Sega Genesis Game Opinion Summaries, Part 16: Letters Wi – Z

Final update!  This includes summaries for the last ten games, plus one for a game I just got last week, making for eleven total.  It’s nice to get this done, though playing all these Genesis games again has been great fun.  I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I’m leaning towards something about PC platformers…

Games covered in this update

Space Invaders ’91
Winter Challenge
Wiz ‘n’ Liz
Wonder Boy in Monster World
[Monster World IV]
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck
Zero Tolerance
Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Space Invaders ’91 – 1 player.  This good but simple shooter and early-ish Genesis release is one of Taito’s many follow-ups to the original Space Invaders.  It may say “’91” in the title, but the original Japanese version released in 1990.  Oddly, unlike most other classic franchises which keep coming back, Taito has decided to make pretty much all Space Invaders games static-screen shooters.  Why not even one scrolling one?  That does make this game stand out a bit from most Genesis shmups, though, so that’s okay; it’s just a bit odd.  It has little depth or variety, but this is a fun little game.  This game has basic graphics, simple gameplay, and absolutely no options of any kind, but it is plenty of fun.  You just move left and right, and shoot up while dodging enemy fire.  The enemies can move a bit more to the left and right than you can, frustratingly, so dodging can be difficult sometimes; this is my only issue with the games’ design.  The controls are very responsive, though, thankfully.  There are a full 18 stages, each made up of two waves, so you’ve got to get through 36 waves of enemies to win, which is a good number.  Most stages have a flat plane you move left and right on, but a few have angled pits and such.  I wish there were more of those, as your fire shoots diagonally when you’re on a slope; nice touch.  Each enemy type shoots a different kind of shot at you, and they slowly move downwards.  If one reaches the bottom you lose, time to use a continue, if you have any left — you only get 5 hits per continue and 3 continues.  If you hit the faster enemies which move by at the top of the screen a powerup may drop.  You’ll want these, as they will give you powers such as a shield, homing missiles, a shot which clears an entire row, and more.  Very useful stuff.  The game has graphics as basic as its gameplay.  This game looks dated visually and doesn’t get much out of the hardware.  You’ve just got sprites moving over a backdrop, that’s about it.  The sprite work is okay, though, and I like the music.  It’s good and fits the game well, even if music tracks repeat often and technically are as underwhelming as the visuals.  Better presentation would have helped this game, but the simple fun gameplay shines through regardless, and I do like the variety of backdrops and enemy types.

This game is actually Taito’s second Taito’s second 4th-gen home console Space Invaders game.  The first one is Space Invaders Plus for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx).  That game released only in Japan, but I do have it.  It’s simple, but fun, and has an interesting branching mission structure on top of the traditional shooting gameplay.  It also has power-ups.  This game is somewhat similar to that game, but they are different.  First, this time the game is linear; no branching paths.  So, each game of this is longer, but they may have similar amounts of content.  This game gives you more hits per game but fewer continues, and given the longer length is probably a bit harder.  Gameplay in both is very similar, though.  You also still have powerups, though the specific types are different.  Both games do have an ending, but this game is a few minutes longer on average; not a huge difference there, but it’s something.  However, the PCE game also includes a full version of the original Space Invaders arcade game, while this does not, unfortunately.  I wish it had been included here too, because it’s a great classic.  Ah well.  As it is, Space Invaders ’91 is a good game, and I’m glad I got it.  Moving left and right, avoiding enemy fire, and wiping out all the attacking aliens is fun.  However, the graphics and sound are very bland, the game has absolutely no options or alternate modes, and everything is the same every time you play.  It’s a good game, but with better graphics and more content it could have been better.  Genre fans should pick this up; for anyone else, maybe get it if you find it cheap.  Pick it up if you like shooters and see it for a reasonable price.

Winter Challenge – 1-10 player alternating, on-cart saving (EEPROM).  Winter Challenge is Accolade’s winter equivalent to Summer Challenge, which I covered above.  This game released after that one, and has very similar presentation, but with winter olympics sports instead of summer, of course.  Again there are eight events here, and the game has polygonal 3d environments in many events, mixed with sprite characters and some 2d events.  The interface looks pretty much the same as Hardball III or Summer Challenge, but with some new graphics in the Summer Challenge opening ceremony, to fit the winter theme.  The graphics are good as before, but the framerate is still atrocous.  The featureset is the same as before, with 10 player alternating multiplayer and battery save which saves quite a few player names, and your best times for each event.  Good stuff.  The controls are also similar to before, in that it uses one main button plus the d-pad for all commands.  Sure, there’s nothing new here in presentation, graphical quality, sound, or features, but the game is built on a good base, so that’s fine.  Summer Challenge is a very good game for its time, framerate aside, and this is close to as good.  That game may be a little better, as this game has less variety and I don’t have the nostalgia for this game that I do that one as I did not own this game in the ’90s, but still, it is also a good game.

The most important thing here, though, are the events, which are all new.  You’ve got downhill skiing, giant slalom, cross country skiing, biathalon, ski jumping, speed skating (long track only, as short track did not exist yet), bobsled, and luge.  Versus Summer Challenge, this game has less event variety; two events have downhill skiing, two are on the sled course, two have cross-country skiing, and two others are stand-alone events.  All eight events are good, though.  Again, the game uses 3d graphics.  The biathalon target-shooting component is 2d, but the rest of this game is 3d.  This makes it very different from most other winter sports games of the generation; on 4th-gen consoles, only the Europe-only Winter Gold for the SNES is also polygonal.  That game does use a Super FX 2 chip for a better framerate than you’ll see in this game, but don’t discount Winter Challenge just because it runs slowly, it does play well.  The different groups of events each are quite different.  The cross-country events are the longest and slowest-paced.  You ski along by mashing the button hard but not too hard, as you have a stamina meter and if it goes too low you will slow down.  So, moderate your button-tapping sometimes.  The course is fully 3d, which is pretty cool for the time, and you will have to actually turn, you aren’t on a rail.  That’s great, it really adds something to this game versus others… just make sure to make those turns; the single-digit framerates occasionally make that tricky.  Yes, it’s a slow and “boring” event made slower by the very low framerate, and there is almost no audio during races, but I love loves cross-country skiing in real life, so I, at least, find it fun in this game.  The other events are faster-paced.  The two downhill events are similar to the cross-country ones, except you go in only one direction and need to go through the gates while you go down the hill.  That’s easy enough in Downhill, but the Giant Slalom is quite difficult; it might be the hardest event here.  Learning the course can be fun, though, and it looks nice for the time as usual.  This game is probably the first ever home-console polygonal skiing game, and it’s a decent first step, though titles on more powerful consoles are of course faster and not as hard.  The sledding events are probably the simplest ones here; just turn in the right direction at each turn, and make it down as fast as you can.  Unlike the other similar events these two are on the exact same course, so practice for one will help with the other.  Speed skating is also simple, just button-mash the whole time and turn at the corners.  Ski jumping is trickier, though; look up the commands for that one, it takes practice to not do badly at!  Once learned it’s not too hard, but figuring out how to land can be tough.

In conclusion, Winter Challenge is a good game.  The game has good graphics which really push the limits of non-enhanced 4th-generation hardware, eight events, can be fun to play, and will save your best times, championship in progress, and player names, too.  However, while the music is decent, there is no music at all during events, which can get dull.  Also, some events can get boring, and the events are much more similar than those in Summer Challenge.  I can easily see why most people would dismiss this game as a dated, boring relic, but I would say that it’s a decent, above-average game despite its definite issues.  Maybe give Summer and/or Winter Challenge a try, they’re interesting.  Winter Challenge is also available on PC.  The PC version has better graphics and framerates, but this is playable.

Wiz ‘n’ Liz – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save.  Wiz ‘n’ Liz is a somewhat odd collectathon platformer from Psygnosis.  It’s got a very ‘Psygnosis’ feel to the menus and style, but the gameplay is original.  This game is mostly non-violent, as the only combat in the game is the boss fights; normal stages are exclusively about running around trying to collect all the rabbits, or wabbits as the game calls them, and the powerups that they drop, before time runs out, not about fighting anything.  You can play the stages in each game in any order, but it does get harder as you go.  In between stages, you go to your house, and can combine pairs of items from the stages you just played in an early crafting system, for various bonuses.  You play as Wiz and Liz, two old wizards.  You’ve got mountains of wabbits to collect, but fortunately, despite their age they sure can move!  You zip around at a very fast pace in this game, and jump just as quickly.  The game has small sprites and only decent graphics.  The game has cartoony graphics with a very early ’90s European style and some okay music.  The game looks okay, but not great.  The fast-paced gameplay and constant movement keep things fun, though.  This game has three difficulty levels and three sets of stages to play, named similarly to those from Lemmings.  The game defaults to the highest difficulty, so I guess that is the expected one, and the others are easy modes.  Unlike Lemmings, though, each game of Wiz n Liz is fairly short.  It does have some replay value in that you can play the other two sets of stages, but each of the three feel VERY similar, with the same gameplay, the same backrounds, and the same boss at the end.  I think the stage layouts change, but the stages in this game are all very similar anyway, so variety is seriously lacking, though the game is fun enough that it’s fun to replay regardless.

The core gameplay of Wiz n Liz is of you running left or right in each stage.  Each stage is a couple of screens tall and a couple of screens long, so they are small.  Wabbits will spawn regularly throughout the stage, and you’ve got to collect them all as fast as possible.  Making things tougher, though, each time you touch one it spawns a powerup which then floats upwards from the wabbit.  You’ll have to jump to get the powerup, but collecting all of them will take a lot of time, which will definitely be a problem if you’re playing on the default (top) difficulty setting!  You need to get the first powerups in each stage to spell that stages’ magic word, but after that powerups are theoretically optional, though you’ll want things such as timer increases for sure, and bonus stars are nice too.  The timer isn’t just for the current stage, you see; instead it’s for the whole game.  If you used a lot of time getting every powerup in the early stages, you’ll run out of time later on for sure.  It’s a good system which balances challenge and fun in a quite well-designed way.  This game may seem conceptually simplistic, but there’s a satisfying amount of challenge here once you get into it.  You only have three lives until it’s Game Over, but there is a password displayed on the screen after every stage, so you can use those to continue if you wish.  It’s odd that there are passwords but no way to continue without entering the last password, but that’s better than the alternative!  For negatives, the main one is that the crafting system is annoying.  I almost always dislike crafting in games, and this one is no exception.  Each combination of two fruits results in a different thing happening.  Some give you nothing, some give you bonus time, some open bonus rooms around the house area you can go in, and more.  Things like the bonus and hint rooms are very useful to have, so looking up a list of combinations online, or making one yourself, is advised.  And as for that boss, they are not too exciting.  Do know that you need to hold down a button to hit them with a magic beam, so something beyond run-and-jump is needed, but not much more.  The core gameplay is the best thing here, but the bosses and crafting are mediocre.  The visuals are also average.  However, Wiz ‘n’ Liz is a fun, fast-paced game well worth playing.  It has one or two player cooperative play support, fast-paced gameplay, and nice, unique design as you decide how many of the items you can afford to jump for and frantically run around looking for wabbits.  This is a good game, and I really like that Psygnosis figured out how to make a mostly nonviolent platformer good.  Pick up Wiz ‘n’ Liz if you see it affordably.  Also available on the Amiga.

Wolfchild – 1 player.  Wolfchild is a solid sidescrolling action-platformer from Core Design.  This game looks very much like an Amiga port and has decent but average Euro-platformer graphics and not-great music, but it plays fairly well.  You are a man who is a werewolf, and in the game can transform back and forth between human and wolf forms.  There is no story in this version of the game; play the Sega CD version if you want an intro.  The CD version also added two new levels and makes some other improvements.  What’s here can be fun, but I do wish I had the disc release.  This is a conventional game in that you walk, run, jump, and slash stuff and explore levels as you make your way through to the end.  There are bosses after every couple of levels, and most stages have unique settings.  I like some of the settings and art, though it is mostly formulaic — the forest, the airship, the Alien stage, and such.  The game is a bit like a Turrican game, but nowhere near Turrican 2/Universal Soldier’s level.  Maybe my biggest issue is that only one of your forms, wolf form, is fun to play as.  Wolf form has a ranged shot, but human does not, and if you get hit a few times you’ll drop back to human form… ugh.  While you can take a fair amount of hits per life, in human form you can only attack at melee range, which is frustrating and leads to taking many hits unless you are VERY careful.  And apparently the Sega CD version lets you fire two shots at once in wolf form, while on the Genesis you can only shoot one while enemies take just as many hits to kill.  That would be nice here, though the weak human form is the biggest issue.  Sure, the game controls well, but you get knocked back a bit when you take a hit, and facing numerous enemies shooting at you with a guy who can’t hit them a lot of the time due to the very short range of your human forms’ attacks gets annoying.

Versus the Turrican games, Wolfchild’s levels are not as large or open, and there is usually only one main linear path instead of multiple routes through the stage.  I’m fine with that, and the stage layouts here are at least average and can be fun to explore.  You just need to figure out what the route to the end is; sometimes it is obvious, other times a bit less so.  The level designs here can be interesting, and figuring out how to get through the stages is fun.  There also aren’t any instant-death pits, which is great, but the many enemies and traps will drain health steadily, and health powerups are somewhat infrequent.  You have only three continues as well, and there is no saving, but you can choose how many lives you get per continue, up to six, and increase the difficulty if you want, but not decrease it as Easy is default.  Overall, Wolfchild is a decent platformer.  The game has some interesting stage layouts and challenges, but the average graphics, maybe below-average music, and frustrating human form hold the game back.  If you could stay in wolf form the whole time this game would be easier but more fun, but you can’t.  Ah well.  It is an average game, at least, and I can see how some may like it more than that.  Get the Sega CD version if you can, though, it’s better.  Also available on the Sega CD, SNES, Amiga, and Atari ST.  There is also a European-exclusive Game Gear and Master System version, but I imagine it’s different.

Wonder Boy in Monster World – Wonder Boy in Monster World is the third game in Westone’s Monster Land/World series of side-scrolling action-RPGs.  This version was published by Sega.  The series started as a spinoff of the basic side-scroller Wonder Boy, aka Adventure Island on the NES, but quickly superseded its originator, as Westone would not make any more games like the first Wonder Boy; instead they moved on to games like these, and the one-off autoscrolling platform/shooter Monster Lair. I love the Monster World and Lair games, but don’t like the original Wonder Boy much at all; it’s just too simplistic in ways that games like this vastly add to.  Monster World is a great series, and this is one of the best of the four Monster World games, too!  Wonder Boy in Monster World has good graphics, great art cartoony design, fun action, good music, plenty of challenge, and a good-sized world to explore.  You are Wonder Boy, a hero, and need to save the land from evil in this fantasy side-scrolling action-adventure game.  Your main weapon is a sword, but you also have limited-use magic and a shield for protection against ranged attacks only, as in some Zelda games.  You can get helpers who will follow you around as well, but all they’ll do is reveal extra money and such.  There are several, each with a different function.  None are really important, but I guess they’re occasionally helpful.  The game does not have experience or levels, but you will find or buy new weapons and armor as you progress, and find heart containers to add to your health bar as well.  The game takes place in a large semi-open world, and you travel from area to area killing monsters and helping people out.  Monsters all respawn quickly, which can be annoying but is also useful, as you will need the money they drop to buy things.  Grinding money from monsters is necessary here at many points, unfortunately, but the combat is fun so it’s not too bad.  You can only save at inns in towns; though there are special items which will refill your health when it runs out, try to save those for the bosses, you’ll need the help!  Remember to save when you can, for if you die you’re sent back to the games’ title screen and go back to your last save.  Harsh death penalty there.  There is also only one save slot, so don’t start a new game if you’re playing a current one!

This game is made up of an overworld with towns and dungeons scattered around.  Overworld areas mostly scroll only left and right, though some areas, mostly in towns, also have a height element.  Different sections of the world each have unique features and enemies, so there is more variety than in some past games in the series.  The series came a long way between the constant extreme repetition of the original Wonder Boy and this!  The game does reuse area concepts a bit too often in some areas and you can at times feel like you’ve been on slight variations of the same screen for the past three areas.  This is worse in the overworld than in dungeons, though, and most dungeon areas feel unique and interesting, which is great.  So dungeons are are interesting, but they are also tougher than the overworld.  Bosses in particular are quite hard in the US release; some bosses were made much harder than they are in the original Japanese version in order to make the game harder to finish, to foil renters I presume.  That’s a bit annoying at times, but this is a great game despite how much harder the boss fights are than the dungeons they are in.  Still, everything in this game is fun, even if I wish Sega hadn’t made the game harder.  Still, the dungeons can be really good.  Dungeons are not just complex, bland mazes, but instead have arranged traps, waves of enemies, and occasional branching paths to explore.  I like the variety of obstacles, puzzles, and enemies you face in this game, it really keeps things interesting even if the basic mechanics do not change beyond getting a new spell every once in a while.  Towns are small but important, since inns and stores are only found there.  Each town also has a handful of people to talk to, though not as many as in a full JRPG.  Similarly, the story is simple, but there is just enough of it to keep the game going.

The game looks good, too.  Wonder Boy in Monster World has a cute, cartoony fantasy-anime theme, though the cuteness of the world hides the high challenge within.  I like variety of settings, enemies, and bosses; each area has its own character and enemy types, and they all look good to great.  As in all of the Wonder Boy games the art design here is good, and it looks better than ever here probably thanks to this being the first Monster World game designed first for a 4th-gen console, instead of the other way around as with the TurboGrafx versions of the first two games.  The game does use parallax scrolling, but more of it would have been nice; there is none in most dungeons, for example.  Still, the game looks good to great.  Overall, Wonder Boy in Monster World is a great game.  This US release is much harder than the Japanese version, or the easier TurboGrafx CD version (where it is titled “The Dynastic Hero”), but it’s still great fun.  This game looks beautiful with its very well drawn, varied sprites, has a nice world to explore with plenty of hidden secrets and platforming and combat challenges to face, and a good-length quest to challenge.  This game might be the most popular Monster World game, and while all four games are great, I can see why this one did so well — it’s outstanding.  Definitely pick this game up if you like the genre at all.  Look into the other Monster World games too though, for various platforms; they’re all very good!  This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.  The game is also available on TurboGrafx CD as The Dynastic Hero.  The game is the same (lower difficulty aside), but the sprites have been altered, as usual for the Hudson versions of the first three Monster World games.

[Monster World IV] – 1 player, on-cart save (battery).  Monster World IV is a great sidescrolling action-RPG form Westone, and the final game in the Wonder Boy / Monster World series.  The game has great graphics, music, controls, dungeons, puzzles, action, and gameplay; it really is very good in all categories.  Sadly, however, someone at Sega made an incredibly bad decision back in 1994 and decided not to localize this game, so on the actual Genesis, Monster World IV is Japan-exclusive.  And while I would like to get it, I don’t have that version.  However, while I probably will someday import the real cart, there is something better;  an English-language version, released digitally on WiiWare, PS3 PSN, and X360 Xbox Live Arcade!  This is one of the only previously Japan-exclusive classic games to get translated for an official release, and it was quite exciting when it was announced.  I got the game for WiiWare shortly afterwards.  I’m not going to cover every game I have in the X360 Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection but not on a Genesis cartridge, but this game I have to mention, both because I got it as a stand-alone release, because of the translation, and because it is part of a series covered in this list.

Anyway, Monster World IV is fantastic, similar to the previous Monster World games but probably better overall.  This time you play as a female character, so the “Wonder Boy” name is absent.  I like that they tried something different this time.  This isn’t the only Wonder Boy game where you can play as a female, as Monster Lair lets you play as one character of either gender, but it is the only one of the six with only a female character.  The game has an anime-fantasy-Arabian theme, so the game takes place in a desert kingdom and everyone wears middle eastern-ish dress.  The change of setting from the usual anime-medieval fantasy themes of previous games is nice, if probably inspired by Aladdin.  The game this time is much more linear than the previous ones.  You can still wander around, but the game has a clear structure: there is a main town, and you venture from there to a linear series of areas.  Each area is large, though, and the dungeons within those areas can be large and tricky.  Fortunately you will get maps for dungeons, which is a huge help.  The gameplay is similar to before, but you have a better shield now, as holding down will bring up a shield that blocks enemies as well as arrows.  This allows for more strategic combat, which is great.  Enemies can have shields too, so you’ll need to think about how to approach foes.  The other addition is your helper-creature Pelepegoo, who you can grab on to.  When you grab it (him?) you can’t walk, but can jump and will float while jumping.  Hitting that button again will double-jump, very useful.  You can also throw Pelepegoo, and this can reveal secrets and more.  The previous game had helpers ,but this game expands on the concept in nice ways.  Combat is fun, and so is exploring the levels and dungeons.  I like the level-based approach, it means I’m never wandering around an overworld unsure about what to do but instead can focus on the next challenge.  And yes, those challenges can be plenty tough.  This game is not as hard as the US version of Wonder Boy in Monster World, but it wasn’t made harder unlike that game, so it’s more like the challenge these games should be.  The dungeons have more puzzles than before too, including things such as statues you have to put into order based on verbal clues.  It’s great fun stuff.

Visually, Monster World IV looks fantastic.  The last game looked great too, but this one has even better visuals with lots of nice graphical effects including parallax, clouds, and more.  The art design is great and the sprites are large and detailed, and while the whole game has an Arabian theme, each area has a different setting, including a fire level, an ice pyramid, and more.  So yeah, the settings aren’t the most original, but it mixes things up a bit — a pyramid, for the ice level?  Haven’t seen that before.  The music is also really good, this game sounds almost as great as it looks.  Overall, Monster World IV is a great game with no major flaws.  Sure, the part where you have to throw Pelepegoo around to find hidden doors may be tedious, but it’s also clever and the level design has just the right amount of complexity.  This really is a great game, among the best in its genre for sure.  Definitely pick up Monster World IV, it’s fantastic!  This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.  The best way to play this game legally is via the Wii WiiWare, PS3 PSN, or X360 XBLA re-releases, which are translated into English.

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save.  World of Illusion, from Sega, is the sequel to Castle of Illusion, the classic early Genesis platformer starring Mickey Mouse.  This game builds on that title with a second playable character, two player co-op, passwords, and much better graphics.  The game may be a bit easier this time than before, but as much of that is because of the more forgiving setup, I think; the first game has limited continues and no saving, remember.  This is a pretty good game with very nice graphics and sound, great controls, lots of variety, and good stage designs.  World of Illusion is a very good game with a lot going for it, and you see that right from the start.  You can play as Mickey, Donald, or both of them in two player mode.  They use magical capes to attack, but you can only attack on the ground, and not while jumping.  The cape has a nice animation, though.  The two are mostly similar, but have some differences that mean that each one will be able to go in some areas the other can’t, which is nice and adds replay value, which is good in a game with only five levels and not too long a run time.  The game starts out in a fantasy forest level.  You bounce on things, magic away baddies with the cape, and such.  Every stage has multiple parts each with different settings, and the variety is great.  You’ll cross spider webs, balance on a trail a spider emits as it moves, swim under the sea in a bubble, and of course do your usual platform-jumping in forests and the like.  Again each character will see some different areas, and there are even some exclusive to the two player co-op mode.

I do have a few issues with the game, though.  The gameplay is good, but mostly straightforward.  There are some minor puzzle elements, but they are, as usual in the series, quite basic.  They do add something to the game, but not much.  Just make sure you know your characters’ moves, such as Mickey’s crouch (C plus down), you’ll need them.  Bosses are also a bit disappointing.  The multiple route elements are also mostly minor, though it’s great there is something to encourage you to come back to this game.  And beyond that, as good as this game, somehow it never grabbed me enough to make me want to write down the passwords and finish the game, despite its moderate length and not-too-hard difficulty.  The game is fun, but I haven’t been drawn in quite enough to stick with it; not sure why.  But still, I do like this game despite that, and I’ll play through the rest of it hopefully soon.  Despite it issues though, World of Illusion is a good sequel to Castle of Illusion.  It is improved over the original in a lot of ways, and I like the better graphics, co-op support, and password save, but despite that I’m not sure which of the two games I like more.  I’ve played more of Castle, but World is great too.  Both are better than any of Capcom’s three SNES Mickey games, or the Genesis version of the second one, The Great Circus Mystery.  Pick World of Illusion up, it’s a very good platformer that plays as well as it looks, and it looks very good.  There is a Japan-only Saturn port of this game.

X-Men – 1-2 player simultaneous.  X-Men is a fun but challenging platformer with beat ’em up elements from Sega.  I’ve never been a big superhero fan, but got this game last year because it’s fairly well-known and I wanted to finally give it a try.  You can play as four X-Men in this game, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Gambit.  Unfortunately no female characters are playable in this game; there are some, but only in support roles.  The game is mostly good, though.  You choose your starting character first, then set off.  You mostly run, jump, and punch or jump-kick enemies.  And there are a lot of enemies to fight, giving the game a somewhat beat ’em up-esque feel at times, though the levels are complex platformer stages.  The four characters are similar, but each has some unique properties, including some exclusive attacks and a character-specific special ability: Wolverine can bring out his claws for a stronger attack, Nightcrawler can warp around the screen and go through some walls, Cyclops can shoot eyebeams, and Gambit can throw stuff.  You can switch between characters during play, but can only do so a limited number of times per level, so watch out.  Each character has a separate health bar, but these do not recover between stages, unfortunately; instead you’ll have to find the somewhat uncommon health powerups to heal.  There is also some health in the Danger Room area you are in between levels, but this won’t be enough to heal even one character up to full, much less several if you took a lot of damage, and the game has no continues at all, so a lot of memorization will be required to make progress here.  The four support characters can be called out as well a limited number of times, though powerups will replenish them.  The most useful is the one who pulls you up out of pits, so falling in one is not instant death; it just takes off a bit of health, instead.  It’s a solid system, just a bit overly unforgiving for me; I, of course, dislike that so much memorization is required in a game with such a harsh penalty for dying.

The level designs in this game are decent, though not fantastic.  Levels are good-sized and exploration is required.  I’m fine with wandering around some, but occasionally I didn’t know what to do and it did get frustrating.  Still, levels are mostly linear, you just need to figure out what to do to proceed.  There are switches you will need to hit, platforms to jump between, and numerous enemies to beat up along the way.  I like the stage variety here, as many stages have different environments and obstacles.  There are also bosses, which can be tricky.  While stages are occasionally confusing, thankfully this game is not nearly as mazelike or frustrating as the Game Gear X-Men game is; I was afraid this game would be like that not very good game, but it isn’t, it’s much better.  In terms of presentation this game is on the good side of average.  X-Men has nice graphics with some fine, though not amazing, art design and good variety in stage settings and enemies.  The music is good as well, if you like that classic very chunky Genesis sound.  Overall X-Men is a good but difficult platformer with sidescrolling beat ’em up-style action and large levels to find your way through.  You will walk around, punch things, find the switches and doors, and make your way through the stages.  The challenge is to do that while taking the least amount of damage possible, because damage is not easy to refill once lost.  I like how you can switch between characters during missions, but more health-ups would be great, and no restrictions on how often you can swap.  The level designs are occasionally confusing as well, though it’s mostly okay.  The action feels good, though; this is a quality game on the whole.  The controls are responsive, action fun, levels interesting to explore, and graphics and sound decent if not the best.  I am not a superhero fan, but X-Men is a good game worth a look regardless of what you think of the license.  There is also a sequel which looks similar but maybe a bit better, but I don’t have that one.

Zero Tolerance – 1 player, 2 player system link supported.  Zero Tolerance is a first-person shooter on the Genesis from Accolade and developed by Technopop.  Yes, a FPS, on this system, without any addon chips.  As you might expect, this means that this game has a very low framerate.  While something like Summer or Winter Challenge is simple enough to be playable despite a very low framerate, this game is much more complex than that, and the very slow gameplay is hard to get over.  There are more issues than that with this game, though it has some good points as well.  The game is an admirable attempt at a Wolfenstein 3D-inspired FPS, and it’s one of a very few on the Genesis.  While the game made a bad first impression with its terrible framerate, small play window, slow controls with a VERY slow turn speed that makes turning around to hit an enemy behind you an agonizingly slow process, and boring, too-open level designs, after playing it again for this summary I liked it more than before.  Once you get used to it Zero Tolerance can be fun, at least some of the time.  In the game you play as a team of five special operatives trying to save the world.  They play more like lives than anything, though, as you can’t switch between them as you play, only when one gets killed.  Note that dead characters are gone and can’t be resurrected, but you are given a password each time you clear a floor, thankfully.  That’s good, but the game has only a couple of environments, so expect a huge amount of visual repetition.  There’s the space station, a skyscraper, and that might be about it.  On screen you have an area map with radar, the viewscreen, info about your characters’ stats, your health, your weapons, and the number of enemies remaining on the current floor.  A plus a direction jumps, ducks, or strafes, but none of these are often important in this game; you want enemies dead long before you need to strafe, and the strafing is, like turning, slow anyway.  B fires, and C switches weapons.  The controls work, apart from that terribly slow turn speed.  Visually, the game looks pretty nice for a 4th-gen FPS that doesn’t use any kind of enhancement chip, but the game doesn’t have forgiving aim assist like SNES Doom does, so hitting enemies can be frustrating as they move around quickly while you slowly try to keep up.  The key is to kill enemies before they get close to you; look at that radar closely if you want to live, close enemies are hard to kill!  Don’t just rely on the game screen, that radar map is crucial.  Many enemies only spawn when you get close enough to them, though, so watch out both ahead and behind.  After a few levels I did start enjoying this game some despite its issues.

The level designs themselves are another problem with this game, though.  Levels in this game are large, flat, and blandly laid out.  The level designs in this game are just so unintresting, and the game makes it worse by requiring that you kill all enemies in a level in order to get a password.  Maps are just made up of walls, doors, and enemies, and are very large and open.  There are no keycards, no locked doors, and no secrets, all of which would have been very welcome.  There are angle walls, so it has that over Wolfenstein, though.  I also really like that there is a radar onscreen showing your surroundings and enemies near you.  There is also a full-screen map showing a full map of the current stage; this screen also shows your passwords for completed floors.  Even so, though, the simplistic, lacking level designs manage to make Wolf 3D look good, despite that games’ own extreme level-design repetition in a game full of identical bland corridors.  Versus Wolf 3D, only the map saves this game; without it I’d have stopped long before I did.  But worse, this game released after not only Wolf 3D, but also Doom!  The Genesis could never pull off Doom, but I’m sure it can do better than this.  The developers tried, but their inexperience shows.  Requiring you to kill all enemies to proceed in a game where many enemies only appear if you get close to their spawn point is also a pain; have fun re-walking around the whole level looking for those last two guys so you can get the next password!  Oh, and while you could just run through a floor (stage) and try the next one as there is no gate on the elevators between them just like there isn’t on any doors, you can only get the password for the uncleared floor directly after the last cleared floor, so if you skip to two levels down and clear that floor you won’t know it or get a password until you clear the floor above.  There must have been a much better way of gating progress than something as frustrating as that can be.  Overall, though, Zero Tolerance is okay.  This game is clearly the team’s first attempt at a FPS, and it’s amateurish in some frustrating ways including the controls and level designs, and the slow speed is hard to get used to, but still, there is a decently fun core shooter here.  Zero Tolerance is an average game overall.  Maybe try it if you like the genre and know what you’re getting into.  Oh, there is also a 2-player versus mode, but it requires a link cable, two systems, and two copies of the game.  Needless to say I have not tried it, but it is cool that the game has such a feature.  There was also supposed to be a sequel, Beyond Zero Tolerance, but it was cancelled.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save, 6 button controller supported.  Zombies Ate my Neighbors is a fairly well-known top-down comic-horror action-adventure game from Lucasarts.  In this challenging game, two very ’90s-‘tude protagonists, one a guy and one a girl, are tasked with trying to keep your ten neighbors alive against an onslaught of zombies across dozens of stages.  In each stage, you explore around looking for enemies to fight and weapons to collect to fight them with.  You can use a variety of amusing weapons such as the iconic acid-shooting Super Soaker-knockoff water gun, once you collect them, but they all have limited ammo so looking for stuff is important.  You have a health bar on screen and can move, shoot and switch weapons, use and switch items, and bring the radar up on screen, but there is no strafing or shooting in a direction other than the one you are moving in, unfortunately.  The controls are fine with a 6-button controller, but the game uses more than three button as it was first made for the SNES, so a 6-button controller is highly recommended.  Those would have been nice to have.  There are different kinds of zombies, and you’ll need different strategies for each.  Saving key weapons for certain baddies can be useful.  You’ll also collect items such as traps, keys, crucial health-refill items, and more.

Your main goal in each stage is to rescue all of the neighbors.  This is also crucial, for you’ll only have the same number of people to rescue in the next stage that you saved in the last one, and when all die it’s game over.  Oh, and while the game has password save, you only get a password every four levels, and worse, passwords do not save your inventory, they only let you start from that stage, so if you want to do well at this game the best way is to play it in one sitting and don’t mess up at all… tough!  While it is possible to get neighbors back occasionally, this is a slow process.  And of course, keeping them alive won’t be easy, as they are scattered all over the map, and levels are complex and full of obstacles, including water pools, walls, and locked doors.  Zombies will keep spawning in, so you need to use effective strategy on each stage to keep yourselves, and the neighbors, alive.  The clever and unique stages are the main highlight of this game, and they, above anything else, are what makes this game so interesting and worth seeing.  Still, it is memorization-heavy.  That radar is very helpful, but still, you will need to learn exactly what to do in each stage and then execute well in at least each set of four levels and maybe the whole game in order to succeed.  It’s a punishing game and I haven’t stuck with it enough to get anywhere near the end; the game gets hard after a while.  The design is good, though.  It’s tough, but good.

Visually, Zombies Ate My Neighbors looks pretty good.  The cartoony art design looks great, with amusing characters and neighbors and cartoon-scary zombies and other foes.  The color depth is reduced versus the SNES, but still, this version looks good too.  The main issues with this game are the difficulty and degree of memorization required, downgraded graphics from the SNES, you really need a 6-button controller, and as good as it is it’s no match for Lucasarts’ PC classics of the early ’90s, but the strengths are much more significant.  The game has good art design and music, but it’s the gameplay that is best.  Exploring each level, finding the neighbors and figuring out how to get to them, and collecting the many great weapons and items is great fun.  This game is particularly good with two players, for sure.  Both do need to stay on the same screen so you need to work together, but good cooperation makes the game easier and more fun.  In the end this is a good to great game that I would highly recommend if it wasn’t so expensive now.  If you can afford it definitely pick the game up for either the SNES or Genesis, but otherwise, get the SNES version for Wii Virtual Console.  Lucasarts’ best games of the ’90s are all PC games and there they made some of the best games ever made.  This game is not that, but it is a very good game, deservedly one of Lucasarts’ most prominent console efforts of the decade.  I certainly recommend it.  Also available on SNES.  The SNES version is also available on Wii Virtual Console, but this version is Genesis-only.

Zoom! – 1-2 player alternating or simultaneous (simultaneous in Competition mode only).  Zoom! is a classic arcade-style action game inspired by the early ’80s title Amidar.  Just like that game, and sort of like another classic arcade game, Crush Roller, you go around a single-screen maze and need to walk along every path, like Pac-Man but with filling in lines instead of collecting stuff.  Also, in these games you do need to go over EVERY line in order to win, instead of just collecting specific dots like in a Pac-Man game.  As in Amidar but not Crush Roller, each time you surround a box on the screen it colors it in differently, by making it flash in this case.  Once all boxes on the screen are flashing, you move on to the next stage.  So, even though sometimes certain enemies can erase your lines, if you already surrounded that box that doesn’t matter; they can’t take away filled boxes.  This game differs from its predecessors in its additional movement options, lower difficulty, and isometric perspective.  Zoom! is a fun little game and eventually gets tough, but it the difficulty scales up slowly, and the game isn’t as punishing as Amidar.  The game is a LOT faster than that sluggish classic, though, which is nice.  The title is accurate, you really zoom around the screen quickly.  I like the fast movement, but sometimes it will kill you as you zip past the point you meant to turn before you can hit the button.  You also can shoot backwards with a button, but your shots only knock enemies backwards, not kill them.  This makes things tricky when the screen gets crowded with enemies in the later stages.  The angled perspective also can make it hard to see exactly where you are sometimes, though usually it’s not an issue.  And yes, you can only shoot back, not forwards.  Still, it’s a useful function sometimes, particularly when an unmoving enemy is in a key point you still need to go over.  On the good side though, there are also powerups to collect which give you points, invincibility, and more.  The game is much more good than bad.

In the game you play as a cute cartoon creature, perhaps a bit Pac-Man inspired but animal-like.  The game is comprised of six levels, each broken up into six single-screen stages.  You have infinite continues from the beginning of the current level, but not from the current stage so there is some challenge here, as you do die in one hit.  Level maps do eventually repeat but with more enemies so there are not new layouts for every stage, and I wish that the game had saving as infinite continues but no saving is one of the most annoying kinds of continue systems, and the graphics and sound are not great, but still, Zoom is a fun little classic arcade game and I like it.  The visuals and music are good enough to do, and the basic mechanics are solid.  The isometric grid looks nice enough in that classic sense, the sprites are decently well drawn, and the music is alright.  The game also has two multiplayer modes, either alternating in the main game, or competing against another player in a special mode.  You can choose between either two controllers or switching back and forth on one controller for the alternating mode, which is nice.  In summary Zoom is a fun classic-style arcade game, and I like it.  Sure, this game has a few issues, but it’s a fun little game well worth picking up for cheap.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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