Date archives for November, 2008

November 30th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 40 – Jurassic Park: The Lost World

The fourth lightgun game in the countdown so far – I promise there is more variety in the top 40!

Easily the most ostentatious and blockbusting arcade lightgun game ever, The Lost World was released in three different species: regular, a small booth (a first) and the amazing Trocadero edition.

Based very loosely (naturally) on the film, The Lost World packs in setpiece after setpiece, from thrashing a Jeep in order to escape an army of compies to an amazing boss fight against a giant crocodile, and the final encounter with the T-Rex is probably more memorable than the film itself. Like in the film, however, you’re not allowed to kill the dinosaurs, so you use a combination of tranquilliser darts, flash grenades and suchlike. If only they were zombie dinosaurs I’m sure the game would have been drastically different! 

Lost WorldAlthough the core game is more or less the same across all versions, the Trocadero cabinet elevates it from enjoyable shooter to an experience to tell your kids about. A huge projection screen stands in front of a rotating seat that twists to give the impression of looking out of a Jeep window, for example. The physical sensation is quite disorienting and certainly makes blasting compies even trickier, but the real joy is the vents that blow damp air when the T-Rex gets too close. Combined with the surround sound and amazing Model 3 graphics, playing The Lost World remains one of my all-time favourite Sega memories.

November 29th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 41 – House of the Dead 4

logo With its mansion of zombies, House of the Dead is a distinctly un-Sega property at first glance, but that magic is never far from the surface. The twist is in removing the one-shot kill of Virtua Cop in favour of a more trigger-happy approach to blowing limbs off zombies, at once repulsive and satisfying. A steady hand can take the head from a monster’s shoulders, but when they start shambling towards you, mouths sagging open, even the sharpest aim starts to waver.

house-of-the-dead-sp-4Of the four games already released, only the shotgun-equipped third entry dips in standard, but the fourth instalment is my favourite. Spraying enemies with machine gun bullets seems more sensible than picking off limbs with a six-shooter, and the action events that require you to shake the weapon is a more intense upper-body workout than Wii Fit could ever muster. Yes, a lot of the enemies and particularly bosses are reworked from the original game, but when viewed as a riff on a game that’s around a dozen years old it’s more an homage than a lack of imagination. 

With House of the Dead 2 & 3 achieving very good sales on Wii, the smart money is on more zombie-blasting antics before too long. Get to it, Sega!

PS: Shortly after I originally wrote this article offline, Sega announced House of the Dead Overkill on Wii. Hurrah!

November 28th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 42 – Cyborg Justice

A real “Ronseal” game – you get exactly what it says on the box. The joy is in customising your cyborgs with everyone from circular saws to flamethrowers, mainly salvaged from the robots you crush along the way.

cyborgjustice_001It’s not only weapons that mark out your killer robot from the others – different bodies have varying defence ratings, and a range of legs lets you do everything from turn into a tank to somersault your way to victory. The control scheme is crying out for a six-button pad when they were still on their way to becoming accepted, but the game makes good use of its ABC limitations to give you an array of attacks with which to mash some robot heads. 

Cyborg Justice may not be exactly the most cerebral of games, but tearing cybernetic limbs from enemies is undeniably one of the most satisfying moments from scrolling beat ‘em up history.

November 27th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 43 – Daytona USA

By far Sega’s most successful arcade game ever, you only have to walk near a Daytona USA cabinet to realise why – that theme tune is the mating call of Sega racing joy. Daytona pits

On your own it’s an enjoyable racer against a very muscular CPU, but with a friend or seven it becomes easily the most exciting multiplayer arcade game ever produced. Extremely smart mechanics and AI ensure every single game is sure to include pile-ups, huge crashes and skin-of-your-teeth takeover manoeuvres you’ll be talking about long after the famous Game Over tune hits you. Daytona is full of such iconic moments: the Sonic Wall on 777 Speedway; the Hornet brand; the opening call of "Daaaytoonaaaaa!" in "Let’s Go Away". 

Here’s a testament to how integral Daytona is to Sega; I’m still bitter about once being lapped by my brother Phil on Daytona 2 after not realising my foot was slightly pressed against the brake the whole race through. Sometimes counselling can’t help.

November 26th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 44 – Brave Firefighter

carlBrave Firefighter continued Sega’s heritage of pitting players against huge real-life dangers – terrorists, criminal syndicates, dinosaurs – with three levels of incendiary action. A ring on the nozzle let you control the shape of your spray, from wide angle to precise beam, and the level design featured some tremendously scripted events.

Although a novelty on the surface, like a fair amount of Sega’s arcade output at that time, Brave Firefighter‘s quirky exterior gives way to reveal a satisfying arcade experience. Saving civilians isn’t quite as rewarding as in Sega’s home anti-incendiary classic Burning Rangers, but the fire is much more menacing and, I’m sure, served as inspiration for Far Cry 2‘s recently much-acclaimed fire. Yep.

Hey, and guess what? Wouldn’t it be perfect for the Wii Remote? I can just imagine someone at Sega furiously scribbling notes at this countdown. “Of course! Lightgun games would be perfect for Wii!

November 25th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 45 – Confidential Mission

Pretty much a James Bond lightgun game but without the licence, Confidential Mission is as slick and enjoyable as any game of the genre, with plenty of charm and action to satisfy anybody. It also featured one of my favourite fliers, which you can see in full by clicking the photo below – I wanted to apply, but I don’t like Martinis.

confidentm1Confidential Mission will be familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up a Virtua Gun – rings that surround enemies change from green to red as the danger increases, and there’s plenty of background interaction, my favourite being knocking the skulls off monkey skeletons in the game’s first level.

With a greater use of gadgets than its Virtua brethren, Confidential Mission presents missions like using sticky bullets to block gas vents, or shooting a zip wire across a huge gap. It’s all daft stuff but perfectly captures that ironic air Bond films possessed at the time, and with a friend is the most fun you can have shooting fat foreign baddies.

November 24th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 46 – F-Zero GX and AX

Yes, F-Zero‘s a Nintendo property, but Sega’s Amusement Vision got the best out of it with these arcade and Gamecube releases. The rollercoaster courses fly past at incredible speeds, and the custom machine creator lends longevity to the f-zero-gx-1adrenaline. The story mode present in the Gamecube’s F-Zero GX is an odd inclusion that also stands as one of the most frustrating adventures in any game ever – I don’t know anybody who kept their sanity through the canyon race. 

Of course, you can’t possibly criticise an F-Zero game for having a bad story mode, especially when the sublime blend of fast reflexes and course knowledge works so well. The core thrill of boosting past 2,000 kph to blast past your opponents is enough to forgive all problems, and it’s great to see Sega doing a Nintendo game better than they ever did.

As regular readers will notice, the Carnival of Video Game Bloggers is conspicuous by its absence today, as it’s being handled superbly by Eclipse over at It’s still full of all the usual Carnival goodness including Old-Wizard flame-baiting, StarCraft unit statistics and much more, so head over to Gaming My Way to read this month’s top posts. Thanks for hosting it Eclipse, you’re welcome again any time!

The other thing I have to mention is that it’s sixteen years to the day since Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released on Mega Drive in Europe, which makes our very own Miles “Tails” Prower sixteen years old today! Happy birthday Tails, now you’re finally a grown-up.

November 23rd, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 47 – Space Harrier

I wouldn’t count Space Harrier as one of my very favourites, but this classic shoot ‘em up has still left its mark on me. I now fully appreciate the dangers of mushrooms – countering Mario’s pro-fungus propaganda – and every time I see a large fluffy dog I sing the Bonus Stage music to myself. I actually just learnt that the opening phrase isn’t “welcome to the family, people” but “welcome to the Fantasy Zone”! You really do learn something new every day.

space_harrier_arcade_flyer The sheer number of bizarre enemies in Space Harrier was without parallel until the Keio series started, with bouncing mushrooms, deadly Moai statues and reflective metallic… things. The dragon bosses stand out as great encounters, the original red dragon even being resurrected as a minigame in Sumo Digital’s recent Sega Superstars Tennis. It’s had quite a few good home conversions, the best of course being on Saturn’s Sega Ages Volume 1 (shame we never got Volume 2!), but make sure you avoid the 3D debacle on Sega Classics Collection for PS2. It burns!

Recently Tez Okana teased us with the prospect of a brand new Space Harrier, claiming that any future projects (including a new Fantasy Zone!) hinge on the sales performance of underwhelming PS2 shooter ThunderForce VI. I’m not holding my breath, but as always the promise of a new take on an old classic brings with it so  many conflicting emotions. Don’t mess this up, Sega!

November 22nd, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 48 – Shinobi

image I remember getting Shinobi on the Master System as one of my first games, and it still stands up as one of my favourite in the series. As an arcade conversion it’s hardly 100% accurate, but as an action platformer it excels in its own right. There’s more thought involved in the home version, as you learn to plan a route to free hostage children – very Moonwalker! – and avoid enemy fire. The end-of-level ninja bonus levels have gone down in history for being memory and reaction tests of the highest order, and even in my prime I could never clear the fourth test. So many ninja.

What’s amazing from looking at these screenshots is how differently I remember the game. I couldn’t believe it had so little detail – in my memory it was a beautifully sketched game of light and shade, yet the screenshots reveal it to be very different. Funny how our memories play tricks on us, although I suppose I did own this game nearly 15 years ago, which forgives a little memory lapse on my part!

imageShinobi’s legacy is clear to see in any number of modern titles, but its greatest contribution to the world is, without doubt, Flying Squirrel Magic. It’s just a shame the attempt to render Joe Musashi in 3D fell flat, because I’m sure resurrecting those bonus levels for the Wii Remote has crossed more than one mind at Sega. Perhaps in Sega Superstars Tennis 2?

November 20th, 2008
Blog Entry

No. 49 – Sega Rally series

segarallyI couldn’t decide between the original arcade version, Sega Rally 2 and the recent home update, so I’ve included a generic Sega Rally entry here. Yes it’s a cop-out, but it’s my countdown!

All three are perfect Sega racers – slam the accelerator, flip out the back end and drift lazily around every corner. It’s an extremely Sega way of doing things, and always evokes a timeless and sublime joy. Sega Rally 2007 mixes things up by introducing an extremely advanced track deformation system that moulds under your tyres as you drive, leaving troughs and mud pools in key places. It’s a brilliant idea and to me represents the biggest advancement in the rally genre since it began. I’m sure it’ll make its way into Codemasters’ next rally effort and everyone will go ape over it. 

imageSega Rally 2 on Dreamcast is the only weak link here, its beautiful arcade origins marred by a rushed conversion and inconsistent framerate, but it’s a good stab at a meaningful single player career mode, and the ability to upload your best times online as well as carry them in your VM was a generation ahead of its time. In the arcade it was a complete revelation for me, its handbrake so tempting and satisfyingly solid when you used it to pivot and peel away from a hairpin.

I played Race Driver: Grid recently and was appalled when my attempt to powerslide around the first corner resulted in an embarrassing crash, but I was more appalled when people complained the game was “too arcadey”. No wonder Sega Rally 2007 didn’t sell, although the other day at work a couple did buy a copy for each other, which for me is every bit as good as the exchanging of rings.

imageSega Racing Studio’s passing was a sad day for any Sega Rally fan – their version of the franchise was every bit as good as the original and perfectly captured the Sega Rally feel, and I can’t help but feel that theirs may have been the last entry in the series we ever see. If that’s the case, you couldn’t hope for three more enjoyable rally games that scream Sega with every powerslide and hairpin.

Complete Archives Older Articles »