Sega Genesis Game Opinion Summaries, Part 14: Ta-Tz

Whew… finally done with this update.  Been busy, but this one is done now!  15 summaries this time. Only 20 more to go…

Oh, I improved the Task Force Harrier EX summary from last time. Look at it again, I left out some important points before.

Games covered in this update

Taz in Escape from Mars
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters
Thunder Force II
Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure
Toki: Going Ape Spit
Tom and Jerry: Frantic Antics
Trouble Shooter
Twin Cobra
Tyrants: Fight Through Time

Taz in Escape from Mars – 1 player.   Taz in Escape from Mars is a decent platformer. It is a somewhat average game, but is a huge improvement over the first Genesis Taz-Mania game, and holds up much better.   This game is a lot like the first one, but with some crucial improvements.   As before, you play as Taz.  He was kidnapped by Marvin the Martian for his zoo, so you start this game in that great classic Looney Tunes “space” setting of Marvin the Martian’s Mars.  There are six settings in the game, though, some on earth and some in space, and each has two levels then a boss.  The graphics are again good, and looks a lot like the first game but with new settings, enemies, and such.  I’ve always really liked the Looney Tunes space stuff, so the setting here is great, though it is odd that a couple of levels are on earth and the others on other planets.  The graphics are only a bit improved over the first game, but the large, detailed sprites look great, and the environments look good enough.  The music is also improved over the first game; it’s at least decent this time, thankfully.   As for the gameplay, this game mostly plays just like the original.  As before, Taz is huge on the screen, runs around, jumps with an annoyingly floaty jump, spins into a tornado to attack, and has lots of stuff to eat to refill your health bar, some items which heal you or give you a powerup and others that hurt you.  Most importantly, blind jumps have been dramatically cut back on. However, the blind jumps over death pits are entirely, 100% gone!  Yes, there aren’t any bottomless pits this time. Instead you might land on spikes, an earlier part of the level, or a path that leads back to an earlier part of the level.  That can be annoying, but it’s a vast improvement over the constant unfair deaths of the original!  You can look up and down a bit as well, to see platforms a bit below you. Sure, you still can’t see far ahead, you’ll constantly get hit and lose health, and the controls are slippery, but this is a decently good game.

The levels are, in classic Western platformer fashion, large and mazelike.  You need to find and eat the exit sign in each level, and it’s usually somewhere at the far right end of the stage, but it’ll take plenty of exploration to find the way.  Exploring the levels can be fun, and the stages are reasonably well designed.  There isn’t as much to collect in this game as there is in some, but the 1-ups, health ups if you need health if you need it, but the main goal is to find the end, not collect everything along the way.   That’s fine.  The game may be fairer than its predecessor, but it is still easy to lose lives.  This game isn’t as hard as the first one, but it is a challenge.  First, you have limited continues and no saving.  Worse, when you use a continue, you restart the whole world, not just the level.  That means get game over at a boss and you go three levels back to the first stage of that environment.  That’s too cruel!  Overall, Taz in Escape from Mars is an average game.  The game looks great and the levels can be fun to explore, but the loose controls, the constant damage you’ll surely take as you run into enemy or spike after enemy or spike due to how fast you move particularly when spinning, and the harsh game over punishment hold it back. This is an alright game, though, and platformer fans might want to give it a try.  After playing the first game I was not expecting much from this one, but it surprised me.  Also on Game Gear; that version is very much like this, but with smaller graphics of course.

Technoclash – 1 player, password save, 6 button controller support.  Technoclash is an interesting top-down action-adventure game published by EA and developed by Zono Incorporated, the studio that would go on to make the weird Sega Saturn title Mr. Bones. You are a mage, Ronaan, and he and his three male friends are fighting against evil robots and their living henchmen who invaded his world from a machine-ruled Earth.  The concept is sort of mages-versus Terminators, and that’s kind of cool even if it isn’t the most original thing.  There are story scenes at the beginning and end of each level, and sometimes during levels as well, telling the continuing plot.  I do like the concept here, mages-versus-robots isn’t something you see as often as you might think, particularly with the mages as the good guys.   In terms of gameplay, this is mostly a top-down action game, though there are also adventure and light RPG elements.  The game has a linear, level-based structure, and doesn’t have the open world of a Zelda or Shadowrun.   I’m fine with that, though; well-designed conventional levels are just fine with me, and for the most part that is what these are.  Levels are good-sized and increase in size as you progress through the game, and instead of just getting to an end point, in most stages after the first one you have to accomplish some objective, whether it is finding certain items and taking them to key points or destroying specific targets, for two examples from earlier in the game.  You always fight with an AI companion by your side, bringing either your warrior or mage friend along each time.  The game has a password save system, and you can alwaqys see your password on the pause screen; though it will start you back from the beginning of the current level, it is great to have it there.  You have limited continues for some reason, but thanks to the passwords this doesn’t matter much.  The game is hard enough that you will die quite a bit, but not so hard that you’ll be likely to give up.  They are moderately helpful and do automatically attack enemies, but you will do most of the fighting yourself.  The game has decent to good graphics; it doesn’t look amazing, but has a solid comic-like style.   The music is solid, but mostly average.

Now, this is an action-packed game, but that isn’t because of your movement speed; Ronaan moves quite slowly, so if you do get lost and have to backtrack it can get tedious.  Fortunately on the pause menu you can scroll around the whole level as Ronaan’s hawk familiar, a feature which can be helpful.  It won’t necessarily help you find all the objective items, as they are often hidden, but still, it’s better than nothing. You spend most of your time in this game wandering around and fighting enemies.  Now, touching enemies won’t hurt you; only their shots will.  This makes combat sometimes a somewhat silly affair, as you and the badguys keep bumping eachother, trying to hit the other.  It’s fun, but certainly isn’t the most polished combat system.  When fighting, while you have a staff swing on the A button, like most mages you mostly fight with magic.  You’ve got 9 offensive and 4 defensive spells available, and will need to make effective use of all of them to succeed.   You use your currently equipped attack spell with B, and open a quick menu to switch between the 9 with C. Each is represented with only a single letter, so remember which is which.  Your basic bolt-shot attack is infinite, but all other spells are limited-use, recharged with pickups that litter the game.  The four defensive spells do not have a hotkey, so you need to either have a 6-button controller or pause to use them.  The Mode button uses Heal, and X, Y, and Z use teleport, invisible, and float.  As with the offensive spells, defensive abilities are limited use and you need to find powerups to refill them, so don’t waste heals.  You will see all spells from early on, so you don’t really unlock more as you go, unlike many action-adventure games.  You do get health-expanding powerups after beating level bosses, but that’s about it for permanent powerups.  The game works as it is, though, and mastering the spells will take time.  You also will collect key-cards and some powerups for your companion, but no other items.  That’s fine though, managing 13 spells is tricky enough!  In addition to the basic straight shot, you also get a lightning shot, timed mines, a screen-clearing attack, and more.  Due to their limited nature you can’t use them all as much as you might like, but this does make you think a bit about what to use, which is good.  Overall, Technoclash is a fun, quality action-adventure game.  This game is not nearly as polished and brilliant as a Gauntlet IV or Zelda game, as the messy combat, sometimes frustrating wandering-around-lost stuff, tough difficulty level as you get farther into the game, and limited better spells but combat is mostly fun despite that, and I like the spells and story.  Technoclash is a good and under-rated game that genre fan should definitely play.  Make sure to use a 6-button controller, though.

Technocop – 1 player. Technocop is an awful, but somewhat infamous, sidescrolling action game from Razor Soft, a studio who tried to make their name more on controversy than good gameplay. See, in this game, when you kill people they explode into bloody puddles! Wow! That sure makes up for the bad, frustrating level designs, subpar controls, bad driving segments between action levels, poor audio, and generic action, right? … No, it really doesn’t. So, in each level you explore around increasingly large and mazelike levels, trying to kill or capture all the badguys with your bullets or net-gun, reach the target goal area, beat the boss there, and then get back alive. Yes, you have a non-lethal net gun you can use if you want, but it doesn’t matter which you use, it’s all the same here. You don’t get more weapons, just the few you start with. Mostly due to the awful, annnoying level designs full of annoying respawning enemies as you wander around lost the game gets hard fast, and once you run out of your few lives you don’t get any continues. It’s not worth it at all.The driving side of the game really is awful, too. It’s a very, VERY basic Outrun-style game, except with only one car, only straight roads with no turns, a gun, and few, really bad looking trackside objects. There is no music while driving, only bad car-engine sounds. Overall, this game is pretty awful in every way other than badly-outdated shock value. Don’t buy it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist – 1-2 player simultaneous. Konami’s TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist is the only Ninja Turtles beat ’em up on a Sega console. It is a good game, but is incredibly unoriginal. The story is a rehash of TMNT III: The Manhattan Project with some slight changes, the levels are reused from previous TMNT beat ’em ups, and the basic gameplay comes straight out of TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, with only a few, very minor, changes. Versus Turtles in Time, this game has slightly less good graphics and doesn’t have the throw-at-the-screen move, and there are only five levels in this game, but it does have some strengths as well. This is a fun, classic Konami beat ’em up. It’s unoriginal, but is mostly good. Hyperstone Heist has two player co-op, allows four enemies on screen at once, plays very well, looks and sounds good, and is an easy, fun little game to blast through here and there. There’s nothing new here, but it plays well.

I have one big problem with this game beyond the almost-entirely-rehashed content, though: the level designs are the worst and least interesting in any of Konami’s isometric TMNT beat ’em ups. Unlike either arcade game or TMNT III for the NES, all stages in this game are very basic paths to the right. There are no sections where the stage jogs up or down, almost no areas with multiple terrain heights, and many fewer interesting ways that enemies come onto the screen, too. For instance, in TMNT III, the sewer level has a raised path on the side, and the sewer water below you can also walk in. The level turns up and down, as well. The TMNT IV sewer stage isn’t quite as good, but it still has some of those elements. In this game, however, sewer stages are a straight, flat path to the right. Some seem to be full of water, but instead of walking through it like you should, the turtles and enemies walk on water in the sewer and cave areas as if it’s just blue ground! It’s absurdly stupid. Even dumber, right after one of the walking-on-water stages, the turtles are traveling over the sea… this time on hoverboards. Um, shouldn’t they have those in all the water stages, and not just one? Also, in the street stage you can’t jump up onto the dumpster, or anything else, in this game. All stages occur on one flat plane, with VERY few obstacles in your path beyond a handful of traps in a few stages. Sure, this game mostly looks good, but it’s lazily done. The game has a boss-rush only three levels into the game, too, so you refight the first three bosses midgame instead of playing through new content. Lazy stuff. There are a few traps to avoid in the final level, but apart from that the stages in Hyperstone Heist are basic and incredibly lazy in design and visuals. The music is great classic Konami stuff, but it is pretty much entirely just remixes of Turtles in Time’s soundtrack, so there’s nothing new here musically. At least it’s good, though.

Fortunately the gameplay, at least, is better. This game plays just like the other Konami TMNT beat ’em ups of its time, but with maybe slightly better fighting action. The game runs without slowdown even with a full set of 4 enemies on screen, which is nice. Also, while that throw move was removed, some other minor moves were added. Most of the time you will be whacking or jump-kicking enemies, though; as with most beat ’em ups this is a very repetitive game. For the genre, though, it plays great. The action is fast and fun, hit detection is accurate and the game never feels cheap or unfair, each of the four turtles has a slightly different style, and the variety of enemy weapon types is good too. The good to great gameplay is HH’s saving grace, and makes this a pretty good game despite its issues. It is an easy and short game, though. Turtles in Time is also pretty easy and short, unlike the challenging NES games, though. Hyperstone Heist is actually a couple of minutes longer than Turtles in Time, but it feels shorter because TiT has no padding so it stays engaing throughout, while this game is padded with that annoying fight-the-old-bosses-again stage in the middle. As with the SNES game, it’s hard to play this game and NOT finish it, unless you play on Hard or reduce the number of lives and credits you get! You can do that, and the game does force you to restart the whole level when you get a Game Over, but still, this game is quite easy. Overall, TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist is a good, but disappointing, game. The game controls well, the combat feels great, and the graphics and music are pretty good, issues above aside, but the lacking stage layouts, complete lack of anything not copied out of the other TMNT beat ’em ups, low difficulty, paucity of stages, and lazy design all hold it back. I like this game overall, it’s good even if “blue ground” is the first thing I think of when I think Hyperstone Heist. I like it a little less either arcade game, TMNT III for the NES, or Turtles in Time for the SNES, but it is good. The high price the game sells for now is an issue as well. If you find it affordably absolutely pick this one up if you like the Turtles or beat ’em ups, but for the price it goes for now, maybe pass… it’s good, but for that price you can do better.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters – 1-2 player simultaneous. TMNT: Tournament Fighters on the Super Nintendo is a very good fighting game, among the better on that console. So this game is just as good, right? Or at least close? Unfortunately, no. TMNT Tournament Fighters for the Genesis is a somewhat disastrously bad disappointment. As flawed as Hyperstone Heist is, at least the core of the game is great fun. This game, however, is not so lucky. Tournament Fighters on the Genesis has subpar graphics, few characters, AI that is way too hard, limited continues in the story mode, very limited two-buttons-only controls with poor design decisions on top of that, and more. Instead of a great 6-button control scheme like the SNES game or better Genesis fighters, here you get one punch button, one kick button, and that’s it. That’s pretty bad, but worse, there aren’t even really variants of each button! The Neo-Geo Pocket Color has only two buttons, but fighting games on that system play great, and how hard you push the button activates attacks of different strengths. Here, punch does your punch attack, kick does your kick attack, and that’s it. You can’t even combo attacks together, because they made the bizarre decision to have some invincibility after each hit to block that. The collision detection is poor as well, which doesn’t help at all, and helps out the overly-difficult AI. There are special moves in the game, with a random mixture of activations taken from various popular fighting games without much consistency. The gameplay here is a mess, and totally ruins the game. In contrast, the SNES game is pretty much as SFII knockoff, with moves, graphics, and game systems very similar to that classic. It works great together. This game tries for something a little different, but fails badly at it.

The game does at least look good and sound okay, though. TMNT Tournament Fighters has pretty good graphics with a variety of weird sci-fi locations to fight in, eight characters each with a different look, and a cool, dark visual aesthetic. I like the graphics here, everything looks good. It’s a different style from the SNES game, and that might look better overall, but it is competitive. The music is solid, though it isn’t among Konami’s best work on the Genesis. Games like Rocket Knight Adventures or Contra Hard Corps have much better music than this. I don’t know if any of the music actually comes from the show, either, which is unfortunate. On another note, as in the SNES game, the character selection is a bit odd. You have the four turtles, April O’Neil and Casey Jones, and two random comic-book characters. The SNES game also has several comic characters filling its roster. Why those and not some of the other more popular characters from the TV show? Did they not have the rights? If so, that was a mistake, it’d have made all of these games better. It’s interesting, but odd, that the SNES and Genesis games have different playable side characters, in addition to the Turtles. I do like that April O’Neil and Casey Jones are playable, as this is April’s only playable outing in a ’90s Turtles game, but it is unfortunate that April is in some random oversexed miniskirt outfit; it doesn’t fit her character.I like the idea of playable April, but she should have been in her usual outfit, not this pointlessly oversexed one.

But anyway, the decent graphics and sound can’t come even close to saving this disaster. There really isn’t much good I can say about this game outside of its visuals; the gameplay is just too badly flawed, with the overly limited moveset, iffy special move selections, absurdly difficult AI that is so hard that until you’ve gotten good at the game winning even a single ROUND is a challenge, limited continues in a game in a genre which almost never has such a thing, bad collision detection in a genre that demands this be just about flawless, and more. Sure, there are worse Genesis fighting games than this, but I don’t own those games myself; of what I have, this is the worst. Overall, TMNT Tournament Fighters for the Genesis is a bad, disappointing game. Don’t bother with it unless you’re a serious series fan. The NES version of TMNT Tournament Fighters might be even worse, but you wouldn’t expect a good fighter from the NES, while the Genesis can do far, far better than this. Play the SNES game instead, it’s very good.

Thunder Force II – 1 player. Thunder Force II is a good, but early, shmup from Techno Soft. This game released in 1989 and it looks simple compared to its sequels, but it plays well. Unlike its sequels, this game has two different gameplay styles, top-down open areas to fly and shoot things in, and standard horizontal-scrolling shooter sections. The graphics are early, but solid; this game does not look great, but for an early release it looks fine. Sprites are decently drawn, but somewhat simple; the art design is not nearly as great as it would be in the sequels. Also, the game has only some parallax and few other visual effects. The game looks okay, but does not really impress. I like the look of the top-view stages more than the horizontal ones, perhaps because there the graphics look more dated compared to this games’ amazing-looking sequels, which are exclusively side-scrolling. This games’ side-scrolling levels look and feel dated compared to its sequels’. I like the gameplay in the top-view levels more than the horizontal ones, for sure, though both sides of the game are good. The music is also good, though the voice samples are comically low-quality and unintelligible.

The top-down levels would not return in later games, but unlike some people I do like them. They remind me of a simpler version of the mid ’90s PC game Zone 66, which of course released years after this game, but I played long before this as this isn’t a game I remember playing back then. In these levels, you need to destroy a series of bases in a space surrounded by floating walls. You can fly in all directions, but can’t stop moving forward in whichever direction you are flying in. The walls will kill you, so you need to destroy ground bases and shoot switches to advance. The game has a Xevious-like ground-attack system in the top-view stages, so you have normal shots for air enemies and bombs that hit a set distance in front of your ship for ground turrets and bases. This works better here than in Xevious, Dragon Spirit, and such because you can fly in all directions, so you can chip away at bases, do hit-and-run attacks, and more. As much as I dislike this system in shmups, here I don’t mind it. Plus, it’s only in the free-roaming top-view stages; the side-view stages don’t have anything like it, thankfully. Anyway, you start with only two basic guns, a double-forward shot or forward and backward shot, but as in its later sequel Lightening Force (aka Thunder Force IV), you can power up weapons and get numerous special weapons from powerups. All weapons are good in their own ways, and I like the variety. However, unlike its sequels, in this game you lose ALL powerups if you die, and return to only the two basic guns. It’s very harsh, and that makes this game harder. You also do have limited continues, so finishing this game will take practice for sure. It’s a fun challenge, but I haven’t beaten the game yet, though I did get farther than usual when playing it for this summary. While you try to destroy the bases and the turrets that guard them, endless waves of air enemies will attack you. You move fairly quickly, so zipping around, picking away at a base until finally you can kill it is fun. Each top-down level plays very differently, too. The first is a series of rooms connected by gates, the second a large open area, the third a narrow, constricting cave with a linear path, and more. I like how differently each of them play. There is always the repetition of having to find and kill four bases in every ground mission, never another kind of target, but there is some nice variety despite that. I quite like this half of the game. For anyone else who likes this side of this game, look up Zone 66 on the PC; it’s like this, but expanded.

As for the side-scrolling levels, though, they are more conventional. In each you fly along, avoiding obstacles and killing enemies, until you reach the boss. Beat the boss and you win. These bosses are pretty tough, and it’s easy to lose a lot of lives in these levels; they are much harder than the top-view stages. I find most deaths in this game occur in side-view stages. Some stages and bossfights go on a bit too long, too, considering how simple and repetitive each stages’ background environments are; this game does not have the variety of its sequels. Still, the levels are mostly well designed, and contain some interesting challenges such as barrages of missiles, closing gates you need to stay ahead of, and more. The levels have some good parts, many of which the sequels improve on. Overall Technosoft was a good shmup developer, and this is a decent game. It is not one of the best in the genre on this shmup-rich console, but it is a good, above-average game that is well worth playing. The main flaws are that it is dated and sometimes frustratingly difficult, particularly in the boss fights, but the top-view missions are pretty good and the shmup sections are mostly fun. Truxton is the best shmup released on the Genesis in 1989, and this game is no Truxton, but it is worth a play. Also available on the Japan-only Sharp X68000 computer; that version is supposed to be a bit better, and has intelligible speech samples too.

Tinhead – 1 player, password save. Tinhead is a good Sonic-esque platformer from Spectrum HoloByte. Oddly, even though this game was made by a British developer, it only ever released in the US, and only on the Genesis as well. This feels like something that should have been on the Amiga also, but it’s not. Tinhead has cartoony graphics in that classic early ’90s British style and huge numbers of items to collect as usual in such games. The art design is unoriginal but looks good, and there is good use of strip parallax in the background for multi-layer scaling. You play as the little robot Tinhead, on some quest to save the universe or somesuch. The character design is decent, though not amazing. Enemies are varied as well. The music is also decent. It’s not really pushing the hardware, but I do like the tunes, they are well-composed. Overall, presentation-wise Tinhead is not exceptional, but is above-average. The gameplay is similar.

Indeed, Tinhead’s gameplay is above-average for sure; this game plays a lot better than any James Pond games, for example! Tinhead mixes its core Sonic influence of fast-paced platforming with shooting, so you kill enemies here by shooting them instead of jumping on them. The controls are good and precise, which is important in this kind of game. The game does have physics, but you’ll usually go just where you want. You will automatically keep jumping if you hold the jump button down, so I often found myself accidentally bouncing upon landing, but that’s a minor issue. As for your gun, you can fire it three directions: straight, upwards at a diagonal angle, or downwards, bouncing along the ground. The A button switches between the three shot directions, and the other buttons shoot and jump. Having to switch manually, with only one button, is a bit awkward, but you do get used to it. The diagonal-down shot is great for everything other than air enemies, I find. Because of how fast you move it is easy to run into enemies, but the game gives you five hit points per life, levels have plenty of health powerups, there are no instant death pits, and the game has password save with new passwords every couple of levels! Yeah, this game is a lot more forgiving than a lot of Genesis platformers, and I like that. You can just have fun with this one, instead of suffering as much as in some other games in this genre on the system. The game definitely gets harder as you go along, but it’s a fun challenge.

As for those levels, they are good-sized, open, and are full of secret paths, alternate routes full of stuff to get for points and powerups, and hidden bonus areas full of even more stuff. There are only four settings, with six levels plus a boss in each one, but all look and sound good and do feel different. There are also lots of enemies and spikes, but again, it’s fantastic that this game has no instant-death pits. In a game as fast as this or Sonic they are frustrating, and these designers knew it. As for the volume of stuff in the levels, while I don’t always love it, I like collecting if the act of collecting is fun and the game actually rewards you for it. This game does that. Sure, score in a game which doesn’t have a battery or such to save a score table doesn’t really matter, but the powerups can upgrade your weapon, give special items such as a bouncy-ball you can jump high with, refill your health, give you extra lives, and more. They are worth getting. The fun core gameplay is what makes that fun, of course. Tinhead is a good fun game, as you explore levels, look for powerups, shoot the badguys, and figure out each levels’ challenges. Sure, the warp tubes, spikes, speed, and physics are a lot like Sonic, but the weapon system makes this game distinct and works well. Tinhead is a good, often overlooked game that’s well worth picking up. It’s too bad that it never released in Europe, this is quality stuff.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure – 1 player, password save (20 characters). Buster’s Hidden Treasure is a conventional side-scrolling platformer from Konami. In this game you walk, run, and jump as Buster, the main character of the Tiny Toon Adventures cartoon from the early ’90s. Konami made Tiny Toon Adventures games for the NES, SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy in the early ’90s, and this is one of those games. Most are platformers where you play as Buster only, this game included. This is a sizable game with many levels and lots of platforming challenges. When compared to the SNES Tiny Toons platformer, this game is longer and has more levels, the reverse of most Konami Genesis games, but doesn’t look nearly as great and feels more conventional. The SNES game has only six stages and doesn’t have saving, but its levels use its unique mechanics heavily; see my summary of that game for more. In this game, though, most stages are just normal walk-to-the-right, jump-on-stuff platforming. You can wall-jump, and eventually this is required, but most stages don’t use it. Your jumping controls are good and precise, though, thankfully. There is a lot of stuff to collect in each stage, including carrots as your basic pickup, various ‘bomb’ type powerups, and some other things that must do something or other. If you want to just go straight to the end stages won’t take too long, but if you want to collect more stuff they’ll take longer. I like that, and I also like that many stages have multiple routes, with a more pickup-heavy but trickier to stay on route above and main, sparser path below. After every three levels there is a boss stage. Bosses are conventional, jump-on-their-head affairs. They’re decent enough, though the SNES game has some more inventive bossfights.

Visually, the game has good but not great graphics. The sprites look pretty nice and closely resemble the show’s art style, which is great. I like the little touches like cans you can trio over, too. However, the backgrounds are a bit bland looking and don’t come close to the SNES game; this definitely looks dated in comparison. Levels repeat graphical elements a lot, too. Between the average gameplay and somewhat bland visuals I wasn’t too impressed by this game at first, and I haven’t seen much to push it above average, either. The music is similarly good, but not Konami’s best. The rendition of the series’ main theme is good, but most of the rest of the tunes are original. It’s quality Konami work for sure, but they can do even better. I should also comment on the save system. The password system helps reduce tedium by not forcing you to play the whole game in one sitting, but unfortunately you need to get a Game Over to be shown your password, and they are an inexplicably long 20 characters! Why in the world are they so long? That makes no sense. Still, that’s better than nothing. Overall, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure is a fun, average to slightly above-average platformer. On the plus side I like that this game breaks from Konami’s usual “too few levels that are too long” formula on this system, and the gameplay is solid and levels often fun to explore and find stuff in. However, the formula does start to get old after a few levels, and this game does nothing new or original. It’s just another decent but unspectacular mascot platformer, pretty much, better than many licensed games but not as good as the greats of the genre. If you find Buster’s Hidden Treasure for cheap, go ahead and pick it up; it’s certainly fun enough to be worth a play, particularly for platformer fans. Don’t expect anything amazing, though.

Toki: Going Ape Spit – 1 player. Toki is an okay but flawed side-scrolling platform-action game. It’s sort of in between a platformer and a run & gun. Based on a Taito arcade game, this Genesis port is a pretty good version of a not-great game. The game has several issues, worst of them the overly high difficulty level and abysmal music that’s among the worst on the Genesis, but there are also some things to like here, even if I more dislike than like this game. You are a man who was turned into an ape called Toki. Naturally you have to rescue your girlfriend as well as turn back to a human again. You can walk, jump, and as the name suggests, spit things. Spitting is your main attack, and you can shoot left, right, up, or diagonally up in either direction. Unfortunately you cannot attack downwards or diagonally down, which is a problem in many stages in this game. There are many powerups, most of them time-limited weapons. After a while you’ll go back to just your default shot. I wish the powerups weren’t limited, it’d be more fun that way. You can kill enemies by bouncing on their heads, but you’ll need to be very accurate to kill them without dying yourself. You do have jump control, but your jump distance is short and it’s easy to mess up jumps. Grabbing on to swinging ropes is also a lot harder than it should be. Mario this is not, that’s for sure, to Toki’s detriment. If you get hit even once you start the whole stage over, frustratingly.

Stages are not too long, but still, this adds a lot to the challenge. The one hit kills and frustrating level designs are a real issue here. There are eight levels, each with several stages and then a boss. Some levels are vertical, others horizontal, and others have some movement in both directions; it’s a mix. There are some interesting stages, but the gameplay is mostly similar throughout. The one exception is the water level, which is probably the most fun stage in the game, even if it is fairly easy. The game starts out okay, but by midway it’s almost too annoying to continue with due to cheap enemy placements killing you out of nowhere, random deaths from when you touch an enemy just barely wrong, the harder bosses, and such. On the default setting this game is quite hard, but you can make it easier. There are four difficulty levels, and you can change the number of lives and continues, though infinite is not an option, and how many points you need for a 1-up. At the easiest setting this game is beatable, and I did finish it that way, but even there it was a pain to finish due to the high frustration factor and stunningly terrible music. I don’t want to play this again anytime soon. As for the graphics, they are very average stuff, with mediocre art design and bland backdrops. Some areas look nice, but this is mostly average-at-best stuff. The music is, as I said, atrocious. Excepting only the water level, there is only ONE song that plays during all non-boss stages of the other seven levels, and it’s about fifteen seconds long and awful. Even if the arcade game is like this, this is inexcusably annoying, and ruins what little fun factor this game has. The menu, end, water level, and boss themes are tolerably okay, but the main level theme is awful and it’s like 95% of what you hear. Overall, Toki is a below average, maybe bad game. It does have some decent moments, but ultimately is more frustrating and aurally atrocious than it is worthwhile. Probably don’t bother with this one. Arcade port. Other ports of the game are available on the NES, Lynx, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, and iOS. There is also a cancelled Atari 7800 version some people have a copy of.

Tom and Jerry: Frantic Antics – 1-2 player simultaneous. Tom & Jerry: Frantic Antics is a mediocre licensed platformer. As this game was released by usually-terrible publisher Hi Tech Expressions I expected the game to be awful, but while it is subpar, it isn’t the absolute disaster I was expecting. So yeah, that’s good, I guess. At least it’s better than Sega’s abysmal Game Gear game Tom & Jerry: The Movie! This game has some serious flaws, though, the too-high difficulty perhaps chief among them. In Frantic Antics, you play as Tom, and need to cross many difficult levels as you loosely follow the plot of the movie. In two player mode, one player plays as each of the two. Unlike that GG game, though, there’s no sign of the other character most of the time in one player mode; even though that game is bad and so short and easy you’ll beat it in your first try in maybe fifteen minutes, at least it is a chase game, fitting for this chase-centric series. This is just your average platformer. Your average, excessively difficult platformer, with sometimes-iffy controls, limited lives and continues and no saving. So yeah, it has problems.

The graphics are nice, though. the levels are large and full of stuff to collect, level layouts are average, and the controls aren’t that bad. Tom is a bit skiddy, but you do get used to it with practice. This game doesn’t look amazing, but everything is decently well drawn. Tom looks like Tom and the enemies like characters who maybe could have been in the show. Backgrounds are familiar environments as well, including the backyard, inside the house, and the like. The sprites are a bit large for the screen, and this causes occasional blind-jump problems, but they aren’t as frequent as in a Taz-Mania, thankfully; generally you can see where you need to go, the challenge is getting there without dying. While Tom can take multiple hits against normal foes, falling in a pit kills you of course, and only a couple of deaths and you start the whole game over. Levels are long, too; even just beating level two will be quite a task, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth it. While I did like this game at first, with its nice graphics, large levels to explore, and lots of stuff to collect, but the high difficulty drags it down. And while there is a two player co-op mode, it is flawed as if one player goes off screen they are frozen in place and the one on screen has to backtrack to find them. Two players on one screen in a platformer is hard to do well, but this solution can be tedious. If you could save, instead of constantly having to start the game over from the start, this game would be better, but as it is, Tom & Jerry: Frantic Antics is probably best only for series fans or people who like hard games. Also on SNES.

Trouble Shooter
– 1 player. Trouble Shooter is a very good horizontal shmup with several original elements to it. This game has good anime-styled artwork with a comic sci-fi-anime theme, good graphics and sound, a pair of female protagonists who you both play as at the same time, a simple story told in between-level cutscenes, multiple hit points (a rarity in Japanese shooters!), a nice difficulty curve as you progress through the game, and multi-direction shooting. In the story, the protagonists are on a mission to rescue a young kidnapped prince. So yeah, in this game the girls save the guy, a reversal from usual. Your two characters each control differently, and move mostly together. Their sprites are large and so is your hitbox, but the hit points and large, slow-moving bullets help a lot. If you’re paying attention is is possible to avoid damage. The main character, “Madison” as she was renamed to in the American version, is the one you directly control and the one who can take damage. She can only shoot to the right, and is the only one who can collect powerups and power up her weapon. The second character, “Michelle”, follows the main one at a slight delay. She can’t collect powerups or directly take damage, but can fire either right or left, and switches directions when you press C. This is very useful, because enemies attack from both sides of the screen. You’ll often be switching directions back and forth. You also have a bomb attack, with four different types to choose between.

This is a well-balanced game with good level designs, some interesting boss fights, and as much variety as you’ll usually see in the genre. Some level themes are the expected ones, such as a requisite giant-battleship stage that has to have been inspired by R-Type, but in addition to the more standard waves of enemies you also face sections such as a shaft full of spinning blades. The stage designs are great, I really like the varied obstacles and settings. Bosses each have specific weak points, and finding how to fight each one is fun stuff. They’re all very well-designed and amusing. The game starts out easy, but it gets tougher as you go as good games do. Try to stay alive! It’s easy to build up a lot of hit points early on in the game with the health-ups available there, but if you lose them you’ll be in trouble, as the later stages have fewer health-ups, and you get only two continues. In that way this game very much rewards repeat play, but still, it is easier than many Genesis shmups, and is one of the few Genesis shmups I have beaten.

Visually, Trouble Shooter has good, though conventional, graphics. The game has solid graphics with good art design, good use of parallax, and minimal if any slowdown. It doesn’t use any hardware-pushing techniques, and does look somewhat dated visually, but that is in part because of the early ’90s look of the anime art here, in a game where large character sprites are on screen at all times; the art design is clearly a product of its time. The game also never tries to put a lot of stuff on screen at once, perhaps part of how it avoids slowdown. The large characters and bosses are quite well-drawn, though, and the backgrounds use multiple layers of parallax. The music is also good. It isn’t the most memorable stuff, but I do like the music here. Overall, Trouble Shooter is a good game with a lot going for it. I like the gameplay, level designs, challenge level, art design, choice of female protagonists, and more! It is a little dated in some ways, and isn’t super hard, but that’s fine with me. I wish people today could get it for the couple of bucks I got this game for back in ’06, but even for its current prices, the game is absolutely worth getting. This game is one of the more original, and better, shmups on the Genesis. The game also has a sequel, Battle Mania Daiginjou, which sadly did not release in the US.

Truxton – 1 player. Truxton is a popular, and very good, vertical shmup from Toaplan released in 1989. This is one of Toaplan’s relatively few space-based shooters; most of their games involved airplanes flying over a planet, but this is a sci-fi game. A popular classic, this early release is the best shmup, and quite possibly the best game, released for the Genesis in ’89. The game has decent to good graphics, a fantastic soundtrack that still sounds great, and five big levels to blast through. This game is HARD, though. The Japanese title of this game is “Tatsujun”, which means “Expert”. And you will need expert skills to get anywhere near the end of this game, particularly above Easy difficulty! You die in one hit in Truxton, and enemies move fast, shoot quickly, and regularly come from behind. Of course your whole ship is vulnerable, and don’t ask for a shield; there isn’t one. Shields are for games which don’t call themselves “Expert”, I guess. You’ll need to memorize everything to stay alive. You have three different weapons to choose from, a spread shot, a strong straight shot, or a weak homing shot. Each has its uses, but while it takes longer to kill things, at times the homing laser is invaluable against the frequent groups of larger, miniboss-like foes. There are also powerups for superbombs, extra lives, speed-ups, and weapon upgrades. One weapon powerup does nothing, though; you need more. Five weapon-upgrade powerups upgrades your weapon once, and five more upgrades it again. I think that’s the last upgrade, but I’ve never managed to get 15 without dying, so I’m not sure. Each time you get five the meter empties. And when you do die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint. And if you die right at a checkpoint, you may be sent back to the LAST one! This isn’t the only Toaplan shmup which does this, but it can be very frustrating. You also lose most powerups, of course: your bombs reset to three, speed to slow, and weapon to the basic gun. You do keep your weapon powerups if you have one to four, though, so that is nice. The controls and hit detection are right on. If you die, it’s your fault. Of course the bullets are small and sometimes hard to see, and I’m terrible at reliably dodging waves of small bullets, but it is your fault.

Though later Genesis games would push the hardware more than Truxton, this game does look pretty good. The sprites and backgrounds all look great. This game has very good art design. Your spaceship and the many alien crafts you’ll shoot down all look pretty nice. Even if technically it is similar, in terms of art design this game looks a lot better than other Toaplan games like Kyuukyoku Tiger or such! There are only five levels in this game, but each one is very long and varied. Many ’80s shmups have a lot of repetition, but Truxton does a great job of mixing things up just enough to make each encounter feel different. The game is hard from the start, so the difficulty curve isn’t as pronounced as it is in some shmups, but it does get even harder as you get deeper into it. Miniboss and boss enemies have one small flame appear on their sprite when at 1/3 damage and two flames at 2/3rds, too, which is really helpful for gauging how damaged the tougher enemies are. The soundtrack is also, as mentioned, fantastic. The music here is a good rendition of the music from the arcade game, and sounds great today. It doesn’t push the Genesis sound chip like a late release would, but it sounds fantastic regardless.

The game has some nice options, too. There are three difficulty levels, and in Easy you have infinite continues! That’s awesome, and makes the game beatable by anyone. There are also fewer bullets to contend with in Easy. Normal is a bit tougher, and more importantly has limited continues, and Hard gives you very few continues. That’s a nice curve there to cover most player skill levels. The game has a bunch of loops, too, something not present in other versions of the game. If you keep playing after beating the game, you’ll see a new ending each time through a full five loops. Of course, it gets slightly tougher each time. It’s great that there are actual rewards for people dedicated enough to get that far. Overall, Truxton is an outstanding shooter and easily is one of the best Genesis shmups. This is a must-have classic. And as hard as it is, the Genesis version is actually the easy version of Truxton! The arcade game is even harder, and the PC Engine (Turbografx) port… oh man, that’s just an insane, near-impossible nightmare. On the PCE the enemies shoot much closer to you much more often, making the game incredibly, incredibly difficult. I’m not good enough at bullet dodging to deal with that! If you can beat this game on a higher setting you are indeed an “expert” at shmups, but if you can beat that one you’re a master. Myself, I’ve only beaten this game on Easy, but at least that’s something. The PCE version is quite expensive, too. This US-released Genesis game isn’t cheap, but it’s reasonably priced and is worth the money. Make sure you get it. There is also an arcade and FM Towns-exclusive sequel which is just as good or better than the first game, and has an even more incredible soundtrack. It’s really too bad it never got a home port to a more popular platform!

Turrican – 1 player. Turrican is the first game in what would become a moderately successful series. This first game is seriously rough around the edges, but some of the elements that would make the later games great are here. It is, however, the worst Turrican game by a good margin; while I love the four other main Turrican games, this one isn’t so great. It is not quite as bad as some say, but it is a flawed game. So, Turrican is one part Euro-platformer, one part Metroid, and one part Contra. You are Turrican, a futuristic space marine type off to save the world or some such; there is no story in the game. You’ve got a ball form like Samus, arsenal like Contra, and large, collection-heavy levels like a Euro-platformer of the day. You do have a health bar, but it drains quickly and enemies’ attacks are often cheap and hard to avoid. You have no hit-flash, sound, or invinciblity while taking hits and your health bar drops fast, so you can lose lives in an instant if you aren’t paying close attention. This health system is one of the biggest things Factor 5 improved on in their work on Super and Mega Turrican, but it’s an issue here. The game also has blind jumps over death pits, something its sequels get rid of. I’m very glad the later games don’t have this, but in this game it is a problem. The game is long at 16 levels, and you have only a couple of continues to beat the game with before you’re starting the whole thing over. I’ve never gotten anywhere near the end, and only the dedicated ever will. This game can be fun while you’re alive, but the frustration factor gets high sometimes. Visually Turrican looks okay. It’s got nothing on Mega Turrican’s beauty or visual effects, but this is an okay-looking port of the computer original. The audio is similarly decent, but downgraded versus the Amiga. This is mostly a solid port, though.

Overall, Turrican is an interesting one. The console ports of this game are generally hated, but the computer original is popular among European gamers who played it on the C64, Amiga, and such. But as much as I do agree that Turrican II (aka Universal Soldier on the Genesis; see below) is a very good game, this one is not nearly on that level. With a too high difficulty level, limited continues with no saving, mediocre graphics and music, blind jumps, and constant deaths due to the health system, Turrican is flawed. Even so, I do like this game overall. Turrican has good controls, a nice variety of weapons, some of that Turrican charm, large levels to explore and find huge amounts of stuff in, and a lot of variety in level designs and bosses. Turrican is a good but flawed game, though its sequels would significantly improve on its formula. I know a lot of people hate this game, but it might be worth a try, if you’ve got an open mind. Amiga port, also on Commodore 64, Game Boy, and TurboGrafx-16. The other two console ports both have some cut levels, but this version is complete and has better graphics too, so it’s by far the best console port of the game.

Twin Cobra – 1 player. Twin Cobra, aka Kyuukyoku Tiger, is a classic late ’80s vertical-scrolling shmup from Toaplan. One of Toaplan’s most popular games, this game nails the balance between challenge and fun in a way that its predecessor Tiger Heli (arcade, NES) failed to reach. Kyuukyoku Tiger is a great and difficult game, but it plays well and is lots of fun even if it’s hard. This version of the game, though, is somewhat unfair, has some odd design decisions, and is not as good as the arcade original or the sadly Japan-only PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) port of the game. As much as I like this game, I can’t really recommend this version, it’s kind of broken. The core of the game is the same as other versions, though. You control a helicopter and need to destroy the enemies. This will be an incredibly difficult mission, though, as the game is good-length for its genre, you die in one hit and as in most Toaplan shmups there is no shield, and the enemies are merciless. Toaplan was one of the best shmup developers of their day, and the great enemy patterns, tough but fair if you have memorized everything challenge, and interesting bosses make this game great. The graphics are mediocre at best, but do look like the source; the PCE version looks no better. Sprites are somewhat small, and the backgrounds are basic and don’t look great. They look okay, but that’s it. Audio is similarly good, but nothing amazing. Toaplan’s greatest skill was gameplay, more than graphics or sound. I do like some of their music, including some in this game, but the system can do better.

This version makes one big change from the arcade and PCE versions, though: it zooms in a bit, and makes the powerup-dropping ships incredibly difficult to kill. Now, on the PCE, the powerup-dropping ships are fairly easy to kill. If you start shooting them at a reasonable time, they’ll blow up and drop their powerup. On the Genesis, however, if you don’t start shooting them immediately after they appear on the screen, you have no hope of destroying them before they desend too low on the screen to still be shot without them getting you first! It’s just absurd, and makes the game a lot harder than it should be. There are some other zoom issues with enemies as well, but it’s worst with the powerup ships. And this is a big problem because you need a LOT of powerups to reach full power, and lose all powerups and get sent back to the last checkpoint upon death. The game does give you continues, the number of which varies depending on which difficulty you choose, but because you get sent back, it’s very hard on any setting. The continue system is really odd, though — if I’m understanding things right the game gives you more continues, not less, in the higher difficulties, and fewer continues in the easier ones. That doesn’t make much sense. Continues are not everything, though. On the PCE you only get two or three continues, far fewer than the dozens in the highest settings in this game, but because that game is a good port and not messed up, it’s easier to get farther in that game than it is this one. It’s still a very hard game and I haven’t gotten anywhere near the end on any system, but that version is a lot more fun to play. Do play Twin Cobra, it’s a fun game and, in Japan at least, a great, influential classic… but pass on this version. The graphics are pretty much the same on both platforms, but the closer zoom and busted powerup-ship system makes this game too frustrating for its own good. Stick to that import-only PCE version, or get the easier and simpler, but decently fun, NES version; that does have a US release. Sadly no home port has the co-op multiplayer of the arcade game, so the arcade version is best. Arcade port, also on PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) and NES.

Tyrants: Fight Through Time – 1 player, password save. Tyrants: Fight Through Time, also known as Mega-Lo-Mania in Europe, is a “god game” style real-time strategy game in the Populous style, but simpler. You control one of four deities, trying to conquer lands through many historical periods. This game was Sculptured Software’s attempt to do a game in this genre, and it does work, I just find this kind of thing sort of boring compared to the real-time strategy genre proper as we know it from Dune 2 and on. God games just don’t have enough interaction! I’ve never cared for Populous, and this game has even less to do than that game. Still, this game is okay, and is somewhat original for a Genesis game. So, in this game you play as one of four deities, all trying to conquer a series of maps. You can’t directly control your people, though; instead, all you can do is set people into various jobs, including research, building, the army, or such, and drop armies into territories on the map. Map territories are large, like the spaces on the map in a board game like Risk, and even in a battle, all you can do is just put armies in a space and then sit back and watch. The main gameplay here is just adjusting where you use your people, in the various options on the sidebar, and choosing what to prioritize between the weapon types available to research and such. That stuff is a fun part of grand strategy games, but here it’s the whole game, unfortunately. You also have to choose how many people to bring with you into each map, though, and this element is kind of interesting. In each stage of the game you have three maps to win, and only 100 people to work with between the three of them… and you can’t reuse people once they’ve been sent to a map, so you need to carefully consider how many are needed on each map. That is kind of interesting. There are passwords to save your progress as well, and thankfully they aren’t absurdly long.

The visuals here, however, are fairly basic. The game looks okay, but the sprites are miniscule and telling your and your enemies’ people apart is difficult to impossible, during battles. This same developer also made the game Cannon Fodder, and you see that in how small these people are. The art design is average at best. For audio, the music is generic stuff, but the game does have a lot of fairly clear voice samples. The four different deities you can play as all have quite a few lines. This does add to the game. Still, overall, Tyrants is a bit too simplistic. I want to actually set building locations and tell the troops where to go, not only direct research and military operations on the most general level. I didn’t really like a Populous game until the third one, which is a fairly traditional RTS, for example. This simpler game probably fits the limitations of 4th-gen consoles better than the console versions of Populous do, but while this game is okay, I don’t find it nearly as fun as better, PC-only strategy games are. Strategy game fans might want to give it a try, though, some will like this. There is also a PC version of this game, under the same title here in the US. Overseas only, as Mega-Lo-Mania, the game was released in Europe on the Amiga, and Atari ST and in Japan on the X68000 and FM Towns computers. Europe and Japan both got a SNES version as well.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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