Organizing Reviews

 

confusedtails

 

Hey ho, Sega friends! So many of you liked the recent “What’s Next!” post that it got me thinking about the Games Lists. I acknowledge that they are… lacking. I’ve never liked how they look, and yet, I’ve never known how to fix them within the boundaries of my current (basic and free) WordPress account.

Would organizing the reviews by month be better? Let’s say  you go into the Master Games List for the Master System. Instead of a huge string of games under each year, you see 1987 – January, February, etc. When you click on February, there’s a list of games that released in February ’87, complete with official release date and cover art, similar to the “What’s Next!” post.

If not that idea, I’m open to others. As Sega Does enters into its third year, I’d like to focus on making it more accessible and user-friendly. Please let me know what you all think in the comments below. Thanks a bunch!

DC

What’s Next! – October 1990

 

1990 is nearly over. The Genesis/Mega Drive is gaining ground in America. The Master System is alive and well in Europe. The Game Gear has just been launched in Japan. Sega’s schedule is growing more hectic by the year, and it’s only going to get crazier as we venture deeper into the ’90s.

Presented here is the release schedule for Sega games for the month of October 1990. As I review these games, I will include the links to the reviews within the schedule. All release dates are from Japan, unless otherwise noted. If you like this idea of a month-by-month calendar, let me know in the comments below.

 

 

rainbowislandsjp    Rainbow Islands Extra – 10/05/90

 

gamegearjp   Sega Game Gear10/06/90

 

columnsjp   Columns – 10/06/90

 

supermonacogpjp   Super Monaco GP – 10/06/90

 

pengojp   Pengo – 10/06/90

 

rastansagaiius   Rastan Saga II – 10/10/90

 

finalzoneus   Final Zone/FZ Senki Axis – 10/12/90

 

slaughtersportus   Slaughter Sport/Fatman – 10/12/90

 

burningforcejp   Burning Force – 10/19/90

 

arrowflashjp   Arrow Flash – 10/20/90

 

teltelstadium   Tel-Tel Stadium – 10/21/90

 

dynamitedukeus   Dynamite Duke – 10/27/90

 

zangear   Zan Gear – 10/27/90

 

firesharkus   Fire Shark – 10/90 (US)

Pengo

 

pengojp

Those monsters look like they have pastrami-heavy diets.

 

pengoeu

Global Warming 2099

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Coreland (port by Sega)

GENRE: Arcade

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

RELEASE DATE: 10/06/90 – (JP)

                                               1991 – (EU)

 

When placed next to the in-depth racing of Super Monaco GP and the appeal of puzzle action on-the-go with Columns, Pengo is a poor choice for the Game Gear’s launch. A port of the 1982 (!) arcade game of the same name, Pengo‘s maze hijinx belong back on the SG-1000, not on an advanced handheld system. Unless you really get a thrill from pushing ice blocks into walking blobs, the game’s appeal is limited.

 

pengo-u-001

That booger’s giving Pengo the ol’ side eye.

 

As the titular penguin, you’re tasked with clearing out the malevolent Sno-bees from the many ice mazes. The best way to kill the Snobees is to crush them with ice blocks. Within certain ice blocks, however, are Sno-bee eggs. These egg-filled blocks flash green at the start of each round and are best crushed immediately. If any eggs remain in the maze after a Sno-bee is killed, it will hatch and a new Sno-bee will take its place. Once a maze is clear of Sno-bees, it’s on to the next round.

 

pengo-u-000

Ladies and gentlemen, the Pengo Players!

 

Any Sno-bees that aren’t killed quickly become real buttholes. They break ice blocks, move more quickly around the maze, and are just more difficult to kill. Each round has three unbreakable diamond ice blocks that will stop the out-of-line Sno-bees dead in their tracks. Also, if any Sno-bees are next to you when you’re near a wall, you can push the wall to stun them, then step on them without consequence. If there’s only one Sno-bee remaining after 45 seconds or so, it will hightail it to a corner of the maze and disappear.

 

pengo-u-006

You were leaning against the wrong wall, Mr. Sno-bee.

 

As with most arcade games of a bygone era, the purpose of Pengo isn’t to beat it, but to gather as many points as you can. The quicker you beat the level, the more points you’ll receive. Killing more than one Sno-bee at a time will also provide you with extra points, as will linking up all the diamond blocks together, either horizontally or vertically. 30,000 points nets you an extra life, which you’ll need if you want to traverse forward and keep the Sno-bee population down.

 

pengo-u-003

A chorus line of mooning Pengos is your reward for beating the level in 50 seconds.

 

The Game Gear port accurately replicates the arcade version’s gameplay, but the visuals have been considerably compromised. I know sprites have to be made smaller due to the Game Gear’s tinier screen, but everything from the characters to the environments has this squished, uncomfortable look. The colors aren’t as sharp as the arcade’s either, which makes no sense given the Game Gear’s expansive palette and the arcade game’s advanced age.

 

pengo-u-004

Pengo protests his cramped living conditions.

 

And why did Sega wait until the Game Gear to release a version of Pengo? Several Atari consoles received Pengo ports in the 80s, but for some reason, the SG-1000 and Master System failed to see one. Perhaps Doki Doki Penguin Land and Penguin Land – both inspired by Pengo, though considerably more enjoyable – were enough penguin action on their respective systems.

 

pengo-u-005

The Antarctic really is disgusting when you look at it this way.

 

The best classic arcade games – Pac-Man, Galaga, Frogger among others – might have different styles, but they all share addictive properties that make the player want to keep playing. Pengo lacks said properties. Save for some added Sno-bees, each round is the same as the one before it. No tempo change, no additional elements, just basic block-pushing repeated until poor Pengo’s flippers are numb. I didn’t out right hate my time with it, but I’m not surprised Pengo‘s all but forgotten today.

 

pengo-u-007

Not sure what’s happening here, but at least Pengo’s getting a break.

 

Every console launch has a game (or games, depending) that doesn’t belong. A game that would never succeed outside of the launch window, but because early adopters are desperate to play anything, they’ll buy it. Pengo fits comfortably into this slot for the Game Gear. If you’re not a racing fan and Columns‘ falling-block antics weren’t your cuppa, your only other option was a port of an eight-year-old arcade game that’s only fun for a few minutes. Take that, Nintendo?

 

C-

A Weekend Treat

 

sonictails

 

Ever since the original SegaDoes Podcast episodes went down, I’ve had lots of people ask me if they would ever be posted again. At the time, I had no idea. The podcast was Sam’s work, and I didn’t just want to publish them without his permission.

Recently, Sam and I have been back in touch, and now, thanks to his generosity, the original 40 episodes of the SegaDoes Podcast are back online to download at segadoespodcast.libsyn.com!

These episodes will only be up for a limited time on that particular web address. If for some reason you don’t see this update until the episodes have been removed again, don’t worry. I’ve downloaded all the old episodes and will be uploading them intermittently over on segado.libsyn.com, along with iTunes once the podcast is up there.

Episode 3 of the SegaDoes Podcast Mk. II should be recording next week, Lord willing. Until then, please enjoy this nostalgic treasure trove!

Goku

 

In this special series on the Pioneer LaserActive, guest author Taylor Pinson will be discussing some of the games released on the Sega PAC, an add-on for the LaserActive that could play Genesis, Sega CD, and Mega LD titles.

 

gokubox

This cover sums up the LaserActive: bizarre imagery promoted as edutainment.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Pioneer

DEVELOPER: Multimedia Creators Network

GENRE: Edutainment

RELEASE DATE: 06/15/95 – (JP)

                                               1995 – (US)

 

WRITER’S NOTE: 3D Virtual Australia and Blue Chicago Blues were both released prior to Goku, but because I don’t own them and they’re the two rarest titles for the system, we’ll be skipping them entirely.

 

1

This is the end.

 

And the LaserActive goes out with a whimper.

Goku was the last title released for the system, and sadly, it is yet another edutainment title like The Great Pyramid or Melon Brains. It’s a double-sided release with region-specific versions (US release has English, Japan has Japanese). This time the focus is on the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

 

2

No matter how long you wait, Goku isn’t worth it.

 

The disc’s title is derived from the horrifying CGI monkey that acts as your tour guide, and may also secretly be a tormentor of small children. Just look at that thing. Or don’t, if you ever want to sleep soundly again.

 

3

What if Garfield and Jon morphed into a smug, terrifying abomination?

 

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Goku‘s content. Like the LaserActive’s previous edutainment titles, this is basically the equivalent of an outdated interactive encyclopedia or a DVD.

 

4

More like the Cave of Blunders, am I right, folks?

 

I’ll give Goku some credit for its strangeness. Based solely on its presentation, the title is certainly the most bizarre out of the LaserActive’s edutainment library. Listening to a shrill-voiced monkey and a floating, transparent, pharaoh head talk in distorted voices  is certainly more memorable than the strange scientist mosaic from Melon Brains or the bland narration in The Great Pyramid. Today, however, if someone was interested in learning about the seven wonders of the ancient world, they would be better off visiting Wikipedia instead.

C for its time.

F today.

 

5

I hope that Pharaoh head ate the monkey.

 

And with Goku, Pioneer pulled the plug on the LaserActive and the console faded into obscurity after not-quite two years of support and 20+ releases.

Our time with the system has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed following along as I played through this oddball console’s mish-mash of a game library. Thanks for reading!

 

Videos courtesy of the LaserActive Preservation Project.

Sega Game Gear

 

gamegearjp

You will enjoy Columns.

 

gamegearus

The adjustable wrist strap is priceless these days.

 

 

RELEASED: 10/06/90 – (JP),    04/26/91 – (US),     06/24/91 – (UK),      06/1991 – (EU),    07/1991 – (BR)

PRICE: 19,800 yen – (JP), $149.95 – (US), 99.99 (UK), R$160,000 – (BR)

TECH SPECS: Zilog Z80 running at 3.5 Mhz, 8KB of RAM, 16KB of VRAM

Resolution/Color Palette: 160×144 pixels, can display 32 colors on screen from 4,096 colors.

Sound Processor: TI-SN76489, stereo sound via headphones.

# OF GAMES: 390 estimated (according to Sega Retro)

BATTERIES REQUIRED: Six AAs for an average of 4 hours play.

NOTABLE ACCESSORIES: Gear-to-Gear Cable, Battery Pack, Car Adaptor, Master Gear Converter, Super Wide Gear, TV Tuner

# OF UNITS SOLD: approx. 11 million units

 

Most gamers think that the Console Wars officially began around ’91 and ’92, with both Sega and Nintendo vying for consumers’ attention with their 16-bit consoles. Certainly, Sega was more publicly violent towards Nintendo in the early 90s with their aggressive ad campaigns. Years prior to the cutthroat marketing that dominated the 16-bit era, nearly every decision Sega’s console division made was a result of Nintendo’s unbelievable success.

 

gennydoes

A desperate cry for affection.

 

Sega’s first console, the SG-1000 was released on the same day as the Famicom in Japan. Woops! Thanks to poor graphics and a terrible game library, the system couldn’t compete with the Famicom’s popularity, but it still sold well enough to warrant the Mark III/Master System. The Master System, which had sharper graphics than the NES/Famicom, sold even worse than the SG-1000 in Japan, but performed decently in Europe and the States, enough to warrant the Mega Drive/Genesis. The latter was the first 16-bit console on the market, beating the Super Famicom to the Japanese market by two years. Sega hoped that Japanese consumers would be ready to leave the Famicom behind in favor of a more powerful console. But by 1990, the Mega Drive had failed to make a significant impact in Japan.

Other territories were faring better for Sega, though. The Master System was still selling great in Europe where Nintendo had less of a presence, and the Genesis was picking up steam in the US. Rather than aggressively support both home consoles and remain cautiously optimistic, they looked at Nintendo’s success with Tetris and the Game Boy and cried out “Me too! Right now!” This impatience resulted in Sega first handheld system, the Game Gear.

 

bullies

A harbinger of things to come.

 

Essentially a handheld Master System, the Game Gear contains the same CPU, the same amount of RAM and Video Ram, and the exact same sound chip. The Game Gear does feature considerably more colors – 4,096 possible colors compared to the Master System’s 64 – but otherwise, the two have identical internal components.

 

gamegeareu

Major Master System flashbacks with this European box design.

 

The Game Gear was an absolutely gorgeous handheld for the 90s. Instead of a blurry, difficult-to-see screen with green-and-gray colors, the Game Gear had a full-color, backlit screen. Rather than resembling a white chunky brick, the Game Gear’s black rectangular shape was sleeker and more comfortable to hold.

With beautiful, vibrant color comes a great price. The Game Gear sucked through batteries, with six AAs lasting only four hours, compared to the Game Boy’s four AAs lasting anywhere from 16-30 hours. Because of the short battery life and the fact that the Game Gear was considerably larger than the Game Boy, the handheld didn’t feel nearly as portable or easy to transport as the latter.

 

gamegear

But how could you say no to this face?

 

Everyone bought a Game Boy, not because the games looked pretty, but because Tetris was the most addicting game that gamers and non-gamers alike wanted to play. Sega understood this and released their own puzzle game, Columns, to launch alongside the Game Gear in every territory. The only problem? Columns just isn’t as addictive or fun as Tetris. And while the puzzle series certainly found a decent number of fans, the Game Gear had to rely on other tactics to survive next to the Game Boy.

 

landscape_gaming-mario-vs-sonic_1

Sonic and Mario should know that the love of money is the root of all evil.

 

Much like the Genesis ads were targeted towards teenagers in the States, Sega also marketed the Game Gear as the “mature” handheld, compared to Nintendo’s childish Game Boy. Sega’s main reason for doing so was, of course, the color screen – as if choosing a color screen over a monochromatic one indicated that you were a wise, rational adult. Sega also used highly provocative ads to sell the Game Gear in Europe, one of which involves a cartoon man with his back turned, masturbating. The headline reads “Something to Do With Your Hands that Won’t Make You Go Blind.” I know Europe’s more sexually open than the States, but what demographic was Sega trying to appeal to with that one?

 

gamegearad

A less disgusting Game Gear ad.

 

The quality of the Game Gear’s library ranges from decent to underwhelming. But are the games any better or worse than the Game Boy’s? The Game Boy had two enormous games – Tetris and Pokemon – that contributed to the bulk of the handheld’s sales. In between those two worldwide hits were some decent titles and a whole lotta mediocrity. Still, Tetris and Pokemon. Those two games were more than enough for most folks to splurge on the Game Boy. The Game Gear lacked a truly must-have title. Unless you’re a huge Sonic fan who had to collect every new game, or you really wanted to play a portable version of Shining Force or Mortal Kombat II, the system’s library just wasn’t that desirable to the average consumer.

 

tripletroublecart

He’s no Pocket Monster, that’s for sure…

 

In addition to the lack of a breakout title, the Game Gear’s high price tag ($149.99 compared to the Game Boy’s $89.95), poor battery life, and inadequate support from Sega hindered its ability to compete with the Game Boy. By the time Sega discontinued the system in 1997, the Game Gear only sold about 11 million units worldwide. Compare this to the Game Boy’s 118 million and, well… there is no comparison. The clunky, unattractive Game Boy absolutely destroyed the sexy, fashionable Game Gear.

 

cocacolagamegear

One of the sexiest Game Gears, only in Japan.

 

While Sega did release several different colors and bundles for the Game Gear (more in Japan than the U.S.), they never revised the Game Gear like they did with the Genesis, Master System, and SG-1000. Majesco did release a “newer” version of the Game Gear in 1999. It has a darker plastic, a purple Start button, and a slightly sharper screen, but is otherwise the same internally. Priced at a reasonable $30, the system was supposedly only available at Toys ‘R Us and is of a better quality than Sega’s models.

 

majescocoresystem

Majesco Game Gear, complete with constipated Sonic.

 

The peripherals for the system range from necessary – like the AC Adapter and Battery Pack – to lavish. The Master Gear Converter allowed Master System games to be played on the Game Gear, and was a great way to expand the handheld’s library for a reasonable price. The TV Tuner cost over $100 upon release, but it did let you watch beautiful 90s television from the palm of your hand. The Gear-to-Gear Cable is necessary for multiplayer, but only works if you have two Game Gears and two copies of the same game.

 

tvtuner_gg_us

Unnecessary, but nifty!

 

Unless you’re a purist who only plays games on their original hardware, or you have some fondness/nostalgia for the Game Gear, there is absolutely no reason to pick one up now. Capacitor problems are rampant, so finding one without audio/visual issues is very difficult. Using six AA batteries for only four hours of life was ridiculous back in the 90s, and it’s even more so today. The backlit color screen is a blurry mess compared to the PSP, 3DS, Vita, and pretty much all mobile phones. The 3DS Virtual Console does have a limited selection of Game Gear games available – mostly Sonic titles – but if you’re looking for one in particular, you’ll have to, um, find it in the wild.

Despite the Game Gear being Sega’s third highest-selling console behind the Genesis and the Master System, it still feels like a footnote in the company’s history. While the Master System, the Saturn and the Dreamcast are routinely hailed as underrated by the retro gaming community, the Game Gear is hardly mentioned. Is it because the systems are hard to find in good working order today? Is it the bias that consoles are superior to handhelds? Whatever the reason, the Game Gear seems to have just come and gone. Its legacy is tenuous, ethereal even, and this makes it difficult to judge its place in gaming history.

 

*Images courtesy of SegaRetro, ArsTechnica, DigitalSpy, ElHype, and MobyGames.