So it never occurred to me to do these in weekly installments.
Why? Dunno. Let's fix that.
9. Road Rash 3
Hitting the gas right at the instant of the flag waving, throttling ahead of the majority of racers, swinging a crowbar at their heads as you rocket past, weaving between incoming cars, kicking some of the peskier enemies right INTO oncoming traffic, rocketing to the front, and zipping across the finish line just ahead of someone.
Normally, racing games don't appeal to me all that much. BUT, when you add fighting into the mix, mixed with a good helping of humour, all blended in with satisfying controls, and you get a winner.
That's kinda what makes this game hard to talk about. It's the perfection of a formula, without all that much individual innovation. It's really damn good, but not much here that's groundbreaking. (Aside from, perhaps, some very good use of Super Scaler technology)
So I think this one'll be short'n sweet.
8. Contra Hardcorps
Just because Contra III made number five on the previous list and this one only made 8th doesn't mean nothin'! Don't think I like this one any less! I just like it... Differently. Contra III I know well enough to play it like a dance; I know all the moves and timings to pretty much play it perfectly. While I certainly love it enough to be able to play it to that kind of a degree, Hardcorps is still a challenge to me.
Sure sure, way back when, I got all the (surprisingly numerous) endings, and played basically everything the game had to offer. And, well, it's still goddamn hard even after all that. Contra III, on the hardest difficulty, doesn't require a continue from me. And that's on the hardest that the game can get! I'd have to get into some crazy Laser-only kind of self-handicapping gameplay to get a real challenge from it.
Not so with Hardcorps! Right out of the box, without mucking with any settings, Hardcorps presents a very nice challenge from beginning to end, no matter the path I take. That means that I can be surprised by it. The branching paths really helps a lot to the replayability, as well, giving eight different end bosses. (AND LOOK IT'S NUMBER 8 ON THIS LIST WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOA-) At least I think it's eight endbosses... I haven't exactly counted.
Some day, I'll give Hardcorps the proper scrutiny it deserves, and make a whole article about it in which I would basically be gushing the entire time. (What, analyze the game? Naaah.)
7. Streets of Rage II
Another example of a perfection of a formula.
Sure, some people can fault a game for not innovating, but honestly, if you want innovation, go play more indie games. Those are usually good for that.
Streets of Rage II, on the other hand, is, well, basically the perfect beat-em-up. Sure, there's some out there that are better (Konami's fantastic arcade examples, for one), but for the beat-em-up experience at home, this game, hands down, beats out any simple port of an arcade game.
I have a theory as to why. While a port of an arcade game has to follow in the footsteps and linger in the shadow of a technologically superior brother. A brother that likely had overwhelming difficulty that doesn't translate well to a console. Not to mention, most developers wanted to make the game as similar as possible to its arcade brother, even on inferior technology. (At least that aspect worked out better on the Genesis and Super Nintendo than it did back in the ZX Spectrum days)
Streets of Rage has excelled in this niche market because it didn't have a big, bad and tough arcade brother to try and follow up on. It could stand on its own. Thusly, the difficulty scales MUCH nicer here than in any arcade port I've seen, while remaining a fair challenge. The music and graphics, likewise, didn't have to compete with higher-res Arcade graphics. They were scaled correctly in our eyes since we didn't have a comparison to draw it to.
Among probably other reasons, which I *might* devote a whole article to at some point.
I've gotten flak for preferring the Genesis version of Shadowrun over the SNES one. Hey people! Dif'rent strokes and all that! I fully admit that the SNES version looks better and has better gameplay. What it lacks, compared to the Genesis version, at least for me, is immersion and atmosphere.
In the SNES version, you see the setting and enemies and NPC's and locales with excellent environment art. In the Genesis version, it's described to you. The ambience of the location, the people, the feeling and impression of the people around you, their facial expressions, the smells. The words convey much more than pixel art ever could.
Not to mention, there's another important distinction here. The SNES version plays like a video game. The Genesis version plays like the original Shadowrun tabletop, albeit with video game trappings. And y'know what? I kinda like tabletop games more than video games. The visuals my mind comes up with are more vivid than the ones video games can display. (For the most part, at least.)
But then that could all be because I played the Genesis version first.
5. Gunstar Heroes
That's the only way to describe Gunstar Heroes. Treasure has yet to turn out anything resembling bad. Each and every thing they make is solid gold. (or at the very least high-grade Silver)
They took the best of Contra and platformers, took out the frustrating bits, and threw it all back together and it worked amazingly. Especially for Treasure's first venture, this is nothing short of glorious.
So take that for what it is.
4. Alien Soldier
HERE we go! A bit more of a mixed bag!
Shame I've already talked about it.
I will say, though: The controls work in this games favour.
Alien Soldier is a brutal gauntlet and absolute mastery is needed to even come close to standing a chance. And thusly, the controls are just as difficult to master.
BUT! When mastered, they're powerful and effective. While they wouldn't work as controls for, well, any other platformer, they reek of brilliance here.
Provided you can get the hang of it, at least. It took me a while. So very worth it, though.
Oooooh man, MUSHA.
One of the best vertical shooters in existance? You bet your ass. Some of the best music on the Genesis? Ee-yup. The tensest final battle this side of 1996? Hell yeah.
I love that this game gives you many different ways to power up, giving a nice personal taste to it, depending on your playstyle, and while it does take a while to build up to full power, you don't lose much when you get hit. You just go down a level. That's easy to build back up from.
There is a touch of Gradius syndrome if you die, though. You lose all your power ups, which takes a long time to build back up. And that's.... A pain. Sure, you can have any amont of stockpiled little side-arm things, but they die easily no matter their usefulness.
2. Ranger X
My original article on this game does not do it justice.
Rest assured; once I get better at this whole 'Analyze games and talk about what makes them great' thing, I will definitely go back and give this game the look it properly deserves.
Until then; You try playing it. It's tricky to get the hang of, though not as much so as Alien Soldier. It has some of the most beautiful graphics on the Genesis, unquestionably. It has some very nice challenge to offer; though not as much as MUSHA.
But as I said. I'll look back on this game, some time, and hopefully be able to properly express it in words.
1. Phantasy Star IV
The thing I like most about the retro Phantasy Star games?
Accumulated lore over two wonderfully crafted and two midling games. (Phantasy Star's two and three needed serious work, three especially. Their stories are still great, but as games they... Well, need serious work.)
Great deeds that you did in previous Phantasy Star games are treated as legendary miracles thousands of years later in the story in later games.
An evolution from beginning to end of worlds going through so much change.
Pieces of technology that are normal and commonplace in the first game become ancient relics of awe and wonder a few games down the line.
Android characters that don't age or fade are playable in two games that have a thousand year gap between them.
But there's one thing about Phantasy Star IV that absolutely sold it for me;
We'll save the why for another day.
Come back next week and you'll see a new Top 10. For what? You'll see!