Golden Axe II (1991, Collection 3)
Did you enjoy Golden Axe? You’re sure to enjoy the sequel then. Golden Axe II is a slight improvement on its predecessor, giving you new monsters to ride, an improved magic system, and slightly better graphics and control. The only downside is your enemies’ death screams. In the first game they were melodramatic and funny, but in this one they’re simply grunts. Overall, this doesn’t provide much more than the same action provided by the original Golden Axe, but that’s not a bad thing if you liked the first game.
Shining in the Darkness (1991, Collection 4)
Here’s an old RPG that I can see myself playing again. The presentation of the game is really neat, although it still has some issues. The King tells you to go buy equipment before you head to the dungeon, but I couldn’t figure out how to see my inventory until I was in the dungeon, so I ended up buying items I already had. You’ll either need to find some maps online or draw your own, because you’re going to get lost dungeon crawling through first person mazes. As is standard with RPGs of this vintage, level grinding is necessary, but I found this to be a lot more enjoyable than Phantasy Star II.
Streets of Rage (1991, Collection 4)
As good as the Golden Axe series is, this is the beginning of a great series of beat-em-ups. A lot of people like to compare Streets of Rage directly to Final Fight, but as I played through the game I got the feeling like this is a great mashup of the best parts of Final Fight, Golden Axe, and Double Dragon in particular. While I don’t feel like this game is quite on par with Final Fight due to the small sprites and inferior graphics, it’s more than a match for Double Dragon and feels like a better version of it. There are some really great bosses in this game, and unlike Golden Axe, actually require some thought to figure out their incredibly aggressive attack patterns. After playing through the two Golden Axe games, I was slightly disappointed with the lack of the ability to run. This disappointment quickly went away due to the ability to grab an enemy, jump behind them, and deliver a belly-to-back suplex. Streets of Rage is a lot of fun, and is a neccesary part of any Genesis beat-em-up fan’s collection.
Phantasy Star III (1991, Collection 5)
I’ll be honest, it’s taken so long for me to get this article out because of this game. Phantasy Star II left somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth, and I was apprehensive to continue with the series. My fears were almost immediately put to rest, as this game is a marked improvement over its predecessor. While Phantasy Star II looked like a Master System game on the Genesis, Phantasy Star III looks like it was made for the Genesis. Character sprites, while not much larger than before, take much more advantage of the console’s color pallette, as do the backgrounds. The game mechanics have been tweaked, and meus have been refined. The battle system is much more fair than before, it’s much easier to level your character initially as you won’t be going back to get healed every two fights. The story is immediately engaging, and begins on your wedding day. Being a video game, I can’t see how anything could go wrong…
Wonder Boy in Monster World (1991, Collection 5)
I LOVE THIS GAME. Wonder Boy in Monster World is my favorite Genesis game of all time. It’s an action platformer, some would say in the “Metroid-vania” style (I wish I knew a better term for this). Back in the day, I tried out almost every Genesis game on emulator (sshhh, don’t tell anyone). I’d play either until I lost all my lives and was asked if I wanted to continue, or if I got to the end of the first stage/world, making my time with each game a short one. I played through this game entirely. I was hooked on the gameplay, the art style is great, and the levels are all varied and interesting (except the ice level, which turns into hair-pulling frustration). Sonic may have been Mario’s lead competing mascot, but I feel like this is the “Super Mario Bros 3 of the Genesis”…although it could be argued that it’s the Genesis’ Super Metroid. It’s THAT good, and it’s the perfect game to usher in the “modern age” of the Genesis.
As always, we’re going to stack these games up with the prior ones to see how everything looks. I feel like the scales of awesome are tipping more and more in favor of the Genesis, now that programmers have had three years to figure the system out. I’m hoping that this trend continues, and the garbage from 1988 and ’89 become distant memories. New games are in bold, and the handy color chart returns.
Sonic Hits Collection
Awesome (I will play these again. Definitely recommended)
Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
Streets of Rage
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Good (I will play these again. Recommended)
ESWAT: City Under Siege
Golden Axe II
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair
Phantasy Star III
Average (I might play these again. Somewhat recommended)
Shining in the Darkness
Phantasy Star II
The Revenge of Shinobi
Boring (I will never play these again. Only recommended if you’re a big fan of the genre)
Sword of Vermilion
Awful (I will never play these again. Cannot recommend to anyone)
Space Harrier II
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Galaxy Force II
Super Thunder Blade
Next time I’ll finish 1991 (finally!) and jump into 1992 with Sonic the Hedgehog, Toejam & Earl, Kid Chameleon, Bio-Hazard Battle, and Streets of Rage 2.