaming, where sooner than later 2D gaming was to be utterly defeated and relegated mainly to handheld systems. In this merciless and unfair struggle of interests, there was to be a pivotal year. A year where the old-form would shine one last time before yielding to the new. a last breath of air to show all that was learned in all those years. That year was 1997.

2D gaming for the new generation, a shame it was not meant to last

While 2D gaming did in no way end in 1997. After that year however, 2D gaming was never to have the same amount of prescence in our common videogaming ever again. It's highly unlikely that we will ever see another year where the best gaming developers collectively put so much effort and talent into 2D gaming, and release so many quality titles. And these were not remakes or collections, nor downloadable games. No nostalgia involved neither. These were "brand-new" novel games that pushed the envelope. Games that did the best for their time.

If you were still too young, weren't very involved in gaming, or just have a fuzzy memory of that year to understand the significance of this transition, just ask yourself this: How many "brand-new" 2D games have you bought for your consoles in the last 3 or 4 years. Take that number and see if it accounts to even half of the games released in 1997. Then see if the games you bought account to the level of quality of the games released that year. Then you will see how much gaming ways have changed. And this even having in mind that this was the dusk of 2D gaming, not it's most prolific time. Also, remember that games "completely" in 3D regardless if they play in 2D, are still 3D games.

You know the series just lost it after this one

1997 perhaps is not the best year in the history of 2D gaming. Maybe some other year in the peak of 2D gaming takes that honour. Regardless, 1997 is a very relevant year for 2D. A year of creativty on levels we might not see again. A year when gaming was still, even as if hanging from a cliff somewhat like we used to know it. It was also a year of change. The once popular genres became the small niche market. It was the end of a glorious era and the beginning of another. It was a great year for gaming.

In the end, if gaming is better now or was better then, it's entirely up to you to decide and form your own opinion. But it's still nice to look back at one of the pivotal moments in gaming, and see how games and ourselves have changed over the years.

Now lets take a look at some of the most notable games from 1997:

Street Fighter III: New Generation - Capcom, CPS-III Arcade

After uncountable versions and revisions, it seemed that Street Fighter II just was never going to end. Fortunately, the series made it's big jump in 1997. On a technical level of it's own, and running on Capcom's more powerful CPS-III hardware. Street Fighter III: New Generation had unbelievable animation and detail. And it was just out of reach for any current systems to handle, including the almighty 2D powerhouse SEGA Saturn.


Gradius Gaiden - Konami, Sony Playstation

Undoubtedly the best of the series. This Playstation-exclusive game has it all; 4 selectable ships, amazing level design an improved soundtrack, and of course the quality tight gameplay that characterises the Gradius series. The game is on the PSOne Books line and goes for around $20 brand-new.It is also available on the Gradius Collection for the PSP. So there's no reason, indeed no reason at all not to enjoy this excellent Shoot 'em up.


Panzer Bandit - Banpresto, Sony Playstaion

Banpresto's humble reply to Guardian Heroes. Panzer Bandit was nowhere near the level of the beast that was Guardian Heroes. Not technical or gameplay-wise. Yet despite the Playstation's heavy 2D limitations, Panzer Bandit ended up being a very fun and great beat 'em up on it's own. It's also the living proof that developers were still trying at 2D as well. An excellent Playstation game and more than worthy of playing. Yet not worth enough to warrant it's current $60+ value in my honest opinion.


X-Men VS. Street Fighter Capcom, SEGA Saturn

Although released in 1996 in the Arcades, the game hit consoles, but specially the SEGA Saturn in 1997. The game was the perfect showcase of the full Saturn 2D capabilties that had just been unlocked thanks to the 4MB cartridge released with the game. (the Saturn was originally designed to have the extra 4MB integrated, but was later downgraded to add more versatile 3D capabilities) The game wasn't a mere Arcade port however. It was the world's first ever high-end Arcade port. It was "THE" Arcade port. A frame by frame perfect high-end port with no loading times whatsoever. To put it simply, console Arcade ports weren't meant to look and play this good.

I remember upon getting the game, and seeing Juggernaut in all his animated glory. Switching back and forth between him and Sabretoth, In a vain effort to catch any trace of slowdown. I mean there had to be slowdown right? But there wasn't. X-Men VS. Street Fighter was a ground-breaking title on consoles, and it set the standard for all of the future Arcade to console ports.


Silhouette Mirage - Treasure, SEGA Saturn

The epithome of "twitchy" game-play. Silhoette Mirage is the pinnacle of Treasure's own-S-tyle that they were building throughout the previous generation. You control a charming Witch-like character called Sinna Neutlarva Sinner. She posseses two main attributes: Silhouette (Blue) and Mirage (red), called after the main type of the enemies you will be fighting. Depending of which side you're facing your attacks will have either Silhouette or Mirage properties. In order to defeat an enemy you must hit them with the opposing attribute. This is a gimmick that Treasure would later re-use in the 2001 game Ikaruga.

With awesome and unique game-play, boss battles, character/level design, and of course Treasure's trademark sense of humour Silhouette Mirage is a superb game in all aspects, and one of the last 2D games to really push the envelope. The game even uses plenty of transparency effects, which "suppossedly" the Saturn was unable to handle.

Unfortunately the game earned a somewhat bad reputation thanks to the poor performance of the year-later and downgraded Playstation port, published by Working Designs in 1999, and who took a lot of liberties with the game's design. But fear not, with no loading times what so ever, and the original design intact. The original Saturn version of Silhouette Mirage is undoubtedly one of the finest 2D games ever made.


Akumajou Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku "Nocturne in the Moonlight" - Konami, Sony Playstation

With uncanny atmosphere and detail, the long awaited sequel to Dracula X debuted on the Sony Playstation. Clearly influenced by the earlier entry in the series "Dracula/Castlevania II" and the Nintendo game "Metroid" Nocturne in the Moonlight, shifted the former series design of mostly linear action/platforming and focused more in adventure and exploration. It was Akumajou Dracula for the new generation.

The transition was not done without losing something however. The game replaced the former skill-based gameplay of the series for a more laid-back stat-based one. Where once your skill was the only way to succed, now your patience and perceverance to level up your character in order to make him stronger could serve to the same effect. This made the game much more accessible for broader audiences, but at the same time, heavily reduced the difficulty of the game. A downside certainly for seasoned players of the series.

Regardless, Nocturne in the Moonlight, is a masterpiece of 2D gaming, a must-play game everyone should experience. Perhaps the only real complaint is that the game was designed for the inferior 2D system in mind. One can just imagine how the game could've turned out had it been designed for the SEGA Saturn.


Princess Crown Atlus, SEGA Saturn

A SEGA & Atlus project, Princess Crown is a side-scrolling Action/JRPG starring the just crowned 13 year-old Gradriel who wants to be a great Queen, like her mother before her.

Up until recently, Princess Crown was the best (non-fighter) looking console 2D game in history. Pretty impressive feat, considering the game will be 10 years old this December. But I really can't begin to describe how awesome the game looked in 1997, and even today. For comparison's sake and to put things in perispective. Gradriel's sprite is over twice the size that of Alucard's, and lets remember that she's just the size of a 13 year-old girl in the game. Though you probably can't tell that from the pictures, and for that matter, no still image or animated.gif will ever do the game justice, you have to see it running for youself to fully appreciate how amazing the game looks in motion.

The whole game has an utmost attention to detail and animation. As Gradirel walks around for example, she will look around her surroundings, when she ates the food, she will take girly-like small bites at it, when she gets hit she will fall down in a funny manner. At the beginning and at the end of battle, Aria, your fairy familiar will bring you and then take away your weapon. And it's all those little details that made the game a joy to play. Of course the enemies and backgrounds just look as amazing and detailed. Even though there's a lot of palette swaps of people and monsters (but what JRPG doesn't have them?) the game still ends up unique looking and charming.

Incredilbe enough, the game was totally overlooked at the time, and it just passed by without any real significance. Except of course for those who played it, since it's not a game you will easily forget. The game is a testament of the 2D prowess of the Saturn. But more specially, of the 2D gaming in general, and of that wonderful year.


I have finished Bioshock in the hard difficulty 2 times now, both harvesting and releasing the little sisters. I have to say I really enjoyed the game. The atmosphere of the game is uncanny, but more specially for me, since I'm really into vintage stuff of the 30's 40's and 50's.

The moment I entered the lighthouse and heard Django Reinhardt music playing, I knew this game was for me. I also found the storyline very pleasing, though I do find Andrew Ryan quite the contradictory character. He saiys he built Rapture so that the talented, the scientists and artists wouldn't be hindered by governments, censorship or religion, but he hinders them himself, by cutting them off things that he finds contaminating for his city, which is no different from government bullying or censorship, so in reality Rapture citizens were free to do only what Ryan himself thought it was the best thing for them to do, which is no different from the means of goverment he so much critisized. So really, Andrew Ryan was quite a totalitarian person.

"One man's vision, mankind's salvation"

I really think Bioshock is an atmospheric marvel, but in my opinion the gameplay could've been better. First, it would've been nice to have more and varied plasmids. I thought it was great how some plasmids like "Enrage" or "Target Dummy" remain useful throughout all the game, but others are not that useful or pretty much a waste like "Winter Blast" and it was basically the same using "Electro Bolt" on water and "Incinerate" on oil. And where's the gun enhancing tonics? it would've been nice to have a "Sharpshooter" or "Finesse" type tonics for your weapons.

I also didn't liked the enemy's A.I. Leadhead splicers for example, will just run in front of you and shoot without caring for their own health. But what makes it worse, is when the enemies start to get thougher, and even when you have them fully researched, you do pitful damage to them with your standard guns, and even at close quarters, you could fire 5 times with your fully upgraded shotgun before they go down. So why even bother when you can just shock them and take them out with a swing or two from your wrench? It just plains discourages other means of fighting. So I wish the enemies would behave a little better.

"little sister...don't you!"

The "good" ending was really pleasing and fulfilling, but the "bad" ending left much to be desired. I also didn't liked it the way they crudely cut off to the main screen. It feels very PC-like. But what I disliked the most was that nothing really changes depending of the path you wish to take in either harvesting or releasing the little sisters. I liked it way better when your actions have consequences in the game, as in my opinion is more important how you get to the ending, than doing the same stuff again for a mere different ending cut-scene at the end.

"Well...not that painless really"

I really have to say even though gameplay-wise I didn't enjoyed the game as much as I did Deus Ex for say. I absolutely loved the game overall. The mood and setting, the details, the music, oh what music. It is certainly one of my favourite games this gen, and I still feel compelled to play it again to round up the few achievments I got left, and just to experience it again.

Finally, me being such a big fan of vintage music, couldn't help finding the music in Bioshock, nothing short of amazing, listening to the likes of Django Reinhart, Billie Holiday and the Inkspots in a single game, is priceless. In case you're interested in some of the songs used in the game, here's the one's I've located and the names of the artists who perform them:

  • Django Reinhardt - La mer
  • Django Reinhardt - "I can't quite recall the name of this piece"
  • The Inkspots - If I didn't care
  • The Inkspots - The best things in life are free
  • Billie Holiday - God bless the child
  • Billie Holiday - Night and day
  • Bing Crosby - Brother can you spare a dime?
  • Bing Crosby . Wrap your troubles in dreams
  • Noel Coward - The party's over
  • Noel Coward - 20th century blues
  • Noel Coward - World weary
  • Fats Waller - Jitterbug waltz
  • Tchaikovsky - Waltz of the flowers (from the Nutcracker)
  • Bobby Darin - Beyond the sea
  • Frank Sinatra - Please be kind
  • Patti Page - How much is that doggie in the window?
  • Rosemary Clooney - It's bad for me
  • Cole Porter - You're the top
  • Danny Thomas - it had to be you
  • Mario Lanza - Oh danny boy
  • The andrew sisters - Bei mir bist du schon
  • Perry Como - Papa loves mambo
  • Johnnie Ray - Just walking in the rain

You can also download the official score to the game down over The Cult of Rapture homepage.

Videos A-Go-Go

I've decided to upload to Game Spot the best gaming videos I've collected in my PC throughout the years, just for the heck of it, and to show them to all of you who so kindly take a moment to visit my profile and may not have seen them before. I know many of them are probably been already uploaded by other users, but I don't really care, since I want to have them in my own profile anyway.

Sonic approves this post!

I will of course, be focusing mainly on SEGA stuff, with some PC-Engine love thrown for good measure, since it's even less known than SEGA's stuff for the nowadays common gamer. I will mostly be dealing with retro commercial and game trailers

And so does Air Zonk!

Of course since I'm on 56k, and with GS ever going video uploading ussues, looks like it's going to be a very long, long process, so be sure to check now and then to see what new stuff I've uploaded.

Segata-sensei advices you to watch his videos....or else!

So don't forget to visit my videos now and then, and support them if you'd like, or leave any comment you might want!

Saturn vs. Dreamcast The Match of the Millennium

Today, we'll finally find out the answer that has puzzled scientifics and gamers all over the world since the dawn of the 2000's: which is the best console, The Saturn or the Dreamcast.

Both have their strenghts and weakness, both offered something unique in their time, but only one console will walk away with "The Best" award.



The Saturn had a better interface than the Playstation, but it was still rather basic. The Dreamcast interface although also rather basic, it had a cleaner look, and overall looked prettier. I only wish they had kept the background special effects for playing music CDs that the Saturn had. The VMU, when implemented, allowed you to see special information outside of the main screen, as well as allowing you do download miscellanious stuff from games such as mini-games.

Winner: Dreamcast


The Dreamcast controller was obviously based off the Saturn 3D controller which was far from being a top-tier controller to begin with. In fact, the Dreamcast controller is less comfortable than the Saturn 3D controller if you play for long periods of time. That the Dreamcast controller had two less buttons than the Saturn controller was also a huge mistake from SEGA's part, and one that many a developer complained about.

Another main flaw of the Dreamcast controller was that for a console that was predestined to be full of Arcade multi-plats and ports, the Dreamcast controller design was perhaps the worst design they could've came out with. Fighers for example were almost unplayable with the controller, and overall, if you wanted a solid Arcade gaming experience you were pretty much forced to get an Arcade stick, where as the Saturn standard controller was pretty much perfect in this aspect.

The Saturn controller is also perhaps the most ported controller in history, since there were Saturn controllers specially made for the Playstation, Playstation 2, Dreamcast, GameCube, Xbox, and PC. Even companies like Hori and Capcom based their fighting pads on the Saturn controller.

The VMU was by far the biggest asset of the Dreamcast controller, but giving you a better control wasn't one of it's features.


Winner: Saturn


Not much of a fight here, the Dreamcast had a built-in modem, and most games had a Dream passport in them. It's really pointless to review this by now, since both consoles online service don't work anymore. But since the Dreamcast gave their first online experience to a lot of people, and for all the people that have fond memories of playing games like Chu Chu Rocket! and Phantasy Star Online, it's still something worth mentioning.


Winner: Dreamcast


The Saturn lived from November, 1994 to November, 1998 which was the Dreamcast launch date in Japan. So the effective lifespan of the Saturn was 4 years. The Dreamcast then, lived from November, 1998 and was officially discontinued in March, 2001, but since SEGA didn't canned their already planned releases, and the fact that the system got a good enough support all throughout that year, that's more than enough merits to be counted as supported year. So the Dreamcast's effective lifespan was 3 years.

That the Dreamcast only had a year less than of life than the Saturn can be deceiving when trying to judge how both consoles progressed. The Saturn overall progressed better and faster throughout his lifespan than the Dreamcast. This is due to many facts such as more continuation of projects, which obviously leads to improved sequels, third party companies releasing more games and better spread throughout the Saturn lifespan. Also, towards the end of the Dreamcast life, SEGA began developing their games with multi-platforming in mind, which led to less focus in taking more advantages of the Dreamcast special traits.

Winner: Saturn

High-profile games:

This is probably where the Dreamcast suffered the most, but certainly not for lack of trying. Pretty much the only first party high-profile games of the console were Sonic Adventure, Jet Set Radio, Eternal Arcadia, Phantasy Star Online and Shenmue. While for third party it was Soul Calibur and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, since Grandia II didn't do nowhere as good as the original, which was regarded as the Final Fantasy VII killer in Japan.

The Saturn greatly outdoes the Dreamcast in this aspect, since for first party alone it got sevel times that number, with the likes of the Panzer Dragoon and Shining Force III trilogies, Shining in the Holy Ark, Dragon Force, Fighters Megamix, Nights: Into Dreams, Wachenröder and the mega-hit Sakura Wars, just to mention some. While for third party the Saturn got the likes of Radiant Silvergun, Guardian Heroes, Princess Crown, and Grandia.

It's clearly that the Dreamcast got less high-profile games due to the impeding-doom feeling that the Dreamcast always had. Third party never really commited wholly with the system, and SEGA was forced to abandon former Dreamcast projects to put them in other consoles.


Winner: Saturn

Third-party support:

Even though the Dreamcast only lived a year less than the Saturn, it only got around half the games that the Saturn got. More third party companies developed games for the Saturn, since it actually sold more than the Nintendo 64 in Japan. Something worth mentioning here was Atlus role with the system, which was awfully similar to what Squaresoft did with the Playstation, in the aspect that they both released a lot of high quality games in genres that were far from their speciality genre.

The Dreamcast in turn, got the most western support that any SEGA console has ever seen, unfortunately the system did awfully in Japan, and that, besides SEGA's decision of swiftly killing-off the Saturn lead to a lot of abstinency from developers who previously had supported the Saturn.

It's understandable that many people here would have the notion of the Dreamcast being superior to the Saturn in these last two categories, but it's more a matter of perception really, since importers are a very small minority and most people probably never saw and don't know the mayority of games the Saturn got. But the Saturn indeed got a whole lot more games that the Dreamcast, the Saturn did abyssmaly better that the Dreamcast in Japan and it just clearly got a most constant support from third party developers, rather that the one burts support that the Dreamcast had. Since in reality, Namco didn't relased another high-profile game besides Soul Calibur, Game Arts didn't released another game besides Grandia II, and Capcom didn't released a single console exclusive game besides Resident Evil: Code Verionica and the lackluster El Dorado Gate.


Winner: Saturn

Arcade games:

Although the Saturn got a lot of the best Arcade games ever made, games of the quality level of Radiant Silvergun and Soukyugurentai that still manage to put newest games to shame. The very poor performance of the Saturn Arcade counterpart, the ST-V (SEGA Titan Video) highly limited the progress of the system and relegated it to only being used in Japan.

The Naomi did so much better than the ST-V that it even led to some SEGA studios that never made Arcade games before like Sonic Team to take a shot at it. While only the SEGA studios that usually made Arcade games made games for the ST-V.

Also, although comparatively with the time, Capcom really didn't give the Dreamcast more support than the Saturn when it came to Arcade ports. The Naomi did so good on the Arcades that it led Capcom to abandon their own CPS-III board for the Naomi, and so games like Power Stone and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 became mult-iplats rather than ports. And that really has more merit.


Winner: Dreamcast


The Dreamcast got so little RPGs, and the only really worth mentioning are Eternal Arcadia and Grandia II. The Saturn totally overcomes the Dreamcast since it go a lot of RPGs of the level of Shining Force III, Panzer Dragoon RPG Azel, Shining the Holy Ark, Princess Crown, Chaos Seed, Dragon Force, Wachenröder, Sakura Taisen, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner II, Tengai Makyu etc.


Winner: Saturn

Unique games:

The Saturn was a traditionalist console in it's purest sense. But even that doesn't begin to cut it to describe the amount of unique games that originated on the Dreamcast, which is uncanny. I just don't see another console creating the amount of original games the Dreamcast made, not anytime soon.

Winner: Dreamcast

Exclusive games:

Exlusives are in the end are what makes you get a console, since you won't have any other way to play it's games. The impeding doom of the Dreamcast and it's awfully low software sales forced a lot of games to be ported to other consoles, and while the Saturn also saw many games ported to the Playstation, the numbers between the Saturn and Dreamcast multi-plats are highly uneven. So in the end you don't really need a Dreamcast to play a lot of it's best games, while you still need a Saturn to play the mayority of it's best games.

Winner: Saturn


The Saturn got the immortal Segata Sanshiro promoting their console in Japan. With the Dreamcast, with all the doom surrounding it, the actual director manager of SEGA Hidekazu Yukawa decided to promote the console himself. In his commercials, he usually goes around town listening to children demining SEGA and saying how Sony is better than them, he usually gets depressed or an amusing event happens, then in most commercials it turns out it was just a dream.

Hidekazu Yakuwa actually did a wonderful good job in his commercials, a lot of people in Japan actually thought he was a professional actor, but he was indeed the SEGA managing director. Hidekazu's commercials are funny, but nowhere in the level of Segata's, they're still worth watching though. So in the end it's not that Hidekazu was bad, just that Segata is untouchable.


Winner: Saturn




Total Winner: Saturn

They say that the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and that's perhaps the best analogy to describe the Dreamcast. It had one of the best launches in history, it had one hell of a burst support, and it had undoubtedly more potential that the Saturn. It surely looked like it was going to leave the Saturn in the dust, but unfortuntately, it burned out along the way. It failed to mature on the level that the Saturn did, lack of commitment from Japanese developers led to awful Japanese third party support compared to the Saturn. The Dreamcast became the cool console, only when it died and became fad to praise it.

The Saturn kept an awful low profile everywhere outside of Japan, yet in it's homeland it got some of the best gen-defining games of it's time. It gave 2D gaming it's last hurra in consoles, as the Dreamcast didn't do anything special with it outside of Arcade ports. Even though the Saturn failed to achieve the success of the Mega Drive. it was the peak of the SEGA developing studios, and the peak of the company as far as gaming releases are concerned. It was more one of a kind console on it's time than what the Dreamcast was in his, since the Saturn said 2D when everybody else said 3D, the Dreamcast was more of a continuation of the Saturn, and although it had the potential to surpass it, unfortuntately it didn't. So when all it's said and done, the Saturn was indeed the best SEGA console of the two.

Best unpopular original games

Today we'll take a look at some of the most original and unique games out there.

A lot of gamers often complain about how gaming companies keep on rehashing old ideas and franchises. Yet there always seems to be an unique game or two coming out among the piles of high-profile games and clones. Games like Katamari Damacy, Trauma Center or Okami, to just mention some, are always coming out on the sides. And as long as there are talented developers out there, it's highly unlikely we'll ever run out of original games to play.

However, you could say that the games I mentioned, among pretty much most of the games that are regarded and praised as unique and original are *gasp* popular by unpopular standards. So instead of going through what you already know, lets take a look at some of the most less known games out there, the unpopular of the unpopular, the elite of the unknown.


Twinkle Star Sprites ADK, 1996 - Neo*Geo MVS, AES, CD, SEGA Saturn, Dreamcast, Sony Playstation 2

What is it?

A shoot 'em up/puzzle extravaganza! You pick your character from within a colourful cast and duke it out against a human or CPU controlled opponent on a half-split screen, just like you would in any versus puzzle game. You move, shoot and use smart bombs like in a SHMUP, and just like in one there'll be lines of enemies coming at you, and as you keep on destroying them you will be sending your opponent a series of balls of fire which act like punishment attacks in a vs. puzzle. If you shoot off these balls of fire you can send some invincible enemies or even a boss to your opponent's side of the screen, which will make his/her life a whole lot more complicated. Every time you get hit you will lose a heat off your life bar, if you lost them all you will lose the round, the one who wins 2 out of 3 rounds wins the game.

Why is it unique?

Chances are if someone asked you what are the two likeliest genres to mix together, you probably wouldn't even take the shoot 'em up genre into account. Twinkle Star Sprites successfully combines the tight and twitchy gameplay of the SHMUP genre, with the high competitive mechanics of a vs. puzzle game. The result is a very unique game that plays very familiar and will hardly alienate anybody who has ever played a SHMUP before.

It's a shame that the game's sequel "La Petite Princesse" for the Playstation 2 didn't do anything for the series outside of being online in Japan. Instead, the game was more of a graphical faceflit, and the new art ****isn't even necessarily better than the original. On the other hand, you can unlock a bare-bones, but perfect emulated port of the AES version of the original game, as well as the exclusive FMV intro of the Saturn version. Seeing as any version of Twinkle Star Sprites goes easily above $60, the Playstation 2 version is the optimal choice to anybody looking to play the game.


Roommania #203 Wave Master, 2000 - SEGA Dreamcast

What is it?

You're a God with no seemingly better things to do than making the life of poor Neiji Taihei miserable. Well, you can help him too I guess, but most of the times you will be messing up´with the poor guy's head. The game revolves entirely around Neiji's room, which is the only enviroment in the game. You get to see Neiji do his daily business like eating, watching TV, using his PC, listening to radio etc. the kind of stuff any normal people does. You can then, use your powers to influence Neiji into doing the stuff you want him to do as you can't force him directly. When Neiji goes out, you can mess with his room all you want, and do all kinds of stuff that will freak him out when he returns. Occassionally, a friend or a relative might drop in to visit Neiji, you can then see him interact with them, and if you want, freak them too. The game progresses on a day by day basis, and you have a set of objectives you must accomplish within a certain time. Depending of what you do in the game, you can influence Neiji's life in many ways that can lead to totally different storyline scenarios.

Why is it unique?

At first glance you could compare Roommania to a one room version of The Sims. However Roommania couldn't be any different from The Sims. One of the best aspects of the game is that the rewards for your actions are not short-lived as to just see what kind of reactions can you get off Neiji, although that is also a fun thing to do for sure. Like I mentioned before, what you do in the game can affect Neiji's life drastically, leaving you to to totally different story branches. Roommania also shines in this aspect, as all of the storylines found in the game are very well developed and are of a quality level that you just don't expect to see in a game of this kind.

That the only area in the game is Neiji's room can seem very limited and restricting on paper, but when you play the game, you'll see it was very ingenius of developers to give you only that kind of perispective on Neiji's life. If you ever seen the movie "The Truman Show" you'll somewhat know what kind of feeling the game tries to give you. And Roommania also triumphs in here, since it does give you the feeling that your TV or monitor screen is a window to the life of Neiji Taihei. Overall, Roommania #203 is not only a very unique game, but also a great game, because it just succeeds in doing right everything it sets to do.


Burning Rangers Sonic Team, 1998 - SEGA Saturn

What is it?

In the future it seems fires are still a mayor nuisance, so the future people created an elite fire fighting unit called the "Burning Rangers" to combat them. You get the role of one of their two new recruits: Shou and Tillis. Basically, you get thrown in a fire disaster area and you have to extinguish the fire around you and save as much survivors as you can find as you traverse through the levels. There's a limit percentage number on the right side of the screen that represents how bad the fire is getting. If the percentage gets too high, you'll find yourself sieged by fire explosions all around you until the percentage decreases. So you have to move swiftly in the game. Everytime you extinguish a fire, some crystals will pop up, theses crystals serve the same purpose that rings do in Sonic games. If you get hit you'll throw them all out, but as long as you carry one crystal you won't die.

With only 4 levels, the game is very short, even shorter than Nights:Into Dreams. In turn, the game offers more replay value. After you finish the game once, a random level generator will activate. This will randomize the level's layout and open up or close doorways that were open or closed before. So since you have the danger limit percentage to deal with and have to move fast throughout level layouts you don't know, the game gives you a navigator system to make your work a lot easier and less frustrating. The navigator system lets you contact Chris, your woman advisor who will tell you helpful information about the level and more importantly, the direction you should be going.

Why is it unique?

Outside of the unusual premise of being a fire fighter, the game isn't really any different than your usual third person action/platformer. But the game's premise is not what makes Burning Rangers unique, but rather it's the game's navigator system that gives the game it's uniqueness.

Many games have used their audio effectively in just too numerous ways to name, but none has used it quite in the way that Burning Rangers does. The navigator system allows you to blaze through an unfamiliar level without guessing or getting lost, and that's one hell of a design achievment. Granted, the navigator system isn't always right, after all Burning Rangers is only a 32-bit game, there's no hidden super A.I. to be found in here, only a good novel concept implemented successfully. The navigator system is correct most of the times however, and playing Burning Rangers with headphones in 1998 was an unique experience that brought a new concept to the table and one that has sadly gone unused.

Just imagine that if in Metal Gear Solid for example, instead of having that lame radar that any decent gamer would just turn off, you could press a button and have your advisor tell you how many enemies are out there and the direction they're moving. The game would have been much more immersive that way. It's a shame that this kind of audio interaction hasn't been implemented more in gaming.


Segagaga Hitmaker, 2001 SEGA Dreamcast

What is it?

The year is 2025 and SEGA is on the vege of collapsing. Their latest Arcade system was a commercial failure and now they find themselves with only 3% of the total gaming market share. On top of that, as if things weren't bad enough, the industry is dominated by the evil manipulative DOGMA Corporation. Out of desperation, the president of SEGA launched the Segagaga project, which consists of using a boy and a girl carefully selected by SEGA's super A.I. computer the "Tera Drive" and put them in charge of the company for 3 years, in hope that their young and strong spirits as well as their outsiders insight will help the company out of it's current crisis.

The game is an RPG/Simulation mix. In the RPG mode, you go through SEGA's own R&D studios to carry on the storyline as well as to gather developing staff members that have become monster-like, but that you must recruit in order make games. In the simulation mode is where you'll be developing and releasing your great software and hardware that will hopefully lead you to market supremacy. You can release over 200 different SEGA ****c games, that include masterpieces like Phantasy Star, Gunstar Heroes, Panzer Dragoon Azel and Jet Set Radio. You can also release over 30 different fictional next-gen hardware including the amazing 32XX and the GameGear Advance.

Why is it unique?

There's all kinds of simulation games: civilization, human breeding, theme parks, railroads, movies, etc. yet for some strange reason, as highly appealing and as obvious as the concept is, nobody ever made a gaming company simulation game, that is, until SEGA made Segagaga. The game also aboards a subject which is innately appealing to gamers, but that also nobody ever covered before: the game industry. Needless to say, there's never been a game where a gaming company puts themselves as the main protagonists and lets you play as them. I could continue mentioning all the stuff that makes the game unique, but I think the point is clear, there's just never been a game quite like Segagaga.

The game came out at what was certainly the most critical time in SEGA's history, so the game was pretty much the result of the circumstances of the time, circumstances that are highly unlikely to repeat again. So as it stands, Segagaga is one of the most original and unique conceptual games you can play.


Shadow of Memories Konami, 2001 - Sony Playstation 2, Microsoft Xbox, PC

What is it?

You're Eike Kusch, and you were murdered. After having a coffee in the pleasant fictional German town of Lebensbaum, you were stabbed in the back in the middle of the street and died. Or did you? after dying, you wake up in a strange room where a mysterious and androgynous being called Homunculus tells you he is willing to help you get back to life so you can discover who killed you and more importantly why? his sole reason for helping you he says, is to see if you are able to defy and change your own fate. With no other choice, but not without your reserves of his intentions, you decide to accept Homonculus' help. For this daring task, Homonculus gives you the "Digipad" a time-travelling device that allows you to manipulate time, but the catch is that you can't use it at will, the Digipat will only activate at the right time to take you to the right place in time, that could be a few minutes, days or even centuries ago.

Shadow of Memories is an adventure game, and it's done in a most true western st-yle, which is very unusual for a Japanese adventure game. In fact, the Japanese version is totally in English, including sub-titles. The storyline in the game is amazingly deep and engaging. As you try to discover your assassin and his reasons, you will become very familar with the town of Lebesbaum and it's many habitants. You will also be traveling through time and the actions you do in the past will greatly affect what happens in the present. And of course, that you happen to avoid death once, doesn't mean you're free of danger, or that there aren't other assassination plots aimed at you.

Why is it unique?

If you think adventure games like Snatcher or Phoenix Wright are a rare kind in Japan, you're in for an awakening. The Japanese are drowned in those games, the Dreamcast alone got around 50 games of that kind. How many of those games are of the same level of quality of Snatcher that's another story. But I'm willing to bet there are tons of good adventure games that would be appealing to us if only we knew Japanese. However, I can probably count with one hand the number of Japanese adventure games that aren't done in the "comic-like" s-tyle, which is the traditional s-tyle of the genre in Japan.

Shadow of Memories is on the quality level of any of the elite western adventure games that you would believe the Japanese were making games like these for years. But unfortunately that isn't the case. The greatest aspect of the game is perhaps that there a no dinstinctions to be made here, Shadow of Memories will appeal to the adventure games fan at heart, without having to worry about it's s-tyle of country of origin, which is most probably the reason why the game saw it's more viable audience outside of Japan and it warranted a PC and Xbox versions of the game, which weren't released at all in Japan.

Any fan of adventure games would do well to give Shadow of Memories a try.


Rent A Hero No.1 SEGA, 2000 - SEGA Dreamcast, Microsoft Xbox

What is it?

An errand boy simulator! well, not really, but close enough. You're a rental hero working for the SECA company, which is short of Super Energy Combat Armor. SECA is renting you your super hero armor which lets you transform from a common suburbian kid to the awesome Rental Man or whatever you choose to name yourself. But since SECA is not a charity institution, you will have to pay them 200G for every hour of heroic gameplay you enjoy, but that's not all. Your hero armor is powered by a set of Sanyo AA batteries, that you also have to buy to keep your hero powers going. Who said that being a hero is cheap?

To cover you hero super expenses, you have to take on various jobs that SECA will be sending you through your Creamcast console. These jobs can be all sorts of menial and crazy tasks like doing shopping tasks for amazingly lazy people that don't want to walk to their local Maidonalt burger joint to buy their meals, escorting a harrased female student safetly to school or even take the super hero role at a kids show.

Why is it unique?

Even though the game is basically a remake of the original Rent A Hero for the Mega Drive, the game's premise still came very unique for the Dreamcast version, specially since hardly anybody played the Mega Drive game since it's very hard to find even in Japan. Humor is a very important part of the game, the whole prospect of being a super hero that goes around doing menial tasks seems like taken out from a funny comic , and there's just something hilarious about seeing a super hero running through the streets with a bag of food from a burger joint in his hand. The game also parodies SEGA numerous times as well as other well known establishments like McDonalds and Seven Eleven.

The game also ended up remarkably well graphically, takng into account that it was done on a very limited budget that unfortuntatly wasn't enough to give it voice acting. The game is amazingly detailed, you can enter all sorts of houses and buildings, and they don't go on recycling the same stuff over and over, each one of them will look differently enough and have all sorts of little details like different posters or minor stuff that maybe it's not that important, but still very eye pleasing. The game also runs at a set 60 fps.

Unfortunately, as you can probably tell by the title, Rent A Hero was supposed to be the first game of many, but just like Shenmue they got canned. This is very unfortunate because Rent A Hero is one of those concepts you just know it could have become much better if more developed.

Rent A Hero succeeds in doing what it was after, being the only game where being an errand boy is actually fun.