Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth/Chronsega Five

Happy Fourth of July! It seems like some folks have been getting a head start on the holiday this year; I noticed quite a few fireworks going off on July 3rd and even a few on the 2nd. I myself have parties to attend on both the 3rd and 4th, so it's one non-stop celebration this weekend. Assuming that you're not too drunk/hungover to operate a computer, head on over to Archive.org and pick up Chronsega Episode 5.

The crazy thing about Chronsega is that it covers 17 games! 17!! That's two more than every single other installment of Chrontendo/Chronsega. And it still clocks in a few minutes less than most episodes of Chrontendo. As mentioned earlier there are lots of sequels/pseudo-sequels this time. Opa Opa makes a total of three appearances. Let's do a quick rundown.

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars











Yep, this really happens in this game.

Sadly, not a real sequel to Alex Kidd in Miracle World, but a port of the very first Alex Kidd title, an arcade game from '87. It's way simpler than Miracle World - no Shellcore, janken, motorcycles, helicopters, or even any real boss battles. What does the game have, then? Naked men shooting skulls out of their asses.

Opa Opa/Fantasy Zone: The Maze










Probably not the game you were expecting.

The second weirdest Opa Opa game (Galactic Protector taking top honors), ditches the scrolling shoot-em-up action of the first two Fantasy Zone games. Instead, we get a relatively straightforward maze game. You know, the early 80's Pac-Man clone type of game. The second you boot this thing up, the incredibly ugly title screen lets you know that Opa Opa was not a product of Sega's A-Team of developers.

Galactic Protector








In the future, the Earth will be protected by an orbital Opa Opa the size of China.



Speaking of which - this oddity has Opa Opa defending Earth, Saturn and Jupiter from a unending series of runaway asteroids and small planets. The astrophysics behind this incredibly unlikely situation are never explained, nor do we ever learn how Opa Opa was upgraded with the Death Star like weaponry he displays in this game. The main appeal of Galactic Protector is the series of goofy faces made by the planets under Opa Opa's protection. This was one of the few games to use the Sports Pad -- the Master System's rotary control.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Probably the best sequel we'll see this episode, Monster Land takes the basic gameplay concept of the first game - side-scrolling platforming - and adds some RPG elements. At the same time, it pretty much strips the Wonder Boy character of his identity, and has seemingly no connection, plot-wise, to the first game. This the second time we've covered Wonder Boy in Monster Land; it made an appearance, as Bikkuriman World, in Chronturbo Episode One. Its a pretty decent game, and I enjoyed it until the very end, when a needlessly lengthy and frustrating bit of platform jumping made me pull out my hair. I got so pissed I never finished the game.

Space Harrier 3D

Our last sequel is really just the earlier Master System port of Space Harrier with new enemy and boss sprites. It could be quite interesting, but there is no option to play it in 2D until you've beaten the game in 3D.

Other than the aforementioned sequels, a few other titles stand out this episode.

Aleste/Power Strike














The first title in Compile's mostly wonderful series of Aleste games. This is actually a trimmed port of an MSX 2 shooter. The intro and first level have been entirely eliminated, and the difficulty has been pumped up a bit. The constant barrage of enemies can be a bit grueling, an the fact that your power ups disappear after their timer runs out make Aleste less fun that later gamers in the series. For those not familiar with the Aleste games, please check out this extremely informative article on HG101. Later titles include the amazing Denin/ Robo Aleste in which the battles of Sengoku era Japan are fought with Mechs - it's essentially a SHMUP version of Nobunaga's Ambition.

Kenseiden










It's just like Castlevania, only it's not good.

Not exactly a good game, but still quite fascinating. Sega's answer to Castlevania features a red-haired samurai who moves with the speed and grace of a Belmont. Only instead of a whip, Kenseiden's Hayato is equipped with a short little sword, and can't strike an enemy that isn't already all up in his grill, as the kids say. While certainly inferior to Castlevania in terms of "playability" and art design, at least this game features a protagonist that is proficient in climbing stairs without falling through them.

Hoshi Wo Sagashite...








You made your girlfriend cry and lost the game. Good job, you dick.

A sci-fi themed adventure game in the Portopia style. This is a Japan-only release, but we have thankfully been given an unofficial English translation, courtesy of Filler and Hung Dong. Instead of solving a murder mystery, in Hoshi we must learn to care for a rare baby alien, which resembles a lion cub with wings. This is accomplished by jetting around the galaxy talking to people.

Tensai Bakabon











Some NPCs are not particularly helpful.

One of the relatively few Master System games based on a licensed property. In this case, it's Fujio Akatsuka's beloved manga and anime series, which later got a more well known Famicom game from Namco. A pretty basic adventure game, combined with a side-scrolling overworld. While the game doesn't seem too great, it does have great graphics and sprites which look just like their manga counterparts.

And finally, this episode features a lot of standard Sega junk:

Rescue Mission

A decent escort style light gun game, in which three medics attempt to rescue wounded soldiers by penetrating hostile jungle territory in a god-damned railroad handcar.

Argos no Juujiken








Somehow the Master System Rygar manages to look way worse than the NES version.


The first third party SMS game! Published by the mysterious Salio, this is a substandard port of Tecmo's arcade game Argos no Senshi, known in the US as Rygar. A completely different game than the NES Rygar.

Solomon no Kagi - Oujo Rihita no Namida

The other Salio game, this time a port of the Famicom/NES version of Solomon's Key, another Tecmo game. Salio released just one more game, for the PC Engine, then vanished for good. Were they really just a front for Tecmo? Who knows? But the two titles they released were the only Japanese SMS games published by someone other than Sega. Rather than "Gold Cartridges," the Salio games ranked as mere "Silver Cartridges."

Reggie Jackson Baseball










Reggie sports some pretty massive guns in this game.


A virtually forgotten US sports game from Sega. It was later released as American Baseball in Europe, and never had a Japanese release. Today, it is mostly known as a dry run for Tommy Lasorda Baseball, the first sports game for the Mega Drive/Genesis.

Blade Eagle

A simple shoot-em-up, IN 3D!

Maze Walker/Maze Hunter 3D

Walk around in a maze and kill monsters with a metal bar, IN 3D!!

Poseidon Wars 3D

Sink battleships and shoot down jet fighters, IN 3D!!!

Family Games/Parlour Games/Party Games

Play pool and bingo, and shoot darts. Sadly, not in 3D. Family Games is, however, developed by Compile, and manages to be reasonably well made.

So there you have it. Another 6 months of games from Sega. Once again, the results are divided between the "pretty good but flawed" titles and the "Ehhh... who cares?" titles. My theory is that during this time period, much of Sega's top talent was being diverted to work on games for the Mega Drive, which would make its debut later in 1988.

The next Chronsega will bear witness to the flow of Japanese Master System games coming to a virtual standstill. There was a brief burst of activity in October 1988, followed by a single release in December, and then the last Japanese MS game in February 1989. At the same time, we will finally see a decent number of non Sega developed games hit the system, with ports of titles from Irem, Technos Japan, Data East and Nihon Falcom. The Master System will hang on in the US for a little while longer, but it's real legs were in Europe and Brazil. But for the most part, the Mega Drive is going to overshadow it's older brother very soon. Chronsega will start folding the Mega Drive into the mix a few episodes from now.

All of this is in the far-flung future however. Next up will be Chrontendo 31. For now, download or stream Chrosega 5 over at Archive.org.

12 comments:

Jonothan said...

Will you also include Game Gear in Chronsega?

Helm said...

Thank you for your hard work once again. I appreciate your research.

Kenseiden seems like a game that I'd like to try as I don't particularily mind wimpy protagonists, just as long as they become better on the way, which seems to be the case, marginally.

Seems like a game that would benefit a lot from focusing the screen 50 pixels in FRONT of the direction you're walking in, really, so you have time to avoid arrows and time your sword-slashes. Such small fixes for games make a few old near-good games frustrating to play because one can see the simple coding ways to make them better, heh.

qaylIS / Kahless_GOA said...

Seeing all those 3D games which plopped up in the 80s on the SMS makes me think of the typical theory from historicans: "History repeats itself!" Though I am not a fan of these unscientific simplified theories, it is right for the history of the last quarter of the 80s and the modern computer- and Video-game history. In the past there were these shutter glasses, and what did nVidia 2 years ago? Released shutter glasses...for 300 bucks. I think the patent from SEGA just ran out.
The 3D mania from the current time is just a reoccurence from the 80s.

Oh, and Alexx Kid and the Lost stars: The naked guy shooting Skulls out of his ass is really ingenious, I want to see him again in a modern game. An Opa Opa is cool, I cant get enough of him, though he has no exceptional features like other mascots...he just rocks (or it?).

Doctor Sparkle said...

Portable games, along with older gen consoles, are one of those things I tend to get asked about a lot. I think throwing in the Game Boy/Game Gear would make things a little too crazy, considering the NES, SNES, PC-Engine, SMS & Genesis were all releasing games when the GG launched.

Kenseiden was one of those games I was hoping was going to be really cool, but didn't quite work out (another one: Elyisian, to be featured in Chrontendo 31). The character is just too slow and clunky to deal with all the annoying little enemies. Having more space in front of him would make it more playable. But I assume the developers wanted to make it very memorization based.

I personally am pretty skeptical on 3D games. But Avatar made an ass-load of money, which is more than can said of any movie from the 80s 3D revival. I assume the public will tire of it eventually.

Sergeant D said...

As always, I'm thrilled to see a new installment!

I think you missed a game, though: the built-in maze game that is on the Master System. You had to hold some combination of buttons when powering it on, and I actually played it a lot since I was a broke-ass kid with an SMS and 1 game.

Helm said...

Is the built-in game anything like the fantasy zone maze game featured on this episode?

I remember being 7 years old and visiting a boy from school who was rich enough to get a MASTER SYSTEM!!! and he showed me Alex Kidd and a maze game starring a small spaceship I think was the fantasy zone one. But he remarked on how these were built-in games with the system so I'm confused.

CJ Lowery said...

"Alex Kidd fans are in for a disappointment"

I think they'd be used to that by now.

Also, I am incredibly thrilled that you are massaging the Mega Drive into the mix here. I have what can amount to an unhealthy fascination with pre-Sonic Genesis games. Especially Sword of Vermillion, for reasons that I can only chalk to being too much of a wuss for genuine self harm.

Sergeant D said...

Helm, it's been literally like 20 years so my memory is fuzzy, but yes I think it's like a stripped-down version of the FZ maze game. Alex Kidd was NOT built-in, though.

Are you the same Helm who used to comment on Metal Inquisition?

Doctor Sparkle said...

Oh, Jeez. Snail Maze - I completely forgot about that. I'll have to include it an update in the next episode. It's just a simple little game in which you navigate a maze, but I think it was the first example of a game coming pre-installed on a console.

Sega, like NEC, loved futzing around with its consoles, so later versions of the SMS had different built in games, including Hang-On, Alex Kidd in Miracle World and even Sonic the Hedgehog:
http://www.smspower.org/dev/bios/DETAILS.TXT

Anonymous said...

Salio is tecmo name dodging nintendo
sms games were developed by tecmo

CJ Lowery said...

Have you considered starting a message board? I think the viewership is right, and wouldn't mind playing through some recently shown games with others on a forum.

Also, I hope my new project isn't stepping on any toes.

Helm said...

Sargeant D, yes I am. Small internet when you're into niche stuff.