Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Video Games I Sold To Buy A Dyson

Left to right: Dyson Animal, Amanda, Chloe.Being a responsible adult is never easy.

Sometimes you have to sell your video games so you can purchase a decent vacuum cleaner.

We have a dog named Chloe. We had a vacuum that was clearly not up for the job of sucking Chloe’s black hair out of our off-white carpet. My wife and I needed one thing and one thing only: A Dyson Animal.

Dyson Animals are not cheap. Though we ended up getting a good deal on a refurbished Dyson Animal on eBay, Amanda and I considered it a major purchase that would require additional funds.

I have a sizable video game collection – filled with many mint-condition rarities for which some people pay good money and coincidentally I no longer play.

Thus an opportunity presented itself.

Now we have our Dyson Animal. Not only is the amount of plastic employed in its construction impressive, but it also lives up to the hype as an elite vacuum cleaner. These Hoppers do not prefer wall-to-wall carpeting, but unfortunately we rent a home that has it, and our Dyson Animal has cleaned it as no other vacuum has.

What follows is a critical review of the video games that were sacrificed during Operation: Clean Carpet. Would I have sold these games had we lived on lovely hardwood floors as we have in the past? I think I would have. Ultimately, their worth-on-eBay quotient outweighed their importance in my video game collection.

And so …

Chrono Trigger

A scan of my copy of Chrono Trigger.Developer: Squaresoft

Platform: Super NES

Release Date:1995

ebay Price: $81

My underestimation of the value of this Squaresoft classic nearly led to me practically giving the game away. Initially, I listed Chorno Trigger on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $25 – a complete accident.

It must be noted that my copy of the game included the original box, instruction manual AND full-color world map.

Needless to say it sold within minutes, and I nearly lost control of my bowels as I realized my mistake.

My scan of the Chrono Trigger map.

Heroically, I apologized to the Buy It Nower (nothing more than an online game seller who would turn it around for a $150 B.I.N. price on eBay), relisted Chrono Trigger without the Buy It Now price, and ended up getting over $80 for it. I originally bought it used from Greene’s Video Club in Evansville, Indiana for $10.


The game itself is one of the more beloved in the role-playing genre from the so-called 16-bit era (Sega Genesis, Super NES). Featuring artwork and character designs from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, it is one of those classic Japanese role-playing games about which its fans do not tolerate negative speak.

Chrono Trigger Lovers will point to the game’s increased emphasis on character development and storytelling that Squaresoft originally explored in the Final Fantasy titles, only with more compelling, action-oriented gameplay.

chrono_trigger_manualThese are legitimate points I would not dispute. When I first played Chrono Trigger, I was impressed at how successful the game was in driving the story through its unique characters. And it was more fun to play than the Final Fantasy games. Wandering through the game is more interesting, and the combat is fun and requires more of your attention.

And though I have never been a Dragon Ball fan, I do appreciate the artistry Toriyama bought to Chrono Trigger. I love games that showcase the work of a singular artistic vision, and it is not often when an established artist from another medium makes such a contribution to a video game.

And yet, I had not played it for a long while, and as much as I love my Super NES, I had no desire to play it anytime soon. I have concluded that I have out-grown the old-school role-playing game, though I still consider them classics that thoroughly entertained me in my younger years.

Just as I no longer feel like playing Dragon Warrior and do not thrill at the prospect of playing Phantasy Star III, I felt comfortable in giving someone else the chance to have Chrono Trigger in their game collection.

Dungeons & Dragons Collection


Developer: Capcom

Platform: Sega Saturn

Release Date: 1997

eBay Price: $78

As a devotee of the Sega Saturn, I understood the claims my former brethren made regarding Dungeons & Dragons Collection, I just do not agree with them. They have mistakenly placed it on the same hallowed mantle as Radiant Silvergun and Grandia as a quality Saturn exclusive that inexplicably was never given a North American release.

discs_01In short, Saturn owners were so starved of quality games that they were forced to buy illegally imported titles from Japan. Some games were so good it seemed a crime not to give Americans the chance to play them. Unfortunately, D&D Collection has too much of that unpolished feeling for it to fall into that category.

Dungeons & Dragons Collection features two arcade releases on two discs: Tower Of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. Think: Final Fight In The D&D Universe. Although I suppose that could be Sega’s Golden Axe – which came well before Final Fight – but never mind.

What I mean is Dungeons & Dragons Collection is just like Golden Axe, only with different dungeons and different dragons.

D&D Collection also promised to be a Saturn Showcase of the same stylized art and animation for which Capcom’s games have become known, but none of that matters, because there are load times on Saturn.

My time with D&D Collection involved an ordinate amount of time spent staring at a “NOW LOADING …” screen with a looping fairy animation while the games loaded from the disc. My brother and I once tried the two-player cooperative mode, which in theory would be a blast, but we eventually had to stop playing after 20 minutes because we had simply seen too much of that little fairy and her loading bullshit.


Apart from that, the actual games themselves seem unfinished. The graphics are muddy. The animation is limited, even when using the an expanded RAM cartridge that several Japanese games utilized to deliver better visuals without hitting the frame rate. The implementation of the D&D license is well-done, but the gameplay is only competent. Certainly not good enough to warrant such unbearably long and frequent loading screens.


Overall, Capcom’s final product lacked the quality gamers have come to expect from them, and perhaps they even realized it themselves by choosing not to release it state side. Definitely it would have benefitted greatly from just a couple more months of development polish, but what was released ultimately only demonstrates the potential this title had.

If nothing else, it fetches a decent price on eBay.

Lunar: The Silver Star


Developer: Game Arts

Platform: Sega CD

Release Date:1993

ebay Price: $41

Lunar: The Silver Star was one of the few Sega CD games that inspired hope. Hope that more games of such quality would continue to be released for the Sega CD – a game console that only die-hard Sega fans (me) owned.

Lunar was the first Sega title from indie publisher Working Designs, which carved out a temporary niche for itself in the ‘90s by consistently plunking gems from Japan and giving them the A-plus treatment in translating and packaging them for the North American market.


Not only was there no Engrish in a Working Designs release, but all in-game acting was well performed by professional voice talent, and every release included beautifully embossed covers, full-color manuals often filled with original artwork (or stickers!), and other assorted nerdy treats.

In short, Working Designs made every one of its releases feel like a hidden treasure. Treasure in that it was a good game for the Sega CD, and hidden like no one but you knew about it since no one else had a Sega CD.


Even though Lunar is little more than a clone of Square’s Super NES classic Final Fantasy II, it’s a high-quality clone. At the time of its release, the Sega CD badly needed a game like Lunar: A good genre game that used the advantages of the CD-ROM format to push the overall experience.

Truth be told, Lunar’s visuals lack the richness of Final Fantasy II, but the fully orchestrated soundtrack and anime-style cinematic cut scenes would not have been possible on the cartridge-based 16-bit consoles.

Of course, the Blu-Ray and DVD players of today handle such features with ease, and most games overflow with overly produced cinematics. To see it done well, if at all, was a treat in 1993.


Credit has to go to Working Designs for the superb English translation of the story and dialogue. It was rare to see such care given to story matters in Japan-to-America releases in the early ‘90s, but with Lunar, Working Designs started something that is now commonplace.

Would a publisher nowadays dare to bring a Japanese release over to North America without giving special care to the English translation? Capcom might.

Lunar became a franchise for Working Designs. I never got the chance to play the sequel Lunar: Eternal Blue, though I did read good things. Same with the high-priced special-edition PlayStation releases of both Lunar games.

Lunar turned me into a fan of Working Designs – in business no longer sadly. I went on to buy many more of their games, several of which ended up being a major part of all this eBay selling.

Keep going.



Developer: SIMS

Platform: Sega cd

Release Date:1994

ebay Price: $28

The second Sega CD release from Working Designs is Vay, a mediocre RPG from the old school.

I never finished this game. As good as the fully animated story sequences are, the gameplay is only slightly more interesting than Dragon Warrior, and I grew bored with it.


And I freely admit to many sleepless nights playing Dragon Warrior back in the day. If I am called a dweeb, I will not object. It came free with my subscription to Nintendo Power.


As far as Vay goes, I may not have made it even halfway through the game, and I don’t care. Apparently neither does anyone else despite how rare the game is. Even in the pristine state in which I managed to keep it (a fully intact Sega CD jewel case – no small feat), it sold for less than $30 on eBay.

Popful Mail


Developer: SEGA Falcom/SIMS

Platform: Sega cd

Release Date:1994

ebay Price: $88

The idea of selling this game caused me to fret originally.

Popful Mail is an enjoyable “Magical Fantasy Adventure.” I finished it a couple of times many years ago and always considered it the game Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link wanted to be.


A solid fantasy-action game with a surprisingly entertaining and well-told story might be standard fare on some game consoles, but for Sega CD, such criteria easily puts Popful Mail into one of those All-Time Best-Ever Top 10 Lists that gamers love to make.


So as I sorted the games to sell from the games not to sell, Popful Mail gave me pause. And then I thought of how much money it might make me (almost $90!) and how I never feel like playing that kind of videogame anymore, and it became a game to sell.

Magic Knight Rayearth


Developer: SEGA

Platform: Sega SATURN

Release Date:1998

ebay Price: $74

There were a couple of facts I knew about Magic Knight Rayearth when it was released in the late ‘90s:

1. It would be the last Saturn game released in North America.

2. It would be the last game Working Designs would publish on a Sega console due to a behind-the-scenes spat between the presidents of both companies.


That was all I knew.

Honestly, I was sort of hoping for something other than a game based on a Japanese anime series for girls.

I would think a Magic Knight Rayearth fan would love this game, but this Zelda-style action-adventure-rpg hybrid just isn’t my thing, despite being more than competently done. The whole thing was just too magic knight rayearthy for me.

Because I rarely played it and had bought it new, my copy was in truly stunning condition. Even the attached bonus page of stickers (stickers!) was practically untouched by human hands. As such, it did well for me on eBay, and I do not miss it one bit.

I do hope the person who now has it gets that special kind of enjoyment from it. I really do.

Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus


Developer: konami

Platform: Sega SATURN

Release Date:1997

ebay Price: $37

You are not a hardcore gamer unless you are well acquainted with Konami’s flagship shooter franchise, Gradius. Then there are the hardest of the hardcore, like me, who are familiar with the spin-off of that series, Salamander (Life Force in the USA) – basically the same game only with a two-player cooperative feature.

salamander_discSalamander Deluxe Pack Plus is a compilation of the arcade versions of Salamander, Life Force and Salamander 2, none of which, amazingly, feature a single lizard. Rather they are action games of the side-scrolling shooting variety – a genre for which I have a soft spot.

Someone out there might be able to make an argument as to why the Salamander games are better than the Gradius games. Someone else might be able to explain why the Salamander games even exist in the first place.

For instance, when you already own Gradius V for the PlayStation2, which is the definitive Gradius game, there is very little reason to play older versions of this type of game, which the games on Salamander DPP are. Since Gradius V is in every way superior to anything in the Salamander series, including the entirety of the contents on Salamander DPP, I was happy to sell it.

It's obvious.

Incidentally, Gradius V was developed by Treasure (my favorite) which was founded by members of Konami’s original Gradius team. See how it all comes back around?

In Closing (Why eBay Sucks)

It had been many years since I had last used eBay to sell things.

Last time I bought and sold on eBay, in the year 2002, payments were made primarily with money orders. That’s not allowed anymore.

PayPal and eBay are now very intimate with each other and very open about it – almost disgustingly so. Both now delight in taking nice little chunks out of every transaction. And as convenient as I find PayPal, I don’t like being forced to use it, and I don’t like how PayPal now holds onto eBay money for two weeks before it is made available for withdrawal.

So I have lived, and I have learned. Maybe I’ll do this again. Maybe I won’t. Maybe eBay and PayPal can kiss my ass.

And there you have it. Video games for vacuum cleaners.

It all worked out beautifully.


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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Games: Mr. Do!

Insert coin for nightmarish clown madness!

DEVELOPER: Universal



By name alone, Mr. Do! sounds more like Silly Game than Great Game. It is, in fact, a silly game, but make no mistake, Mr. Do! is also one of the most underappreciated classic arcade games of all time. It deserves a historical place right along side some of the greatest of the era, while at the same time earning a hallowed place all its own. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Robotron 2084, Pole Position, Dig Dug, Mr. Do! (The exclamation point is actually in the title, so when making a list you always have to end with it.)

I first encountered Mr. Do! while attending St. Ambrose Catholic School which even today is still firmly entrenched in the working class neighborhood of South Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, where I grew up. There was a game room attached to the gymnasium that the school’s Boys Club had access to every other Friday night. Inside was a pool table, pinball, air hockey and shuffleboard, among other games I can’t remember, and three arcade cabinets: Atari Football (the one with the Xs and Os), Frogger and Mr. Do! (Again, you have to end with it.)

St. Ambrose School's Gym Entrance on Okell St. in South Buffalo.

Once you reached the 6th grade at St. Ambrose, you could attend Boys Club events, which included an occasional Buffalo Sabres game at the Aud with the dads and father-son breakfasts with a Sabres or Buffalo Bills player. But during the regular meetings every other Friday night, it was mostly a choice between playing dodgeball or hockey, making something in the art room, or hanging out in the game room listening to ’80s metal. Once I discovered Mr. Do!, I began spending more time in the game room and less time running like hell from the 8th graders in dodgeball.

Not to say that discovering Mr. Do! saved my life or anything, but the 8th graders used to throw bombs in dodgeball. (The school’s fire alarm was once set off when one such bomb went astray and smashed the glass on the wall switch.) Mr. Do! did, however, hook me to the point where I would be wide awake in bed thinking of new Do! strategies after a night of playing the shit out of it at Boys Club. I’ve been nerdy about Mr. Do! ever since.


One quick way to get on my bad side is to ask if I’m playing Dig Dug while I’m playing Mr. Do! It never ceases to amaze me.

“Oh, is this Dig Dug?”

No, it ain’t Dig Dug. It’s Mr. Do! you moron. How could you even confuse the two?

A good game, but it's no Mr. Do!mrdo_arcade_promo

Not that I don’t like Dig Dug. I’ve always thought it was a fun game. But when dummies like The Video Game Critic dismiss Mr. Do! as a “fast-moving Dig Dug clone,” it’s clear that Mr. Do! isn’t getting the props it deserves. Pure Mr. Do! ignorance.

Yes, of course there are similarities, but to me -- even at first glance –- the games look nothing alike. To most apparently, the games look exactly alike, which I find baffling. I think this is the primary reason Mr. Do! isn’t often mentioned among the truly classic arcade games of the early '80s. The mighty Dig Dug casts such a huge shadow of nostalgia from which Mr. Do! can’t seem to escape, even though both games were released in the same year (1982).


Whereas Dig Dug put you in control of a spaceman with an air pump, in Mr. Do! you’re a cherry-picking clown wielding a bouncy ball of death. It’s truly a nightmarish scenario: You dig mazes through endless waves of colorful cherry fields –- running like hell from a horde of freaky Sesame Street and Muppets rejects who happily and ferociously chase you all around the screen. Unleashing the ball at the right time can often save you when you’re cornered, but the ball is also unpredictable in its movement and only one can be thrown at a time, which often leaves you defenseless, and dead.

No matter. Mr. Do! can also set booby traps by not only burrowing underneath giant apples (which causes them to fall), but also by pushing the giant apples off ledges and onto unsuspecting monsters. That’s why they call him Mr. Do! He can do things.


The bad guys can also do things however. There are crazy killer red hemorrhoid monsters who can not only push the big apples around like you can, but can also morph into beast mode and maul your silly clown ass. Grabbing the revealed bonus treat at the center of each level drops the bastard children of The Letter People into the fray, who proceed to haunt you down with a posse of relentless cookie monster heads seemingly high on angel dust. Seriously. They eat right through the apples, too. But if you manage to kill each letter on legs and spell the word “EXTRA,” well … “YOU GET EXTRA Mr. Do!”


Progression through the game isn’t nearly as straightforward as in other classic maze games. Clearing a level of enemies will get you through to the next level just as in Dig Dug, but in Mr. Do!, you can also finish a level by either collecting all the cherries, completing the EXTRA puzzle or getting the secret bonus diamond, which only appears when an apple is dropped on just the right spot. Skillful managing of all of these tasks maximizes your point total, which in the end separates the men from the boys in games like this. The many ways you can earn points and clear levels injects Mr. Do! with a certain strategy in achieving high scores that simply doesn’t exist in games like Pac-Man or Dig Dug.

Overall, there’s just so much more going on in Mr. Do! compared to most other games from the early ’80s. Few games feature the same combination of chaotic action, whimsical visuals and depth of gameplay.


Sure, the primitive sounds and music will drive any normal person insane after a short while (especially the obnoxious sound of that bouncing ball), and the intermission screens that tell you “GOOD JOB!” and “CONGRATULATIONS … YOU WIN EXTRA Mr. Do!” contain laughably bad graphics and animation, but to me it all only makes Mr. Do! more awesome. In general, videogame graphics and sound were still very much at the amateur level back then. It wouldn’t be until the end of the decade when games began to really mature visually, so for me, Mr. Do! represents that time when games had to hook you at the gameplay level and get just enough out of the graphics to serve the action.


I currently get my Mr. Do! fix by playing the excellent Super NES version released by Imagineer and Black Pearl Software in 1995. I found it for $5 at a video rental store in Evansville, Indiana many years ago. While the Nintendo controller is a poor substitute for the original arcade joystick, it’s the next best thing to having a real Mr. Do! arcade cabinet. Even better, a competitive two-player versus mode was added which is actually pretty fun. Other versions of Mr. Do! were released for the Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Nintendo Game Boy, as well as a tricked-out 1996 sequel called Neo Mr. Do! for the Neo Geo console, but so far I’ve found the Super NES version the closest to the arcade original.

Spin-off titles featuring the Mr. Do! character include Mr. Do!’s Castle, Mr. Do!’s Wild Ride and Do! Run Run –- all completely different games from the original and nowhere near as fun.

Mr. Do! gameplay footage:



Mr. Do! on Wikipedia

Mr. Do! at KLOW

The Letter People on YouTube

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor cover art

Developer: Treasure

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Wii

Available Now

There are action games, and then there are action games made by Treasure, and therein lies the difference.

I’m sure there will be those who will say I’m full of poop, but it’s about time someone went ahead and stated the obvious: Treasure makes the best action games. Since the Sega Genesis days, they’ve been the Bob Clampett of video games – creating games that often have more ideas in a single level than most studios manage to put into an entire game. If you don’t believe me, play Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun or Ikaruga, and then try to tell me those aren’t the best games of their respective genres.

If you happen to be one of those poor souls who hasn’t been paying attention to Treasure’s exploits, now’s your chance to get yourself acquainted with the modern masters of disaster. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is out on the Wii, and it’s as good a game as Treasure has ever made. It’s so good that if this game isn't on everyone’s Top 10 lists at the end of the year, I’ll maybe think about running through downtown Seattle wearing nothing but a Wii Remote Jacket.

Sin & Punishment screenshot

A sequel to a Nintendo 64 game that was never released in North America until its debut on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor represents the natural evolution of the old-school, side-scrolling shooter disguised as an update of Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon. It is a third-person, on-rails shooter just as those games are, but honestly, it plays like Gunstar Heroes for a new generation.

This game is pure poetry in action gaming. Running and flying and shooting and dodging through the game’s well-rendered and beautifully designed levels using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is a genuine thrill – that doesn’t happen often these days. Sin & Punishment achieves critical mass less than five minutes in and doesn’t let up until you’ve beaten the game or it’s beaten you (which happened to me more times than I could count).

Sin & Punishment screenshot

The game’s beauty is in its simplicity. You play through the entire game with same level of firepower as when you started (the only power-ups are for health). Shooter fans might scoff at this, but it actually works brilliantly because the gameplay is tuned accordingly. Your gun also doubles as a sword, which lets you unleash four-hit combos on bad guys when they’re close, not to mention deflect incoming missiles and other assorted projectiles right back from whence they came. You also get unlimited use of a special shot that does plenty of damage but requires some charge time every time you use it.

Treasure gets maximum utility out of this simple set-up with stages and bosses that require intelligent usage of all of your abilities. Mastery of the deflect attack and the quick-dodge maneuver is particularly essential for getting through the game’s later stages. I love games that are built around your powers to navigate its world, and then through good design force you to push those powers to the max to survive. Sin & Punishment does even better by making it all a lot of fun.

Sin & Punishment screenshot

I don’t have the time or space to go through all the fun ideas and situations S&P throws at you, but I at least have to mention a few. During the escape scene at the very beginning, there’s a great, not-so-subtle throwback to the original Contra – which was developed by some of Treasure’s team before they left Konami. The next stage is an underground city that twists and turns all around you – much like the environments in Ikaruga – as you dart under highways and in-between skyscrapers. Later in the game, the gameplay perspective shifts to the old-school, side-scrolling viewpoint for an entire stage, but unlike most games of this ilk, you’re not limited to one-directional firing because the controls remain unchanged. The fabulous water tube stage features bad guys who ride the inside of the tube on jet skis and fire rockets which can be redirected at the giant sea serpent chasing and snapping at you. That stage also has sea creatures that emit giant bubbles which can be turned into deadly underwater missiles by hitting them with your sword – now that’s fun game logic! There are even a couple of bosses you have to fight melee style, and in one instance late in the game, the fight is actually presented like a Street Fighter-style fighting game.

I feel I’m not doing the game justice, but take my word for it: Playing through the first three or four stages, I can truly state that Sin & Punishment showed me things I hadn’t seen before, such as a boss that morphs into an orca and fights you alongside his orca friends; as well as some things that I had seen before just not done this well, such as the Forgotten Worlds-style gameplay turned on its head. And then, in true Treasure style, the game’s second half takes you inside someone’s dream, and things really get strange and wonderful.

Sin & Punishment screenshot

And hard. Man, is this game hard. “Punishment” is the key word here. The reason this review is coming out so late is that it took me much longer than originally anticipated to finally beat the damn game on the “Normal” difficultly setting. Yeah, go ahead Mr. Hardcore Schmupper: Tell me that I suck at video games. I’m here to tell you it takes some skills if you wanna see the end credits of this game, just like the old days. I didn’t care how many hundreds of continues I burned through, when I finally defeated the last of the many crazy bosses this game throws at you toward the end, not only did I feel like I survived something that I’ll never have to do again if I choose not to, but also a genuine sense of kick-ass accomplishment – as if I had subdued a big scary monster using only my cat-like reflexes and ninja moves. And it was fun, but the thought of attempting to beat the game on “Hard” makes my balls ache.

Also, I’ve gotta mention – just like the great action games of old, Sin & Punishment has a great soundtrack. The water tube stage in particular is played to a track that fits the action perfectly, and I love it when that happens because most modern game soundtracks put me to sleep. Fans of Gunstar Heroes will also notice a couple of familiar tunes as Treasure continues to pay tribute to the game that put them on the map.

Sin & Punishment screenshot

While Sin & Punishment achieves near perfection during gameplay, it almost fails spectacularly in a few other areas. First of all, the story in this game is stupid and often incomprehensible, and the cinematics between stages are as poorly conceived as they are terribly animated, but you gotta love a game that contains the immortal dialogue:

“Now what do we do?” says sidekick Kachi.

“Now we run like our lives depend on it. Because they do,” answers our generic anime hero, Isa.

You can easily skip through the unnecessary cinematics should you choose to be spared of such hilarity. I know there are fan boys out there who will probably online-bitch at me for saying so, but storytelling has never been one of Treasure’s strong suits. However, I’ll give Treasure the benefit of the doubt as to the above travesty, as I believe Nintendo of America’s localization department was responsible for that howler.

Sin & Punishment screenshot

A bigger problem is the game’s two-player option, which is pretty much a waste of time. Instead of a true co-op mode in which two characters fight together on-screen, the second player is limited to crosshairs-only shooting – doing slightly less damage per shot and with no charge attack. In short, it’s no fun at all for the second player, which is too bad because I can see how a real two-player co-op mode would have gamers beggin’ for buttermilk.

Also, and it’s a minor gripe, but for a game in which so much blows up, it’s kind of a drag that it doesn’t look just a bit cooler when stuff ’splodes. Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga and Gradius V had some of the best video game explosions I’ve ever seen, but somehow in S&P, most of the them kind of look like Nintendo 64 quality (although they do sound great). I'm sure this was a compromise Treasure had to make to keep the game running at 60 frames per second, so in the end it was probably a wise decision. On a completely unrelated note, the menu screens are surprisingly uninspired and blah.

This is still one of Treasure’s best games, however. With Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, Treasure continues its recent trend of releasing their unique brand of action for Nintendo’s underpowered game platforms – Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Wii – as if to say to Microsoft and Sony, “We don’t need your fancy graphics to make good games!” The Wii may not have the best graphics, but it does have its strengths. This game is perfect for the Wii, so I hope it finds an audience. I doubt I’ll play a better action game this year.
Relevant Links

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marvel Super Heroes

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Sega Saturn
Released: 1997

If there's one advantage the Sega Saturn had over the Sony PlayStation back in the mid- to late '90s, it's the fact it could do 2D action games really well. This advantage was exploited in Japan -- a market which saw many such games released, often to critical acclaim, and helped the Saturn stay competitive with its upstart rival for a short time. Unfortunately, Sega of America unwisely -- some might say stupidly -- chose to not to release such gems as Radiant Silvergun, Metal Slug and Dungeons & Dragons Collection for their North American audience. Japanese gamers could even buy special cartridges that boosted the Saturn's RAM capacity by up to four megabytes, which allowed games like Capcom's X-Men Vs. Street Fighter to run at a blistering speed with all of the arcade version's spectacular animation intact. Savy Saturn owners like myself were forced to import these games -- often at a considerable expense we could only justify by knowing we were playing the coolest console action games around.

Capcom was among the few developers that not only took full advantage of the Saturn's 2D capabilities but also released many of them in North America. It made sense. Capcom's considerable library of excellent 2D fighting games were a perfect fit on the Saturn -- not only was the hardware well-suited for them, but the Saturn controller was laid out in a similar configuration to Capcom's arcade control setup as opposed to the less-than-ideal button layout on the PlayStation controller. As a result, games like Street Fighter Alpha 2, X-Men: Children Of The Atom and the Darkstalkers sequel Night Warriors shined on the Sega Saturn.

The Marvel Comics-licensed title Marvel Super Heroes is unique among Capcom's North American releases in that is supports the Japanese 1MB RAM expansion cartridge despite the fact the accessory was never officially released here. Thankfully, I was smart enough to buy the something called the ST-Key back in the day -- a third-party accessory (not approved by Sega) which not only allows a North American Saturn to play Japanese Saturn games but also includes four megs of additional RAM for the select games that use it. Marvel Super Heroes would be practically unplayable without this device, but because Capcom wisely choose to sneak in support for it, the game is a contender for at least the best-looking fighting game on the system (aside from X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, which was only released in Japan).

Truth be told, the visuals alone remain the most compelling reason to play this game, but then again, I'm an animator who works in video games. I always appreciate games that make animation a priority while also keeping the gameplay fun and exciting. The typical fighting-game fanboy might take more notice at the appallingly low number of selectable characters for a Capcom fighting game. Two slots are absolutely wasted on the little-known characters Blackheart and Shuma-Gorath -- especially considering how Marvel mainstays like Thor, Dr. Strange, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, The Punisher, Ghost Rider and anyone from The Fantastic Four are nowhere to be seen. I was huge into Marvel as a kid and collected comic books for a long time, and I had never even heard of Shuma-Gorath until this game. Who's the genius at Capcom who thought it would be more fun to play as a pink, one-eyed octopus rather than The Mighty Thor?

There are a couple extra characters who become playable upon entering secret codes at the character-select screen -- the boss characters Dr. Doom and Thanos --  but it really gives me a pain in the ass when a game requires me to enter a code for a feature that should be there by default. But let's say I give the game a pass there: That's only 12 playable characters that don't quite represent the diverse and unusual Marvel universe we all know and love. The Silver Surfer in particular would have been a perfect fit for this game considering it's set in The Infinity Gauntlet storyline (strange coincidence that it was during The Infinity Gauntlet run in 1991 when I stopped buying comic books for good).

It must be stated, however, that the Marvel characters included in Marvel Super Heroes look pretty amazing and are a lot of fun to play. Spider-Man and Iron Man in particular bust out all kinds of cool moves and are a great showcase for the hyper-stylized animation for which Capcom has become famous. Much care was taken to keep all of the heroes and villains true to their counterparts on the paneled page. It's great fun to hear Spider-Man say, "My Spider Sense is tingling!" or "This one's for JJ!" as he takes his own picture after winning a match. Comic book fans should appreciate that much attention to detail.

Marvel Super Heroes is so true to the original arcade version of the same name that it's easy to forget you're playing it on a Saturn, with one important exception: The ridiculously long load times. As fast as the action is during a fight, it's equally slow while the game loads in-between rounds. Granted, double-speed CD-ROM drives were the norm when PlayStation and Saturn launched in the mid-'90s, but holy moly do they show their age nowadays. Other minor knocks against Marvel Super Heroes include a lame gameplay gimmick based on the plot from The Infinity Gauntlet that allows characters to power up using a variety of gems that in the end doesn't really add to the tried-and-tested Street Fighter II formula. There's also substandard artwork and hokey plot lines during the many end sequences, but the same could be said for practically every one of Capcom's fighting games at the time.

Playing Marvel Super Heroes on Saturn won't make you forget the fighting-game perfection that is Street Fighter Alpha 2, but the game is somewhat of a technical marvel in how just a little boost of extra RAM could turn the Saturn into an arcade powerhouse. It's also a sad reminder at what might have been possible had Sega played its one trump card in time to save the doomed Saturn.

Gameplay footage of Marvel Super Heroes from YouTube:

Relevant Links

Sega Saturn on Wikipedia

Marvel Super Heroes on Wikipedia

The Infinity Gauntlet on Wikipedia

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer


Developer: SideQuest Studios

Publisher: eastasiasoft

Platform: PlayStation3

Available Now on PlayStation Network

I’ve been meaning to get to this game for a while now. Not because it’s been out for some time, but because I really loathe it. Side-scrolling action games for Xbox Live Arcade, Wii Virtual Console and PlayStation Network seem to be the chic thing nowadays, but it’s amazing how painfully mediocre most of them are. It’s obvious to me that with Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer, the developers were out to make the ultimate side-scrolling shooter. The tried-and-true elements are all there. It’s got the lush and crisp visuals. It’s got the techno soundtrack. However, the weapons system is beyond lame. The gameplay is weak and a sad attempt at ripping off the chain system in the influential Treasure classics Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, and the game as a whole is just kind of boring.

And it must be stated: The title is ridiculous. I could deal with Einhänder (by which this game was obviously inspired), but Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer? I looked up the translation on Wikipedia, and I think they should have just called it “Mercenary-X: Set To Defy The Impossible.” Much easier to pronounce and slightly awesome.

The biggest problem with this game is how it throws hordes of enemies at you without giving you an adequate weapons system with which to deal with them. The wide-open level layouts would have been ideal for cutting loose with some heavy-duty firepower, but Söldner-X instead forces you to pick at enemies with a paltry peashooter of a main weapon. Properly chaining enemies of the same type supposedly augments your firepower, but not enough in my opinion, and the whole chaining thing comes off as a cheap gimmick anyway. It’s no where near as cleverly used as it was in the aforementioned Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. In what I suppose is the developer’s idea of a gameplay innovation, a weapon can overheat if you use it too much – forcing you to switch to another gun while the other cools off – a truly horrible idea for a game like this. It’s a bad idea not only because it severely limits the amount of destruction you can unleash, but also because of how utterly crappy the other weapons are.


One of the two selectable weapons you get at the beginning is the Beam, and man, do I hate the Beam. First of all, it doesn’t look like a Beam. It looks like bolts of electricity. And yes, the bolts do go through otherwise impenetrable objects, but it isn’t very strong when it comes to blowing shit up. In fact, you’re more likely to be blown up yourself when using the Beam, so I never use it. The Pulse and the Bow aren’t much better, though. In fact, none of the weapons you’re given are very impressive, either from a visual or a gameplay standpoint, which to me spells certain doom for a game of this type.

So let’s summerize: This is an action game that tells you to blow up the bad guys, but forces you to do so with weak weapons that don’t look cool while at the same time imposing annoying gameplay restrictions? Oh, and I didn’t even mention the boring story sequences in-between levels and a narrator that spews annoying sound bites while you play. No thanks. I don’t care how fancy the graphics and effects are, or how loud the techno music is, there are so many great action games out there that allow me blow shit up in a multitude of satisfying ways, and now Söldner-X comes along and frustrates the hell out of me with bad ideas and boring gameplay.

My advice: Dig out a classic like Super R-Type, Thunder Force III or Galactic Attack. Not only will save yourself 10 bucks, but you’ll have infinitely more fun than playing Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer.

Relevant Links

Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer on Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Still Have My Sega Game Gear, And Here's What I Think ...

It's funny what was once considered portable.

My little brother and I got a Sega Game Gear for Christmas in 1991. At the time, we thought it was the coolest thing ever, despite only having the pack-in game Columns at first. It was the promise of the Game Gear that excited us so much. Sure, our friends with Game Boys had all kinds of great games to choose from, but soon we'd be able to play Sonic the Hedgehog in full color ... in the dark!

Sega's Game Gear was supposed to be the platform that challenged Nintendo's mighty Game Boy for portable gaming supremacy, and in the end it really never came close. You can't blame Sega for trying. After all, there was no other real competition out there. Atari's Lynx and NEC's TurboExpress, though vastly superior in terms of processing power, were expensive, didn't have enough good games and were poorly marketed.

Even though Game Gear was priced more than $50 higher than Game Boy, there was definitely room there for Sega to grab of piece of Nintendo's dominance in the handheld arena. In retrospect though, it's easy to see why Game Gear – a noble effort to be sure – never quite caught on.

First of all, the thing is a beast. Game Gear is easily twice the size as the original Game Boy, which itself seems oddly large and bulky compared to the tiny versions released later. But even the old Game Boy could be stuffed into your jacket pocket. A Game Gear might fit into a jacket pocket, if forced, and provided you're fine with half of it hanging out.

The original Game Boy was well-known for its lousy, pea-soup tinted, two-color screen, but it could be powered for about 10 hours on two AA batteries. By contrast, Game Gear lasted a measly TWO hours on SIX AA batteries! Maybe that was by design though, because a Game Gear loaded with batteries is a heavy bastard to play for more than two hours.

Game Gear also had several unique accessories available – none of which did anything to enhance the portable aspect of the platform. There was the TV Tuner, which allowed you to watch color TV on your Game Gear; the Super Wide Gear, a magnifying glass that fit over Game Gear's screen; a large rechargeable battery pack that was laughably almost as big as the Game Gear itself; and my favorite, the Master Gear Converter – the only Game Gear accessory I own – a large component that attaches to the back of the Game Gear and allows you to play Sega Master System games (very few of which are actually worth playing unfortunately).

In the end however, it came back to the quality of the games available, and Game Gear simply didn't have enough of them. Many of the first games from Sega had a rushed-to-market feel, while second-rate publishers like U.S. Gold and Flying Edge released mostly garbage when the platform should have been hitting its stride. Sega did do a good job of porting over its key franchises to the Game Gear, as there were several games released from the Sonic the Hedgehog, Shinobi and Streets of Rage series, though RPG fans were hung out to dry as Sega choose not to release two titles from its popular Phantasy Star series in North America.

By the end its life cycle, there were several good games in the Game Gear library, but I had since lost interest in the platform and never got around to playing them. I missed out on games like Vampire: Master Of Darkness, Jurassic Park, Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi and Shining Force: The Sword Of Hajya. While I could probably track those games down at my local used game store, sadly, my Game Gear seems to be on its last legs, so I wanted to revisit the platform and the games I have for it while I still can. So without any further delay …

Columns (Sega, 1991)

Sega's obvious answer to Tetris, Columns was the pack-in game when the Game Gear launched in 1991, just as Tetris came with every Game Boy when it launched a couple years prior. Unfortunately, Columns isn't a very captivating puzzle game and can't hang with a masterpiece like Tetris. Rows of connected jewels drop down into a well just like in Tetris, but instead of wiping out lines of blocks, the job is to create space by matching up three or more jewels of the same color. Columns is indeed an impressive showcase for Game Gear's color screen, but for some reason the game doesn't progress past level nine, and there's no reward for setting high scores. Back in the day, Columns was pretty and mildly entertaining, but playing it today feels like wasting time. Perhaps the game's most lasting legacy: Capcom borrowed some of the basic gameplay from Columns to make their brilliant puzzle game, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which was released for a variety of platforms and is now available on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Ninja Gaiden (Sega, 1991)

Sega already had a version of their own ninja action game, Shinobi, on the Game Gear, but you can never have enough ninja games, so a reprogrammed version of Tecmo's blockbuster Ninja Gaiden was also available at launch. Sadly, this Game Gear version – while doing its best to mimic the action of Ninja Gaiden on the Nintendo Entertainment System and featuring some nice graphics here and there – kind of sucks. You control the lead character, Ryu, in a new adventure that departs from the storyline in the NES games. The story is told in animated cut scenes similar to the NES games, but they're very poorly written and rendered and don't do much to compliment the mediocre action. Ninja Gaiden on Game Gear isn't very difficult either. I think I remember completing the game less than a day after buying it, and it wasn't long after that I regretted not giving Shinobi a try instead.

G-LOC: Air Battle (Sega, 1991)

Another Game Gear launch title, G-LOC: Air Battle is a port of a little-known Sega arcade game, which itself was a successor to Sega's popular, high-octane, air combat game, Afterburner. G-LOC puts you in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and allows you to select from missions such as "SHOOT DOWN 40 FIGHTERS" or "DESTROY 15 WARSHIPS." The action itself isn't half bad. You're equipped with a vulcan cannon and missiles and can see incoming enemies on a handy radar display at the bottom of the screen. You can also accumulate points after every mission that allow you to upgrade weapons, fuel capacity and armor – a feature exclusive to the Game Gear version that does give the gameplay some needed depth. However, there's literally no variety in the mission objectives – it's always about shooting down fighters and destroying warships – and there's even less variety in the scenery you fly over (mountains or water). As monotonous as that seems, thankfully G-LOC isn't a very long affair, even on the "Expert" setting, so just as a simple air combat game, G-LOC is a solid but very unspectacular addition to the Game Gear library.

Dragon Crystal (Sega, 1991)

Dragon Crystal
is a strange little game, intended, I think, to satisfy any role-playing gamers who bought a Game Gear at launch and had nothing to play. As I write this, I struggle to find the words to describe this game. A port of a Sega Master System title of the same name, Dragon Crystal puts you in control of a little hero as you navigate your way through a seemingly endless number of labyrinths. An egg follows you wherever you go, out of which a little dragon eventually hatches and grows as you gain levels. In all the times I've played Dragon Crystal, I've never seen the dragon do anything but follow you around, but then again, it's been many years since I've given the game very much of my time, so maybe the dragon contributes more to the game, and I've merely forgotten. In any case, the gameplay consists of walking through mazes, picking up objects, weapons and armor and fighting little monsters – not unlike Diablo only somehow a lot less fun (and, truth be told, I'm not much of a Diablo fan). Dragon Crystal apparently falls into an RPG subgenre called "roguelike," which I had never heard of before, but according to Wikipedia is "characterized by randomization for replayability, permanent death, and turn-based movement." So maybe fans of roguelike games will want to track down a copy of Dragon Crystal. My thoughts after buying this game and playing it for the first time: "People who have Game Boys get to play Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. I sort of wish I had a Game Boy right now."

Sonic The Hedgehog (Sega, 1991)

It was right around the time Sonic The Hedgehog was released on Game Gear that things began to look up for the handheld platform. Finally, Game Gear had a showcase platformer featuring Sega's iconic mascot. I managed to get a free copy of the game as soon as it came out through some kind of promotion Sega was doing to get people to buy Game Gears, and after enduring the never-ending mediocrity of Game Gear's library up to that point, much to my relief, the game was actually really good!

Sonic The Hedgehog
on Game Gear captures much of what made the original Genesis game so fun. The levels aren't as large so there's not as much exploring to do, and sadly there are no loops to traverse or walls to break through, but everything else is just about perfect. The game really benefits from sky-high production values across the board, something previously unseen on Game Gear. Even the music is good. There are new zones to explore, bonus stages and Chaos Emeralds hidden throughout the zones. This was the first of nine Sonic titles released on Game Gear and one of the few Game Gear titles worth playing.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Sega, 1992)

Electronic Gaming Monthly apparently named Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for Game Gear the best portable game of 1992. I'm sure the folks at Sega really appreciated that free bit of publicity, because Sonic 2 is nowhere near as fun as its predecessor. Sure, the levels are bigger; Sonic can now smash through walls and collect rings he's dropped; and his pal Tails is featured in the game, but make no mistake, this game is a big letdown considering how good the first Sonic The Hedgehog was. Clearly, this game was made by a different developer than the first. Gone are the vibrant colors and crisp visuals from the first game. In their place are muddy colors, smudgy sprites and ugly environments. Also, Sonic 2 has some of the worst music and sound design I've ever heard in a Sonic game. The game is just brutal on the senses, and I see no reason for it other than the decision by Sega to hand the franchise over to another developer because, again, the first Sonic The Hedgehog had high-quality graphics and sound. The gameplay will still satisfy Sonic fans, and the game is definitely more challenging than the first, but to me, this is a clear step down in quality. Especially disappointing when you consider how good Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on the Sega Genesis is.

Defenders Of Oasis (Sega, 1992)

With the release of Defenders Of Oasis, Game Gear loyalists finally had a real role-playing game to call their own. Thankfully, it also happened to be very good – easily one of the top 10 games for the platform. An epic, turn-based RPG adventure in the same vein as the old Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy games on the NES, Oasis puts you in a setting not often explored by other games in the genre: ancient Mesopotamia and its mythology. As in Dragon Warrior II & III on the NES, other warriors join your party throughout the game, including, awesomely enough, the famous Genie (of the lamp). This is as well-made a game as any RPG of the day, and though the storytelling is sometimes hampered by childish writing and suspect translation (a hallmark of RPGs back then), it's refreshing to be fighting in the desert against Ali Baba and his thieves using a jambiya as opposed to the standard RPG fare (say, for instance, fighting in a dungeon against a legendary dragoon with a bastard sword). Had Defenders Of Oasis been released on the NES, it would have been remembered as a classic. Those of us lucky enough to have actually played it will have to settle for recognizing it as one of the few great Game Gear titles.

Batman Returns (Sega, 1992)

Before Acclaim took over videogame adaptations of the Batman movies in the mid-1990s and nearly ruined the Batman brand name in the process, there were actually some really fun Batman games available for the various platforms, and Game Gear was no exception. Batman Returns is an action-platformer similar to Sunsoft's great Batman for the NES. Using the various locales from the film as backdrops, Batman fights mostly with his batarang, but can also punch; signal the Batmobile for reinforcements; jump and swing using his grappling gun; and float around using his cape. The graphics and sound are top-notch, the gameplay is smooth, and I like how you can choose between two routes before each stage. Working in game development for over five years now, I know how easy it can be to sleepwalk through the making of a licensed game, so I appreciate the ones that have high production quality and are fun to boot. Batman Returns is a pleasant surprise in the Game Gear library.

World Cup USA '94 (U.S. Gold, 1993)

The 1994 World Cup in the United States is still known as one of the most successful and exciting World Cups in history, but wow, what a mess of a soccer game this is. I don't know anyone who loves the sport of soccer more than me, and I take offense at this game because it's an insult to the sport. In a laughable attempt to make the game accessible to people of many languages, the game's many menus are filled with icons of the USA '94 doggie mascot doing various things that for the life of me I cannot decipher. These menus are the worst I've ever seen in a videogame and are an affront to humanity. If you can actually plow through the menu system and get a game going, it doesn't get much better. From an overhead view, tiny players scamper about like fleas on a gigantic field knocking the ball around. The action moves so fast you can hardly tell which player has the ball, and the crowd noise is mind-numbingly repetitive and annoying. None of the team rosters feature actual player names, so there isn't much authenticity to the proceedings. British publisher U.S. Gold put a lot of terrible games into the world in the mid-1990s, and World Cup USA '94 is certainly one of those games.

Mortal Kombat (Acclaim, 1993)

Let’s face it. Mortal Kombat was more than just a video game – it was a cultural phenomenon. I honestly always preferred Street Fighter II, but there’s no denying Mortal Kombat’s impact on the game industry and pop culture, and Game Gear can lay claim to having the best portable version of the infamous violent fighting game. It runs a bit slow compared to its Sega Genesis counterpart; the controls are sluggish; there are only two stages in which to fight; and the “Test Your Might” bonus levels are missing. However, the digitized characters look great, and even though a couple had to be left out, the ones that are there have made it into the Game Gear with all their moves intact. Entering a secret code enables spattering blood during fights, which is all anyone seemed to care about when the game made the transition from the arcades to the home consoles. Credit to the developer Probe for making an extremely playable version of Mortal Kombat for the Game Gear, which is more than can be said for the extremely lacking Game Boy version. Word is that the sequel, Mortal Kombat II, also handled by Probe, was even better.

Fatal Fury Special (SNK, 1994)

A superb port of the Neo Geo original by developer Takara, Fatal Fury Special might be the best fighting game on Game Gear and is certainly one of the platform's showcase titles. Concessions definitely had to be made to squeeze it into a Game Gear cartridge, but this is about as good a version of an arcade fighting game as you could hope for on a portable 8-bit platform. I must state that I'm not the biggest fan of SNK's fighting games (and there are many). I've always thought they were all just cheap imitations of Capcom's Street Fighter II. Fatal Fury Special on Game Gear is as close to Street Fighter II as you're ever going to get however, and I know a good game when I see one. Fans will be happy to know that the eight playable characters that did make it into the game have all of their signature moves intact – impressive considering Game Gear only has two buttons – and even Ryo from SNK's Art Of Fighting is among those playable characters. Fighting game fans with a Game Gear owe it to themselves to track down a copy of Fatal Fury Special.

FIFA International Soccer (EA Sports, 1994)

At first glance, FIFA International Soccer on Game Gear has no discernable differences from the Sega Genesis/Sega CD version. Credit has to go to the developer Tiertex Design for somehow shoehorning this game onto Game Gear. Granted, I was never a big fan of the original FIFA games, mostly due to the awkward isometric perspective during gameplay and the lack of any player or league licenses, and unfortunately, FIFA on Game Gear inherits all of those shortcomings. This is one great-looking game however, and the gameplay, while not great, moves at a good pace and is solid enough to make it the best soccer game available for the system.

NHL Hockey (EA Sports, 1995)

Once again, EA found a developer that managed to squeeze a Sega Genesis game into a Game Gear cartridge, and again the result is a great-looking game that plays only so-so. NHL Hockey looks nearly identical to the great NHL ’94 for the Sega Genesis/Sega CD. All the real players and teams are represented, as well as full season and playoffs modes. Unfortunately, the gameplay is much slower than its 16-bit brethren, and the controls are sloppy. Only one other hockey game was released for the Game Gear however – Sega’s NHL All-Star Hockey – which I’ve never seen nor played. I have played NHL All-Star Hockey on the Genesis and Sega Saturn, however, and I can definitively state that they were all garbage. NHL Hockey looks really, really good, and plays good enough that NHL fans might enjoy themselves. So I feel good in declaring NHL Hockey as the best hockey game for Game Gear.

In Closing …

It’s really fun looking back on the Game Gear days. Really, was there ever a more exciting time to be a gamer? We had Sega coming into its own with the Genesis; Nintendo wowing the industry with the Super NES; outsiders like NEC trying to grab a piece of the market with the TurboGrafx-16; Game Boy versus Game Gear versus Lynx versus TurboExpress not to mention the thriving arcade scene. The current state of the game industry looks completely stale in comparison.

The Game Gear was the longest surviving competitor to the Game Boy, but in truth, was the first in a long series of failed game platforms for Sega. Still to come were the Sega CD, 32X, Nomad, Saturn and, sadly, the Sega Dreamcast, which to this day is known as the one Sega platform that had true potential. In the portable arena though, Nintendo is still the only one that has gotten it right – from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color to the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP and now with the Nintendo DS and its many permutations. I still play my Game Boy Advance regularly (mostly when I’m in the bathroom).

The Game Gear will likely be remembered as nothing more than an interesting footnote in portable gaming, but at least back then it was possible for companies to take risks on a new gaming system. Of the major players in the industry back then, only Nintendo remains (though not the dominant force it once was). Perhaps that’s why I still support Nintendo: It’s the one true game company left and the last remaining link we have to a time when video games were original, exciting and, most of all, FUN. Sega’s Game Gear was ultimately a part of all that, which is why I still have mine.

Relevant Links

Game Gear on Wikipedia