Okay, I promised a more in depth review and here it is in all its glory. Be warned, this is my longest post yet.
First the game itself. There are some serious aesthetic flaws with the menu system. I have created this helpful diagram:
The block of space at the top isn't used at all, the games list needs to be taller, and the space below uses a lot of space to tell you very little. What's worst is the game cartridge on the right. What it should show is the art on the game cartridge, but this isn't what you get. That would be too obvious. What it shows is the game itself booting up. This means that before you can see anything relating to the game, you have to sit for several seconds while the Sega logo shows up and then fades. Most gamers will scroll so fast through the games looking only at the titles that the box on the right will only ever show that same identical Sega logo. The menu is awful, so let's move on to the games.
5 Stars (Best)
-Shining Force 2
This has so many improvements over the original, some of which were sorely needed. The talk button eliminates the need to open a menu to speak to any random villager, and the menus are organized sooooo much better. The graphics are also a little nicer, and it has great character design like the first.
The graphics in this game are surprisingly excellent considering how realistic they were trying to look. On older hardware it usually ended up looking pretty bad when they tried to do realistic characters. Stylized or deformed characters are usually the better way to go, lest you wind up with something like the Golden Axe. Shinobi III's graphics have aged really well, though. The action is superb; I really love characters with a lot of cool moves, and Shinobi has them.
4 Stars (Great)
This game has me a bit divided. First and most obvious is the awesome design and style of the game. You're jumping through the panels of a comic! It has a great fighting system as well, but the game is too hard! You only get one life and no continues, and I can't manage to get much farther than halfway through the second page. Am I just doing something wrong? Also, the title music is really out of place, and the opening cutscene music just sounds ugly.
-Golden Axe III
Head and shoulders better than the last two in the series. Something that really revitalized this game is the addition of two new characters, one of whom is a freaking panther man! Awesomeness! The graphics are a little better than the last two, the music is adequate, there are more fighting moves to do, and did I mention that the panther man can do a flash kick? Yeahhhhhh.
This game had me hoping for a lot after the cute opening, and it really delivered. There's a very interesting interview on the UCG disc with the creator, and he spoke about how they wanted to make a game with cool environments. Unlike the Sonic games, the point of this game was to move at a much slower pace through the levels and really get a feel for each unique stage. It does this well, and has a good grabbing mechanic.
It took me a while to warm up to this game due to the really clunky menu system (WHY did the Genesis have to have only three buttons?) but the battles and characters really drew me in eventually. I don't know if anyone else does this, but I started to imagine all these relationships and conversations between the characters as the battle would take place. It would be like “Oh, so you decided to heal the guy over there and leave me to die? Just because my defense is 26 and his is 24 he needs it more? I guess I know where your loyalties lie. Thanks for nothing. You know I can shoot enemies two squares away right? Next time an enemy is just out of reach you'll wish I were there.”
I have extremely fond memories of playing this as a child in the arcades. It seemed so fast and looked sooooo cool back in the day, and it was a blast to play with a joystick. It's still great fun.
-Sonic & Knuckles
-Sonic The Hedgehog 2
-Sonic The Hedgehog 3
-Streets of Rage 2
Definitely better than the first game as well as the third, for some reason. I'm not a huge brawler fan, but I had a good deal of fun with this. There are a lot of different attacks to do and all the characters play differently enough to keep it interesting.
3 Stars (Good)
This is a fun little game, but it's too much of an obvious Zelda knock off for me to give it a higher score.
-Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
This is an okay action platformer, but I got stuck on the prison stage, and the first helicopter boss takes way too many hits.
-Phantasy Star IV
This game FINALLY lets you select which enemy each character should attack. In the earlier games I felt like I was throwing HP away watching my characters divide their attacks willy nilly, needlessly prolonging every encounter. Graphics finally look nice, battles are nice if a little unintuitive at first, characters are good, story is okay. Actually, the story is about as ridiculous as the rest. Still, it's the least bad Phantasy Star.
-Shining in the Darkness
I started out hating this game, but when I actually got out a sheet of graph paper and mapped out the dungeon as I went along it became much more enjoyable. It's still really clunky, but certainly decent. It also gets much better when the two other characters join your party, if you can stand it that long.
Pinball is okay. Sonic is okay. This game is just okay.
-Sonic The Hedgehog
I just recently went back and listened to the Sonic episode of RetroforceGo and realized that the first Sonic is really only okay compared to the rest of the series. Still, good music and visual style.
-Streets of Rage
-Streets of Rage 3
2 Stars (Not Good)
Hey, let's make a brawler where all the characters have guns, but can only use them at extreme close range! Game of the year, here we come. Actually, the first person bits are okay, but only because they remind me of better arcade rail shooters.
I give this game points for original concept, but take them right back away for poor execution.
Meh, there are better puzzle games out there, and this one gets hard really fast.
I had high hopes for this game, as I've heard the name and I love sidescrolling action platformers, but they were dashed as soon as I saw the art of the mad scientist. If this game played a little better and looked like it weren't designed in MS Paint then it might get a higher score.
My last post elicited a few suggestions that I give this game another chance. I did, and I still don't care for it. -Ristar is just a better game.
I was originally going to give this game a 1 before going for the achievement (get to level 5 of the dungeon). After suffering through five floors I realized this game has the necessary elements of other roguelikes, but it's still barely playable.
I was similarly going to give this a 1 before the achievement. I actually ended up having a bit of fun, but it wore itself out really quickly.
-Golden Axe II
Not much needs saying, as this is an awful lot like Golden Axe I without the little blue elves.
The overworld sprites make me die a little inside. Otherwise an unremarkable RPG with unnecessary 3D first person dungeons.
-Phantasy Star II
I really don't see that much improvement over the first. It's still a chore navigating the menus and watching characters waffle about in combat.
-Sonic 3D Blast
The less said about this, the better.
This game and its sequel could have been much better if not for a certain terrible design choice: the sprites are way too big. If they zoomed out a bit it would have been much better. The camera is so close that it's really easy to run into enemies, and the close range negates most of the benefit of being able to shoot.
1 Star (Bad)
This game is the most painful to play in the entire collection. It's even more painful on the eyes.
-Ecco: The Tides of Time
The first Ecco at least went places without forcing you through those awful portal stages.
-Phantasy Star III
The RPG that does everything wrong.
-Super Thunder Blade
See review of Sonic 3D Blast. Just play Space Harrier instead.
You may have noticed that I included a Master System game and an Arcade game from the extras list while leaving some Genesis games without a review. Don't worry, I've got another post planned that will deal with some of what was left out and then some. Advance warning: it won't do Sega any favors.