Friday, September 28, 2012

Hidden Gems of Genesis (Part 2 of 2)

In terms of pure fun on the Genesis, titles like Strider, Quackshot or Rocket Knight Adventures really bring the goods.  But oddly enough these titles don't stick with me as much as some of the harder darker themed games that seeped their way into the 16-bit market.  I'd like to take a moment to examine three of those in particular.

Often mistaken for a successor to Another World (or Out of this World if your American) this game has nothing to do with Eric Chahi although the french publisher, Delphine, is the same. It basically plays like the original Prince of Persia except sci-fi instead of fantasy. The game has a plot revolving around amnesia, shape shifting reptilian aliens and a lot of small caliber guns. Like the two titles mentioned above it uses rotoscoping to generate especially fluid animation. I really enjoyed this game, particularly the atmosphere of paranoia, confusion, corruption and greed which make an excellent backdrop for the distopian future represented. The story slumps a bit during the mid game Death Tower segment, and ends on a cliffhanger which was very poorly handed in the proper sequel Fade into Black. Nitpicks aside though this game made a lasting impression on me much more than movies like Bladerunner or Total Recall. Blasphemy, I know, but it just goes to show you how much more engrossing an interactive experience can be than a passive one.

 I have no idea who Will Harvey is or why he though The Immortal would be a good title for a game, but I have to say as far as non-random isometric dungeon crawlers go this has got to be one of the hardest.  I could not beat this game even with a proper strategy guide and only finished the game by virtue of using a password system to skip passed the most difficult sections.  This game is also really gloomy and grotesque.  I have seen some 2D sprites go out in a bad way, but watching the player's character (an old wizard) get killed or take down goblins and trolls has to be the upper limit on the levels of gore Sega would allow in their games.  The plot is pretty straight forward; look for your mentor while avoiding traps and killing foes.  *spoliers* You end up fighting said mentor at the end and get rescued by the 'princess' rather than vice-versa. There's also a dragon who looks a lot like Vermithrax Pejorative, a spider that could be a close relative of Shelob and smaller versions of the desert worms from Arrakis.  The Watcher in the Water also makes a guest appearance.

At first glance you might disregard this game as yet another side scrolling shooter, but that would be doing Target Earth a great disservice.  Aside from varying mission objectives, and a reward system that allows for custom armament layouts, this is another game which I could not win without cheating.  In my defense I managed to make it halfway.  Most people dismissed this game for its brutal difficulty and I can remember seeing it heavily discounted not long after release.  At the time I played it I was familiar with Robotech, but not Gundam so I found this game with its 'assault suits' and the fighting-a-loosing-battle sci-fi military plot/gameplay to be engrossing. Mission briefings and mid mission dialogues help add weight to what you are doing.  It also had an excellent sound track for the time (here's a sample for your listening enjoyment). Target Earth got a sequel on the SNES entitled Cybernator and then a third entry which only came out in Japan. So, I guess this is the first in a trilogy though I must confess I only ever played the original.

There are a number of other titles I could talk about such as Shining Force, the one and only fantasy series to feature Tactical RPG game play on the Genesis.  Or Shadow Dancer, a highly underrated sequel to the somewhat lackluster Shinobi.  But truth be told, I think I've said enough about the Sega and their 16-bit system for now.  For those of you who have missed out on some of these titles though I hope this has been an interesting read.

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