Altered Beast on Genesis (6/10)

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On a quick nostalgia kick I went back and replayed this, the first Sega Genesis game I ever played. I think this was the pack-in game for the Genesis and it seems an odd choice. At the time it was technologically impressive but the game itself is not terribly exciting. It’s a side-scrolling fighting game in which the main challenge is figuring out the best attacks (kick or punch, that’s it) against the various enemies. The game really comes down to rote memorization.

The most exciting part is collecting the metamorphosis powerups that transform your character into a werewolf, dragon, werebear, or tigerman. Furries, rejoice! Once you transform you’ll become fairly invulnerable and you soon face a stage boss. Most of these bosses can be beaten with attacks that feel like cheap exploits. For example, move in close and spam the electric-shock button and the eyeball thing dies is seconds.

As flawed as the game is, I still enjoy playing it if only to experience the joy of kicking things while wearing jockey shorts.

Crusader of Centy on Genesis (7/10)

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Every couple of years I get back into emulation, mostly as a reaction against some massive open-world game I just spent hundreds of hours playing. This time ’round I enhanced my retro-gaming experience with the purchase of an 8BitDo M30 gamepad which mimics the layout and feel of a six-button Genesis controller.

Crusader of Centy is a Genesis game which I only know from grabbing a pack of a zillion ROMs from the Internet back in the days of the Genecyst emulator. It has the look and feel of a console JRPG but is really a simple action game with some puzzle moments. It’s styled very much after the original Zelda with a top-down view and sword-shooting attacks. Also, if you are looking for a copy on Ebay it will cost you more than a grand.

The overworld view. You are limited to a handful of points.

Unlike many games on the Genesis, Centy is bright and colorful with smooth animation and excellent pixelated character design. Along with the cheery music, this feels more like a Nintendo game than an exercise in x-treme Blast Processing™.

The controls work well for movement and interaction but combat is a bit clunky. Your sword never quite swings fast enough and enemies don’t react to hits other than their sprites blinking. Outside of boss battles, you are better off just avoiding fights since there is no leveling-up or noteworthy loot drops. The main hook of the game is collecting animal friends which give you special powers. You use these powers to get past obstacles and occasionally as specific means of attacking a boss.

Nearing the final boss fight.

All this makes for a very light and casual gaming experience. Unfortunately, there is very little of interest in the overarching plot in the game. At one point there is some time-travel to mix things up, but mostly its going from point A to point B for unspecified reasons. The dialogue is terse and bland and there are no memorable characters. A more developed narrative would have added so much more. Instead we are left with a very pretty but shallow action adventure.

Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium on Genesis (9/10)

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Phantasy Star II and III are probably the only 16-bit era JRPGs that I actually completed when I was a youngster. Even then I had very little patience for the stupid plots and inane mechanics (especially when compared to the Ultima games that I played on my Apple ][+) of most JRPGs. However, for some odd reason, these Phantasy Star games were able to hold my attention.

End of the Millennium is very much the same as its predecessors. You march a little formation of characters around towns, dungeons and a massive over-world and face random, turn-based battles every thirty seconds or so. Normally, these random encounters annoy the crap out of me, but I don’t mind it so much in this case. Combat is straightforward and you can set up macros to speed up the grinding and I always felt like I was getting stronger with each battle.

The thing that sets Phantasy Star IV apart from the other games in the series (and most late 80s JRPGs) is the comic book style cut scenes that make the plot somewhat understandable to my anime-adverse sensibilities. The pixelated 16-bit Genesis graphics are great and were especially crisp on the Wii Virtual Console version which I played here. The music is also really good, albeit repetitive to the point where every family member was able to whistle along with the upbeat “merchant music” from across the house.