Tagged "Mega Drive"

Jan 26
By Jake In Retro 2 Comments

A new Micro Machines game was announced earlier this month. To many, Micro Machines means only one thing: local multiplayer.

This new ‘un supports it, sure, but with those futuristic wireless controllers we have these days. It wasn’t like that back in the ’90s. Back in the ’90s they had to be clever, and they could be, because cartridges. So here are six terrifically clever Mega Drive cartridges that you probably remember.

J-Cart

Micro Machines 2 Turbo Tournament J-Cart

This is how Codemasters were clever for Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament. The Mega Drive only had two joypad ports, so Codemasters built another two into the cartridge.

That got you to four players, but that wasn’t sufficiently clever. So by shoving one player onto the d-pad, and another onto the buttons on the same pad, you got up eight players. Not impressive compared to online multiplayer these days, but in 1994 we didn’t even have Channel 5 or a carrier bag charge, so expectations were different.

As well as a couple more Micro Machines games, the J-Cart was rolled out for Pete Sampras Tennis and its sequel. It wasn’t the greatest innovation in Pete Sampras Tennis though: that was the opportunity to smash Dizzy into tiny pieces by knocking him off while he walked along the net. I never liked Dizzy.

It was also apparently used for a game called Super Skidmarks. Don’t.

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Jan 11
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

Here’s an elongated story about one man’s junk becoming another man’s treasure. While scouring the stalls at a car boot sale a few weeks back (the local boot sale runs all year round, come rain or shine) I came across a small collection of ‘90s candy stick packets. Empty confectionary boxes which I was keen to hand over money for; literally junk – something most people would have thrown away.

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It was brightly hued Sonic the Hedgehog branded packaging that caught my attention, standing out from the rest like a sore thumb. With its official Sonic artwork and all, this packaging was so quintessentially ‘90s I couldn’t pass it by. I paid £1.50 for the lot, with empty Looney Tunes, The Real Ghostbusters and Jurassic Park boxes making up the rest of the assortment.

For the uninformed, candy sticks are small and white – or in this case, blue – and have a chalky texture due to being made from a mixture of sugar and tapioca. Despite still being around today they’re often seen as a ‘vintage sweet’ like Wham bars and Drumstick lollies. Their inexpensive cost – around 20p a packet – made them a popular after school treat, and the fact that they looked a bit like cigarettes probably helped boost their popularity with school kids too.

Although I was a huge SEGA fan in the ‘90s, I don’t recall ever seeing these in stores. My local newsagent clearly wasn’t up-to-date with current candy stick trends.

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Upon closer inspection of the packaging, I noticed they originally came with picture cards – 48 in total, featuring screenshots of popular Mega Drive games along with a cheat code and plot synopsis.

Eager to find images of these, or perhaps a full list for reference, I took to Google. A search for ‘Barratt’s Sonic the Hedgehog candy stick cards’ brought up little, aside this confused Sonic fan asking what the heck candy sticks are. eBay was slightly fruitful if discouraging – a small smattering of single cards for 99p each (plus p&p).

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May 29
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

It dawned upon us recently that today’s youth is probably unaware of how big Jurassic Park was upon release. It was more than just a summer blockbuster; it was a cultural phenomenon, ushering in waves of merchandise and single-handedly kick-starting the ‘90s dinosaur bandwagon.

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Shops were filled with dinosaur related goods, and the film’s buzz lasted long after the movie left cinemas. The special effects in particular set a new benchmark, and with the PSone, Saturn and Ultra 64 (as it was then known) on the horizon, it was often stated that the next batch of consoles would be able to offer Jurassic Park quality CGI. Although the PSone did come packed with a reasonably impressive dinosaur tech demo, we can chalk this up to the unwavering excitement of the ‘90s gaming press.

The Jurassic Park videogames were likewise hyped as the second coming, taking the cover of just about every magazine at the time. Unsurprising, given that every format going received a JP tie-in. Ocean handled the Amiga, PC and Nintendo versions while SEGA both developed and published their iterations internally. Ocean opted for a top-down adventure/shooter hybrid that also featured some ambitious indoor first-person shooting sections. Although the lack of a save facility in the SNES version did lead to frustration, reviews were mostly positive.

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The Master System and Game Gear JP games on the other hand were painfully generic, and so it’s fair to say SEGA focused their attention on the Mega Drive and Mega CD tie-ins. The Mega Drive hosted a 2D platformer with digitised sprites, in which it was possible to play as either a human or a velociraptor. The Mega CD version meanwhile was a slow-paced point ‘n’ click adventure with a degree of educational value due to the vast amount of dinosaur trivia. SEGA had apparently pumped a ridiculous amount of money into it, presumably intending it to become a much needed Mega CD system seller.

So lucrative was the JP license that both Ocean and SEGA squeezed additional worth out of it while waiting for 1997 sequel The Lost World. Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues was a run and gunner released on SNES and Game Boy in time for Christmas 1994, where it joined Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition on Mega Drive. This one did away with the dark and moody visuals SEGA’s first game featured in favour of a bright and colourful comic book vibe. Both were panned as being blatant cash-ins and as such neither is particularly well remembered.

It’s also worth noting that the 3DO had its own JP game, and an incredibly weird one at that – it was a half-baked mini-game collection mostly comprising of Space Invaders and Asteroids clones. The majority of the budget must have been blown on the license.

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Oct 29
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

Sega desperately wanted to be perceived as being cooler than Nintendo back in the ‘90s. They had 18-rated games with blood and gore, backed with glitzy marketing campaigns. Nonsensical buzz words such as ‘blast processing’ were used in these adverts, as were renowned celebrities of the era.

FlyingHat

Part of us thinks that it’s because of this desire to keep a cool image that Vic Toki’s Mega Drive platformer Magical Flying Turbo Hat Adventure underwent a total graphical overhaul to become DecapAttack. It could, however, also have been down to licensing issues – the late ‘80s anime series Magical Hat was never released outside of Japan, and so obtaining that license would have been fruitless.

Either way, we’re glad that Sega saw the potential behind the exotic exterior. Much like Nintendo’s Doki Doki Panic, which too received an overhaul to become the western world’s Super Mario Bros. 2, it originally featured an Arabic-theme with turban-wearing hero sporting a fancy waistcoat.

Another possible reason for Sega wanting to bring the game to the west is that it’s a sequel of sorts to Psycho Fox – an early Master System exclusive that sold well. The NES also received a game in the same series titled Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs, although Kool Kid never reached the same level of popularity as Vic Toki’s fantastic fox.

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Both Psycho Fox and Turbo Hat Adventure share several ideas, including the protagonist’s ability to throw a small helper character who’d then return like a boomerang, ready to be thrown again. A few enemies are likewise recurring, in addition to flexible flagpoles able to catapult the player up to higher areas.

In DecapAttack, the ability to throw a projectile was worked into a frankly brilliant pun – the hero was changed into Chuck D. Head, a mummy able to throw his bonce about. The fist that Turbo Hat’s hero used to punch enemies was also changed, taking the form of an extendible face inside Chuck’s torso. The two-faced so-and-so.

To suit western gamers the difficulty level was tinkered with so that Chuck could take more than one hit. Lava still killed Chuck instantly though, and rightly so. The music meanwhile was changed entirely, becoming fast paced and edgier when compared to Turbo Hat’s Arabic-influenced musical score.

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May 16
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

While watching the trailer for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 3-exclusive The Puppeteer, it dawned on us that it could be the spiritual successor to Dynamite Headdy.

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By the time the trailer ended we did perhaps think otherwise, as the differences between the two are vast, but still, any excuse to dig out Treasure’s often forgotten Mega Drive platformer is a good excuse.

The bright yellow puppet made his appearance in 1994. Treasure had already made a name for themselves with Gunstar Heroes – a game which showed what the Mega Drive could do when tickled in the right places – but gamers were yet to be treated to the run ‘n’ gun delights of Alien Solider. We don’t recall Dynamite Headdy gaining as much press attention as either of these, although it was well received at by the ‘90s gaming magazines who did give it some coverage.

The market at the time was swamped full of colourful platformers, which is more than likely why it was overlooked. There’s no arguing though that it was more creative than most. In fact, it has often been said that there’s more imagination in the first level alone than in other entire games. Bosses feature heavily, be it mini or fully fledged, while every level was suitably different from the last.

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Matching Headdy’s puppet ethos, the whole game was meant to be a theatre production. Backdrops were designed to look like wooden sets; occasionally they toppled over to reveal tiny little toys running around behind the scenes. Headdy’s health meter meanwhile was a stage light, while the pre-level splash screens featured red curtains.

Rather than start with a tutorial, things kicked off with a fast-paced chase sequence in which Headdy’s friends were being carted away by a bright red robot. Headdy managed to escape, only to bump into Heather, or ‘Fingy’ as she was known in the Japanese version. Heather was Headdy’s love interest but she was no damsel in distress – she even beat Headdy to one of the earlier bosses, defeating it before Headdy arrived.

Trouble Bruin was then introduced shortly after. A lot of gamers mistook this character for a cat – a very easy mistake to make – but he was in fact a bear. A bear assassin, no less, who had been hired by the Dark Demon to keep Headdy away from the keys required to access this evildoer’s lair. True to his name, Trouble Bruin appeared in several of the boss battles, usually behind the controls of an elaborate contraption. He also appeared in the backdrops now and then, popping his head up from behind bits of scenery.

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Sep 30
By Matt Gander In Retro 6 Comments

A few months back we took a look at fast food endorsed video games and came to the conclusion that, despite the licenses having clear limitations, most turned out pretty well. Perhaps the developers were worried that they’d be banned from every McDonald’s and Burger King for life if the games they made turned out to be pap.

Now we’re turning our attention junk food related games. Unfortunately for those who purchased the following, most are nothing short of terrible. Fortunately though many of these weren’t released outside of the US, so not everybody the whole world over had to suffer.

I think Kool-Aid is only known in the UK from the mascot’s wall smashing antics on Family Guy. It’s not a fizzy drink or canned beverage as you may expect, but rather flavoured powder that has to be mixed with a jug of water and a whole cup full of sugar. Mattel thought this would be excellent source material for a video game and released Kool-Aid Man on Atari 2600 and Intellivision in 1983. The idea was to move a jug of Kool-Aid around the screen collecting what appears to be either bombs or cherries. It’s hard to tell but they’re probably cherries, unless gunpowder flavoured Kool-Aid ever existed. The ‘best bit’ was the ‘intro’ in which Kool-Aid man burst though a wall, in a glory of giant pixels.

Sticking with soft drinks, the Japan-only Coca-Cola Kid on the Sega GameGear fairs measurably better. It used the same game engine as Sonic Chaos and, somewhat lazily, even retained a few of the sound effects. The main character is rather nondescript – he was just a kid wearing a baseball cap – but he was surprisingly acrobatic, able to slide along the floor and ride a skateboard. Sega released a red GameGear to tie-in with it.

There was also Coke Wins! – an adaptation of Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 which was only produced for employees of Coca-Cola. It’s now harder to find than a shop that sells the bronze coloured cans of caffeine free Coca-Cola.

From kids to men – Pepsiman, to be exact. Pepsiman is, or rather was, Pepsi’s Japanese mascot who starred in a range of adverts and no less than two video games. The first was just a cameo appearance in Sega’s Fighting Vipers arcade game. The second was Pepsiman on PlayStation, released in 1999. An incredibly similar game to Crash Bandicoot, it saw Pepsiman running away from giant cans and jumping over fences and whatnot. If Pepsiman tripped and got a dustbin stuck on his head the controls were reversed.

7-UP has had not one but two mascots over the years – Fido Dido and Cool Spot. Interestingly, Fido Dido was not created by 7-UP – he appeared on trendy T-shirts years before 7-UP got their hands on him via a licensing deal. The Genesis/Mega Drive Fido Dido game was canned (no pun intended) but you can see some screenshots of it over at JeuxVideo.

Cool Spot – released on Mega Drive, SNES, GameGear, Master System and Amiga – featured some incredibly nice animation, even on the 8-bit systems, and saw Cool Spot rescuing his chums and bouncing around in giant 7-UP bottles during bonus rounds. Spot also went on to star in Spot Goes to Hollywood, released on Mega Drive, SNES, PlayStation and Saturn. A Sega 32X version was also planned but later scrapped.

More recent is Red Bull BC One on DS, a game which sold so badly GAME were selling it for less than two quid in one of their sales. Customer reviews on Amazon are actually quite positive though. One reviewer compares it to Bust A Move but I assume they mean Enix’s Bust A Groove on PlayStation.

What goes well with fizzy drinks? How about pizza. Domino’s The Noid is another character likely only to be familiar with our US readers, although like Kool-Aid Man he too has had an appearance on Family Guy. Yo! Noid for the NES was released in 1999 – by Capcom, believe it or not – and saw the red-hued chap trying to stop a doppelganger from causing trouble in colourful interpretation of New York.

Crisps? Crisps. Or as our American chums call them – chips. Depending on how old you are, you may remember Chester Cheetah – his cheesy grin showed up on packets of Cheetos back in the ‘80s. He has been around in the US since the ‘70s though and, yet again, appeared in Family Guy. Two games were released on Genesis and SNES – Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest and Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool. They weren’t released in Europe but I can recall one of them being reviewed in Mega Machines magazine (who covered imports) and getting a slating. Chester’s quest was to find a place called Hip City by finding pieces of a map. Perhaps the best thing about it was the instruction book which was written in very ‘Engrish’ sounding rhymes: “As is Chester Cheetah way, is one-person play”.

The next one is an odd one – Ocean’s puzzle game Push Over (released on Amiga, SNES and PC) didn’t have a product splashed all over it, but it did star Colin Quaver – a cartoon dog used to advertise Quavers back in the ‘90s. Adventure game Darkened Skye on GameCube and PC is also worth mentioning here – the developers inked a deal with Skittles, presumably for funding, and it’s the said candy that’s used to create magic. However, the Skittles brand isn’t mentioned on the case. The same goes for Zool, which had an opening level featuring Chupa-Chup lollies, and James Pond 2: Robocod which was sponsored by Penguin biscuits.

Doritos don’t bear a mascot but that didn’t stop them releasing three free games on Xbox Live Arcade. These games were results of ‘design a game’ contests and only the first of these – Doritos’ Dash of Destruction – used the brand to any extent. Here, you were given the chance to either escape the jaws of a dinosaur via a Doritos delivery truck or to cause destruction by playing as the dinosaur. Reviews were poor claiming the only reason to play being the incredibly easy to unlock achievements. The next two games fared better – Harm’s Way was a car combat game with online play, while Doritos’ Crash Course (once in development under the name of Avatar Crash Course) was actually pretty good, playing like a rendition of Takeshi’s Castle or Total Wipeout.

So, what can we learn from this article? Nothing really. Sorry.

Feb 15
By Matt Gander In Retro 3 Comments

A Greek gamer has blogged about his joy of finding five brand new Sega Mega Drive II consoles and six new GameGear handhelds thrown away in a skip next to a Greek toy store.

Although the boxes were dusty, their contents were completely intact. Just imagine how much these consoles would have been worth back in the day – over £1,000, easily. Shame to think they could have potentially ended up in a landfill.

I once saw a boxed copy of Ballz on the Mega Drive in a skip but didn’t touch it. The builders were hanging around the skip at the time having a fag so I would have looked like a right skank.

Jan 12
By Matt Gander In Our Pixilated Past 3 Comments

Released: 1995
Formats: Mega Drive (played), Mega-CD, SNES, PC, Amiga, 3DO

When Bullfrog started developing Theme Park for the Amiga and PC I doubt that even in their wildest collective dreams would the game end up on the humble Mega Drive. But EA gets what EA wants, and conversions for both Mega Drive and SNES arrived in 1995. Bullfrog should have just been grateful that EA didn’t want a GameBoy version.

The end result turned out pretty good – it’s better than the non-AGA Amiga version (in which all the shops are dull wooden huts) but not as good as versions released on more power systems. Here for instance there’s only one entertainer – a clown that juggles – but in the PC version a whole host of poor sweaty souls in costumes can be hired.

Navigating the menus does take a little while to master – I still struggle to find the option to delete buildings even though I’ve clocked countless hours playing it – but after half an hour or so you should get the hang of things. There are allsorts of options to play around with too, like adding extra caffeine in the coffee so that people go whizzing around the park. The odds of winning the sideshows, like coconut toss and hook-a-duck, can also be changed.

The music is both good and bad. Good, because it ingeniously changes on the fly depending on what ride is on the screen. Bad, because these music samples only play on a 10-second loop so they soon become tedious to listen to. Visuals fair better – it’s bright and colourful, and the Mega Drive copes well even when your park is packed full of visitors.

A lack of a proper save feature though means that only cash earned can be saved via passwords. Another thing I’m not keen on are the ‘handshaking’ sections where you have to come to an agreement regarding staff wages or stock costs. It seems impossible to come to an agreement in your favor.

Playing the game properly is all well and fine, but fun can also be had by using your imagination. I once opened a park full of nothing but toilets with a stupidly high ticket price just to see if any visitors came. It’s also possible to make roller coasters with dangerous bends that send your customers flying through the air. Whee!

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