Shining In The Darkness

Shining in the Darkness (Shining and the Darkness in Japan) is a role-playing game developed by Climax Entertainment and Sonic Software Planning, and was published by Sega in 1991 for the Mega Drive.

Shining in the Darkness doesn’t have a title screen as such (Screenshot taken by the author)

In the Kingdom of Thornwood, the king’s daughter, Princess Jessa, has disappeared whilst visiting the shrine of her deceased mother. Mortred, one of the king’s most brave and trusted knights, was charged with escorting her to the shrine. He is also missing. You take control of Mortred’s son and agree to be the search party.

Shining in the Darkness is a real dungeon crawler that sees your character, along with friends Milo and Pyra, exploring what seems like endless miles of dungeons. Along the way you have random encounters with all manner of ugly beasts. Deafeating these will help your team gain experience points and level up, increasing stats and allowing new spells to be learnt. Gold is also acquired which allows you to buy new weapons and armour.

When leaving the palace, a map appears showing you the three locations you can visit: the palace, the town or the dungeons. In the town you can visit the shrine to save your progress; enter the tavern to talk to some interesting character and regain your health with an overnight stay; visit the weaponry and armoury where you can upgrade to stronger weapons and armour; and buy antidotes and healing potions needed for your adventures in the dungeon from the Alkemist (not alchemist I might add).

Isn’t that the same guy from Golden Axe? (Screenshot taken by the author)

Moving through the dungeons is simple. You can move forwards, walk backwards and turn left or right. The interactive menu consists of four boxes at the bottom of the screen and can be called upon at any time. It allows you to check your party’s status, use items, equip weapons and armour etc. When confronted with enemies, the menu changes to include attack, use item, use magic and flee options. When attacking, you have the option to choose which groups of enemies to attack first, but sadly, you cannot choose which individuals to attack within a group. If your health gets too low, you can spirit yourself out of the dungeons using the egress spell or angel feather.

The music sounds great and has heroic air, fitting for such a game. The graphics are awesome. The palace, tavern and shop scenes are bright and colourful, and the dungeons themselves and the enemies are well illustrated. There really are no complaints here. The game looks gorgeous!

To arms! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Although it is easy to learn, the game soon becomes too monotonous in my opinion. Having to navigate the same dungeon levels to gain enough experience points to fight deadlier opponents and raise enough money for better weapons becomes a real drag after a while. I know this is the whole point of RPGs but I found myself losing interest, especially when you have to traverse the same dungeons you’ve completed to reach the next dungeon. There are also times when it is unclear where you should go next. I definitely recommend you drawing your own map else you will get lost.

A nice little Easter Egg is that the dwarf who sells you your weapons seems to be the same dwarf from Golden Axe. One of his sacks on the left in the background even has a picture of one of those little imps who you steal magic potions from. Does this mean that Golden Axe and Shining in the Darkness occur in the same universe?

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A reasonable, but pricey RPG with impressive graphics, let down by combat system that soon becomes a chore. Overall 69%.[1]

Mean Machines Sega: “A role-playing game with excellent graphics and a brilliant window system. Shining in the Darkness is recommended to RPG buffs. Watch out though for irritating combat, reliant on luck than the player’s skill. Overall 72%.[2]

Dragon: “The game combines the icons and combat of Phantasy Star III, the first person perspective of Phantasy Star I, and the great close-up graphics of Phantasy Star II. The combat can sometimes be tedious without the battle animation so well programmed in Phantasy Star II. Overall 4/5.[3]

Sega Force: “Shining in the Darkness is the most colourful, enchanting RPG I’ve played on the Mega Drive – I enjoyed it even more than Phantasy Star II and III. Overall 90%“.[4]

Sega Pro: “RPG’s and great graphics don’t usually go together but Shining in the Darkness breaks the mould. Loads of playability and potential addictiveness will make this RPG a game to remember. Overall 93%.[5]

My Verdict:

“This is a beautiful game! It is easily to learn and there is plenty there to keep hardened RPG fans interested for hours and hours. For the average gamer though, monotony and frustration at repeating the same areas again and again soon becomes tiresome. However, this game is definitely worth your attention”

Rating:

What are your memories of Shining in the Darkness? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @Nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Mega Drive Review: Shining in the Darkness’. Mean Machines. (November 1991). Issue 14:112-3. (https://ia800308.us.archive.org/3/items/mean-machines-magazine-14/MeanMachines_14_Nov_1991.pdf Accessed 11th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Shining in the Darkness’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:140. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n139/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘Reviews – Shining in the Darkness’. Dragon Magazine. (February 1992). Issue 178:60. (https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg178.pdf Accessed 14th June 2020).

[4] ‘Reviewed – Shining in the Darkness’. Sega Force. (January 1992). Issue 1:52-3. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/27/SegaForce_UK_01.p Accessed 14th June 2020).

[5] ‘Proreview – Shining in the Darkness’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:58-60. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

Alien Storm

By the early 90s, multiplayer beat ‘em ups/hack and slash games such as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Final Fight were growing increasingly popular. The increasing array of characters and fighting moves kept gamers playing these games time and again, using all characters in a bid to master them. The multiplayer modes meant that you could play with friends and spend countless rainy afternoons and cold winter evenings in imaginary worlds saving the planet, defeating crime bosses or rescuing royalty.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Alien Storm is a beat ‘em up/shooter hybrid developed and published by Sega for the arcade in 1990, and ported to the Mega Drive and Master System in 1991. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and as part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The version I played and reviewed was the original Sega Mega Drive version.

Earth is being invaded by an army of incredibly ugly and aggressive aliens. A team of crack special force operatives known as the “Alien Busters”, comprising of the flame-thrower wielding Karen; the hunky Garth (Gordon in some versions) with his electric rifle, and Scooter (Slammer in PAL version) the robot, are sent to repel the invasion. Eight missions sees them battle through cities and towns, laboratories, electronic goods stores and eventually a UFO.

Oddly, the main character looks like Elvis Presley in his profile picture (Screenshot taken by author)

The game is mostly a linear beat ‘em up which sees the players fight from left to right. There are sections of the levels where the game changes to a shooter style game which adds a nice bit of variety to the action. Each character can attack, run, and perform a running attack. There are two bars: life and energy to keep an eye on too. When using your weapon, the energy bar begins to deplete. If you use your special attack, the energy bar depletes more quickly. Along the way, you can pick up medicine and batteries to replenish your life and energy levels. There are a few end of level bosses in the game which take a long time to deafeat if you don’t have special attacks, so I recommend not using them until the boss fights. The controls are very easy to learn, and the game quickly turns into a button masher with little strategy required.

Alien Storm incorporated elements of the rail-shooter genre (Screenshot taken by author)

The graphics are great! The levels contain detailed backgrounds and the sprites are bright, colourful and well designed with clear outlines. As the game progresses the increased difficulty of the aliens is noted by a colour palette change.

Each character has an individual move set and special attack but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in strength, agility etc. Interestingly, if you look at the profile picture of Gordon in the bottom left corner of the screen, to me, he looks unmistakably like Elvis Presley.

Watch out for the alien marsupials!!! (Screenshot taken by author)

Before beginning the game, you can choose between three difficulty settings: easy, normal or hard. To add an extra element of difficulty, you can also set your energy bar levels to either easy, normal or hard. When you complete the game, after the end of game scenes and credits, you get a score and a rating. As far as I know, your score makes no difference to the game ending. This adds to the replay value of the game as it encourages additional run throughs.

As with these types of games, two-player co-op modes only add to the fun. To further increase the replay value of the game, the Mega Drive version also contained a Duel mode and a Player v Player mode. In the Duel mode, you select a player and must compete in fights with differing numbers and strengths of aliens. The more rounds you win, the higher your overall score at the end. I received a score of 82 and the title “Champion”. During these battles there is no way to regain your energy so use your weapons sparingly. In the Player v Player mode, you and your opponent select one of the three main protagonists each to fight in a one on one battle. The first player to win two rounds, wins the fight. Sadly, this is a bit naff due to the fact that you only have a limited move set. There is not enough variation in attack combinations to make these battles interesting.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years in both one and two-player modes, but only in easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:An absolutely outstanding conversion from the coin-op, with great graphics and highly enjoyable one or two-player action. The big problem is that it’s just too easy. For some unknown reason, the import version was harder, but even then, it’s not that difficult to finish. Those new to the Mega Drive scene will really enjoy the action – experts, though, are warned that they might just find themselves finishing this prematurely. Overall 78%.[1]

Sega Pro: “A space age Golden Axe. One or two players can choose from three characters and then walk through eight levels packed with superbly animated and intricately detailed aliens. Great fun as each of the players has a special weapon and executes them in an amusing way. For instance, the robot takes off his (head) and self-destructs as he walks off screen. Way too easy, though. Overall 79%.[2]

My verdict:

“I have great memories playing this game with my sister and brother. Its looks great, plays great, and the mix of beat ‘em up and shooter adds some nice variety. The replay value is there too, and I think this is an underrated game from the Mega Drive catalogue. However, it must be said that titles such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage are still superior in every aspect: Story, graphics, music…the lot.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Storm? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Alien Storm’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alien Storm’. Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle

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Alex Kidd proved to be a hit on the Sega Master System throughout the eighties, and was arguably the console’s mascot. The question was, could he continue to be their main draw for Sega’s latest console, the Mega Drive? Clearly not, as this was his only outing on the 16-bit console.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle is a single-player platform game developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in Japan in 1989, Europe in 1990, and the US in 1991. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console, Mega Drive Handheld, Cloud Online, and Steam. The version I reviewed was the original Mega Drive version.

Rookie Town (Screenshot taken by the author)

On the planet Aries, Alex Kidd’s father, King Thor, has been kidnapped by Ashra, the ruler of planet Paperrock. Alex travels to Paperrock in a bid to rescue his father. He must navigate through 11 stages: Rookie Town, The Prairie, The Splashy Sea, Scorpion Desert, The Pyramid, The Hiho Forest, Tropics Town, Rocky Mountain #1, Rocky Mountain #2, In the Sky, and Sky Castle, where his father is being held. The Sky Castle is where you must fight Ashra at Janken.

The gameplay is simple: Run, jump, punch, kick, crawl and swim. Alex will slide around a bit when quickly changing direction, and is a bit floaty when jumping, which takes getting used to, so be careful near enemies. When breaking into red treasure chests, coins will spill out for Alex to collect. Grey treasure chests contain lives and power-ups. Beware, however, as some chests, some contain bombs that explode and will kill Alex.

Jan-Ken-Pon (Screenshot taken by the author)

Along the way, Alex can pay to compete in Janken fights (paper, scissor and rock) with shopkeepers to win equipment and power-ups. These include motorcycles, helicopters, a pogo stick, a wizard’s cane, a cape, and a necklace that helps Alex to see the thoughts of his opponent. This item gives you a better chance at winning Janken. At the end of every level, Alex must collect the piece of cake to progress.

Alex can swim and, thankfully, seems to be able to breathe underwater (Screenshot taken by the author)

The power bracelet is very useful and allows alex to shoot a crescent-shaped band of light that kills the baddies. Spoiler alert!!! You need to have this equipped after beating Ashra at Janken so that you can fire at him from a distance. This is the only way to defeat him.  

There are three difficulty settings: easy, medium and hard. With increased difficulty, you are given less lives to start with and the Janken opponents are harder to defeat, adding to the game’s replay value.  

Graphically, the Mega Drive is capable of so much more. The sprites are nicely drawn, if a little cutsie, suggesting this game was meant for a younger audience. Sadly, the levels and backgrounds are rather basic. The music, however, is very catchy and will get stuck in your head. When revisiting this game after 20 odd years, I still remembered the tunes instantly and began to hum along.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I have only played through on easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The graphics and sound are almost Master System Standard, and while it’s fun to play, with plenty of secret rooms and things to work out, it lacks that really addictive spark that makes the 8-bit Sega Alex Kidd games so much fun to play. For ardent Alex Kidd fans only. Overall 68%[1]

Sega Pro: Alex’s only appearance on the Mega Drive is not a bad attempt…although it can get repetitive. Overall 77%.[2]

My verdict:

“Definitely one for the younger gamer. It can be completed very easily without too much hassle, but there is little to keep you coming back for more. Catchy music, nice sprites and bright colours, but the level design and backgrounds are a bit basic and could be more visually pleasing. However, I do have a softspot for this game and feel it’s been harshly judged by critics. I certainly keep it in my collection and revisit it every year or so. It’s also handy to keep around for my niblings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Game Index: Mega Drive – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:18. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 14th June 2020).

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

After six years and four games, Phantasy Star IV sees the conclusion of the original Phantasy Star series. In the Phantasy Star universe, the games have spanned several thousand years and players were introduced to many different characters including Alis, one of the first female protagonists in computer game history. I have throoughly enojoyed playing through the series but as George Harrison wrote, “All things must pass”.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

PSIV is a role-playing game that was developed and published by Sega and released for the Sega Genesis in Japan in 1993. It would not make an appearance in North America and Europe until 1995. It was later released on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2008. The version I played can be found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.

Taking place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II, a cataclysmic event known as the Great Collapse has turned Motavia back into a desert planet, and once again there is an increase in biomonsters appearing throughout the world. Chaz Ashley, a young hunter, learns of the link between the biomonsters and the ecological crisis on the planet. The computer system put in place to control the climate is malfunctioning, and the planet is reverting back to its original desert-like state. It also seems that Dark Force is back, hellbent on destroying the Algol system once and for all.

Sadly, the overworld graphics seem to have reverted back to the PSII model making it look a little dated (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, the story is more fleshed out than it’s previous instalments, and a lot more engaging. The dialogue in general feels like there was a better translation of the original script. Additionally, during dialogue moments, character profile boxes appear which are beautifully illustrated. It also clarifies exactly who is speaking. During cutscenes, more illustrated boxes are added giving the illusion that you’re reading a comic book. There are also a few nice surprises in the form of characters from previous games reappearing, but I won’t spoil it by telling you who.

Originally the game came with a very comprehensive 40-page manual explaining every aspect of the game including: Information on each character, what the main items are for, what all the spells and techniques do when used, what injuries you can incur, a map of Motavia, and information on weapons and armour.

The gameplay has been kept the same – that is, top down view with the exception of battle mode. There is a significant increase in walking speed for the characters, meaning you can get from A to B a lot quicker. You are also able to increase the speed of the battles and text to help hurry the game along. One annoyance was that when you approach a person and/or object, whilst still pressing that direction, you walk around the target as oppose to stopping in front of it. When you play it, you’ll know what I mean.

The graphics in battle mode have also reverted back to a similar style to PSII, with the addition of illustared backgrounds (Screenshot taken by the author)

Oddly, the sprites in the overworld seem to have reverted to PSII style graphics as oppose to PSIII or creating newer, more improved graphics. Comparing the two, one could be forgiven for thinking PSIII was a later instalment. Sadly, these graphics look dated for the mid-90s, especially when compared to RPGs such as Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse (1994) and Shining Force 2 (1993). Also, the PlayStation had been released in 1994, upping the expected standard for games in general. When the PlayStation could produce RPGs like Suikoden (1995), what chance did the Mega Drive have?

The menu system is easy to access and straight forward to navigate. What made me particularly happy is that you no longer need to manually go into your menu and pass items between characters in order for them to equip or use them. The weapons and armour will automatically be available to those who can wield them.

On Dezo – added snowy effects give the impression that you are in a blizzard. However, this effect is heavy on the eyes. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Buying and equipping weapons and armour has been simplified, and for the better. When you buy a new weapon or piece of armour, arrows appear by the name of the individual who can wield it. Sadly, you cannot see if an item will improve the stats of that character until you buy it and equip it.

PSIV reintroduces fighter animations back into battle mode, similar to that of PSII. However, this time the backgrounds have also been kept. The animations of the physical attacks of the characters are the same as they were in PSII which is a little disappointing. The backgrounds during the battles are more detailed and, in some cases, animated. Additionally in PSIV, you can now use your transport vehicle during battles instead of using your characters.

A nice new feature is that two or more characters can combine their spells and techniques to create bigger and more powerful attacks. Sadly, this is very trial and error and it doesn’t always work (Screenshot taken by the author)

The enemies are beautifully illustrated and animated. There are some real ugly bastards in this game. A nice little extra is that sometimes, when two or more fighters use a certain technique or spell, it can combine to produce a stronger attack. Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime you attempt it.

One added bonus is that you no longer need to  pay to restore a fallen comrade. You simply go to a hostel, and bed down for the night. In the morning, said comrade will be right as rain.

Finally, and thank Christ, the battle menu is now wonderfully intuitive. It is very easy to learn, and they have finally simplified the way you can chose which enemy to attack. This makes strategic attacks a hell of a lot easier.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, a walkthrough was needed on several occasions though.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the fourth instalment in the Phantasy Star series with an improved magic system that allows you to combine spells for more power. Overall 7.75/10[1]

GameFan: “The graphics are gorgeous, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a while on the Genesis., full of batchin’ samples, and the game exudes nothing but pure, joyous power. Overall 93/100.[2]

Mean Machines Sega: “The best pure RPG for the Megadrive…” Overall 88%.[3]

Sega Saturn Magazine: “The gameplay – controlling inventories, arming combatants, and using spells – is not to everyone’s taste. But the game succeeds by creating climactic moments, introducing new characters and powers, and taking many weird and wonderful plot turns. Overall 90%.[4]

Game Players: “Newer RPGs like Final Fantasy III make this game look ancient…this still feels like every other Phantasy Star Game…The game offers plenty of items while staying clear and user-friendly. Fighting every other step drives you crazy. Overall 70%.[5]

My verdict:

“Although the graphics are beginning to look a bit dated, they are still pleasing to look at for the most part. The story is compelling with some nice surprises, and they have simplified the menu systems making them easier to navigate. Personally I feel this is the best Phantasy Star in the series.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star IV? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Phantasy Star IV’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (June 1995).  Issue 71: 46. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/21/EGM_US_071.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[2] Rox, N., ‘Genesis Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. GameFan. (April 1995). Volume 3 Issue 4:19 & 27. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue04April1995/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed on 26th March 2020).

[3] ‘Megadrive Review – Phantasy Star IV’. Mean Machines Sega. (July 1995) Issue 33:76-7. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-33/page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[4] ’16-bit Megadrive – Phantasy Star IV’. Sega Saturn Magazine. (December 1995). Issue 2:91. (https://archive.org/details/Official_Sega_Saturn_Magazine_002/page/n89/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[5] Slate, C., ’Genesis: Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. Game Players. (February 1995). Issue 49:38-9. (https://archive.org/details/Game_Players_Issue_49_February_1995/page/n37/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

Ah role-playing games, the opportunity for real adventure. Battle ugly-ass monsters, fill your pockets with treasure, and wield magic weapons. Cast spells of fire, lightning, as well as healing. Journey through mystical and fantastical lands, through deadly dungeons, dark forests, and creepy castles. Build your fighter’s stats until they are strong enough to defeat the demonic rulers of the evil armies.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom is an RPG developed and published by Sega and is the sequel to Phantasy Star II. It was released in Japan in 1990 for the Sega Mega Drive and reached Europe and North America in 1991. The version I played was part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3.

1000 years before the start of the game, which seems to be set in a medieval setting as oppose to a science-fiction setting, two factions are engulfed in a bitter feud. Orakio, a swordsman, and Lava, a sorceress, meet for an armistice and both mysteriously disappear. Both factions blame each other for their leader’s disappearance, and all communication and travel between the two worlds cease. War seems inevitable…

The colours are less headache-inducing, and the graphics are more detailed than previous instalments (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, you get a nice intro with some beautiful illustrations, and text explaining the back story. The game then begins with Rhys, Prince and heir to the Orakian kingdom of Landen. He is due to marry Maia, whom Rhys found washed up on a beach two months earlier (a bit odd, but ok). The ceremony is interrupted by a dragon, identified as a Layan, who abducts Maia in what is seemingly a deliberate act of war. During his search for Maia, Rhys recruits a number of fighters to assist him.

Continuing in the tradition of most RPGs, PSIII involves the player exploring a 2D world, recruiting characters, random enemy encounters, and a turn-based battle system. You can attack the enemy in three ways: with a weapon, using magic spells, and/or using special techniques. I know in PSIV you can use dynamite to attack the enemies, but I don’t recall seeing that option in this game…I may be wrong of course. Once enemies are defeated you gain Meseta (money) and experience points. Experience points are necessary to increase your fighter level which in turn, increases their stats.

The overworld is more detailed and realistic than previous instalments (Screenshot taken by the author)

The overworld gameplay hasn’t changed. It is still a near top down view and you must wander from town to town whilst buying new weapons and armour, gleaning information from local villagers, and fighting a multitude of different creatures. The overworld graphics are less vibrant, but more detailed, and realistic in my opinion. It certainly gives me less of a headache looking at it anyway.

When battling enemies, for some reason they have done away with seeing your fighters attack the enemies which is disappointing because it looked great in PSII. The enemies are more detailed, and some, in the later levels, just look really peculiar and I have no idea what they are supposed to be. Thankfully, they have brought back the backgrounds, and done away with the blue grid. Controversially, I prefer the backgrounds from PSI as I think they are more interesting to look at.

The blue grid system has been done away with in favour of scene-setting backgrounds (Screenshot taken by the author)

The battle menu is still more complicated than it needs to be. In PSIV, which I will be reviewing in several weeks, they rectify this to create an intuitive, and simple battle menu.

Strangely, PSIII doesn’t resolve what happened at the end of PSII. What happened to your fighters? What happened to Rolf, Rudo and company? Were they defeated? Did they survive? Me may never find out!

Why is Guile from Street Fighter II appearing as if he belongs in an 80s band (Screenshot taken by the author)

What is unique about PSIII, compared to other games in the franchise, is that the story spans three generations. At the end of each generation, you have the option to choose who you wish to marry. This determines who you will take control of in the next generation storyline. As I understand it, the only difference it makes is that it will affect the offsprings ability to use their techniques. There are potentially 10 different generational choices, which affect the game’s ending. Although this adds to the replay value, I don’t imagine many people would wish to play through such a gargantuan game a second or third time…but then again, I may be wrong.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but with the help of a walkthrough at times.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “Another enormous role-playing game, but this one has far more depth and variety than its predecessor. It’s by far the best RPG on the Megadrive…Overall 89%.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Martin – “One of the best RPGs ever! Phantasy Star 3 blows away the previous games, although it isn’t necessarily more challenging overall. The game throws in a lot of new features like different generations who each will encounter their own quests to overcome. Awesome RPG! Overall 8/10”.[2]

Dragon: “Though we didn’t like it as much as Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III is creative in many ways. First, you have the ability to marry a person and then become the offspring of that union to continue the quest. The various endings in the game are a definite plus as well. The graphics are excellent, except for combat (Phantasy Star II is better here)…Overall, this game will definitely keep you fixed to the television for weeks. Overall 4/5.[3]

My verdict:

“Another great game for the Phantasy Star universe. Improved graphics, a great story with a new generational storyline, and alternate storylines. They still need to decide what they are doing with the battle scene animations and battle menus.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star III? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Phantasy Star III’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:140. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n139/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew: Phantasy Star III’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (May 1991). 22:16. (https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_22/page/n15/mode/2up Accessed 23rd March 2020).

[3] ‘Phantasy Star III’. Dragon. (December 1991). 176:61. (https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg176.pdf Accessed 24th March 2020).

Phantasy Star II

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Before the 1990s, RPGs were a niche genre in the video game world. They take a lot of time and effort to play, and not everyone has the patience or desire to attempt such gargantuan games. However, those that do play RPGs cherish every moment of their journeys through fantastical universes. They take great care in building up their warriors and magic users in order to defeat hordes of enemies. Phantasy Star was one such RPG which was highly praised by critics, even though it did push the Sega Master System to its limits.[1] The successor to the Master System, the Mega Drive, offered the creators of Phantasy Star II more to work with.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star II is a single-player RPG developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in 1989, but it wouldn’t reach North America and Europe until 1990. It was later re-released on the Sega Saturn and Game Boy Advance as part of the Phantasy Star Collection, and the Dreamcast as part of the Smash Pack Volume 1. In 2005, an updated remake was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. The version I played was the Mega Drive version on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3 (also available on the Xbox).

Walking around the overworld (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is set 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star and takes us back to the Andromeda galaxy and the Algo star system. Orbiting the Algo sun are three planets: Palma – where the government reside; Mota – once an arid desert planet that has since been transformed into a tropical paradise; and Dezo – an inhospitable ice planet.

The Algo star system has prospered under the control of Mother Brain, a computer that regulates the climate, and is responsible for terraforming Mota. However, Mother Brain has started malfunctioning, producing increasingly strong monsters. One night, Rolf (our main protagonist) awakes from a nightmare, where a young girl whom he doesn’t recognise is battling a demon. It is suggested that this girl is Alis from Phantasy Star. After being informed of Mother Brain’s malfunction, Rolf, along with Nei, a humanoid with cat-like features, sets off to investigate why Mother Brain has seemingly turned against her creators.

The screens for dialogue have been greatly improved (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star II is first video game to use  a mega 6-bit cartridge. This enabled the designers to create the largest world yet seen in a video game.[2] They have dispensed with the dingeon crawling parts of the game, and have focussed on the overworld views when trawling through the dungeons. As expected, the overall graphics have been improved, creating three very distinct worlds. The sprites in the overworld maps are more individualised and are brightly coloured. The dialogue screens have also been greatly updated to anime-style character screens.

Where did the beautiful backgrounds go? (Screenshot taken by the author)

The battles screens are greatly improved. Firstly, you can now see your characters attacking animations, and the enemies are more varied and detailed. Sadly, they decided to take away the scenic backgrounds and replace them with a blue grid. I’m not sure what the thinking was behind that decision. They have still yet to fix the fighting menu. Annoyingly, You still need to scroll through the menus to target individual monsters which is tiresome.

There are two further irritating aspects to this game which I would have hoped they’d have resolved by now. The first is that many of the names of the plethora of spells you are able to use do not indicate what type of spell it is. The manual doesn’t have any information on this either, so you need to experiment during battles to find out what the oddly named spells do.

“That’s part of the fun!”, I hear some of you cry. Not really. One would assume that a magic user would know what the spell was they were using. Hopefully this will be resolved in Phantasy Star III.

The second irritating aspect is that you do not have a combined inventory, so you need to constantly scroll through the menus in order to exchange items between your fighters. Its exasperating!

Overworld view on Dezo world (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

Yes, it felt like a slog at times, and needed a walkthrough on occasion.

Dragon: “The animation, especially for battles, is superb. There are over 50 spells available. Even weapons and armor can give benefits to characters beyond their normal effects. For example, special armor found in one dungeon allows the wearer to cast a healing spell every so often. The battle system enables more than one type of creature to attack and allows the characters to attack specific creatures instead of idiotically going after one creature at a time. This game is definitely a winner. Overall 5/5”.[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Martin – “RPG’s aren’t my thing., but this one has a monstrous quest anyone can get involved with and lost in…I wish the battle scenes were on landscapes instead of boring blue grid, but all in all PS2 is presented well. Overall 8/10”.[4]

Raze: “Large combat sprites, wonderful scenes and backdrops. Great in-game effects and unobtrusive background music. A challenging quest packed with gameplay. Overall 90%”.[5]

Video Games and Computer Entertainment: “It’s very user friendly, with a simple but extensive menu system, and a battery back-up that allows you to save numerous games in progress. The plot advances quickly, providing a constant stream of new subplots…Phantasy Star II is a complex and eminently enjoyable game that will give you more variety and challenge for your buck than any other video game. Overall 9/10”.[6]

Zero: “Phantasy Star II is definitely not just any old thing. In fact, it’s just about everything you could want from this kind of game – big (very big), involved, exciting and challenging. Overall 89%”.[7]

My verdict:

“Graphically, a great improvement on the first, with an engaging story and plenty of action to keep you quiet for many hours. They just need to sort out that poxy battle menu! RPG fans will love this game!”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star II? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] Tracy, T., (16th December 2002). ‘Phantasy Star Collection Review’. Gamespot.com.  (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/phantasy-star-collection-review/1900-2901862/ Accessed 15th March 2020).

[2] Adams, R., ‘Wishing on a Phantasy Star II’. Computer Gaming World. (November 1990). Issue 76:85. https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_76/page/n83/mode/2up Accessed 14th March 2020.

[3] ‘Phantasy Star II’. Dragon. (August 1990). Issue 160:51.  https://www.annarchive.com/files/Drmg160.pdf Accessed 14th March 2020).

[4] ‘Phantasy Star 2’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1990). Issue 9:18.  https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_Issue_009_April_1990/page/n19/mode/2up Accessed 14th March 2020).

[5] ‘Reviews: Phantasy Star 2’. Raze. (April 1991). Issue 6:34-5. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/PhantasyStar2-Raze6-2.html Accessed 15th March 2020).

[6] ‘Sega Genesis – Phantasy Star 2’. Video Games and Computer Entertainment. (March 1990) Issue :34 & 49. https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d2/VG%26CE_US_14.pdf#page=24 Accessed 15th March 2020.

[7] ‘Review Console: Mega Drive – Phantasy Star II’. Zero. (March 1991). Issue 17:88. (https://archive.org/details/zero-magazine-17/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 15th March 2020.

Super Kick Off

You stand in the tunnel and hear the chants from the stands echo all around you. Your supporters expect glory. Can you immortalise yourself and your team by winning silverware and reigning supreme? Tie up the laces of your football boots and adjust your shin pads. Its not just Kick Off, its Super Kick Off!

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Kick Off is the sequel to Kick Off 2. It was developed by Anco Software, Tiertex Design Studios and Enigma Variations, and published by US Gold, Imagineer, and Misawa Entertainment in 1991. It was released on the Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, and SNES.

The game is played with a top down view, similar to that of World Cup Italia ’90, but the overall graphics are more detailed, especially where the sprites are concerned. The game has also added footballers of different skin tones, making the game more realistic. The pitches are also prettier and the crowd is brightly coloured.

In-game action (Screenshot taken by the author)

The in-game menu icons are not labelled but are fairly self-explanatory. One league and three cup competitions, plus a two-player mode, adds to the replay value. It is also possible to increase the overall speed of the game and adjust the difficulty setting of the oppoenent, to add more of a challenge.

In-game menu (Screenshot taken by the author)

The teams are a random array of Europe’s better teams from the early 90s. The names of the players are not real but are close enough to distinguish who they really are (Griggs = Giggs etc.). Oddly, some players begin out of position. For example, when playing with Man Utd, Spruce (Steve Bruce), starts upfront instead of in defence, so a little tinkering is needed to amend such insanity.

The music is forgettable and not as catchy as World Cup Italia ’90 which had a very Latino feel to it. There are a few SFX but the gasps from the crowd everytime the ball is either saved by the goalkeeper or goes out of play is very annoying.

Half-time (Screenshot taken by the author)

Controlling the ball takes a bit of getting used to. You have to either manoeuvre the player around the moving ball or press the ‘trap’ button before changing direction. The ‘trap’ button also acts as the pass button and so many times the ball gets kicked wildly out of play. Tackling is pretty much non-existant other than running into the opposition to steal the ball, and the offside rule tends to happen at odd times during the match. Once you can beat the computer regularly on the hardest setting (14-0 if you must know), you know it’s time to stop playing the game.

Although an improvement on most previous football games, I am still at a loss as to how computer designers were consistantly unable to produce a realistic football game in the 80s and early 90s. You only need three buttons: For attacking – 1) short pass, 2) long pass, and 3) shoot. For defense – 1) standing tackle, 2) sliding tackle, and 3) control nearest player to the ball etc. It’s that simple!

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I won all leagues and trophies in this game.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The best football game going, and one which every Mega Drive owner, regardless of their interest in sport, should leap out and purchase. Overall 95%”.[1]

Sega Power: “You wanted a decent football game and you’ve got one! You’ll need patience to get used to controlling the players, but it’s more than worth the effort. Overall 5/5.[2]

My verdict: “An improvement on most previous football games, and certainly worth playing. However, they are still a long way to go where football games are concerned.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Kick Off? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Mean Machines Sega. (February 1993). 5:18-21. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-05/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Sega Power. (September 1993). 46:98. (https://archive.org/details/SegaPower46Sep1993/page/n97/mode/2up 25th February).

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The lightning quick blue ball of spikes has returned, and this time he has speedy side-kick. Yes, Sonic is back with a faster, bigger, and more challenging game for those with quick reflexes.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a platform game developed and published by Sega for the Megadrive in 1992. It is the sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog with 8-bit versions being released on the Master System and Game Gear. In recent years, versions were released for multiple mobile platforms as well as part of a number of Sega collection packages for the PlayStation and Xbox systems. I reviewed the Mega Drive version of Sonic 2.

Sonic is accompanied by Tails (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic is back, and this time he has assistance from his trusty sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower, a two-tailed fox. Dr. Robotnik is also back, and again plans to steal the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station known as the Death Egg. Once again Sonic must make his way through an array of different levels evading the robotic minions of Dr. Robotnik. Like the first instalment, Sonic has the option to destroy the minions to release the animals that Dr. Robotnik has trapped inside them.

There are plenty of new features in this game. At the start of the game you can choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or as Sonic with Tails. There is no real difference between Sonic and Tails, but I would recommend playing as one or the other alone. The reason for this is the Special Stages where Sonic attempts to win the Chaos Emeralds. The stages are now designed like a half-pipe run and are broken into stages. You must gain ‘X’ amount of rings to progress to the next stage, all the while dodging obstacles that will make you lose rings if you hit them. If you have Tails with you, he will often get hit by an obstacle and will lose you rings.

The new half-pipe special stages (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once you have won all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic gains the ability to transform into Super Sonic by gaining 50 rings and jumping into the air. As Super Sonic you are invincible, can run faster and jump higher. However it uses up your rings at a rate of one per second. Once they are gone, Sonic reverts back to his normal self.

After you collect all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will be able to temporarily transform into Super Sonic (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic 2 also sees the introduction of the ‘Spin-Dash’, which enables Sonic to spin and gain speed whilst stationary.

The addition of a competitive two-player mode where you can race another player through certain levels and special stages adds an extra element of fun which I know myself and my buddies found particularly diverting.

With the release of Sonic and Knuckles in 1994, the two cartridges could be interlocked, enabling you to play through Sonic 2 as Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles can glide and climb walls, enabling you find alternative routes through the levels. However, he cannot jump as high as Sonic and Tails, making some of the boss fights a bit more difficult.

Sonic and Tails must fight their way through an array of new machines built by Dr. Robotnik (Screenshot taken by the author)

The graphics haven’t changed that much since the first Sonic game. The Sonic sprite is a slightly darker shade of blue, and the enemy sprites are designed to have a more mechanical look. The levels are longer, less linear (you sometimes have to go back on yourself to find the correct route) and more intricately designed, making traversing the levels more challenging. Some of the evil minions are harder to destroy and the end of level bosses are certainly more challenging and inventive too. The music is good, but I don’t think its quite as memorable as the first game.

I did feel that the way you have no rings or means to get them for the last two bosses is a cheap way to make the bosses harder, and I found that frustrating.

The two-player mode is what my friends and I played alot when we got this game. I remember distinctly arriving at my buddy’s house and eagerly turning the game on for the first time. We played the for hours. Having revisited the game I noticed that in one-player mode and two-player mode, the game has a tendency to slow down and the sprites flicker a bit when Sonic and Tails are going top speed, in particularly when you are hit by an enemy and lose lots of rings.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game a few times through whilst winning all the Chaos Emeralds.

What the critics said:

Gamepro: “Its tough to follow a classic but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 earns top honours. There’s enough stuff that’s new and different in Sonic 2 to make it a must-have cart for fans of the original. Overall 19.5/20.”[1]

Gamesmaster: “The changes are there, but they’re just not profound enough to transform the agme into an essential buy for owners of the original. Overall 65%.”[2]

Computer & Video Games: Paul Anglin“At first glance Sonic may not look radically different to the original, but it packs a lot more punch than Bluey’s first outing. The levels are absolutely massive, with so much to do and so much to find that you’ll bust a gut trying. Overall 94%.[3]

Computer & Video Games: Tim Boone“For a start it’s all a tad faster, and the addition of Tails is a real master stroke to beef up the gameplay. Graphics are no great improvement over the original, but seeing as the first game’s were about the best you’ll find that’s no bad thing! Sound is ace too. Overall 94%[4]

Gamer Fan: Sonic 2 is amazing, faster and nastier than ever spinning through awesome new zones that will make your eyes bug out! The creativity and attention to detail is remarkable and to finish with all the chaos emeralds is a worthy challenge for even the best players. Overall 98.5%[5]

Mean Machines Sega: “Sonic has outdone itself. An absolute gem of a game which your Megadrive will be screaming out for. Overall 96%.[6]

Mega: “Sonic 2 is pure, top grade video game entertainment. No one should miss it. Fight for a copy.  Overall 94%”.[7]

Megazone: “Sonic 2 is a brilliant sequel, and does what most sequels don’t do – improve and expand on the original. Overall 96%.[8]

Sega Force: “One of the best games of the year and definitely worth the wait! Overall 97%”.[9]

Electronic Games: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2 offers the same exciting play as the first, but the welcome additions of two-player simultaneous play and more levels only enhance this exciting title. Sonic shows no signs of slowing down! Overall 91%.[10]

Awards:

Best Game of the Year (Sega Genesis) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1992[11]

Game of the Year – Megazone Games of the Year 1992[12]

Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[13]

My Verdict:

“There was something about this game that I didn’t like, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first. That being said, this is a solid sequel, and I did have fun revisiting the game. There are plenty of new features, to make it worth playing, and the addition of a two-player mode adds to the overall enjoyment of the game”

Rating:

What are your memories of Sonic 2? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also follow me on Facebook.


[1] The Unknown Gamer. ‘Pro Review: Megadrive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamerpro. (January 1993). 43:46-50 (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/54/GamePro_US_042.pdf Accessed 16th December 2019).

[2] Lowe, A., ‘Game Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamemaster Magazine. (January 1993). Issue 1:56-8 (https://retrocdn.net/images/1/18/GamesMaster_UK_001.pdf Accessed on 10th December 2019).

[3] Anglin. P., ’Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[4] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). Issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[5] ‘Viewpoint: Mega Drive: Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamer Fan. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 2:9. (https://archive.org/details/Gamefan_Vol_1_Issue_02/page/n7/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[6] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mean Machines Sega. (November 1992). Issue 2:60-3. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-02/page/n61/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[7] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mega. (November 1992). Issue 2:36-41. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/Sonic2-MEGA2-6.html Accessed 19th February 2020).

[8] Clarke, S., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:31-33. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[9] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Sega Force. Issue 12:14-16. https://retrocdn.net/images/b/bc/SegaForce_UK_12.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[10] Carpenter, D., ‘Video Game Gallery: Genesis – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:72-4. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n73/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[11] ‘EGM Best and Worst of 1992 Video Game of the Year’. Electronic Gaming Monthly 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :14. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[12] ‘Game of the Year Awards 1992 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:21. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[13] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Sonic The Hedgehog 2‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

Columns

Reviewed by Nick Lawrence

In 1989, Nintendo released Tetris on the Game Boy, and it proved to be an instant hit. By its 25-year anniversary Tetris had sold over 70 million copies worldwide.[1] Sega, eager to compete, needed a puzzle game of their own. They settled-on Columns, similar enough not to deter Tetris fans, but different enough to try and attract a new audience. Sadly, Columns couldn’t imitate Tetris’ success.

Screenshot taken by the author

Columns is a puzzle game created by Jay Geertsen for the arcade in 1989. Its success led to it being ported to many other platforms. The version I played was from the Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Collection on the Playstation 3. It was originally developed and published by Sega in 1990.

The game consists of three coloured jewels being dropped to the bottom of a rectangular screen, similar to Tetris. However, instead of aiming to complete horizontal lines, you must match three or more of the same coloured jewels in either a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. Once lined up the jewels will disappear allowing any jewels above to fall down to the lowest point possible. You will also be awarded points. You are able to cycle the order of the jewels to aid in your organisation of landed jewels. If a multi-coloured, flashing set of jewels appears, you can land any colour of jewel that you wish and all of that type of jewel will disappear. The higher your score, the faster the jewels will fall. Columns can be played in one-player and multiplayer modes, flash-modes and a time trial mode which add to the replay value of such a seemingly simple but highly addictive game.

Screenshot taken by the author

I have a real soft spot for this game and prefer it to Tetris, possibly because of the beautifully coloured jewels. The graphics in general have a classical Greek/Roman feel to them and each jewel is brightly coloured and easily distinguishable from the others. The music is rather basic but does have a tendency to get stuck in your head, but mostly you will find that you’ll turn the sound down and listen to your own music, podcast or an audiobook.

I used to play this game a lot and got pretty damn good at it. As you can see from the photograph below, the highest score I achieved was 5408848 at level 121. I would have continued but I had been playing for a while and was due to go out for the evening. I could have paused and come back to it but I feel that I had proved my aptitude for the game.

A photgraph of my highest ever score

Did I complete the game?

No one seems to know how high the score or levels go, and I don’t know of anyone who has “completed” this game, so I’m going to assume this is a game that cannot be completed.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Index: “Sega’s answer to Tetris, this puzzle game is excellent. There’s a huge variety of options, including arcade-style time trials, three different difficulty settings, nine different starting levels, and a two-plater head-to-head made which adds to the game’s lasting appeal. Overall 88%[2]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with a superb challenge mode. Simple and addictive. Overall 4/5.[3]

My Verdict:

“It’s like Tetris, but better in my opinion. Colourful, challenging and surprisingly addictive.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Columns? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also follow me on Facebook.


[1] Johnson, Bobbie, (June 2009) ‘How Tetris Conquered the World, Block by Block’. The Guardian. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/jun/02/tetris-25anniversary-alexey-pajitnov Accessed on 10th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Columns’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n137/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Columns’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II

In the voice of the great Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, “And there he goes! Look at that! Villeneuve has passed him! Villeneuve has won the Brazilian Grand Prix!”.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II is a Formula One racing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Megadrive, Master System and Game Gear in 1992, and is the follow up to Super Monaco GP. The game’s development was also assisted by Senna, who supplied his own advice about the tracks featured in the game.

Naturally the object of the game is to win the Driver’s World Championship and/or the Senna GP. To win the World Championship, you must race 15 other drivers on tracks from the 1991 Formula One season. You gain points depending on the position that you finish. The higher the finish, the more points you accrue.

In Practice Mode you can choose to train freely or simulate a race. This enables you to familiarise yourself with the sharp turns of each track, and allowing you to perfect your racing line. In Practice Mode you can also select the number of laps you wish to complete, your starting position and sometimes, the weather.

The late, great Ayrton Senna died tragically from injuries sustained during a crash whilst competing in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (Screenshot taken by the author)

In Beginner Mode, you first enter your name and select your nationality. You are then given the choice to run a few practice laps before the main race. When you select Race Mode, you can choose your preferred type of gear box (automatic, 4-speed manual and 7-speed manual). Before the main race starts you must complete a lap in the quickest time possible. Your time compared to the times of the other drivers will dictate you starting position. Your aim is to be the Polesitter.

Master Mode is pretty much the same as Beginner Mode with the exception that you may get the opportunity to drive better race cars by challenging rivals during races. If you beat the rival, you race their car from then on. There are five different car companies to achieve.

For the Senna GP, you simply compete in one race. You can choose from three tracks, and your lap times are given after each race.

In-game screen offering all the views and information you need (Screenshot taken by the author)

As mentioned, when reviewing Super Hang-On, I’m not a fan of racing games. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t do it for me, so I am reluctant to spend too much time on them. However, I will say that even though I found this game very challenging, I did enjoy playing it.

The game is challenging and much practice is needed to understand the physics of the game. Frustratingly, when a collision with another racer occurs, you aways seem to come off worse than the other racer. No serious damage occurs, it just slows you down. However, if you hit a sign or barrier at high speed, you will crash and your race is over.

The 16 tracks plus the Beginner, Master, and Senna GP modes increase the replay value considerabley, and fans of racing games will find that this not a game that will be completed within a few hours. Alas, it is a pity there is not a two-player option.

The graphics are bright and colourful, and should be praised for their realism. I’d argue that they are superior to F1 (1993). The music is very basic and easily forgettable, but then again you’re not playing a racing game for the music are you!

Did I complete the game?

Sadly no. The best result I achieved was fourth overall. In the World Championship.

What the Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A very good racing game – but if you’ve already got Super Monaco GP, this simply isn’t different enough to be worth buying. Overall 87%[1]

Mean Machines: “If you already have the original Super Monaco in your cart collection, take a look before you buy because it is very similar. However, if you’ve just got your Mega Drive and fancy owning one of the greatest road racers money can buy, take a look at Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – it leaves the others on the starting grid. Overall 94%”[2]

Computer & Video Games: “Super Monaco still ranks one of the best racers on the Mega Drive, right up there with the likes of Road Rash and Super Hang-On. However, it has to be said that this sequel is quite a disappointment because it’s too close to the original game! Overall 84%[3]

Sega Power: “Bigger and Badder sequel to the original game, this time with the golden touch of Ayrton Senna himself. Hit the gas and burn some rubber, baby. Groovy! Overall 5.5.[4]

My Verdict: “Becomes more enjoyable the more you play it. Fans of racing games with love the realism, and the challenge.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP 2? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also follow me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. (June 1992). Issue 21:20-1. Mean Machines. (https://ia600306.us.archive.org/2/items/mean-machines-magazine-21/MeanMachines_21_Jun_1992.pdf Accessed 14th December 2019).

[2] Leadbetter, R., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:126. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[3] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco Grand Prix 2’ Computer & Video Games. (July 1992). Issue 128:68. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/08/CVG_UK_128.pdf Accessed on 11th February 2020).

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Monaco GP II’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).